Is the online recruitment selection process dehumanising?

CHRIS KEELING • 16 Mar 2018

There was an article posted recently on Recruitment Grapevine that was reporting on a post that had gone viral, of a candidate voicing their frustration at a poor online application process.

Polarising views on recruitment technology

Reading the article, I was struck that the issue sparked polarising opinions – not least in the Twitter exchanges that it prompted. On the one hand, there were HR professionals who could see the value of the applicant tracking system (ATS) in helping to handle the huge volumes of CVs/applications they were receiving.

But on the other hand, there were numerous candidates who felt completely disengaged with the hiring process and, consequently, negative about the company. Why was this? In my view, it seems the response is hostile because the process was flawed in a number of ways.

Flawed hiring process

  1. When the process asked the candidate to upload a CV, it then didn’t ‘parse’ (that is to copy the content into the relevant application form fields), which resulted in the candidate having to do everything twice. Clearly the guy behind the original post found this irritating and whilst we may not all agree with the rather pithy approach that he took in highlighting the issues, I am sure we can all empathise with the frustration he must have felt.
  2. There is a tendency, even now – in 2018 – to not respond to candidates if they haven’t been successful. I really don’t understand why this still exists today. When we first created Jobtrain in the late 1990s, one of the benefits we extolled was the fact that such systems allow clients to communicate, either individually or en-masse, with candidates to give timely feedback. How did we get to a position, twenty years on, where companies still don’t see the plain manners in responding to candidates who have taken time to apply?
  3. Even after a candidate has applied, there is a continued lack of engagement. This reflects, perhaps, an arrogance amongst recruiting organisations that is misplaced and dangerous. Increasingly, the talent marketplace is competitive for many companies, and people are far more likely to make a judgement on their next job move, based on whether the company feels like a good place to work.Most organisations wouldn’t treat their customers the way they treat job applicants. Instead, they seek to ‘win’ customer loyalty and goodwill through endless marketing and engagement. So why treat your own potential employees differently? If you read the start of this third point and found yourself bristling at the words ‘arrogance’ and ‘dangerous’, then maybe now is the time to pause and consider how you would feel if your employer started to put barriers in your way and to ignore you?

Spend 80% of your time on 20% of candidates (the best talent)

It really doesn’t have to be this way. There are people in the HR/Resourcing community who readily grasp the advantages that technology brings. They fully appreciate the benefits, in that it can help identify the best people quickest (and that is not necessarily relying on Artificial Intelligence). This is simply about making sure that 80% of your time is spent on the 20% of candidates who most closely match your requirements. How do you identify that 20%? Well, a great start is through relevant ‘sifting’ questions and an application process that reflects your own values.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” – Peter Drucker

Reporting is the next great factor. A decent ATS will allow you to generate reports that can guide you in the future. It can quickly help you see the demographic of candidates you are attracting and employing; identify the best sources of candidates; highlight ‘bottlenecks’ in your own recruitment process that leads to losing out on the best candidates. The list can go on.

Maintaining the human element to hiring

One thing we would always look to extol is the value of human intervention in the hiring process.

Ultimately, candidates do not accept jobs with hiring organisations simply because they used the Jobtrain ATS (other ATSs are available). The adage that ‘people buy people’ still rings true.

Candidates will make judgements about the type of organisation you are by the level of contact they enjoy during the process. That includes the nature and tone of the emails they receive; the friendliness of the recruiter who contacts them for a chat; the welcome they receive from their prospective manager. It’s also the speed at which their questions and queries are answered; the ease of the process of receiving their onboarding information and so forth.

Whilst a critical ‘enabler’, the technology at that stage is very much in the background. It really is down to the recruiters to make it happen.

So, the moral of this story? It’s quite simple really. Whilst we will naturally shout from the rooftops about the value of Jobtrain, please don’t expect technology to replace the personal touch. Whether you are a recruiter, a candidate, a hiring manager or a creator of recruitment systems, we should all remember that we’re all only human after all.

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