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Leadership Algorithms, chatbots and AI screening: Have job candidates become a commodity in our digital world?

Mary McIninch is the executive director of the Association of Canadian Search Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS), the national voice of the recruiting, employment and staffing services industry. Ted Maksimowski is an ACSESS board member and a franchise owner at Express Employment Professionals.

In our haste to streamline hiring through automation, have we turned candidates into vanilla units on a production line?

We’re not against innovation in talent acquisition, but the human element needs to be at the heart of recruitment. Think about the first contact candidates have with your brand. Many are told to upload their résumé to the company website in plain text (after they’ve spent hours refining its format) and then an algorithm scans keywords to decide if they’re worthy of moving to the next step. We’ve done a fine job of keeping motivated and talented candidates away from our phone or e-mail until a computer ranks them.

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In our social “click for immediate gratification” world, we’ve disintermediated the personal way employers and staffing firms/recruiters seek new talent. Many candidates called the new hiring process “dehumanizing,” but we forged on, buoyed by the power imbalance created by the reduced level of qualified candidates in today’s job market and our mandate to drive operational efficiencies.

Enter the new reality where the unemployment rate has plunged to a low never tracked by Statistics Canada in its 48-year history. Exasperated and empowered candidates are rising and flexing new muscles. Now we’re balancing our workday around high turnover, disengaged employees and a frustrating phenomenon called ghosting, where candidates ditch scheduled job interviews or sign an offer but never report to work. The fallout reduces productivity and profit.

In its 2018 report, the Conference Board of Canada highlighted how attracting and retaining talent was a top issue for CEOs. Yet Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends’ report reveals few companies are developing innovative rewards programs to support retention and attract candidates.

It’s time to reset the focus from filling a job to placing top candidates in career opportunities. We know how to do this. No one places more staff in roles across the country than Canada’s $15-billion staffing industry.

Here are our hiring and retention best practices to help leaders shift back to putting candidates first and securing top talent for the long term.

  1. Back to basics – Candidates judge an employer at every contact point, including the frosty receptionist or the disgruntled employees in the hall. Take a regular audit of all of the candidate’s points of contact. Make sure yours align to highlight your brand values and company benefits.
  2. Know, communicate and demonstrate your brand – Have a clearly defined vision statement and outline your corporate culture’s principles and values. Ensure your brand is reflected throughout social media platforms and online reviews.
  3. Use technology to humanize your brand – Take a cue from global leaders. In Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends report, it showcased global brands that are leveraging their employees as brand ambassadors to share their stories about the corporate culture via videos, blogs and social posts.
  4. Offer meaningful referral bonuses to internal employees – This incentive will increase your likelihood of finding candidates who are endorsed, have a successful track record and fit your culture.
  5. Develop a detailed “performance profile” – Make the performance profile specific to the role and list key deliverables versus a generic job description hastily drafted to meet a deadline. Before posting, show the profile to colleagues for feedback. This extra care will increase your probability to attract top performers and ensure your ROI.
  6. Immerse candidates in your culture – Include many members of your team in the hiring process to give candidates a good flavour of the job and talent on the team. Provide an office tour and job shadowing to show them how you work and introduce them to other employees who can share their views of the company.
  7. Sweeten the pot – Ask candidates what will motivate them to take the job. Money is not likely to be the key motivator. Try to deliver on what is really meaningful to the candidate so you stand out relative to what competitors are offering.
  8. Execute a detailed onboarding program – Start onboarding during the hiring process. Ideally include other new hires and mentors in the program to help candidates learn about your organization, their potential role, who’ll they’ll work with, as well as their accountabilities.
  9. Focus on employee engagement and retention – Create programs to make your recruits feel valued and supported as they start building a career at your organization. Managers need to support engagement with regular performance reviews, which include career-mapping, mentoring and action plans for skills development.
  10. Partner with the experts – It takes expertise to recruit, screen, establish a network of candidates and effectively present your company’s unique value proposition. Consider partnering with a staffing agency that understands the market and operates with principles, values and ethics that mirror yours.

It’s a challenging market to find and retain top talent, but some things never change. Treat each candidate with the same respect, fairness and personal element to make your brand shine with the talent you need to soar.

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