Cracking The Candidate Experience Code

The candidate experience must be one of the most discussed topics in our space over the last few years. To everyone outside of recruitment the conversation must seem ridiculous, if we all agree that a good candidate experience is important then why not just do it? Recruiters everywhere know that this is much easier said than done, particularly in large complex organisations.

For Episode 3 of the Recruiting Future Podcast I was delighted to interview Bethan Davies from RMS. RMS are an organisation that have won international acclaim for their focus on a quality candidate experience and in the interview she shares some of the steps they have taken to execute on their vision in this area. We also talk about some of the great work they have being doing using video as a way of communicating their brand and how they leverage referral recruiting to identify hard to find talent.

You can play the podcast below. Alternatively you can listen on Soundcloud, subscribe on iTunes or find it by searching for Recruiting Future in any podcast playing mobile app.

Recruitment's Problem with Persuasion

It was my great pleasure to speak at the excellent RecFest in London the other week. My presentation on “The Art of Persuasion” was inspired by some recent conversations with a number of employers who have found themselves struggling to recruit the talent they need in 2014.

Many employers are currently facing a big uplift in recruitment and some are going into a blind panic throwing money at projects that have been on ice since 2009 (new EVP, new recruitment website etc) to try and fix their problems.

I wanted to look at the root cause of the issues and think about how to actually solve them. This then lead to the realization that the biggest problem we have in 2014 is actually a persuasion problem.

I’ve produced a 20 minute webcast of my presentation which is embedded below where you can see and hear my thoughts on the problem and the potential solutions in more detail.

Here is a top line summary:

The Persuasion problem is being caused by:

  • The lack of any need for proactive recruiting through the recession
  • Technological and demographic changes which mean the old ways of doing things aren’t as successful as they used to be
  • The move from the "Desk Top Age" to the “Age of Mobile Devices”
  • The sheer amount of recruitment noise the best talent is exposed to
  • Generic approaches which result in a huge amount of “inappropriate” applications

The three elements of the DNA of digital persuasion are:

  1. Be Magnetic - Attracting the right audience to your content is vital
  2. Be Convincing - You can’t rely on the right people just wanting to work for you, you need to convince them
  3. Convert - Even the most convincing messages often have no call to action or are attached to a broken process. Getting people into and through your recruitment funnel effectively is absolutely vital.

More details on all of this in the video. I also give an example of great persuasion at work and a simple framework to help you make your recruitment communication work harder.


Recruiting Innovation and Kurt Cobain

A few weeks back I was asked to record a promo video for the forthcoming Rec Fest event. One of the questions I had to answer was what was the best festival I’d ever attended. The answer was an easy one it was Reading 91, I was 19, it was a fantastic line up of music and it was back in the days when you could bring your own cheap beer into festivals.

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly Nirvana playing near the bottom of the bill as a more or less unknown band, just a few short weeks before the release of their game changing NeverMind album. Here’s the video, me and my friend Simon are somewhere in the front row, pretty much opposite Kurt Cobain:


The really interesting thing I noticed when I watched this video back recently was the strangely muted audience reaction to Smells Like Teen Spirit (it's about 10 minutes into the video). Three months later every student union in the land would be blasting it out every five minutes but on this particular day in late August 1991, 99% of us in the audience were hearing it for the first time. The restrained reaction shows that no matter how things were post rationalized afterwards when we were in the moment we were blissfully unaware of the revolutionary nature of what we were listening to.

So why is this relevant to recruitment? While over the last 15 years we’ve been working through a time of monumental change. The Internet was the original game changer in the early 2000s, Social Media has rocked the boat in recent years and now the exponential growth of the mobile internet is pressing the reset button on everything. Employers and Recruitment Agencies are often criticised for being slow to change and certainly, for the last few years at least, they have been playing a constant game of catch up with their target audiences. It’s clear that no one sets out to be behind the curve but sometimes it is very difficult to spot what is front of you particularly when you’re as busy as recruiters are at the moment. As my Nirvana experience shows though, it is important to take a step back sometimes to question the status quo and take in some alternative viewpoints on what is going on. There could be something revolutionary right in front of you which, if you take the time to evaluate it, will give your company a competitive advantage for years to come.

So what about my own performance as a teenage future predicting music guru? Well on extracting our sweaty selves from the densely packed crowd me and friend had a post mortem on what we had just seen. “I think they are going to be the biggest band in the world, what do you think?” said Simon. "I think they were great but I doubt we’ll ever hear of them again” I replied

One of us of course was right and the other one had obviously overindulged in the cheap beer!



Mobile Recruiting, it's time to think differently

Take a look at this chart:

Mobile Growth

I spotted it the other week in an excellent blog post from Mobile business guru Benedict Evans . More than anything else that I’ve seen it underlines that the mobile internet isn’t just another channel it is a real quantum shift to a different way of doing things.

Unfortunately that message doesn’t seem to be getting through when it comes to recruitment and I think that many employers and recruiters are still thinking about mobile in the wrong way. The one thing I hate about our industry is that for many the default position seems to be an insistence that the old ways of doing things are best and any shift in technology needs to be adapted to fit tried and tested methods rather than looking at the potential to evolve the industry itself and makes things work better.

I've been around long enough to know that change is inevitable, I remember presenting to groups of people 15 years ago (ironically when I was selling an early version of an ATS) to be told that no one would ever apply for a job using a computer. With this in mind I find it very frustrating that some very experienced people are closing their minds to the amazing possibilities of “Mobile First” recruitment.

Mobile innovation is currently being held back (like most innovation before it in the last ten years) by the fear that it doesn't fit with the ATS and mobile recruiting providers are forced to jump through hoops to provide mobile apply solutions that have to replicate the traditional way of doing things rather than using mobile as a catalyst to improve them.

Despite perceptions to the contrary, the technical barriers to mobile apply can be overcome and with some effort it is possible to present most recruitment processes in a format that works functionally on a mobile. However something being functional doesn’t make it user friendly and quality candidates are even less likely to tolerate a long winded recruitment process on a mobile than they currently do on a desktop, however technically clever it is.

What is clear from the mobile revolution happening all around us is that mobile has a genuine power to improve what has gone before. Mobile first companies like Uber, Tinder and Instagram are causing huge disruption in their markets and many existing industries are rushing to embrace mobile, creating such useful things as mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile airline check ins to name but a few.

So why aren’t we looking at things differently in the recruitment space? Integrating video screening and touch screen psychometric testing to create a “mobile first apply” is just one of thousands of possibilities that mobile technology give us and that’s before we consider the future recruitment selection possibilities of permission based access to some of the personal data footprint created and stored within our devices. Hanging onto ATS systems that refuse to adapt and closing your mind to anything that doesn’t look like recruitment from 50 years ago isn’t going to solve your resourcing problems in 2014. Isn’t it time to think differently and embrace the promise and possibilities of our mobile first world?

Video interviewing – sustainable trend or passing fad?

This article originally appeared on

The last few years have seen a strange mismatch taking place in our industry.  The pace of innovation in recruitment technology has never been quicker but, against a background of continuing economic uncertainty, the pace of adoption of new approaches and technologies from employers has arguably never been slower.  Unless an innovation can prove that it will provide quick and lasting value, its chances of mass adoption are limited.

With this in mind, my company Metashift recently embarked on a three-month research project into the emerging world of video interviewing technologies.  I was keen to find out whether this was an important trend or yet another faddish false start in the evolution of the recruitment process.

It became clear very early on in our research that different employers have different definitions of what ‘video interviewing’ is, and this is potentially causing a lot of confusion when its impact in the marketplace is being discussed.

For some employers, it means holding a standard face-to-face interview via a readily available video platform such as Skype.  For others, it actually means candidates coming into their offices to have an interview via video conference with another office location.  While these approaches are very much on the rise, the biggest noise in the industry is being made by providers of so-called ‘asynchronous’ video interviewing, and this what our research focused on.

Asynchronous video interviewing (or ‘on demand’ video interviewing as it’s also known) allows the candidate to video himself or herself answering a list of recruiter-provided questions at a time that suits them.  From a recruiter’s point of view, they can watch, review and assess the videos whenever and however many times they want and share them internally.  This typically occurs early on in the hiring cycle, and recorded video interviews are often used as an alternative to telephone screening or first-round interviews.

As part of the research, as well as performing an in-depth audit of the technology and providers available, we spoke to a large number of employers to see who was using this type of technology and how it was working for them.  We were also keen to know what was stopping employers who weren’t yet using it from taking the plunge.

The results were very interesting.  Of those companies not using this technology, 80% said they were considering it and a significant proportion were looking at doing a pilot project during 2013.  That said, there was still a lack of comfort round the technology, with key objections including internal buy-in, potential discrimination issues, problems with connectivity and a potential negative impact on employment brand due to perceived automation from a candidate perspective.

Interestingly though, without exception, the employers we spoke to who were already using the technology only had positive things to say about their experience.  While things didn’t always go completely smoothly, the feeling was that most of the problems they had prepared themselves to face when implementing the technology simply hadn’t happened.

The reaction from candidates was also generally very positive, and a number of employers felt using video in this way enhanced their brands as thought leading companies.  In fact there was a feeling that, in certain markets, candidates would expect companies to be recruiting in this way, and there might be a negative brand impact if they weren’t.

I have to say that I was quite surprised by just how positive the feedback was.  When we started the research we were very keen to get as balanced a view as possible, and were actively looking for examples of implementations that hadn’t lived up to the hype.  These were very difficult to find and in many cases, rather than causing problems, video interviewing had actually brought additional advantages the employer wasn’t expecting.

Based on the research we did it is pretty clear that ‘on demand’ video interviewing is absolutely here to stay, and it is almost inevitable that it will become a mainstream activity in many market sectors.  The speed of adoption, though, is very much up for debate.

While there are some employers who are enthusiastic evangelists, the technology is still very much at the early-adopter stage.  Large-scale corporate implementations aren’t easy, and the importance of stakeholder management and careful process integration were themes that came up time and time again in our discussions with employers already using the systems.

The provider market in this area is booming at the moment with an ever-growing number of companies offering these kinds of services (we found twenty and there are probably many more!).  The future is undoubtedly bright, but I wonder just how many providers the market will be able to sustain in the long term!

●  Metashift’s Video Interviewing Guide is available now, featuring a detailed review of employer attitudes, analysis of key benefits and potential drawbacks, a buyers’ guide including profiles of seven key suppliers, and a huge amount of advice on how to implement video interviewing successfully.  Click here to find out more.


The most powerful social recruiting technique of all

  • So it's been a while……I didn't intend to take such a long break from blogging it just sort of happened. I'm back now though and just because I haven't been writing doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention to what has been going on and frankly I'm a little bit worried.

In the plethora of blog posts, white papers, conferences, webinars and hang outs about social recruiting, the focus and topics are always very similar. New tools, new ways of sourcing and vague unquantified references to engagement and "being social". Lots of focus on platforms and tools and very little in the way of explaining how employers can harness social media to brand themselves and actually persuade the talent their find using these "cool tools" to join their organisation.

Meanwhile outside the recruitment bubble the world has changed dramatically we are relying on feedback from our networks to make decisions on everything from the films we see, to the holidays we go on, to what we put shelves up with (scroll down that page for the user reviews!) We truly live in a feedback society where anything can be and is researched using the power of networks, the wisdom of crowds and very often the views of strangers. There is a phrase for this, it's called social proof. Savvy brands and companies have realised this in the consumer world and, rather than fighting it, are encouraging users and customers by making it easy for them to share their thoughts good or bad

Unfortunately despite the social recruiting revolution this mainstream everyday phenomena of social proof doesn't seem to be being embraced in the world of employer branding and talent attraction. Corporate careers sites still seem to favour the staged managed people profiles that have been with us pretty much since online recruitment started. Even those employers who have employee blogs on their site seem to heavily control or at least strongly influence the content. Of course there are exceptions but unfortunately at the moment they are just that, exceptions in a world that is otherwise made up of corporate communications spin.

In the last few months I've lost count of the number of companies who I've introduced to employment feedback site Glassdoor who have then found reviews about themselves already on there. It is actually free for companies to claim their profile on the site now and hopefully this will help in some way to raise awareness of social proof in the recruiting world. This is very important stuff as I passionately believe that if an employer can find a way to incorporate authentic social proof into their talent attraction activity their quality of hire will increase.

So if you are an employer what should you do? For most larger organisations embracing this kind of approach will be an internal stakeholder filled political nightmare but just because it is difficult it doesn't mean it isn't important. Starting off by taking a few simple steps might well provide some internal case study material, so why not:

Claim your Glassdoor profile
Encourage your employees to write reviews
Link to these reviews from your corporate site

Even something this simple might be a step too far for some and many organisations fear bad reviews if they have been downsizing etc. If you're in this camp then perhaps you should read this string, the Pandora's box of social proof is open and people are going to write about their work experience whether you like it or not. You're not going to beat them so I would suggest that you don't just join them you actually encourage them, that might be just the kind of openness your next potential great hire is looking for in their job hunt

Free Guide to Mobile Recruiting

A few weeks back I posted about mobile being my new top priority. I'm therefore delighted to announce that MetaShift has collaborated with mobile recruiting legend Dave Martin (aka @mobile_dave) to produce a free white paper on the topic. You can download our free Guide to Mobile Recruiting now by following this link

The aim of the guide is to be as user friendly and practical as possible while hopefully informing the debate round what I feel will be one of the key topics for 2012.

Game Changers, Red Herrings and Relentless Hype

Now that was a long blog break! No particular reason for it either, I wasn’t kidnapped by Monster and forced to write a nice article about BeKnown as ransom (see my last post) nor unfortunately did I spend the summer sitting on a beach drinking ridiculously named but reassuringly expensive cocktails. I’m back blogging again now though and thought it might be worth giving my verdict on a few things that have been going on over the summer. Google +

Firstly I suppose I should say something about Google +. I like the interface but I absolutely hate the ridiculous bandwagon-jumping link baiting hype that has accompanied it. The Quora stuff at the beginning of the year was bad enough but some of the complete rubbish that has been written about Google + (some of it recruitment related) is really clouding the water when it comes to any actual usefulness the platform might have.  Yes Google+ does have some nice functionality but if that is your USP then it is easily copied. This is exactly what Facebook has done in the last week or so and in so doing has graphically illustrated that functionality alone will never make Google+ a Facebook killer.

Google’s actual USPs are its reach into the Gmail user base and an implied role in SEO. This it what has driven its growth and is also why there is very little content and engagement on there.  At the end of the day while people may join multiple networks they will only invest their time in places where their friends / target audience hang out. Google+ might get some traction in certain niches in the short term but will take a very long time to go mainstream, if indeed it ever does

My Verdict – Relentlessly overhyped, will have relevance moving forward but it is too early to say what that will be

Be Known

I know that I promised an in-depth review in my last post and I’m sorry if I’m disappointing anyone by not doing one. While I still think this is an incredibly significant move by Monster there really isn’t very much to review at the moment. In some ways I think the situation is similar to Google+, lots of people are joining, with Monster leveraging its enormous existing audience to drive this, but there is very little actually going on.

The “commercial talent community” space is an interesting and evolving one but platforms like BeKnown and Branchout have yet to prove that users join for any other reason than to look at job postings.  As it stands BeKnown is just another platform for job distribution and little else. That said though its mention (albeit just on a slide) in the recent F8 conference and partnership with Facebook to be one of the first new social apps could be very interesting indeed!

My Verdict – A Red Herring for now but watch this space!

The LinkedIn Apply Button

I’ve blogged about this before but it seems that lots of people got distracted by a summer long argument about the “death of the CV” that was quite frankly pointless. I really wish a lot of this black or white 140 characters powered thinking would just go away. Ninety percent of the time in has no foundation in the current realities employers are facing.

In an attempt to get closer to the reality of the situation I spoke to LinkedIn’s EMEA Marketing Director, Laurence Bret-Stern, earlier in September. When I asked her about the CV vs Profile debate she pointed out that thousands of companies have already voted with their feet and have installed the LinkedIn apply button! She also intriguingly hinted that there was much more to come as LinkedIn becomes an ever more open platform to “connect professionals with opportunities more efficiently and effectively”

I really feel this is the most under commented on story from the whole summer. Not only has LinkedIn launched an apply button but a significant number employers are now actively using it which, despite their user growth, is not an achievement Google+ or BeKnown can currently match.

My Verdict – The game changer of the summer and I’m amazed no one seems to have noticed!

The Future of Graduate Recruitment

Graduate recruitment has always been of great professional interest to me, in fact my first ever digital recruitment project was creating the strategy and project managing the build for Siemens first ever graduate recruitment site in 1999.  What has always frustrated me though is the lack of progressive thinking from many employers in their approach to recruiting graduates. Uptake of new technologies has, with a few notable exceptions, always been incredibly slow and in my opinion much of the overall thinking that goes into corporate graduate recruiting strategies is outdated and in danger of fast becoming irrelevant. A bold sweeping statement I know but let me explain what I mean. A few months ago I was at a conference and asked two graduate recruitment managers from two very well known blue chips why they only focused their recruitment efforts on a small number of specific universities and how they choose these institutions in the first place. The first graduate recruiter told me that they only wanted the best graduates so focused only on the best universities. So far perhaps so logical, however when I pressed the point and asked what criteria they used for selecting which universities were the best, I was told that they didn’t have any criteria they just targeted the same universities every year because they were ones they always target.  The second graduate recruiter gave pretty much the same answer but at least added some slightly more enlightened insight by saying they would like to broaden their number of target institutions but were worried about diluting their brand by not being able to maintain the same level of high quality, high touch campus presence.

I can understand why the target institution thinking was important even in the recent past. With so many universities and students out there and graduate recruiters relying on traditional communication strategies, it was important for them to build these kinds of filters into the process to maximize their resources in order to get the best results. However things change and behaviors should evolve.

In Clay Shirky’s excellent book Cognitive Surplus he describes how human beings are often forced to take on board behaviors that can become the established way of doing things but are actually unnatural to the brain and quickly change when technology develops to replace them. His example is remembering phone numbers and although all of us over a certain age developed strategies for remembering lots of these long numbers, we quickly abandoned them when mobile phone address books became ubiquitous.  I feel very strongly that this kind of shift needs to happen in the minds of graduate recruiters.  The old filters, strategies and ways of doing things need to change quickly as there are two major forces that are dictating the need for huge change in the future.

The first of these is the market itself. With the onset of £9000 tuition fees and the current high levels of graduate unemployment, it is inevitable that companies should be thinking about their future talent strategies in a different way.  If employers still want to attract the best young talent in the years to come targeting the same old universities with the same old methods isn’t the way forward. The people who can afford to go on to further study in the future are likely to prioritise proximity, affordability and flexibility as key criteria in their choice of institution rather than previous reputation. That is if they decide to go to University at all! There will be a massive fragmentation in the market and I don’t believe using the strategic shortcut of targeting specific institutions is going to deliver the required results.

The second force driving the future is the ways in which the social web and social technologies are enhancing the way people communicate. I recently did some work for one of the more forward thinking graduate employers and what became really clear quickly is that today's students are keen to enter into a relationship with potential employers early if there some kind of payoff for them (this doesn’t have to necessarily be an eventual job offer either). They also have a genuine desire to self organise and support each other in their job hunt. Add in the fact that they are most connected generation on the planet and it is fairly clear that the traditional graduate brochures, posters and flat websites aren’t going to provide the collaborative brand experience they are looking for.

I think this all points to a clear view of the future and if employers think about this strategically they can actually offset these forces against each other. Fragmentation in the geographic distribution of talent isn’t as much of a problem if companies have a properly thought out social engagement strategy. I believe that finally we have the basis for employers to provide the same high quality person-to-person experience online as they have done on campus in the past. The social web offers the chance of one-to-many and peer-to-peer dialogues in a way that the “virtual careers fairs” of the past never could.

It’s great to see some brands already experimenting with this and I’ve previously blogged about some great work from Unilever here and Deloitte here. However more employers need to be looking at this area closely. There is a learning curve to go through and I wholeheartedly believe that the first movers now will be securing the best talent for years to come. Whatever happens though it surely must be time to finally kill off the graduate brochure once and for all!

"By Grads for Grads" - Social Recruiting from Unilever

I’ve been slightly disappointed lately with the quality of Social Recruiting case studies coming through and this is why I haven’t featured any on the blog for a while. Although some great work is being done, many organizations are just focusing on “social job distribution” and in so doing are missing many of the key advantages that social is bringing to recruitment. With this in mind I was delighted, while doing some work for them just before Christmas, to get an insight into how Unilever are setting about making their UK graduate recruitment properly social. Before going into the detail of the tactics and channels Unilever are using, it is important to reflect on the strategic thinking and resource planning round their social tag line “By Grads for Grads”.  Unilever has recognized that to be effective in the social space they have to have a genuinely authentic conversation with their graduate audience rather than talking at them as the majority of graduate recruiters still seem to do. Instead of using an advertising agency to “manage” their activity Unilever have put together a digital team of previous graduate recruits to run the social channels and be responsible for answering questions while keeping the conversation flowing.

Having current grads help recruit the next year’s intake is nothing new but Unilever are one of the few companies I’ve come across using social technologies to extend the reach of such an initiative. By putting such a resource in place I feel Unilever are in a fantastic position to be transparent about any gap between their employer brand perception and their employer brand reality.

The execution of the strategy runs mainly across Facebook and Twitter. There has also been the recent addition of a growing YouTube channel of video content. It’s great to see an employer really thinking about the importance of conversations and while the content does play an important role, Unilever aren’t blindly taking assets from their website and dumping it onto Facebook in the same way some of their competitors do!

As this is a fairly new initiative it is slightly early to be able to analyze the results. This is also an evolving strategy rather than a one off campaign and more sophisticated measurement techniques are currently being put in place to assess the true long term value of the approach.

Stella Maerker who helps run the digital graduate team has this to say about the success of the campaign:

“We can see a steady increase of followers and fans. Click through rates from the social media pages to the careers website and vice versa prove growing traffic. Applicants will be asked about our social media pages during application process. The real success will be number of successful graduates that got attracted to Unilever by interacting with current grads online!”

While I’m sure some purists (if you can have such a thing in a brand new field!) might criticize the comparatively low number of followers I think this is actually irrelevant at this stage of an ongoing initiative. Unilever have gone for a quality rather than quantity approach and the time spend considering their long term strategy and allocating dedicated internal resources are bound to pay dividends in the long term as social becomes their most important channel for graduate recruitment.

There are of course huge challenges in applying this kind of approach to a broader selection of Unilever’s recruitment activity but Unilever are committed to doing soon. As their Global Resourcing Director Paul Maxin says:

"Digital and social media is a key enabler to the way Unilever builds an engagement based approach to our employment brand equity. We'll continue to integrate it, providing candidate-centric platforms that build advocacy of our employment brand and scale the approach both regionally and globally."