"Easier" Doesn't Necessarily Mean "Better"

Earlier this month, McDonald’s and Snapchat launched a new filter called Snaplications, which lets people take photos of themselves “wearing” virtual McDonald’s uniform hats and name tags. But this is more than the usual Snapchat filter, and it goes beyond being just a public-relations campaign. It also functions as a recruitment tool: users who record ten-second videos in which they talk about themselves and then send the videos to McDonald’s get redirected to the company’s career website and invited to submit a job application.

Right now, the Snaplication is available only in Australia, and it isn’t the entire application process: an individual still has to download and fill out an application form and, presumably, then participate in an in-person interview before being offered a job. But by leveraging the power of both social media and digital technology, this campaign is a herald of things to come, and I suspect that similar processes will eventually be rolled out worldwide and may even lead to the elimination of the in-person interview. Candidates and companies alike need to consider the ramifications of this future shift.

Social media has revolutionized how we interact with each other both in our professional and in our personal lives. It’s been beneficial for recruitment in many ways, particularly by facilitating the rapid spread of information and helping hiring managers reach out to new talent pools. It’s also contributed to the rapid rise of the “easy one-click” application—which in my book is not a positive development.

That declaration might make me sound like an anti-technology curmudgeon, but that’s definitely not what I am. I’m a big fan of technology when it’s properly implemented. But I’m not a fan of adopting technology purely for technology’s sake and without giving it careful thought. Making it possible for people to research jobs and apply for open positions online isn’t a bad thing. But making it too easy for people to apply for jobs online can open a Pandora’s box of problems.

First, the increased focus on submitting job applications via quick and easy routes such as social media profiles and ten-second videos may actually make it harder for hiring managers to find good candidates. If someone is looking for a job and can send in an application with just a few seconds’ effort, why wouldn’t he or she do that? After all, casting a wide net is one way to increase the odds of landing a job, right? But all of those applications need to be processed somehow. An applicant tracking system can do only so much (and maybe not much at all when it comes to analyzing and rating personal videos), so that means actual people need to be looking at that stuff. Now imagine that the “easy one-click” method has led to a geometrical increase in the number of applications sent to an organization—many of which likely aren’t serious, and most of which will require at least some attention from a hiring manager. See the problem?

Second, “easy one-click” applications downplay one very important part of the hiring process: the human connection. These forms usually consist of just a few basic questions—not enough to yield a useful portrait of a candidate. A ten-second video doesn’t help much, either: how much can you learn about someone in that amount of time?

Third, that ten-second video can actually carry disproportionate weight in the hiring process if it’s all a hiring manager has to go on. It offers just a quick snapshot of a person with no opportunities for nuanced conversation or follow-up questions. It may cause hiring managers to (perhaps subconsciously) place too much emphasis on a person’s appearance—and worse, it can lead to racism, ageism, or sexism playing a role in hiring decisions.

Fourth, companies and candidates have long struggled to connect with each other. Streamlining the application process and leveraging social media are two ways to address this perennial problem—but  “easy one-click” applications might actually make it worse. Person-to-person communication is a key element to figuring out if an individual and an organization are a good fit for each other.

In all fairness, I should point out that McDonald’s is using the Snaplication mostly to target teenagers who are looking for short-term jobs. In those situations, some might say that it isn’t critical for hiring managers to get a “good sense” of candidates who aren’t doing complex work and are likely to be in those positions for only a brief time. Personally, I think it’s important to get a “good sense” of any candidate—but I can cede this point here.

When it comes to long-term jobs—or careers—though, candidates and companies need as much information as possible about each other. Although I applaud the creative approach behind the Snaplication (and recognize the need to come up with innovative ways to reach out to prospective candidates), I think it’s inadequate. By giving some parts of the application process short shrift, the “easy one-click” method does both candidates and organizations a disservice.