For hiring, mass customization means fitting the job to the person rather than fitting the person to the job.

This week's Businessweek (May 11, 2015) focuses on product design with most of the articles describing common products and services that were upgraded or redesigned by optimizing the user experience (UX). Many of these same UX concepts can by applied to hiring. In hiring the UX is called the CX: The Candidate Experience. As you'll see in a moment the idea is to personalize the CX for every single person you hope to hire and then scale it throughout your company.

Here's an example of this idea. One article in Businessweek describes a shift in Italy's northern industrial region to high-volume custom manufacturing. At first take this seems counterintuitive but it's a rapidly emerging trend. Harvard professors Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas's soon-to-be published book, The End of Average (October 2015), fully documents this trend throughout society. In their book the professors describe this mass customization shift in medicine, education and product design, among other disciplines.

Despite these obvious and critical trends, somehow hiring people has again been left to the dustbin of history as companies still use antiquated techniques to force fit people into ill-defined and generic jobs. I contend this is the root cause of why 68% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged.

For hiring, mass customization means fitting the job to the person rather than fitting the person to the job. This is an essential step since the only way to engage a person long-term is to provide work he or she finds engaging. However, the process people experience to find and get this job is as important as the job itself. This is the CX.

So if your company wants to hire the best people, you'll need to redesign your CX. Here are some ideas you can use to get started.

6 Commonsense Ideas to Optimize Your Company's CX

  1. Time matters: Hiring the best is not a one-night stand. Hiring the best person who applied as fast as possible is a surefire way to not hire anyone who's not looking. It takes hours spread over weeks for a top person to fully understand the career merits of another opportunity. You need to build these extra steps into your CX.
  2. Show respect. You need these people more than they need you. An informal exploratory career discussion among equals needs to start any discussion with any top person whether the person is actively looking or not. As part of this, eliminate the application as a prerequisite including any type of assessment testing. Add these steps only after the person fully understands that the job represents a great career move and has agreed to become a formal candidate.
  3. The Point of View (POV) of the process design matters. Too many HRIS and ATS systems are designed based on the mechanical nature of a job board's "find and apply" process. Instead, the process needs to be based on how top people find out about jobs, decide to gather career information, need to be assessed and how they compare and accept offers. A respectful but vigorous assessment process is part of this.
  4. The job matters most. The gap between what your job requires and what the candidate has already done represents the career move. If this is vague, filled with boilerplate and blue-sky hyperbole, the best will opt out long before you find out they're the best. Preparing a results-based job description describing the key challenges when the job is first defined is the first step in improving the CX.
  5. The hiring manager X-factor. The best people accept jobs from hiring managers in their own image. Few managers actually understand this. So if the hiring manager isn't respectful, doesn't know the job, doesn't have a track record of developing people and doesn't know how to conduct a proper interview, he/she won't hire any great people.
  6. Get the team involved. Find one or two potential friends to assess and bond with the candidate early on. They can meet, greet, lunch and debrief candidates at each phase in the process. Selected properly, these people will become coaches and advisors smoothing over any rough edges in the CX or helping create a more personal one.

Every company, recruiter and hiring manager wants to improve the quality of each person hired. But if anyone on the hiring team assumes there is a surplus of great talent just waiting to take some ill-defined lateral transfer at less than a competitive wage, they'll be waiting a long time. Instead, create a CX that targets the best, treats the best with respect and offers a job based on the candidate's motivating needs. Then apply these same principles to every candidate you see. That's how you go from many to one and back again and hire some great people in the process.