Replace Your Jobs' “Apply Now” Button with a Warm-up Act

At a workshop the other day a woman suggested her biggest hiring challenge was that her company’s hourly rate for security guards was not competitive.

I suggested her apply button was probably the problem.

She then told me candidates had to include their most recent compensation as part of the application process. This eliminated more than 75% of the candidates who applied.

Probing further it appeared the company’s benefit program and educational reimbursement more than offset the lower starting compensation. While this was written on the job description, most candidates went directly to the application process without reading this section.

So I suggested she add a delay to the apply process and require all candidates to watch a short video before they’re allowed to apply. The video could be by the department head describing the job, benefits and compensation package as part of a total rewards program. Then when candidates filled in their compensation requirements they could be asked if they’d be interested in a lower starting point offset by better benefits.

The point is that too many systems (including recruiters) filter out candidates on criteria that actually is not set in stone. Once a candidate knows about the job and the total rewards, he/she becomes more flexible about compensation, location and the title.

Another recent example highlights the problem with this “fill the job as fast as possible” mentality.

A person I’ve been working with for years asked my advice on some engineering management positions she was trying to fill. She found a bunch of great people on LinkedIn  but no one was responding to her emails. Six months ago she was recognized by LinkedIn as having one of the highest response rates, so this was troubling. It turns out the company was going through a merger and everyone she contacted was aware of this and didn’t want to pursue any of her open opportunities.

I suggested she deactivate the apply button for all of these job openings at least for now.

Instead add a time delay into the hiring process coupled with some excitement and a bit of intrigue. Rather than sending an email with a specific title for an open job, send a broader email to all of the prospects she identified.

In the email mention that she was doing her workforce planning for the next six months. Describe the merger and its huge competitive impact and the fact that as a result of the reorganization a number of new senior engineering management positions were going to be created.

In the email ask if the person would be open to a preliminary discussion to see if one of these spots could represent an interesting career opportunity. Also mention that due to the restructuring some of these positions could be modified to better fit the person being hired.

A few hours later she excitedly called saying people were responding immediately to this new email and were interested in discussing the situation.

Candidates are always more interested in your openings if you add some type of warm-up act before they apply. For active candidates for high-volume positions this could be simply a video or an invitation to prepare a quick summary of a major accomplishment. For more senior level positions it needs to be a series of exploratory discussions with the recruiter or hiring manager.

As far as I’m concerned when it comes to hiring, an “Apply Now” mentality and the rush to fill jobs quickly and efficiently is the wrong goal. This is too “high-tech” and too transactional, and not enough “high-touch” and consultative. To improve the candidate experience and hire stronger people more personal engagement is necessary.

When it comes to hiring stronger people, the following is a good rule to follow to increase the high-touch component of your process:

Don’t try to sell the job before the candidate is ready to buy. Instead, sell the discussion.