By: Jon Picoult
Have you ever considered thanking all of your recent applicants for laboring through your hiring process?
Many companies don’t realize it, but their hiring process is rife with “friction.” Their recruiting strategy and selection process is filled with obstacles, annoyances, and hindrances that make it difficult for applicants. Instead of being enamored with the company and the prospect of working for you, applicants grow sour on the whole experience and begin to wonder if applying was a mistake.
They’re Running for the Hills
Applicants’ interactions with employers can be so laborious that the hiring process itself actually drives them away.
In a recent survey by research firm Staffing.org, 47% of job candidates said they had not applied to a particular employer because the firm’s hiring process was so frustrating. Nearly as many (44%) were driven away by vague job description. One-third of respondents had bailed on a potential employer because it was simply too difficult to find company information.
With so many candidates running for the hills, every business should be asking itself: What would our applicants say? Does our company offer a “frictionless” applicant experience?
Good Friction vs. Bad Friction
To be fair, a truly frictionless recruiting process isn’t always a reasonable aspiration. That would mean all applicants glide smoothly into the “hired” column. By design, recruiting activities need to incorporate some friction as a means to separate desirable candidates from less desirable ones.
Good points of friction are those that present a reasonable and valid hurdle that helps assess whether the applicant is a good fit for the job and the company. Examples include an efficient job application, reference-checking and interview process and job skills tests.
Bad points of friction test the patience and sanity of the job candidate. In some cases, they are borne out of organizational dysfunction or simply out of ignorance. In other cases, they are deliberately inserted into the hiring process, which is a misguided attempt to more efficiently separate the wheat from the chaff. Examples include difficult-to-navigate career websites, no company profile, excessively long employment applications, ambiguous or incomplete job descriptions and poorly-structured candidate communications.
To architect a recruiting strategy that optimizes good points of friction while minimizing bad ones, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don’t go overboard. Good friction can easily become bad friction when employers try to use increasingly “sophisticated” mechanisms to weed out undesirable candidates earlier in the process. That may translate into bloated job applications that demands an extraordinary amount of detailed information from applicants. Remember, your candidates are applying for a job, not a CIA post.
- Don’t overdue the interview. Having more than one person on your team get involved in the interview process can result in better hiring -- but be careful not to overdue a good thing. Asking the candidate to meet with too many people can be exhausting. It also drains workplace productivity.
- Maintain some element of surprise. Setting expectations around the hiring process (clearly-identified hiring steps, realistic timeframes, etc.) is an excellent way to remove bad friction, and provides applicants with a sense of control in a situation where they have little. But don’t reveal everything in advance -- such as your interview questions, or exactly how the final selection decision will be made. Keep some things close to your chest, so you can see how people think on their feet and observe them in “unrehearsed” mode.
- Introduce “good friction” judiciously. For a recruiter, it can be intoxicating to think of all the creative approaches that could be used to better screen candidates -- essay questions, case studies, personality tests, business simulations, etc. Don’t do everything at once. After you introduce one of these, be sure to assess its value: Is the intelligence it provides worth the burden imposed on the candidate?
- Let applicants weigh in. How do you know if you’re striking the right balance between good and bad friction? To answer that question, be sure to solicit an external review of your recruitment process. Getting feedback from new hires and current candidates is essential for identifying (and correcting) those recruiting touchpoints that are chronic sources of annoyance.
Think of the value of a frictionless recruiting experience this way: If you make it difficult for customers to interact with your company -- to locate your store, find the right product, obtain assistance, etc. -- what happens? They stop patronizing your business and tell lots of other people about the bad experience. Make it easy for customers to do business with you and it’s far more likely that you’ll earn their loyalty.
The same principle applies in the recruiting arena. If it’s unreasonably difficult and onerous for candidates to interact with your firm, they’ll be inclined to look elsewhere for employment. (And no matter what the state of the job market, talented people will always have other alternatives.)
So, as you would do with any complex machinery, add some oil to your hiring engine. With the right adjustments, you can create a recruiting strategy that has less “bad friction” -- a hiring process that’s rigorous without becoming tedious. Candidates will appreciate that, and will reward you with their interest and consideration.
Jon Picoult is Founder of Watermark Consulting, a firm that helps businesses impress their customers, candidates and employees. Jon is a frequent writer and speaker on workplace issues. Prior to founding Watermark, he held senior executive roles in service, technology, sales and marketing at Fortune 100 companies. Learn more, or read Jon’s blog.