The experience in hiring

I’ve been meaning to write up a piece on this for a while and, partially inspired by recent experience both of my own and in my acquaintance circles, I think now’s the time – we’re going to take a look at recruitment today, and see if anyone might be leaving gold on the table because of a few, simple, experience-related mistakes.

Spoiler: Yes – yes, they almost certainly do.

You wouldn’t think it necessary but we’re going to have to start by establishing what the goal of a recruitment process is – so let’s agree that if a company is about to initiate such a process it’s because there’s a job that needs to be done, and you want to find the right person to do it right and well. In other words, this is something that’s meaningfully important to you as a business, and the person to be found is a future employee and colleague who is hopefully going to be with you for a while.


So how do many companies go about this these days? Well, if the aforementioned experiences are anything to go by, there’s a growing tendency to use some sort of automatic online recruitment system – and we’re going to stop right here and talk about those specifically for a little while.

See, even if such a system shows a perfectly acceptable experience for the applicant (and they mostly don’t, but more on that in a moment) there’s still something about them which I don’t think many companies consider when deciding to use them: You’re already telling the applicant that this recruitment procedure of yours, and by extension both the job in question and the person who eventually gets it, is not very high on your list of priorities.
Unlike your customers, who’ll always be welcome to call or visit, and who’ll have a real person assigned to their case at the earliest hint that it even exists, the applications of your future employees is apparently something that you mostly just want to get out of the way – you don’t want to be bothered with it by, say, picking up a phone or even opening an email, so you’ve automated it, and you’ll get around to assigning manpower to actually do something about it when you’re damn good and ready (until which point all the applicant gets is an automated boilerplate receipt email).
I’ve personally seen examples where the system actually scolds the applicant that if they try to contact the company about the job by any other means than the automated system it could seriously damage their chances – ye gods…

Not a good signal to start with, is what I’m saying, especially remembering the bit about how this is supposed to be meaningfully important to you – and let’s be clear here; this would be wrong even if you’re hiring a janitor or office gopher, but this goes on well into higher management recruiting.

The experience in hiring

“- and keep it the hell down over there…!”

Add to this that the user experiences with these systems, more often than not, are clunky, inflexible, and have a great big whiff of “default settings” about them, and you’ve got a situation where potentially not just qualified, but possibly ideal applicants might actually start half-assing their application (if they don’t bail outright), not by choice but because they’re quite simply being treated impolitely.

Presenting anyone visiting your company, be they applicants or customers, with a clunky, unwelcoming digital interface is exactly the same as putting some unkempt, hostile, possibly drunk person behind the counter at your reception, barking at anyone who comes through the door that they can go sit on an uncomfortable chair in the corner and fill out intractible questionnaires until someone calls them. 

Add further that at least one of these systems has “Easy” as part of its name (prominently visible anywhere they use it), and… well, let’s be totally clear here: If you think your recruitment process is supposed to be easy you’re almost certainly doing it wrong. You know the old saying: “Nothing worthwhile is easy” – supposedly, hiring the life blood of your company in the future is indeed a worthwhile activity for you. Again, these are not ways you’d ever even think to treat a customer – but your employees are what makes it possible to actually make any money on those customers in to begin with, and it’s becoming increasingly well documented how much your employees mean to your bottom line, as if that’s anything that should require documentation in the first place.

This whole thing ties in to the subject of user understanding in more ways than one – I’ve already mentioned the emotional signature you’re creating with the actual user interface of these application systems but there’s another way the two things resemble one another: – as I spoke of earlier, and then earlier than that, it’s disturbingly common to ignore, or at least underprioritize, things like user experience and customer service, despite a growing mountain of evidence that this is at the very least a significant source of growth, revenue etc.
Well, in a similar fashion, despite how much we know about the importance of not just having the right employees, but having the right atmosphere, the right values, social dynamics, job satisfaction and so forth, the “automated application process” trend, along with the almost certainly connected trend of writing job ads so mindblowingly obscure they’re basically indistinguishable from satire (even Apple is doing it now), seems to indicate that a growing number of companies fail to acquaint themselves with some of the very basics of running a healthy business.

So, concluding on a more general note: Unless you’re running a one-man operation or you’re, like, an artist or something, recruitment is with a 100% certainty going to be a crucial activity to your company, its ability to serve your customers, and its very future – also, recruitment is fundamentally a human activity. That’s why we call the department that does these things “Human Resources”. My specific peeve in this article is those auto-recruitment systems but they’re probably just a symptom – a symptom that it’s in the process of being forgotten in the business world what that word “Human” actually means.

You don’t have to take my word for it – here’s a brilliant (and infinitely better pedigree’d) article, and another, both by Liz Ryan, giving her treatment to the same topic.

So allow me to post a reminder: It means your employees/colleagues, and/or the company’s customers, and/or the users of your product, all both present and future. They are all humans – they start out as humans, and they remain humans regardless of which of those, and other, categories and segments they end up representing to you.

Ignoring how humans work is absolutely certainly leaving money on the table – and that’s just bad business.