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Weddle's Syndicated Content:

Pay Attention to the 99 Percent

Here's the inconvenient truth of recruiting: we reject 99 percent (or more) of our job applicants. In today's economy, there are more often than not far more people vying for our openings than we can possibly hire. So, the question is: will we disappoint those we turn down or will we give them a reason to come back and try again?

The answer to that question turns on our assessment of the candidates who are not selected for the opening to which they apply. While some organizations treasure these individuals as "runners up," many others see them as "rejects" and not worthy of further consideration.

If you have any doubt about that, consider this: an organization's resume database (the place where all those non-selectees reside) doesn't even make it onto the list of external hire sources reported in the latest CareerXroads survey. It's somewhere below the last identified source - walk-ins - which produces just eight-tenths of one percent of all new hires.

Whatever we may say about previous applicants - and no organization consciously dismisses them - our behavior suggests an underlying and pernicious bias: we don't think of the 99 percent as prime candidates. Even the person who was the runner up for the job to which they applied and the individual who turned down our offer because the timing wasn't right are tossed into an undifferentiated database and, from then on, ignored.

And, that kind of behavior has real consequences. When candidates are ignored, they are inevitably disappointed. In us and our organization. And, widespread disappointment among candidates can hurt our employer's brand and ultimately our talent yield. It can complicate, frustrate and even devastate our ability to hire top performers.

Yes, I know budgets are tight and recruiters are stretched to the limit just keeping up with current openings, but this is a situation which cannot be ignored. We must start paying more attention to the 99 percent. The question, of course, is how to do so within the constraints with which we work.

How to Give the 99 Percent Their Due

For most employers and staffing firms, the 99 percent is composed of two cohorts of the workforce:

  • those who have previously applied and whose resume or profile is now archived in a resume database


  • those who have yet to apply and to experience the disappointment of not being selected.

Now, in a perfect world, a strategy would be tailored to the different circumstances of each group. In today's time and resource constrained environment, however, that's simply not feasible. So, the better approach is to focus on an attribute shared by most of the individuals in both of those groups.

What is that attribute? They all want to be more successful in their career. So, that's what we should help them do. If we can't give them a job, we can at least help them to advance their career.

How do we do that? Re-imagine our organization's online destination for candidates. Most companies and staffing firms call that area a "career site," "career center" or "career page." It's not. In the vast majority of cases, it's simply a place for informing job seekers and processing their applications.

While what we tell them about our culture, values, benefits and opportunities is important, it isn't enough. Ultimately, it will only matter to the 1 percent who are actually selected for a job with the organization. For the other 99 percent, it might as well be a user's manual for sharpening quill pens. Basically, it has no value al all to or for them.

To pay attention to the 99 percent, we have to post information and provide features that will enable them to upgrade their credentials and advance themselves in their profession, craft or trade (even if we don't hire them). For example, we might set up a "candidate university" on our site that offered:

  • The videos of conference presentations and the white papers written by our organization's current employees;
  • Republished articles from the journals of select professional societies with a link back to the association's site to help it capture new members;


  • A training program in the principles and practices of career self-management that would enable them to be a stronger candidate for our organization's future openings.

For 99 percent of all applicants, the candidate experience doesn't end once a person has been selected for an opening. It continues on. And, that long experiential tail is just as important - and maybe more given the numbers involved -as what we do to and for candidates before a hire is made. No commercial organization can survive if it disappoints the majority of its prospective customers, and no recruiting organization can either.

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

October 2012
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