You Say Finding Top Talent Is Your Organization’s Greatest Priority. Prove It…

You Say Finding Top Talent Is Your Organization’s Greatest Priority. Prove It!

Until recently I was a passive candidate in the employment market. I have been primarily consulting for over two years but recently started identifying my desire to find a permanent role [which places me now in the “active candidate” category] where I have the ability to quantify my impact on a long-term basis; build longer-lasting, highly durable and more vibrant relationships; not have to commute 812 miles every couple of days; and be home each night to balance out my responsibilities of being [at least attempting to be] a spectacular mom with being a kick-ass and innovative leader in the business world.

In late summer, I received two basic screening contacts from recruiters…both of these were in-house recruiters – one from an educational industry company and one from a major retail organization – these recruiters initiated contact through LinkedIn. Both ladies made appointments with me to discuss an open opportunity with their organization – their choice of day & time as I was pretty flexible. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, both recruiters missed their appointment commitments. My resume has always been difficult for most to digest, my diverse experience inside my primary industry has absolutely worked against me [as it relates to being desirable to ATS]. I understand this and understand that my background doesn’t fit into a nice, neat, and predictable candidate package – so I, naively, was super excited when I was initially receiving messages and calls from recruiters.

When I contacted them to let them know I was sorry they were unable to keep our appointment, they apologized but there was a palpable annoyance that I’d outed them on their lack of follow-through. In the last three months, this has been the very consistent and sorry state of affairs. This happened as recently two weeks ago when I was tracked down by a recruiter via LinkedIn who asked to speak with me the following day – I provided a three hour window of availability and – of course – they didn’t call. However, I received an email hours later – in the evening – stating “the week got ahead of them” and can we reschedule?

As a matter of fact, this has become such the “norm” of dealing with recruiters that I do not hold actual scheduling space to discuss opportunities with them – I plan and go about my day as if they will not call and if they do [approximately 25% of the time], I am pleasantly surprised and can extract myself from whatever I am doing for the usual 15-20 minutes to discuss my background with them and find out about the role they are calling me about. I then ensure I follow up with them on any requests they make of me during the dialog with little to no expectation of reciprocity on their part.

The Lesser Of Two Evils – I’m Not So Sure There Is One

The greatest challenge – for me – with the human aspect of recruitment being, in reality, “not-so-human” – is that submitting a resume for a job which you are absolutely qualified for doesn’t work either [you’ll see why below]. So, you have two pretty abhorrent options: (1) dealing with [far too many] flakey and boorish recruiters  or (2) submitting your resume into a system queued to extract the safest and most homogenized candidates for a business based on a laundry list of difficult-to-verify accomplishments, previous brands|employers, and generic, shallow, and | or pedantic keywords.

Here are some Applicant Tracking System | Talent Acquisition statistics that are important to note:

  • 75% of recruiters and hiring professionals – globally – use a recruiting or applicant tracking system. [Source: Capterra]
  • 94% of recruiters and hiring professionals say their ATS or recruiting software has positively impacted their hiring process. Only 4% say it has had a negative effect. [Source: Capterra]
  • However, job applicants seriously disagree. 80% of candidates described their online job search and online job applications as stressful & ineffective. [Source: Jibe]
  • 60% of job candidates are unable to complete online applications due to encountering technical hurdles. [Source: Jibe]
  • As many as 75% of qualified job applicants are rejected by ATSs due to spurious reasons like incorrect resume formatting. [Source: Forbes]
  • In a test, one company created a perfect resume for an ideal candidate for a clinical scientist role, it scored a mere 43% relevance because the ATS it was submitted to misread it. [Source: Bersin & Associates]
  • In yet another test, one large firm found that the resumes of 3 out of 5 of their top engineers were screened out automatically by their ATS as not relevant. [Source: ERE Media]
  • As much as 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. [Source: SmashFly]
  • A study by Bersin found that organizations with mature talent acquisition strategies, on average, perform 30% better than peers on business outcomes, including the ability to meet or exceed customer expectations, create new products and services faster than competitors, and meet or exceed financial targets. [Source: SmashFly]
  • Business-integrated HR organizations realize more than twice the revenue per employee than do companies that view HR as a primarily transactional function, and companies with highly effective talent management strategies experience 41% lower turnover among high-performing employees. [Source: SmashFly | Bersin & Associates]

The Cost [and Consequence] of a Status Quo Sourcing & Hiring Strategy

As much as 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. That means you can reduce your turnover costs, which could easily be millions of dollars annually, by 80% through a more effective approach to talent acquisition. [Source: SmashFly]

This one statistic is critical to spotlighting how ineffective most organizational talent sourcing and hiring strategies are and certainly speaks to how ineffective ATSs are. If 94% of recruiters and hiring managers see their ATS as positively impacting their hiring process but 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions [with 75% of organizations using ATS to source and identify their “ideal” candidate] – there is a HUGE and frightening disconnect in how this software functions and | or the germane, pedestrian, and parochial search queries it allows the back-end user to perform to identify “relevance” – compared to what a desirable and effective outcome should be to finding the right fit for the organization’s culture, values, and vision.

The U.S. spends $105 billion a year correcting problems associated with poor hiring decisions. Turnover costs 150% of the salary of the employee who needs to be replaced, and for a high-level or highly specialized employee, that figure jumps to a whopping 400%. [Source: Elise Mayer]

Bringing Humanity & Relationship Building Back Into Talent Sourcing | Recruiting

Between 2012 – 2015 I worked for a fabulous organization that was a small, regional, mid-tier accessories retailer in the greater Chicago market. In 2013 – we were experiencing higher-than-expected turnover and a significant lack of “relevant” candidates that we sourced through our ATS. Our turnover hovered somewhere close to 54% for the entire organization. I was extremely fortunate to work for a CEO that valued innovation and risk-taking who allowed me some latitude to experiment and try new approaches to resolve this issue. I put together a program that allowed us to identify the critical success factors of the Top 35% of employees and created a Social Media, Talent Platform, and Employee Advocacy campaign to identify and source talent that fit in with these softer, quieter skills that were so important to the customer AND employee experience expectations of our organization. The technical competencies and skills set that we needed to position talent and job level effectively were also considered. The candidate relevance criteria also focused heavily on our Company Vision and Values alignment with our candidates. We ceased utilizing ATS  – at that point – for this test period of three months and never used it again. I adopted the assignment of reviewing all resumes that came into our organization and forwarding relevant candidates onto the appropriate executive, department head, and | or Store Manager. We also assigned a 14 day time-to-fill standard for all open positions. Finally, and most importantly, we designed a new and robust Employee Referral Program to be real, lucrative, fun, and beneficial for our internal talent with the mission of building truly valuable, on-going, and long-term candidate and employee relationships.

Following the accelerated interviewing process we asked our final round candidates for any open position to take an assessment through the PDA Assessment to productively assess the behavioral and competency level of the candidate compared to the updated job description to uncover elevated levels of cohesion with the organization and the role. Within six months our turnover was at 22%, our profits were up 14%, productivity was up 31%, time-to-fill organically landed at six days, and employee engagement was measured at 88% for the organization [+10%].

Employee Referral Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind

  • Referrals are the #1 source for quality new hires;
  • Retention of referrals is higher than any other source;
  • Referrals that are hired produce more profit;
  • Referrals are more likely to be a “cultural fit” than other hires’
  • One out of every five referrals gets hired (saving time and money on recruitment initiatives);
  • Referrals have been shown to reduce the time to hire by almost 50% compared to candidates who come from a company’s careers site;
  • 75% of job seekers consider the employer’s brand and reputation before even applying for a position;
  • The software company Careerify found that referred employees are 23% less likely to quit than other hires;
  • A study out of Columbia University found that an organization with rich company culture has less than 14% turnover, while those with poor company culture exceeds 48%;
  • An effective Employee Referral Program decreases time-to-hire by 40%;
  • According to a study by Achievers,  the chances of a referred candidate getting fired decrease by an average of 350%;
  • Referred candidates cost 40% lower compared to job boards.

In all industries, candidates deserve to be treated with honesty, transparency, respect, and with a high-level of integrity. After all they are likely your customer, too. There are a few fabulous candidates out there that most any company in a variety of industries would be extremely lucky to have on their team but due to this antiquated [and hugely ineffective] ATS reliance and hands-off approach or the grim treatment doled out by most [not all] recruiters; these people go undiscovered – companies find themselves struggling to build a strong culture – drive profits – attract better talent – offer better customer experience – and as a result, mediocrity reigns supreme.

I absolutely understand ATS has it merits as a tool of compliance…it tracks all of the necessary reporting that companies must compile and turn over to state and federal agencies but I seriously question the benefit of this type of platform as a potent, viable, or mature talent strategy tool – as it clearly narrows the candidate focus to such an uninspired and risky set of criteria, that the candidate assortment shrinks to a handful of possibly “good enough” candidates that are – essentially – copies of everyone else in your organization. It’s a myopic and dangerous game to to play in today’s business world.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am passionate about and committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog around how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations.

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