So What Do All Those Resumes The ATS Flushes Represent.

They all represent hope, hope that somehow, some way they will get a chance to talk and maybe even have a working relationship. That’s because people are not machines or “assets.”

Every time somebody goes the trouble to work their way through an ATS job application they are taking a positive act to communicate. As Scott Adams points out, that is apowerfu indication of your success.

Look for unexpected positive physical action from potential customers.

I’ll have to give you several examples before you can see what I mean.

When Dilbert first appeared in newspapers in 1989 it was not a success. It appeared in fewer than a hundred newspapers and didn’t grow much for the first several years. With syndicated comic strips, that sort of slow uptake and modest demand almost always predicts a slow decline to failure. My syndication company at the time (United Media) moved their marketing focus to newer comics and left me to fend on my own.

And fend I did. I started running my email address between the panels of the comic. This was when email was still so new that most people didn’t even have it. My inbox exploded. The number of people sending me email was far beyond what made sense for a failing newspaper comic. The email response was unexpected, and it required physical action from the sender. As you probably know, Dilbert went on to be one of the biggest comic properties in history.

As Dilbert grew in popularity, people started emailing to say they were sorting my comics into themes and using photocopies and glue to create their own physical books with chapters for each topic. Literally dozens of people emailed to say they were doing this exact thing. They said they would love to buy a book of this type from me if I also added some text to go with the comics. This type of reaction was unexpected and it required physical action. I designed my first non-fiction book, The Dilbert Principle, exactly the way the fans asked me to do it. The book went on to become a number one New York Times best-seller.

I know that potential employees are not customers, now, but each one sees something in your company that they are willing to take a chance on you.  Yet what is the response that you are sending back.  Having received all too many rejection emails, when the company bothered to respond at all I can say that is that typical automated response is a pretty large slap in the face. That’s the problem with using algorithms to handle people.

The fact is that the mere fact that people are willing to jump through the hoops of an ATS system means that your company has a successful product, itself.  Yet all too frequently the companies are throwing all that away, for convenience.  The job seekers are making a positive response toward you, don’t they at least deserve a better response from you than an automail? Is that so much to ask for?

What do you think your candidates really want from the recruiting process? To be hired, of course. But they also want your attention. In a world of increasingly loud voices and unparalleled customization, job seekers expect not just to be heard, but also to get a personalized experience. What’s more, they know there may be dozens or hundreds of people applying, but they still want to know where they stand in the process.

We can think of this as visibility, or the fact that applicants want a peek into what recruiters know about their status.

An expectation of visibility among candidates shouldn’t surprise recruiters today. For one thing, recruiters themselves have a high expectation of feedback and follow-ups from job seekers after every stage of the application process. Today, technology allows candidates to demand and has enabled them to expect the same level of attention in return.

The trouble is, many candidates are not getting the visibility they crave. And that can have lasting impacts on a job seeker’s perception of your organization as an employer. In this post we will explore the concept of visibility as it relates to the candidate experience, and discuss ways to incorporate it into your talent acquisition strategy.

Why Candidates Expect Visibility in the Recruiting Process

Visibility for job seekers in the recruiting process isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is undoubtedly increasing in importance. Previous generations of candidates also wanted feedback from recruiters when they didn’t get a job, or they weren’t invited for an interview. But the formerly dominant forms of communication–snail mail and phone calls–limited the speed and frequency with which candidates could reach out to employers. No one wanted to be that guy who called HR every day, just to check on the status of their application.

Today, candidates have a slew of digital communications to choose from if they want to follow up with a recruiter. Email, LinkedIn messages, tweets, Gchat–we could go on, but the point is, any of these communications offers varying levels of formality, in a fraction of a second. So if a candidate can send you their updated resume or like your company’s latest Facebook post, virtually in an instant, why can’t you respond to them just as easily?

A typical argument from the recruiter’s point of view is that there simply isn’t enough time to interact with every applicant, at every stage of the hiring process. Indeed, some employers clearly state that applicants who do not make it through to the next step will not be contacted, or their rejection triggers an automated email. While most candidates would probably understand the reasons for this lack of personalized responses, it stands in sharp contrast to the tailored messages they get from other services.

The typical job seeker really only wants a small degree of dignity and respect.  This is getting harder to find these days as it seems that everybody looking to hire wants to tear away every little bit of the small shreds of self worth that a job seeker might have.  All the penetrating questions and not so little humiliations. The tone you hear from all the people in the job search process is how valuable their time is. As if yours isn’t?  Yet it seems that the whole system is designed to make the Candidate’s experience as miserable as possible.

Becca wrote back to Amy a week later than she had promised to. Here’s what she wrote:

Dear Amy,

I hope your week is going well! Please forgive me for being a week late in getting back to you. One of my department-mates was out sick and I dropped the ball. I’m so sorry about that!

The good news is that Amanda Li, our Procurement Manager, would like to meet you next week at your convenience. What’s the best date and time for you?

Thanks Amy, and apologies again for the delay!

All the best,

Becca Carroll

Is Amy going to be upset with penitent Becca? Probably not!

Becca understands that people want to be treated like humans, especially when they’re job-hunting and feeling vulnerable.

What if Becca had sent you this message, instead?

Dear Amy,

Amanda Li, our Procurement Manager, will meet you next Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in our office for your interview for the Purchasing Agent job. Please be prompt.


Becca Carroll

In her terse message Becca signals “You can dang well get your rear end in here next Thursday at 2:00 p.m. if you want this job. Don’t be late.”

She signals that she couldn’t care less about Amy.

Amy is just another candidate to Becca — and to this version of Becca, all job candidates are a lower life form.

Of course, we cannot assume that anyone has ever taught Becca how to write business correspondence or even how to interact with people — but if no one has taught Becca those things, how can she possibly be qualified to interview candidates?

  • When a recruiter is rude to you, run away!
  • When someone leaves you sitting in a conference room waiting for them — and then show up without an explanation or apology to carry on the interview — take off!
  • When you get to the interview and no one has any idea why you’re there and isn’t especially interested to find out — vamoose!
  • When they let you sit and wait for weeks between contacts — flee!

Your gut knows bet. Your brain is not as smart as your trusty gut is, so tell your brain to pipe down and listen to your gut instead when it tells you “You’re going to get a great job, but not at this place – because these people don’t deserve you!”

The big problem is that all too many hiring managers, HR people and recruiters have forgotten the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While things right now are such that some people are as desperate as this guy that could change amazingly quickly if the economy turns around.

When that happens what then?  How do you fix relations that have been so broken.  How do you declare peace after you have salted the ground and plowed it in.  The fact is that once you break the trust that is so essential for good business, it’s going to be almost impossible to get it back.  The consequences of how you treat prospective employees today is going to be measured in lost opportunities, lower sales and customers that won’t wait for you to catch up.

While much of business talk is analytics, measurements  and data, the reality is that most of a business cannot be measured. It’s the ability to realize vision and work from experience that makes a company valuable. It’s relationships that create sales. Yet those are the things that American business is throwing away when they recruit for new employees.  Is it any wonder that the system is a disaster?

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