Is Conversational Recruiting the Solution to Finding Millennial Talent?
by Arlene S. Hirsch
In a candidate-driven labor market dominated by Millennials, the way companies treat applicants during the hiring process can greatly impact a job seeker's decision to accept or reject an offer. Companies can gain a competitive edge by staying in touch every step of the way, a strategy talent acquisition experts are calling "conversational recruiting."
Candidates may feel rejected or assume the employer is disinterested if they don't hear back soon after applying, to the point where they may remove themselves from consideration or accept another offer. A survey conducted by MRINetwork found that Millennial candidates are frustrated that the hiring process takes too long and that they don't receive enough feedback from employers.
Conversational recruiting is a "high-tech/high-touch" strategy that can foster better candidate-recruiter relationships and accelerate the pace of the hiring process, say talent acquisition professionals. The key is clear, consistent and continuous communication across multiple channels, including social media, text messaging, instant messaging, video or chat platforms.
"You can use technology at every stage in the recruiting process," said Amy Hunter Glaser, senior vice president at Adecco Staffing in Jacksonville, Fla. "While it doesn't eliminate the need for human connections, it can help recruiters make better use of face-to-face time to build a more high-quality connection."
"Candidates expect to engage where they 'live'—on their mobile devices. And they expect speed; immediate gratification is important when it comes to engaging with today's Millennial candidates," said Ronen Shetelboim, director of marketing at Jobvite, a recruiting software company in San Mateo, Calif.
Chatbots are software applications that mimic human conversation. Think of them as the recruitment equivalent of digital assistants Alexa, Siri or Cortana.
"Whether it's through e-mail, SMS [text] or a messaging app, using a chatbot is the best way to provide conversational recruiting at scale," said Ji-A Min, a senior leadership consultant at Canadian Tire Corporation in Toronto, Canada and the former chief data scientist at Ideal Software, an artificial intelligence software recruitment company. "Realistically, there is no other way to provide real-time, on-demand messaging to hundreds or even thousands of candidates simultaneously without some type of chatbot technology."
Min recommends that companies use customized chatbots to help with screening, scheduling, applicant tracking and other repetitive, administrative processes.
Though Min acknowledges that chatbots can't offer personalized attention, Ideal Software research shows that candidates are eager for information and want to receive it whatever way they can.
Adecco Staffing uses Mya, a chatbot created by Mya Technologies, to prescreen applicants for high-volume temporary or temp-to-hire positions. Because Mya can be accessed 24/7, it's convenient for people who work odd shifts or who can't apply during regular business hours. Adecco's internal data show that the use of Mya has increased recruiter connections from 37 percent to 89.3 percent.
"We use chatbots to expedite the beginning of the application process so recruiters are not bogged down by busywork," Glaser said. "This allows the recruiters time to develop real connections with applicants and … provide an authentic human experience in this candidate-driven market."
Apple's FaceTime, Google's Hangouts and Microsoft's Skype have helped make videoconferencing ubiquitous. Companies can use this technology to reach more candidates and speed up hiring. While it doesn't replace face-to-face interviews, it gives hiring managers and candidates an opportunity to interact directly with each other before deciding whether to make a greater investment of time, money and effort.
Companies like supermarket chain Aldi, online hotel and lodging platform Trivago, resort Club Med, and investment research firm MorningStar all conduct initial interviews with remote candidates via Skype.
Video interviews help weed out candidates whose applications are attractive but who aren't a good fit for the company or the position. That's why a marketing director with a boutique investment research firm in Chicago conducts all of her initial interviews using HireVue's video software, even for local candidates. She can assess demeanor, body language and communication style before bringing candidates in for a formal interview.
The technique saved the marketing director from spending unnecessary face time with a candidate who had a bright pink stripe in her hair, since the director knew that the company's conservative clientele would be uncomfortable working with the woman.
"I liked her personally," the marketing director said. "And she had good experience. But it was a risk that we weren't willing to take."
Recruiters who text candidates throughout the hiring cycle are likely to find an attentive target audience. U.K.-based company Text Marketer found that texts had a 98 percent open rate while e-mails were opened only 20 percent of the time.
Recruiters and hiring managers use text messaging to build relationships with candidates and keep them updated on the status of their application so that they remain engaged in the hiring process. Texting can be used in conjunction with e-mail and voice mail, rather than as a replacement, say recruiters, who add that text recruiting is largely used for high-volume searches in hospitality, retail, food service and health care in the early stages of the application process.
Scott Sendelweck, human resources manager for Community Health Network in Indianapolis, uses Canvas, a text-based recruiting platform, for most positions at the health care system. He finds that it is particularly helpful in interviewing night-shift candidates who work different hours from recruiters. They can interact with multiple candidates simultaneously by creating customized text messages to ask routine questions, collect information, discuss logistics and schedule appointments.
Implementation of text recruiting has cut hiring time at Community Health Network from 45 days to 30 days, Sendelweck said.
Recruiters use social media to source and attract active and passive Millennial candidates and to shorten recruiting time. In a recent LinkedIn survey on hiring trends, 91 percent of Millennials said they are open to hearing about new job opportunities and 68 percent reported feeling flattered when a recruiter reaches out to them. After speaking with a recruiter, job candidates typically start following the company on social media to learn more about its culture and values.
Since company culture can be a key selling point when recruiting, companies can showcase what it's like to work there using social media, blogs, photographs, videos and employee profiles, among other ways.
Twitter is the centerpiece of Brian Hart's social media strategy. Hart is the founder and CEO of Flackable, a boutique public relations and digital marketing agency in Philadelphia. For him, building a Twitter following is the first step in creating a pre-recruitment strategy for a client. Then, when a position opens up, he can post the opening to people who are already familiar with the company and request that they spread the word to others through likes, retweets and word-of-mouth.
Employee-generated content and accomplishments are central to that plan. "There's no greater endorsement than a happy employee," Hart said.
Twitter has great potential for sharing job ads with a wider audience. When Firefish Software, a U.K.-based recruitment software company, had an opening for an intern, a team member posted a tweet asking if there were any graduate copywriters in the area who were interested in joining a software company and provided a link to the job ad on Firefish's website. Within 24 hours, the post had been retweeted 30 times to over 6,000 users.
Many companies use multiple social media platforms in their recruitment efforts. Salesforce and Marriott each have a careers page on their Instagram profile that is separate from their corporate profile. They use the page to highlight the company's culture and interact with followers.
AOL uses Snapchat to encourage Millennial women to apply for jobs. Two 10-second clips in the app's Discover section generated 17 million views as well as a 40 percent increase in job views on Glassdoor.
Video content can increase engagement and make the job-search experience more memorable. Digi-Me, a recruitment software technology company in Naperville, Ill., converts job postings from text into 30-second videos using photographs, music, captions and narration to tell a story about the company, its culture, its employees and the position itself. Those videos are posted on social media and company websites.
"Videos are an innovative way to engage prospective candidates and give them a feel for the company and the position," said Allison Sima, director of marketing at Digi-Me. "You can paint a much better picture with a video. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million."
The careers webpage on a company's website is the anchor of the hiring strategy. Regardless of whether prospective candidates learn about the company from a Google search, a job board, social media or networking, they almost always go to the company's careers page to learn more about the organization and peruse its job openings.
A well-thought-out careers page is both a recruitment and a marketing tool. Marketing software company Hubspot's careers page features a slide deck describing its mission, values and quirky culture; employee testimonials touting it as a great place to work; and employee-narrated videos.
"We cannot forget that recruiting is about people," Shetelboim said. "Companies that understand the importance of the human side of recruiting and that are ready to adapt are the ones that will win the talent war."
Originally published on June 11, 2019 on SHRM.com. Arlene S. Hirsch is a career counselor and author with a private practice in Chicago.