Patty Van Leer on Helping Candidates Make an Informed Career Decision

February 14, 2011

Modern Hire

Candidates are decision makers too. Patty Van Leer of NAS Recruitment Communications understands that. I had a chance to speak with Patty at Taleo World. I asked her what we can do to help candidates make a more informed career decision. She offers three clear suggestions on what can be done to the candidate experience.

A good deal of the media in the talent space focuses on how recruiters and hiring managers make their decisions. Very little is directed at the candidate. However, Patty’s suggestions are grounded in core elements of best practices for selection system design. Let’s look at each of her recommendations a bit closer.

Provide a better definition of the job opportunity

Realistic Job Preview (RJP) is a structured, balanced, and candid approach for describing the job. Well developed RJPs portray the challenges and rewards, demands and satisfaction, expectations and opportunities both in the job and the company. When done well, RJP can contribute to an exceptional candidate experience and help the candidate make a more informed decision.

A well designed RJP serves two purposes:

  1. Reduce unwanted candidate flow
  2. Increase commitment and retention with new hires

RJP can help candidates achieve a deeper and more thorough understanding of the job. This will trigger a select-out reaction from a small portion of the candidate pool. Research suggests this might be in the single digits: +/- 5 percent. These individuals made a well-informed decision that this is not the job for them and withdraw from the staffing process. This, in turn, reduces early turnover or false starts and saves a great deal of recruiter time.

RJP establishes performance expectations and defines in advance a range of demands that will be faced on the job. After the new employee’s honeymoon is over and the full brunt of performance demands arise, well-informed employees say “I knew this was coming, it is not the whole job and they told me it was going to occur.” They also know those less rewarding or challenging aspects of the job will pass. The result is an associate that is willing to work through the tough issues and remain committed.

The negative consequence of UN-balanced or UN-realistic job preview is also two-fold. The first is new hires who realize they have accepted a job they are not interested in either quit or perform poorly. The second is the “bait n’ switch” reaction. New hires feel the company was not forthright in describing the opportunity. This undermines trust and also contributes to poor engagement and lower levels of productivity.

The proliferation of streaming web video and personal video technology has made it easy to create images and stories from the workplace. When done poorly the R in RJP is left off and the video becomes Hype, not Help.

Help Candidates See How They Fit the Role

A long-standing and common recruiting practice is the workplace tour. What better way to give someone a taste of the job than a look around? This allows candidates to see the workstation, feel the energy of the environment, observe and maybe interact with prospective co-workers. A tour, however, is a far cry from experiencing the job. Tours are also very time-consuming and may be disruptive to workflow.

Another long-standing recruiting practice is the temp-to-perm hiring model. Individuals are given an opportunity to go through training, learn the skills and processes for the job. They provide a work sample over weeks or months to demonstrate their capabilities. If a new hire does not “work out,” they get terminated and a replacement is moved in. This removal and replacement is actually a form of staffing waste and rework. If the new hire seems to learn well and perform effectively, they may get moved from contingent to full employee status.

This process is one of the most accurate methods of getting the best read on person-job fit. It is also one of the most expensive and lengthy hiring methods. One of the unintended consequences is a new hire perception that the organization is not well equipped to make hiring decisions.

An effective alternative to temp-to-perm evaluation can be a job simulation for pre-employment testing. An individual completes a series of exercises that mirror or even recreate a range of on-the-job tasks, demands, and typical interactions. Some simulations are more generic examples of job performance while other might be highly accurate recreations of elements of the job.

Simulations allow you to collect a broad range of work samples, work history, and work style data in about an hour. The results from simulations used for pre-employment testing can be almost as accurate as temp-to-perm methods of determining job-fit. Simulations by their nature give candidates direct feedback about job-fit, in part due to candidate reactions to the nature of the exercises. Overly complex, uninteresting, or under-challenging reactions can help the candidate make a more informed decision.

Explore Culture Fit and Hiring Manager Fit

Hiring managers have a lot to do with how culture is perceived and experienced in an organization. However, culture is bigger than any one individual. Culture is palpable, yet elusive. Companies work hard to describe their culture. Some companies are good at articulating and living their culture with clear intention.

Culture is driven by the behaviors that are valued and rewarded. As such, culture can be conveyed and evaluated through culture fit or values clarification and compatibility exercises. The mere act of discerning importance among a range of cultural attributes is a powerful self-reflection for a candidate.

Candidates and recruiters/hiring managers can use the results from a culture fit exercise to dialogue along the lines of cultural expectations, career motivators and fit. Hiring managers who are culturally self-aware and willing to candidly disclose their alignment with corporate values can provide the candidate with insights regarding their expectations for culture fit. That conversation can help a candidate make a more informed decision.

Career Change Motivators

In addition to the three factors, Van Leer mentions above, providing candidates an opportunity to assess their underlying reasons for desiring a career change can foster a very dynamic dialogue. The Virtual Job Tryout can contain such an exercise.

Through a forced ranking process, candidates are invited to consider and contrast an inventory of job-specific career aspirations and motivators. The result is a top-down list of most-to-least desired outcomes from a career change. Recruiters can then use this prioritized list to explore and position the opportunity in relation to the candidate’s expectations. This gives both parties greater insights into making a well-informed career decision.