HR 101: Turn Your Black Hole Into Branding Gold

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Mar 29, 2019

The “black hole” is a dark corner of your ATS, that place some applicants go, never to be heard from again. That’s the last thing your employer brand needs — people you don’t even know out there ready to bad mouth your company for something you might not even be aware of.

You work hard to establish your employer brand (EB). You create imaginative recruitment marketing campaigns to get the word out to potential applicants, you’re engaging on social media, and you’re producing great content that’s really landing with your target personas. So what happens when a potential applicant turns into an active candidate only to be lost in your black hole? Let’s hope you never find out.

That’s why I’m writing this article, to suggest some tips and tricks to ensure you never find yourself up against an unhappy candidate who’s irate they never heard from you and is now telling the world about it.

Falling into the black hole

But first, a quick description of the ATS black hole, to be sure we’re all on the same page. This is the name given to what happens when an applicant vanishes from the recruitment funnel, seemingly without a trace. There are several potential causes for this disappearing act:

  • The applicant gave up part way through the process, usually due to an overly complicated or lengthy application.
  • There was a breakdown in communication between the recruiter and the hiring manager and the candidate was never updated on their status.
  • There was a hole somewhere in the funnel that allowed the candidate to just vanish from the recruiting team’s radar, with nary a sound.
  • Your application tracking system’s user interface may be clunky and not conducive to retrieving the information you as the recruiter needs in order to follow up with the candidate.
  • Or, sadly, you just didn’t bother to configure your ATS to so much as send an acknowledgement they even applied.

All of these are avoidable. The best practice is to address any holes in your ATS before they lead to lost applications and upset candidates. The key concept that runs through all of our tips today is simple — candidate experience matters.

The first taste of your employer brand

Your employer brand is the sum total of your company values, how you treat your employees and the culture. The first taste many will get of this brand is the application process itself. Does it match up with what you’ve been presenting via social media and other recruitment marketing efforts?

If your brand revolves around respect for your employees and the streamlined process of bringing their ideas to the company product, why are you asking them to spend 45 minutes answering redundant questions when the answers are already in the resume they’re also being asked to attach?

Do they really need to enter each work experience individually, especially when you know they’re just cutting and pasting it from their resume? No, no they don’t. One survey says 35% of candidates who abandoned and application said it was because of the length. It’s also important to point out that 77% of jobseekers use a mobile device to search for jobs and 98% of mobile candidates abandon their application due to poor mobile application processes.

If your application process takes 45 minutes or more, and your competitors takes 5, which one would you be more likely to finish?

Think it through; at the early stage, can you get by with just a few questions and an attached resume? Maybe a LinkedIn profile link, if applicable? This cuts the time the candidate is spending and increases the number of high quality applications you’ll receive. By treating them like they’re already one of the team, you’ll be reinforcing your EB from the first encounter.

Communicate ASAP and often

Does your ATS have an auto response feature? If not, does your recruitment marketing system? One way or another, you need to respect your applicants’ time and effort by responding quickly with a thank you note. They took the time to research your company, find an appropriate opening, and submit their application. All you have to do is have an autoresponder set that sends a quick, “Thanks for your application! We’ll be in touch within x business days with information on next steps.”

Seriously, that’s all it takes to keep up your reputation, and keep the applicant happy with your service. Of course, this respect will be lost immediately if you don’t actually follow up within x business days, which brings us to the second part of this tip:

Use whatever autoresponder you have access to, or use calendar reminders if your systems don’t include this feature. Either way — keep the applicant updated about the hiring process. Especially to let them know the results.

Don’t ignore the runners-up

Use your ATS to nurture relationships with people at all stages of the funnel.

This applies to everything from recruitment marketing directed at potential candidates, to those mid-funnel waiting to hear from the hiring manager, all the way through the new hire starting Monday. It also extends to those who previously got lost to the ATS black hole, like the ones who don’t fit an opening at the moment, but who might just be perfect for a future opportunity.

You can easily mine your ATS for contact info for rejected candidates. Comb through their resumes, see if the reason they were rejected was simply that they weren’t a good match for that specific opening, then compile a list of these folks.

Now you have a mailing list of people who already love your company and would love to hear about new openings that might be a better fit for their skills. By nurturing these relationships now, you’re saving yourself the time, energy, and budget of having to run a full scale hunt when that next opening comes up.

And even if you don’t have any perfect openings, by keeping the communication channel open, you’re showing these people that you respect their time and abilities by keeping them in the loop. Now, when that opening does appear, you and they are ready to start the process again with minimal ramp up time.

Keep everything updated

It’s critical to keep your ATS and your recruitment marketing systems in sync. If they aren’t integrated on the back end, you may have to develop a workflow that your team can follow to ensure this happens. Why is this so important?

Think about this, how much time and budget is lost when you create a killer recruitment marketing campaign around an opening, only to find out it was filled last week?

Or if an opening is added to the ATS, but you don’t know about it and are therefore a bit confused when a candidate asks about it online?

Both of these situations can be eliminated by keeping these systems updated. Now, when a job is filled, your marketing system finds out and removes that opening from your campaigns. And when you advertise an opening with a link to the job description landing page, that link will work because the marketing system knows the listing is still live.

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