22 Dec

Programming robots wouldn’t come with recruiting challenges. Procurement issues, cost, and maintenance needs-yes. But they wouldn’t disrupt your processes and workflows. That said, I am in the business of procuring talent, not machines. 

Being a Soccer Mom Helps 

Recruiting is time-consuming, and with multiple reqs open at once, we build systems and workflows to keep it all running smoothly. I recently had a candidate make a move that didn’t fit with my workflow, and my reaction was less than favorable. It was out of sequence and bold. It did not sit well with me (obviously, because who would write an article about someone following the rules?). Fortunately, I learned early in my career, and as a travel soccer mom, wait 24 hours before responding to something that angers you. 

Why Can’t They Just Follow Directions? 

When I am recruiting for a position that requires attention to detail and use of technology, which is nearly always, I build in a little efficiency step that doubles as a test. After reviewing applicants and determining the ones for initial interviews, I send an upbeat email that we would like to schedule a phone interview. The message directs them to select a time that works for their schedule using my online calendar. The message reminds them of the position for which they applied, has the job description attached to help them prepare, and states a specific time to act (e.g., schedule an appointment within the next 5-7 days). 

When candidates do not respond, it naturally narrows the pool, and we won’t waste any more of one another’s time. When they respond with something along the lines of, “Sure, I’m available on Thursday at 11,” it also helps narrow the pool because they did not follow directions. This online calendar approach has served me very well to both stay organized and screen candidates. Otherwise, you can spend days going back and forth with candidates to schedule interviews. I get notifications via email when someone has scheduled an appointment. I always smile because it feels good to know someone is still interested in a position. If I’m being honest, I also smile because I really like it when people follow directions. On DiSC, I am an S-C. Two of my top 5 CliftonStrengths are Responsibility and Discipline. Does anyone want to debate how our personal preferences and biases affect the hiring process? 

She Went Rogue Back to my recent experience- I saw an email notification that someone had scheduled a phone interview. I recognized her name and remembered our phone interview a few weeks prior. Seeing that particular notification didn’t make me smile. The interview had gone well, and her information is sitting with the hiring manager (my client). He’s behind; it happens. How bold of her to put a meeting on my calendar (she must have gone back to that original message to schedule the phone interview) to get a status update! Why not just send an email like everyone else?

 I was venting to my husband about it. We don’t talk shop often, but this hit a nerve because I’m a bit protective of my calendar, and I’m exaggerating when I say a bit. He looked right at me and asked, “Isn’t setting appointments the entire focus of the job?” That stopped me in my tracks. Yes, the position is an appointment setter. Cold calling and then following up to confirm. The candidate just demonstrated the tenacity that pays off in the role. 

This was a gut check for me and a reminder that we should be open and appreciate candidates’ demonstration of job skills outside of a formal interview. I have some steps built into the process, like the calendar trick. For some roles, I am a fan of assessments and other activities. When I interview for creative positions, I expect to see a portfolio. Not all our occupations lend themselves to a visual portfolio, so how else can we demonstrate our skills? 

This woman found a unique and relevant way to show me what she can do well. 

The line between following directions and taking initiative is thin. Take time to consider how open you might be to unexpected candidate actions. And ask yourself if there are opportunities to design any new screening steps into your recruitment process. Here are some additional considerations as you proceed: 

  • Ensure that recruitment steps do not negatively impact those who may not have access to technology or tools. For example, my calendar email provides a phone number if there are technical difficulties.
  • Pause if you get low response rates from any particular step and reassess. For example, I get a much higher response and open rates when sending messages through an ATS system. Messages straight from my business email address occasionally land in junk folders.
  • If you use the online calendar method I described, ensure the program you use is linked to all other calendars so you do not find yourself double-booked. Also, provide time slots that include mornings, lunch hours, evenings, and weekends to accommodate various time zones and work schedules.
  • Taking someone out of contention for not following directions once may seem harsh. Here are some other things I evaluate when that occurs.
  • If the job is literally an order-taker role like in foodservice, it is an automatic out for me if they do not follow instructions the first time.
  • If the message back from the candidate comes across as a little self-absorbed, as if you should work within their schedule, it’s annoying. They may not be someone I would want to grab lunch with at work. However, there are roles where a little ego can equal success, so that is a role-by-role consideration I would make.
  • And finally, if it is one of my leading candidates on paper, I would likely give them one more chance. It’s not always a buyer’s market.

 The Reframe 

We rely on technology and processes to fill critical positions. The use of both allows us to operate lean and, when set up well, can provide a better candidate experience. Humans being human can disrupt our flow. The science is continually refining the systems to reduce disruption. The art is looking up from the computer to face the disruption, see it as a human being, and ask what their behavior says about the person’s fit for that role. 

Shawna Lake is the Founder of Deep End Talent Strategies, an HR consulting firm working with businesses and individuals alike.