The interview

The recession of 2008 induced a widespread employer mentality of “my employees are lucky to have a job,” according to George Blomgren, culture strategy director at Milwaukee-based The Good Jobs.

However, as the employment climate has improved and a skills gap has pervaded several sectors, the fight for talent has granted top job candidates a new kind of selectivity, Blomgren said.

“Job seekers, at least the good ones, have options, and they know it,” he said.

With those options on the table, the impression an employer leaves on a prospective candidate rivals that of the impression a candidate makes on an employer. Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup Inc. recently published a thought leadership whitepaper titled, “When Engaging the Right Talent, One Size Does Not Fit All: Candidate Preferences in Job Search and Interview Practices.”

The report from the staffing firm established that, in order to reach and entice top talent, employers need to customize the application and interview process to the specific kinds of employees they are seeking.

L to R: George Blomgren, Jim McCoy and Kathleen Donovan

“It is vitally important (to invest in a positive candidate experience) because businesses are competing with one another for a finite pool of talent,” said Jonas Prising, chief executive officer of ManpowerGroup. “ManpowerGroup has identified that the world is now in the Human Age, an era where the key competitive differentiator is having access to the best people with the best skills to drive an organization forward. Companies have increased the capabilities they require from employees, which means it has become a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack to source the ideal candidate.”

The search for an ideal fit clearly works both ways, Prising said.

L to R: Anne Nimke and Will Ruch

“Because they are in such short supply…those talented individuals can afford to be more exacting about which employers they work for,” he said. “They will naturally gravitate toward those employers who offer a personalized and positive candidate experience. If a candidate is in high demand, a negative experience with a recruiter may well result in the right candidate rejecting a job offer and opting to work for a competitor instead.”

Back to basics

The report was compiled from a double blind study with feedback from about 230 individuals. Respondents hailed from all across the country and represented a diversity of backgrounds.

The report’s findings emphasize a “candidate-centered experience” for the duration of the application and interview stages. That means companies need to evaluate not only where to broadcast their job openings among websites, social media outlets and job boards, but also determine which kinds of technology to use during the interview process.

One consensus spans job seekers across generations and demographics: personalized interactions.

Many job candidates want a “back to basics approach” in the application and interview process, according to Jim McCoy, vice president of ManpowerGroup Solutions and North American recruitment process outsourcing practice leader.

Although sophisticated technology such as video and voice recordings can help facilitate or advance the application and interview process, those automated technologies cannot act as “a substitute for that human interaction,” McCoy said.

Engaging a candidate by picking up the phone or addressing them in person can be much more effective in securing their interest, according to McCoy and the report’s findings.

While survey respondents indicated a general comfort level with technology, “respondents of all ages overwhelmingly stated their preference for in-person and telephone interviews,” the report stated. Seventy-two percent of respondents stated they prefer an in-person interview with a hiring manager, and another 16 percent stated they would be comfortable with an initial phone screening interview with a recruiter.

“When you’re looking at making a decision that is stressful and exciting at the same time, you want that comfort of having someone who is coaching you along through it,” McCoy said.

‘One size fits one’

Kathleen Donovan, senior vice president of ManpowerGroup Solutions and global recruitment process outsourcing president, sees technology as an “enabler” for recruiters and employers to reach candidates – a portal to lead to a “high-touch experience” with candidates.

In using technology, Donovan, who commissioned the recent study on candidate preferences, reinforces the need for employers to consider how the kinds of talent they’re chasing are relying on technology in their job searches.

ManpowerGroup uses the catchphrase “one size fits one,” which underscores how critical it is for employers to tailor an experience to a specific candidate.

Those who do will be the ones who “win the war for talent,” Donovan said.

Conclusions from ManpowerGroup’s report reveal that in the search for information about jobs and employers, the most popular resource for job candidates is a company’s own website. Other key information hubs include search engines, peers, industry associations, social media networks, news sites, recruiters and hiring managers, and external recruiters.

Among specific job search websites, Indeed.com, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com are most commonly used. Along with CareerBuilder.com, Glassdoor.com and SimplyHired.com sway toward younger job candidates, while Jobs.com is preferred by lower-income workers, and TheLadders.com tends to attract candidates of higher household incomes.

Social media networks are tapped by about a third of survey respondents, whose preferences with the networks vary widely among age groups, industries and career levels.

From a broad perspective, Facebook stands as the most popular social media network in the job search process, even outshining LinkedIn, according to ManpowerGroup’s findings.

The firm believes that overriding dependence on Facebook can be attributed to job seekers wanting to find jobs through peers they trust. Additionally, a job search conducted through Facebook can be more subtle than one conducted on a professional network connection site such as LinkedIn, McCoy said.

However, a survey conducted by The Good Jobs in collaboration with the Greater Milwaukee Committee during Young Professional Week’s reverse job fair points to LinkedIn as a more popular destination than Facebook among job seekers as they gather information about employers. While ManpowerGroup’s question compared several social media outlets, The Good Jobs compared social media outlets such as Facebook and LinkedIn to other resources used in the job search process.

Anne Nimke, co-founder and CEO of The Good Jobs, which advises employers on quantifying and promoting their culture, stands by LinkedIn as being “more of an access point” for job seekers.

Maximizing the value of employer career sites

The two reports do line up in terms of identifying employers’ websites as the top stop for job seekers in their career research.

Yet, 36 percent of ManpowerGroup’s survey respondents expressed that “employers’ websites and career sites lack clear and relevant information.”

McCoy believes employers’ own sites are “underutilized” resources. Often, companies’ personal career sites feature stock photography of individuals who don’t actually work for the company, he said, adding that those kinds of idealized images can frame companies as disingenuous.

Critical components of an effective career site, according to ManpowerGroup’s observations, include videos capturing the company and its workforce in action, a leadership vision statement from the CEO, financial information and realistic explanations of positions and demands.

“When you set realistic expectations for a job, the candidate is not surprised when they join the organization,” and companies tend to experience higher retention rates over time, McCoy said.

Nimke also recommends companies avoid euphemisms and marketing speak on their sites but instead cite specific examples of the values and perks they tout, such as what makes them family friendly or a fun place to work.

Companies need to be much more “transparent, detailed and authentic about what it’s like working there,” Nimke said. They need to be equally detailed with their job postings, which are also often devoid of robust and up-to-date information and present few details about a company’s culture and a day in the life of its employees, Nimke said.

Most companies fail to incorporate “talent attraction” into their approach, Nimke said. Companies often post job descriptions with a “post and pray” mentality, she said, as they broadcast available jobs and simply hope the right candidates apply.

“A more effective way to reach today’s discerning talent is to create a short, attractive description of the job that markets to job seekers the opportunity and answers the ‘WIIFM’ (What’s in it for me?) questions that entice a talented individual’s interest in the position and the company,” Nimke said.

“WIIFM” is top of mind for today’s top talent as individuals are becoming much more scrupulous in deciding where they want to work and how they can align their lifestyles and work styles with a company’s beliefs and culture, according to Nimke.

The Good Jobs believes good job postings act as “love letters to top talent.”

The rise of employer branding

After emerging in the late 1990s, the term “employer brand” has continued to gain traction among companies, according to Will Ruch, CEO and managing partner of Milwaukee-based marketing and communications firm Versant.

“In the last few years, many companies have recognized that they have a ‘brand’ in the talent market – whether they like it or not – and that actively owning and managing their employer brand is critical to recruiting, engaging and retaining the talent they need to succeed,” Ruch said.

An “employer brand” refers to the brand employees work for and the experience they have while on the job.

“I think a good way to start to understand your employer brand is to recognize that a lot of people…have opinions about what it’s like to work for you, and they are constantly communicating those opinions, through many channels,” said Blomgren of The Good Jobs. “All of these things, and anything else that makes a statement about what you are like as an employer – all adds up to your employer brand.”

At The Good Jobs, Nimke, Blomgren and their staff consult clients through culture workshops that help employers quantify how they invest in their employees through programs, activities, amenities and benefits. The Good Jobs assigns clients specific badges that act as certifications highlighting their most pronounced culture attributes. Those badges are awarded in seven categories – fun, extreme perks, corporate responsibility, flextime, green DNA, inclusion and career development – and can be used as part of employers’ culture marketing efforts to attract desired candidates.

Badges are also visible in The Good Jobs’ “Culture Directory,” a one-stop shop where job seekers can explore the cultures and amenities of a range of companies.

Nimke emphasizes the importance of maintaining consistent brand communications through all avenues a job seeker might see – including a company’s website, job postings, email communications, staff meetings, intranet and social media activity.

“We’re all living in an Amazon and Yelp review world,” Nimke said. “Individuals want more information to make good decisions. So if you can get your culture message to where job seekers are looking for it, you’ll be ahead of the game. You’ll be able to reach individuals in an authentic manner.”

Versant also devotes a portion of its marketing and communication operations to helping companies create an employer brand and hook the right kind of talent – a specialty focus that grew out of the company’s advertising heritage, Ruch said.

The company applies brand management thinking to the employment experience and the recruitment experience, said Ruch, whose recent book, “HR and Marketing Power Partners,” speaks to that application.

In guiding companies through the employer branding process, Versant first helps them identify the talent that is right for their organization. The next step centers on capturing the “why” of work, which encompasses the leadership’s vision for the company, the company’s unique attributes and input from its employees on their workplace experiences. Once an employer brand has been fleshed out, Versant backs clients in taking that brand to market with a commitment to consistent communication.

The firm’s approach to employer branding illuminates the link between recruiting and marketing, which ManpowerGroup also recognizes.

“Recruiting is like marketing, and when you think about marketing, a lot of it is around brand management and image management and then promotion,” McCoy said. “And you really need to think about recruiting in that same way.”

The impact of an effective employer brand can help a company avoid a variety of costs – from the cost of leaving key positions unfilled and the cost of employee turnover to the cost of “missed hires,” or the talent that ends up bypassing a job application because they are not sold on the company while researching it.

“They become the ones who got away who you never knew about,” Blomgren said.

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