Opinion: The recruitment black hole

by External15 Jul 2015
With automated recruitment systems and the latest technology, HR professionals are starting to ask if one vital element - the human beings - have been been forgotten from the equation, as Helen O’Brien explains.

Over the last three months I have vicariously ridden the rocky road of job hunting with a close friend. I’ve seen their diligence, their discipline and their despair. I’ve watched them dutifully scan the proliferation of ads on the internet recruitment pages and watched them scroll through them all – searching each sentence and nuance for that pot of gold that guarantees employment success. The daily search, the tailoring of resumes and cover letters, the close scrutiny of web sites, the dutiful recording of Values and Missions and Visions and key personnel. The sending off same into the internet ether – never to be seen again. It’s a full time job in itself. To then get pinged with “we’ve sent your application to the employer” and that’s the last they hear ever again.  The Bermuda Triangle.

Now, I’m not talking about someone who has no experience, or underwhelming skills or is incapable of communicating within a business – I’m talking about someone, like thousands of others, who would be an asset to any business. If only they would talk to him.

I’ve also marvelled at the process we, as HR professionals, now demand of our high wire performing candidates – all in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘improvement’. “But it makes our job easier” they cry. “But it allows us to work through the process so much more quickly” they parry. “But we are so busy with recruitment that is cuts the front part in half.” Oh, the value add bit where HR can really offer a valuable service to the business bit? That part?? 

The most fascinating piece for me has been the back end data collection – once a brave candidate decides to apply for a vacancy – they are taken to the next room in the Recruitment Labyrinth. They upload their CV’s and their Cover Letters – written to no one in particular because heaven help us if we gave a name for them to actually ring and speak to about the role – and they cross their fingers and hope that it works!  They are then taken through, with the assistance of the smiling internet concierge, to the next room – the data input page. “Hang on” says the candidate. “Didn’t I give you all of this when you asked me to upload my resume?” Yes, but that was one of the first recruitment hurdles and we need to you to jump another one and if you drop out half way through because it’s actually insulting to your intelligence, repetitive and unnecessary, we will defend this by saying we didn’t want your type anyway if you can’t be bothered to jump through all of our hoops – so there! Never once do we say to our HR selves “hang on a minute – do we only want people who are all the same and get some sort of weird sadistic pleasure from converting the words from their resume into a drop down menu??”  Maybe the ones that get away – the ones that say “hang on, there’s more to life than a drop down menu and is this the sort of company I want to work for?” – are the ones we actually need in our company. Too late – they’ve dropped out and gone to make a cup of coffee. 

However, there’s a bigger piece of this emotional roller coaster puzzle that’s missing now in our tech savvy, social media, smart phone, App happy, data populated, online recruitment world that seems to have fallen off this mortal coil: humans.

In our world of strategic HR professionals strategically proving their strategic worth at the strategic executive table through the amassing of useless and irrelevant strategic data to make any CFO swoon with strategic envy we seem to have forgotten something about recruitment. It’s a people thang. No different to a nurse having to lay hands on a patient to complete a sponge bath – at some point, dear HR people, you are going to have to talk to another human being.  

Have we lost our HR way? Did someone at some point turn around and say “no – let them apply on line and let there be not a human being amongst them!” Like some online gargoyle of Marie Antoinette we have handed over our one and only, dinky di, can not be replaced, most strategic value we add in any business. Yes, quite willingly, without a whimper or a question – we have just acquiesced. Without a glance over our professional shoulders or a slight quizzical turn of our head. We’ve stopped connecting with our potential candidates.

So we post and pray. We upload our ads and we sit back and let the system do the talking. Don’t ring us – well, we haven’t given you a contact name anyway so best of luck with that if you’d like to talk to someone about the role and your suitability. And don’t expect us to contact you unless you are successfully short listed. We’ve written that in the ad – we won’t get in touch with you unless we want to! So, if you don’t hear from us in the next millennium – assume you didn’t get the job – okay? You expect us to write to you? Even if you aren’t successful? You must be joking. We’re busy people!  We have strategic value to add strategically. We have an Employment Brand to define – we don’t have time to talk to you! Whatever next! What’s happened to us? What’s happened to HR? The last time I looked I noticed that the first part  of our titles had the word ‘human’ in it. Remember when we used to put a contact name and number on the ad? Remember those salad days of HR? When we would actually take calls from interested candidates who wanted to know a bit more. And when we would write to every candidate a series of prepared emails that basically kept them up to speed with the process to which they had subjected themselves – we’ve got your application thanks and we will get in touch – and then about 4 weeks later we would send another email to everyone who applied and hadn’t been interviewed saying thanks for applying and being interested in us as an employer and best of luck with your future career and if you had any questions don’t hesitate to give me a call. Remember that? Is it so far back that the memory is in sepia? Remember when we used to talk to candidates – before they put in an application? Blasphemy! The heady days of HR.

For some reason in the name of ‘efficiency’ we have turned our professional backs on the most simple but important of human processes – the recruitment process. We worry about pitching our Employee Value Proposition and we upload our ads with wonderful images and copy telling candidates how great we are as an employer. We worry about making sure that we are a value adding cost centre in the business. But we’ve forgotten the most important thing that we do that has the most important value in the business’ strategy – sourcing and engaging excellent talent. 

Now, you’re probably sitting there reading this over your coffee, whilst your eRecruitment software pings and churns through candidate data, thinking ‘she’s obviously never had the volume of recruitment we’d had or she wouldn’t be saying this – she’d be praying at the foot of the software statue”. 

I’m the HR Director for a Global rapidly changing organisation. In the last Financial Year, my little recruitment team of 1.5FTE worked through global recruitment for 110 roles. With no eRecruitment software – just good old fashioned ads posted on the internet with a contact name and phone number, emails to all candidates saying “thanks for your application and this is the process”, phone and Skype calls where candidates actually talked to my team members about the role…….…before they put in an application…………..my team read 1000’s of resumes and talked to 100’s of interested candidates. 

Our stats told us that on average it took us 6 weeks to post and fill a role, our turnover rate is 3% on average, our staff satisfaction is 85%, our cultural fit for new candidates is spot on, our hiring managers are happy and our talent bank is full of excellent candidates who would love to work for us. And everyone who walks the floors of our global business is known by HR – really known – they have a connection with us because we engaged with them from the minute they even thought about us an employer.  

You want strategic influence as an HR professional – it’s there. In the relationship you have with every single person you brought into the business. From the first touch they had – right through to when you handed them their swipe card on their first day. 

Simple. 

About the author

Helen O’Brien is the General Manager of HR for Osmoflo Pty Ltd

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