The Hype of Candidate Engagement & Experience
November 21, 2017
Strategic advisor, Consultant, Futurist, Global speaker, Entrepreneur
t seems that in the last year or two recruiters have been fixated on improving candidate engagement and the candidate experience. There were hundreds of articles and reports on candidate engagement, awards, and at least one conference devoted entirely to discussing it. There is nothing wrong about wanting to make the experience a candidate has friendlier or in making it easier to apply for a job. I know all too well how frustrating it can be for a candidate to navigate the typical career site, learn about and apply for a suitable position, and then find out that all his or her work went into a black hole. Most career sites and recruiting processes are designed for administrative ease or for the recruiter and are not seamless or simple for a candidate.
But, if we are going to improve the candidate experience or make them more engaged, wouldn’t it be nice to start with a clear definition of what engagement or experience are? And wouldn’t it also be useful to know if a positive experience results in any tangible improvement in the number of hires made per candidate or in the quality of hire (another ill-defined term).
If recruiters and our profession ever hope to taken seriously, we must become more scientific and disciplined in what we focus on. We need measurable definitions, large samples of data, useful metrics, and longitudinal studies to support our claims. Today we do not have that.
There is no proof that any measures of engagement or experience have predictive validity.
Many Definitions – None Useful
To start, what does it mean when we say a candidate is engaged or that they have a good experience? Is it that they have clicked on more links, viewed more videos or watched them longer, or is it the amount of time a candidate stays on the career site? Maybe it is how fast they get a response to their application or whether they can talk with a recruiter?
We do not know which, if any of these, is important. We have numerous adjectives to describe the characteristics we think are associated with engagement– words that define attitudes, behaviors, culture and the interplay between these. However, none are definitions. Moreover, none can be measured. I know many recruiters say that this does not matter. It is more about “I know it when I see it.”
And many recruiters say they when they speak with candidates they learn that response time, having good videos about the positions, and so on made a difference. But do we know objectively if they did or not. Maybe the candidate was just saying that because we asked a leading question or because they do not know themselves.
No Objective Measures
There is no proof that any measures of engagement or experience have predictive validity – evidence that if you measured them today (however you choose to do it or whatever definition you use) the results would predict that something similar would happen in the future.
The two most common ways engagement/experience are justified are:
1. Expert opinion and anecdotes
Stories abound about how one approach led to more candidates or better candidates. No one defines “more” or “better” in any meaningful way. Some people swear that videos resulted in more candidates or higher quality candidates. Others on some other approach. None of these are supported by quantitative evidence nor are the approaches recreated and validated by others. Experts have written articles about the value of more engagement, but none produce any objective measures to prove it and, in fact, most do not even bother to define what they mean when they say engagement or experience. Statisticians consider this type of evidence the least reliable and the lowest quality.
2. Survey Data
Surveys of candidates are common. Awards are based on the results of surveys that ask recruiters a set of questions about their process and candidates about their experience in getting hired, what attracted them, what made them more interested, or what excited them. This is used as evidence that several factors are important – speed of response, quality of information and so on. Surveys such as these are biased, ask leading questions, are rarely compiled by qualified statisticians and completed by a narrow set of respondents. All they do is cloak the stories and anecdotes with a veneer of what seems to be objectivity. They are of no real scientific value.
“There are mounds of anecdotes…Anecdotes are not evidence.”
If engagement or experience were to be objectively measured it would require a measurable definition and then either objective, third-party research with a control group or a longitudinal study involving a large sample compiled over time to see what makes a difference. I have seen none of these done, and it would be tough to do it, which is most likely why it has not been done.
Does having a good experience or being engaged result to more people being hired from a given set of candidates? Where is the evidence that this is the case? Any single recruiter can make that claim, but is it verifiable? Does it apply year after year? Does it apply to more than one recruiter/firm? Can we make a generalization from it?
Does have a good experience or being engaged result in better candidates. How do we define quality? Again, there is no accepted, measurable definition of candidate quality that I have seen. There are mounds of anecdotes, but there were mounds of anecdotes and case studies proving that sanitariums and sunshine cured tuberculosis. Anecdotes are not evidence.
We are a long way from showing that a positive experience or engaged candidates are any better than those who were not particular engaged or from those who had a bad experience. Spending time and money on unproven theories is not only wasteful, but it can also divert us from doing things that make a bigger difference – learn about the business, anticipate future needs, build relationships, and work with hiring managers to set realistic requirements.
Want to know when new articles get published?
Subscribe to our Newsletter.
Kevin Wheeler Founder and Chairman the Future of Talent Institute. Kevin started FOTI in 2004 out of his passionate belief that organizations need a more powerful and thoughtful architecture for talent than they have. After a 25 year career in corporate America serving as the Senior Vice President for Staffing and Workforce Development at the Charles Schwab Corporation, the Vice President of Human Resources for Alphatec Electronics, Inc. in Thailand, and in a variety of human resources roles at National Semiconductor Corporation, Kevin has firsthand knowledge of the need for better strategies and approaches to finding, developing and retaining people.
Today, Kevin is a globally known speaker, author, teacher and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, as well as in corporate education. He is the author of numerous articles on human resource development, career development, recruiting, and on establishing corporate universities. He is a frequent speaker at conferences. He writes a weekly Internet column on recruiting and staffing, which can be found at www.ere.net, and he and Eileen have written a book on corporate universities, The Corporate University Workbook: Launching the 21st Century Learning Organization. He serves as adjunct faculty at San Jose State University, the University of San Francisco and on the business faculty at San Francisco State University.
Blockchain is hot tech and a growing trend with tremendous potential for HR. Imagine eliminating the time wasted in constant re-verification of applicant background! Blockchain may come to your rescue. In this post, Kevin Wheeler explains what blockchain is and outlines the potential benefits it presents. Kevin also shares how blockchain is already being used and who’s causing disruption with this cutting edge tech.read more
How does a highly complex emerging workforce acquire its training to remain competitive and at the top of its game? Future of Talent founder, Kevin Wheeler, reviews the historical pros and cons of employee training and discusses the new shape of corporate education. Skills training and competitive preparedness will be acquired through many modalities to accommodate the needs of our complex workforce. All educational institutions will need to adapt to remain relevant. Read his article here.read more
Kevin Wheeler discusses, in his latest blog, the rise of automation and how it will replace many aspects of the recruitment process by 2020. Kevin also reviews the recruiting functions to be disrupted in leading organizations by Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firms by 2025. Kevin discusses the roles of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics in these trends, and skills recruiters will use and adapt with in the future.read more