How to create an emotional connection with candidates

"People consume jobs in the same way they consume goods ... based on want rather than need" - Jon Stanners, Telefonica Alpha

Can recruitment challenges be resolved by understanding the candidate’s emotional and practical needs and the channels they engage with? Jo Jacobs reports from the CIPD recruitment conference.

Social media has blurred the boundaries between employer brand and corporate brand, and there are clear advantages to treating candidates like customers, speakers at last week’s CIPD’s Recruitment Conference and Workshop concluded.

“People consume jobs in the same way they consume goods and services. They are looking for something more and we have to build emotional connections with them,” said Jon Stanners, head of global talent engagement at telecommunications company Telefonica Alpha.

Stanners cited examples of aspirational brands such as Apple and Nike, where purchasing is based on “want” rather than “need”.

He added: “Employee brand is your promise to employees. This is no different to the [core] brand. Take off your corporate mask and tell people the real story and the things that matter to them.”

Stanners explained that people are “living” in different channels including Glassdoor, Reddit and Youtube, and talking to their peer groups.

“You have to think like them and look for them – where are they networking, hanging out, what language are they using? Talk in their language. Understand them. They are not ‘talent’ or ‘candidates’ – they are people,” Stanners continued.

Social boost

The need to be active on social media was echoed by several speakers. Since it adopted a marketing mindset in 2014, Wiltshire Council has significantly boosted its volume of applications and number of appointments made, while cutting staff turnover, agency staff numbers and agency spend.

Steps taken by the council include embracing social; replacing landscape images on job ads with people; developing a library of staff blogs and vlogs; and allowing applications by CV rather than application form. Such methods have also helped address a skills shortage issue.

Jane Graham, resourcing manager at Wiltshire Council, now finds it hard to believe the council did not use social media prior to 2014.

She said: “Organisations need to get away from the ‘post and pray’ [resourcing] approach. Be savvy and more intelligent. Talent acquisition is about taking a holistic approach and using all methods.”

While social media can make an organisation more attractive, news can also travel fast following a poor candidate experience, which not only affects that person as a consumer but also their network of friends and families.

Candidates are consumers

Ben Gledhil, talent acquisition manager at furniture chain Sofology, said “We live in a digital age and your reputation is everywhere. Like Tripadvisor for restaurants/hotels, Glassdoor is here to stay. You can go on Glassdoor and see what people are saying behind your back.

“If you get the candidate experience wrong you’re actually losing your consumers – and this has an impact on your organisation’s bottom line.”

Common recruitment problems cited by Gledhil include poorly accessible careers websites; unclear job descriptions with no emotive links; long application processes; overcomplicated assessment processes; few communications/status updates; and no tangible feedback.

Gledhil explained how he has developed a model for candidate experience that puts brand awareness and “interest” at the top, demonstrating the need to build an emotional connection.

Practicalities for candidates should be taken into account – for example, job hunting may take place in the evenings and people need to take time off for interviews.

Neil Morrison, director of strategy, culture and innovation at Penguin Random House explained that organisations need to consider who holds the value – the organisation or the candidate?

Morrison said: “We make it easy for them [candidates] to transact with us as they hold the value we want.”

Steps taken by Penguin Random House include operating a Twitter feed 24/7 (as candidates interact with the organisation evenings and weekends) and developing a scheme to manage the candidate experience.

This provides clarity on the application process; commitment to timescales; feedback at every stage; two-way communication; and recognising the individual.

Morrison made the comparison of the lack of practical information often given to candidates with purchasing a product online – as people would not order a product online with no knowledge of the timeslot, date of arrival and price, for example.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s Good Recruitment Campaign was cited as a valuable resource.

The results from Penguin Random House’s candidate experience scheme, which includes creating excitement and engaging potential candidates, show that 80% of those who initially expressed interest converted as applicants.

Morrison said: “If you believe that candidates have value then treat them as such rather than treating them as one of 400 people.”

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