From Angry Birds to Hog Heaven

Presented by: Doug Douglas – National Engagement Manager at Stark


Branding. It’s no longer just something that cowboys do to their cattle. It’s now a major emphasis for all types of organizations. Think of those huge companies who have the most recognizable logos and names – McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Exxon, Wal-Mart. You don’t have to stop and Google (yet another example) them to see what they do – everyone knows! And even better, you can be driving down the highway at 75 mph and glance up and know their logo in less than 1 second! But have you ever wondered what kind of resources they have poured into getting their name, their logo, and their reputation out there?

  • Microsoft - $11.5 billion
  • Coca-Cola - $2.5 billion
  • Yahoo! - $1.3 billion
  • eBay - $871 million
  • Google - $188 million
  • Starbucks - $95 million

Those are enormous amounts of money! What does it tell us about them that they are willing to spend so much money just on branding efforts? They truly must care about their brand! For them, they see it as the difference between getting lost in the crowd or rising above the competition.

But you don’t have to be a major, world-wide, giant in your industry to invest significant money into your brand – small companies do it too. On average, companies will invest anywhere from 3-20% of their sales revenue back into branding or marketing efforts. The small companies are trying to be well known, and the large companies are trying to stay well known.

So, if a company’s brand is that important, I wonder how many consider their recruiting efforts in their branding initiatives? Just go jump on Monster or CareerBuilder for a few minutes and you’ll see that the new start up in Austin, Texas has an ad placed right beside an ad by Microsoft, Dell, Cisco or AMD – all looking for the same type of worker with the same skill set. Who will win in the battle for the best candidate? Do we just assume that the large company always wins?


The Angry Birds

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, Angry Birds is a game that is played by just about everyone with a smartphone or tablet computer. You’ll see and hear it in school hallways, airports, subways, and even in your workplace.

The premise of the game is pretty basic:

  • Five angry birds are obsessed with protecting their beloved eggs.
  • Evil green pigs dream about and covet the birds’ eggs and eventually steal them.
  • So to get back at them, the angry birds slingshot themselves at structures that the green pigs have built in the hopes of killing the greedy pigs.
  • If you kill all the pigs with the birds you have been given, you get to advance to the next level.

You, and the team of people within your organization, have been working to build the best organization possible. You work hard and you spend lots of time, money, and resources to build your brand in the marketplace. You hire sales people with excellent communication skills to go out and tell people about your product/service. You might even have ad campaigns to help the public know who you are and what you have to offer. But there could very well be a weak spot within your organization that has gone unnoticed….your recruiting efforts could actually be hurting your brand!

What is it that makes a job seeker angry? And from a corporate branding point of view, is your process making job seekers angry enough that they will not use your service/product, tell others not to use your service/product, or discourage people from ever applying with your company in the first place?

Alison Green has a blog called “Ask a Manager” and in a recent poll she asked about the frustrations of candidates in the job seeking process. The results showed:

  • Unclear job postings
  • Unskilled interviewers
  • Endless application forms
  • But half of the responses were that they did not receive any responses whatsoever

As someone who has been involved in recruiting for several years, and worked with organizations to improve their recruiting processes and technologies, there are some consistent issues that seem to come up that can harm your overall brand as it relates to the recruiting process:

  • Don’t play games with salary information. The only reason not to share it is because it leaves you room to hire someone at below budget if the opportunity presents itself. It’s one of the first questions that a candidate will ask – especially if it’s a passive candidate that maybe wasn’t actively seeking a job but was contacted about a potential role within your organization. How you respond to this question will set the tone for any follow-up conversations. If you are confident that you are paying a fair wage and in range of what they market dictates – then tell them the numbers.
  • Provide clear job descriptions. My approach in recruiting has been to cast a wide net, get as many respondents as possible, and then start to eliminate some who didn’t meet the standards of my client. I wanted the best candidate out of 100 than the best candidate out of 10. So to get that big response, I posted job descriptions that marketed the company and told just the basics of the job that was open – far from being a very detailed job description. If this is also your approach, I would suggest having a secondary detailed description could be sent as a follow up to the ones who appear to be qualified.
  • Communicate your hiring timeline. This is always a tough one to answer because there are so many unknown variables. Your organization wants to hire the best candidate possible, and not just settle on someone because of a magic date on a calendar. I typically answer this with something like, “If they come across the right candidate, they are willing to immediately move forward and make an offer.”
  • Make the online application process quick and easy. It should not take an hour of someone’s time to submit a resume. What are the most vital pieces of information that you need in order to begin the process of considering a candidate – a resume – maybe a short questionnaire with some key answers on it? The truth is, the longer your application process, the more people are likely to be dropping out before even completing it. Maybe the parent who was going to apply before going to pick up the kids from school, and they thought 45 minutes was more than enough time to send in their resume, but your application process was much more advanced than that. Again, if you want the best candidate out of 100 instead the best out of 10, simplify your application process. You can always request additional information from qualified candidates at a later time.
  • Be careful not to invade their privacy. There is no need for a candidate’s social security number, driver’s license number, and/or references all at the point of application. At least let them interview first. Face it, we live in an age when people are hesitant to provide any personal identity information to someone that they do not know if they should trust. It’s important for the candidate to know that this is a legitimate career opportunity and that they are working with professionals before providing this type of information.
  • Value the candidate’s time. Cancelling or rescheduling interviews or not paying attention in an interview can harm your brand in big ways. Many candidates spend time researching the company, taking off from their current employment, buying new clothes, traveling – their time should be respected. Imagine how you would respond if you had invested a significant amount of time in preparation for an interview, only to have someone ask a couple of questions and answer their phone 4 times during the course of your interview. Coaching your interviewers/hiring managers in this area is likely a very good idea.
  • Don’t misrepresent the work. Paint an accurate picture of the job for the candidate. It does no one any good for the new employee to show up on day 1 to realize that it wasn’t the job they expected. Understand that there is a difference in introducing a job to a candidate, and informing the candidate about a job. You don’t have to go through all of the challenges the person might face in this role during your first introductory call, but before the candidate is made an offer, they need to see a realistic picture of what this job will be – good and bad.
  • You are being interviewed as well. Many interviewers fail to consider that the candidate is also interviewing them and the company too. Provide the information to the candidate that they need in order to make a good decision regarding potential employment. A good interview shouldn’t just be about you getting the information that you need to make a decision, but also a time for the candidate to see where and who they would be working with, get a feel for the inner workings of the company or team, expectations for the role, a feel for how someone manages, etc. Give them enough time to ask any questions that they feel are important.
  • Keep your commitments. If you interview a candidate and tell them they will know something by a certain day – then communicate with that candidate on that day (even if it’s just a note saying that a decision needs to be postponed for a few days). Would you promise a customer something by a certain day and then not deliver or at least communicate with them if something has changed? Communicate as often as possible and you’ll find that candidates truly appreciate the time and effort.
  • Bad news is better than no news. Let a candidate know where they stand – even if it’s just to say that they are no longer being considered. I’ve received hundreds of emails, cards, and notes from candidates who thanked me for telling them they didn’t get the job. Candidate’s number one complaint is falling into a black hole after applying or interviewing for a job. They really get irritated at this one.

As a recruiter who has worked with all types of companies – big and small – from a wide variety of industries, the largest, most well-known companies do not always have an advantage when competing for the best employees. The company who does the best job of making the candidate feel valued, important, provides timely feedback, and offers the best vision of their future within the company – they typically win in the battle for the best talent.

ERE recognizes recruiting initiatives each year, and this year they recognized Adidas as having the Best Employer Brand. They wanted to understand how their company was perceived, so they conducted a survey of all of their employees, as well as their job seekers. Once they had the results, they coordinated marketing, communications, and HR together to create a “brand bible” that educates people about their brand, and an employer branding toolkit to use in recruitment advertising.

Sodexo was also recognized as they engaged every employee in the company – from interns to executives – as brand ambassadors. They would communicate their brand on college campuses, professional association meetings, and through social media. As a result, they have reduced their costs on paid advertising on job boards because more people are familiar with their brand and searching for them online.


The RPO Impact

By now, you may be trying to figure out how to cover all of these areas when you already have limited time, resources, and budgets. If we go back and look at all of the issues that create Angry Birds, outsourcing your recruiting efforts to a specialized team whose sole purposes are to meet and exceed your established service level agreements could be the way to go.  RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) agreements can address them and accommodate for them in their recruiting workflows and with specialized recruiting technologies.

Example 1: The biggest complaint from job seekers is falling into a black hole after applying for a job. Service level agreements could be established with a RPO provider where:

  • the candidate receives a confirmation email/text as soon as they have completed the application process for an open position or if the candidate registered for your talent community but did not apply for a specific job.
  • The candidate could also get an email letting them know that the recruiter is interested in scheduling some time with them and providing an online link that allows the candidate to see the recruiter’s available dates/times so they can schedule it at their own convenience.
  • The same can be done to schedule an interview with a hiring manager within your company.
  • They can also have a notification built into the workflow when they have been eliminated from consideration for the position.

This approach gives the candidate a great deal of feedback at critical stages of the process, and also speeds up the process by allowing the candidate to schedule their own interviews based on the availability of the recruiter and the hiring manager instead of playing phone tag for sometimes days.

Example 2: Providing clear job descriptions is a sometimes slow and tedious process. Gathering and creating descriptions for every role within your organization, formatting them consistently, and then deciding what your “go to market” description consists of versus the actual description with full details, these take a lot of time. Then add to it the process of creating screening guides for each of those descriptions for recruiters to evaluate all candidates consistently and equally. Then there is creating interview scorecards for managers to use when comparing one candidate to another.  Depending on the size of your organization, this could take anywhere from a few months to more than a year. A RPO firm can tackle this project during the implementation of a new engagement. Most Applicant Tracking Systems will allow the storage of a library of both descriptions and screening questions.

Example 3: Making the application process as user friendly as possible is a key on the size of your potential talent pool. Having a candidate spend an hour applying for a job isn’t in your best interest. I know that you want information on your candidates, and I believe you can get what’s needed initially and still make the process take a few minutes. The use of technology can make this a quick and easy process, and most RPO firms have several to choose from. Having a candidate enter your talent portal and select the job they are interested in is only the first step, but the talent portal needs to be easy to navigate and quick to load. It should be a simple process to upload a resume. The use of screening questions during the application process is helpful, but make sure that most of these questions are Yes/No, Multiple Choice, or Multiple Select answers, and not essay type questions. You can state your questions in a way that gives you the initial information needed, but also keeps the process moving quickly for the candidate. The more in-depth answers can come in a phone screen or face to face interview between the recruiter and the candidate. Through the use of these technologies, the candidate’s initial answers can be weighted and scored so the recruiter immediately knows which candidates to spend their time on, which are marginal, and which are no fit at all without having to go through every detail on every candidate. By taking this approach, you can make the application process no more than 10-15 minutes and gather a large pool of candidates for the opening you are trying to fill, or for others within your organization. Having a candidate start the application process and quit it 40 minutes into the process doesn’t do your organization any good.

That is how a good RPO engagement can address just three of the issues damaging your overall corporate brand. In a survey from Focused Marketing, they looked at why customers leave a business. They were:

  • 68% upset with the treatment they’ve received
  • 14% dissatisfied with the product or service
  • 9% begin doing business with the competition
  • 5% seek alternatives or develop other business relationships
  • 3% move away
  • 1% die

Doesn’t it stand to reason that your business could potentially lose customers by the way they were treated as an applicant? Maybe not 68% of them leaving, but what impact would 20% make? The survey went on to say, “For every complaint a business receives, there are approximately 26 other customers with unresolved complaints or problems.” And that “A dissatisfied customer will tell up to 10 people about his/her experience. 13% of those unhappy customers will tell up to 20 people.”

Alexander Mann Solutions completed a global study of 546 consumers in the US, UK, and China. It found:

  • 52% of respondents said that negative experiences at recruitment interviews would affect their future purchasing decisions.
  • 47% of Chinese respondents said that they would reconsider buying from an organization after a bad interview experience.
  • 50% of US respondents said the same.
  • 58% of UK respondents agreed.

With Facebook, Twitter, and other social media avenues available to these candidates – each one can impact hundreds or even thousands of other consumers with negativity around your brand.


How you treat your candidates does matter and it will impact your business. There is a very large, world renowned company in Austin that no longer gets the best candidates because of the way they have treated their candidates, contractors, and new employees. The word is out and people apply there who either:

  • just don’t know the reputation,
  • or because there is nowhere else for them to consider.

As a recruiter who has tried to recruit for that company, it was a very tough sell when I revealed who the company was that was interested in them. Many hung up the phone as soon as they heard.


Converting Angry Birds to Hog Heaven

I live in Texas, and we have an expression called “Hog Heaven.” This is when something causes 100% satisfaction or pure delight! Is it possible to have job seekers who are in Hog Heaven? Well, maybe not at 100% because that would require each job seeker to get the job. But as far as making the process easier, faster, and making the job seeker feel valued and important – I believe RPO engagements can give your organization a lift in this area.

A good RPO engagement begins with the provider listening to you and what you desire for your overall recruiting initiatives. If they hear from you that your branding efforts are critical in your strategy, then that provider can build the workflows with that in mind. BUT, I would say that a RPO firm who truly understands the importance of your branding as it relates to recruiting should already have a track record of addressing those issues with other customers. If you mentioning this to them seems to be the first time they’ve ever considered it – buyer beware! You may need to keep looking for another provider.

In recruiting, you always want to cast a wide net. Finding the best candidate out of 100 is always better than finding the best candidate out of 10. Your reputation in the marketplace does impact the number and types of candidates who respond to you. That’s important! You shouldn’t just be interested in the ones who are interested in you. You should be interested in the very best candidate, even if they’ve never considered working for you – and feel confident that once they research your company, they’ll be intrigued enough to continue that dialogue.

Candidates should be seen as customers. Treat them respectfully. Value their time. Do what you say you’re going to do. Communicate with them. Make things as simple as possible. Be honest and straight-forward. When you do these things, you will convert those Angry Birds to a Hog Heaven state of mind!

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