The Power of Storytelling in Recruitment

The Power of Storytelling in Recruitment

In the July issue of our HR Insights e-newsletter, I shared an article by David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom (both of the O.C. Tanner Institute) titled “Science Says, If You Want People to Respond, Tell a Good Story.” The article focused on how leaders can leverage stories to inspire their employees. But it also got me thinking about how recruiters, too, can use great stories to improve their work.

Your Competitors Are Stealing from You

Your Competitors Are Stealing from You

In December 2017 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the national unemployment rate was an astonishing 4.1%. This low rate means that many companies have unfilled openings because there simply aren’t enough people looking for jobs. More likely, though, they’re struggling to fill open positions because the type of people those companies want or need to hire are already employed by their competitors.

Virtual Reality’s Place in Your Workplace

Virtual Reality in Your Workplace

When Nintendo released the Virtual Boy gaming console in 1995, that early virtual reality (VR) device flopped both commercially and critically. In the past couple of years, though, several affordable—and successful—VR devices (such as Oculus Rift, Google’s Daydream, Samsung’s Gear VR, and the VR One from optics giant Zeiss) have hit the consumer market. Right now, the most popular VR applications are games and movies. But just imagine how VR could revolutionize recruitment, which faces the never-ending challenge of finding candidates with the right skill sets in a shrinking applicant pool.

In this digital age, consumers do their product research online before making purchases in stores. Similarly, applicants research your company before walking into your office for an interview. Take that approach one step further: what if applicants could take a virtual tour of your company? Or use VR to “try out” for a day the jobs they’re applying for? Educated consumers make confident decisions. Giving applicants a chance to explore their potential jobs and work environments could translate into higher interview-to-hire ratios and improved employee retention.

Now think about the possibilities for using VR to streamline the recruitment and onboarding processes. Video interviews are now commonplace. But with glitchy technology and camera angles that often force participants to look at screens instead of at each other, the current “remote interview” experience still leaves much to be desired. Because the point of virtual reality is to deliver as immersive an experience as possible, the use of VR is used in remote interviews can help participants have “face to face” conversations and feel as though they’re actually in the same room together.

VR can also be a useful assessment tool. Written tests have been standard for screening candidates for decades, but they can’t measure everything. With VR-based assessments, companies can test applicants’ skills in areas such as customer service, driving, and project or team management. Instead of answering questions about how they would handle workplace challenges, candidates can—through a VR scenario—demonstrate how they would actually respond to them.

Developers are just starting to explore the many possibilities of VR. Once they look beyond entertainment and turn their full attention to recruitment- and hiring-oriented applications, that shift will very likely turn the business world on its head!

"Easier" Doesn't Necessarily Mean "Better"

the Snaplication

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.

Think Inside the Box to Fill the Skills Gap


Last week I mentioned the skills gap and how it will continue to affect employers in 2014 (and very likely beyond). With widespread staffing shortages on the horizon, some companies may soon find themselves scrambling to find qualified workers to fill open positions. In order to meet their clients’ needs, companies will need to pursue multiple talent sourcing streams.

Social media is already one big player on the recruitment field: companies are increasingly turning to platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to identify (and even assess) workers with in-demand skill sets. Referrals from current employees can also lead recruiters to strong candidates. And of course job posting sites, too, can lure job seekers to your doorstep (though such “post and pray” outlets often yield poor results).

But if you want to get a leg up on your competitors and snap up top talent before they do, take a look at your current staffing streams in a new light. For example, consider your contingent workers as a candidate pool for full-time positions at their current placement sites.

Think about it: these employees and the organizations they’re working for already have some familiarity with each other. An already-placed temp knows a bit about the company, and the company has had a chance to see (and evaluate) the temp’s performance firsthand. Also, many people who are working in temporary positions have skills and experience well above their current pay grades—and are very likely interested in opportunities for professional advancement.

But making an offer of permanent employment to a contingent worker isn’t as simple as asking him or her to sign a new contract. Even though your roster of temps may include several highly qualified workers, you and your client may not be aware of their existence. That is, you know they’re qualified for the jobs they’re currently placed in, but don’t necessarily know what they can do outside those parameters.

Because temps often don’t go through standard interviewing process and are generally assessed for and matched only to narrowly defined skill sets (e.g., the requirements for a particular open temp position), you may lack a complete and accurate picture of their knowledge and abilities. The contingent worker you placed in a particular position may be the perfect candidate for an open permanent position at the same organization—and yet it’s very possible for all the involved parties (staffing firms, employee, and client) to be completely unaware of this ideal match.

How can you avoid these problems? If the host organization considers the temp as a possible temp-to-hire candidate right from the beginning, it can move much quicker when a permanent hire becomes necessary. Instead of evaluating an individual’s fit only for one narrowly defined role, organizations can evaluate temps more broadly and even put their information into internal recruitment databases so they’re likely to turn up in a search for open positions. (If you pursue this path, though, tread carefully and seek legal counsel: it can lead to questions about who a candidate “belongs” to as it relates to the staffing company service agreement, so make sure all parties are on the same page regarding these issues.)

This takes a bit more time and effort up front, before the organization is certain it will even need to fill a particular position on a permanent basis. But companies that do this can enjoy a good return on investment if and when they find themselves in need to fill a position that requires a high-demand skill set. In that situation, they’ll be all set to go—and less likely to have to engage in expensive and time-consuming candidate searches.

Keep the big picture in mind. Instead of thinking only about how to meet your clients’ contingent staffing needs, also think about multiple ways your temps might contribute to an organization. The company may never have an opportunity to move that employee into a permanent position, but if it does … well, you’ll be all set!

The skills gap isn’t going away, and although the need for contingent staffing is as strong as ever, you want to be well positioned to assist your clients with all their staffing needs. Helping a company find qualified employees for positions with hard-to-fill skill sets gives you another opportunity to provide added value for your services and strengthen your relationships with your clients.