When you think Nordstrom, you think customer service. When you think Zappos, you think customer service. When you think Apple Store, you think customer service. These companies — each in their own way — pride themselves on delivering customer service that is markedly better than their competitors. In fact, I’d go so far to say (and so would they) that customer service is a competitive advantage that each posseses.
Now here’s a thought exercise: Who’s the Nordstrom, Zappos or Apple of candidate experience?
Exactly! You don’t know and neither do I. And the reason neither of us knows is that very, very few companies even think of hiring as an experience at all.
Employers care deeply about user experience, but they don’t give a hoot about candidate experience
Let’s stick with tech companies since that’s what I know best. As product managers & designers, we go to INSANE lengths to rethink a workflow so we can save a single click! We know that each of those clicks we can eliminate, each of those page reloads we can avoid, each of those process steps we can remove, all of that effort makes the difference between a great product and one that’s, well, “meh” or even worse, one that causes user frustration. It may sound trivial to you, but to a product manager or designer, this stuff is religion.
But the candidate experience has no such preacher. No one cares. And the reason no one cares is no has to care. Just as “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”, no one ever got fired for allowing a bad candidate experience to exist. There is no champion focusing her time on making the hiring process better, and if we’re serious about improving the candidate experience, there needs to be.
If all else fails, blame the candidates
If a company designs a product that users find frustrating and choose not to use, the first person who has to answer for the product’s failings is the product manager (yes I’m simplifying this a bit, but stay with me). Applying that logic to hiring, we would assume that the Talent Manager would have to answer for a hiring experience that caused similar frustration and a lack of candidates, right?
Talent managers have managed to convince us that it’s the candidate’s fault that their hiring process produced poor results, referring to these candidates as “passive” candidates. It’s pretty remarkable “spin” when you think about it: rather than accepting blame for a process that isn’t sufficiently engaging potential employees and getting them to apply, find a way to shift the blame to those people by implying that the problems stem from their passivity rather than your system’s lack of appeal.
I wonder what would happen if a sales manager said to the CEO, “gee, it’s not my fault sales are down, there are a lot of “passive customers.”
In fairness to talent managers who are reading this right now and cursing me, the problem isn’t entirely your fault. Many of you have tried to implement change, but haven’t gotten authority to do so from company leadership, or have in other ways been stymied internally. Furthermore, many of you would define passive candidates differently than I just did. You’d say that these people are happily employed at their current companies, and not “actively” looking for something new. Fair enough, but that only accounts for some of them. The research shows that many people are casually looking around to see what else is out there, but choosing not to go to the trouble of applying. It’s these people that I’m referring to, and the reality is that if the experience of applying were better designed, these people would apply. They’re not because it’s not.