I don’t like mystery novels. It doesn’t matter how clever the plot or elegant the writing, by the third chapter, I just don’t care who did it and it’s pissing me off that I have to wait 250 pages to find out. Even if you do like a nice whodunit, I’m betting you’re not a huge fan of real-life mysteries; most of us aren’t, particularly Generation Z.
My youngest son is a GenZ and he recently decided to send a small package to his grandmother on the other side of the country. He managed to find a post office, watch a YouTube video about applying stamps and got the thing in the mail. “When will it get there?” he asked. I said one can’t know these things; probably anywhere from three to 14 days. He was flabbergasted, not by the possibility it would take forever, but by the complacency with which I accepted the timelines. “How do people live like that?” he muttered and was gone.
Which brings me to our final instalment in the Recruitment Marketing Toolbox, managing expectations in your applicant and candidate funnel. Here, too, we can borrow from the marketing department and how it handles the sales funnel.
There are three kinds of people in sales funnels:
- Leads, who are people who can fog a mirror and might be interested in buying something
- Prospects, who have been vetted and found likely to buy something at some point
- Customers, who have been previously separated from their money and are either likely to buy again or are about to be moved into the hands of the service department
These track pretty directly to the three kinds of folks in the recruiting funnel: applicants, candidates and new hires. Let’s look at how funnels work.
Marketing’s job is to use all of its powers of persuasion (and let’s face it, annoyance) to get its target audience members to jump into the great big wide end of the funnel. In a perfect world, we’d get them through that funnel in a matter of minutes or hours, but for complex sales, that looks a lot more like weeks or months.
Keep the funnel moving
During these weeks and months marketers will work to make sure the strongest leads are further qualified and moved down the funnel as they signal an increasing interest in buying. At the point where they express a strong interest, they become prospects, and are usually handed over to a salesperson to work on closing the deal. The other thing marketers want to do, of course, is get the people out of the funnel who will never be interested in buying and who are probably there by accident.
Marketers know that not every lead or prospect is ready to buy this week or this month or even this year, which is why we spend so much time and energy on what we call nurture campaigns. If your inbox is full of chirpy news blasts, special offers and free webinars you are probably in your share of nurture campaigns. That is, they’re feeding you information and offers to keep you engaged until you’re ready to make a purchase decision or tell them to get lost.
The idea of applying a little bit of nurturing to recruitment isn’t new. Way back in the day we had “talent communities.” Remember those? The idea was that even if your application never made it past the hideous applicant tracking system, you’d still have a user ID and 16-character password in the system so you could just stop on by and keep applying for stuff. That’s a swell idea when talent is abundant, but this sort of employer-focused thing just won’t cut it anymore. Plus they are ton of work.
Nurture your funnel
What’s not a ton of work is to set up a recruiting Instagram account and invite your applicants and candidates to follow it to see regular updates, new postings and to get a better sense of the culture and mission your organization can offer. If you want a more personal touch, set up an automated email or text message you can fire out once a month with targeted opportunities and links to videos and employee testimonials. Both of these, it happens, are super easy to automate and I’m betting your marketing department already has the tools to do this for you (or with you).
For example, one of my clients uses Facebook to engage with applicants who are a little older and in the funnel for hourly roles. They have an Instagram feed that engages younger applicants for hourly roles and they use email to reach professional and skilled labour. The email content is slightly different for different groups of applicants. Engineers and electricians for example, see content more directed at the advanced technologies in the workplace, whereas others see stories about employer awards, community giving and so on. With a little planning, the whole thing takes a couple of hours a month for the recruiting team to manage.
Automation is our friend when it comes to candidates as well. Once those applicants or future applicants have started working their way down your funnel and have continued to engage with your content and signal an interest, at some point a few of them will tip into the candidate part of the journey. Either because they fit a specific posting or could be a good contingent resource for an future opportunity.
Keep uncertainty out of the funnel
This is where the human connection needs to work with the automation stuff to create a candidate experience that is efficient and transparent. Remember my GenZ kid who can’t deal with the uncertainty of the postal system? Like most of your candidates, he knows exactly where his Uber is, when his pizza will arrive, and how long the line up is at the local walk-in clinic. He finds uncertainty not only baffling but irritating.
Indeed, Uber and Lyft succeed not because they do anything different from taxi services; they just do it more transparently. We need to start applying that ethos to our candidate experiences. Candidates can deal with delayed interviews, jobs that are put on hold and decisions that take forever, but they don’t like a mystery and they detest silence.
Here, again, we don’t need to add a ton of effort to the whole thing. We know the typical spots where things get delayed in the hiring process and your recruiters probably have a talk track to deal with it. What they don’t have is time to call every candidate every few days to keep them up to date. nor do they have time to respond to every candidate enquiry. This is where we can use automated texting, chatbots, email and, if you’re lucky, online status tracking (like Amazon).
At a minimum, you should work with your marketing team or a consultant to craft the messages that can keep candidates up to date. I’d suggest a text or email message you can automatically push to everyone who is in contention for a given role letting them know when the next round of interviews is likely to happen or that the hiring manager is away for ten days and not to panic if they don’t hear something. Bots are great for stuff like this if candidates are inside an applicant tracking system. Ask your vendor how to make that happen.
Finally, when you have your offer signed and it’s time to move the candidate into employee status, you should look at the chain of messages that will happen between signed offer and first day of work. By automating these, you’ll have better prepared new hires who are already engaged with your employer brand and have realistic expectations for their first few weeks on the job.
In case you’re interested, the package did make it to grandma in about ten days, despite an address that was most of the way up the envelope and looked like it had been written by Harbour Seal. GenZ does not “do” postal, it turns out.