The digital revolution and your candidate as customer

HR for humans: How data, digital, and human-centered design can transform HR


Posted by Mike Grennier on January 28, 2019.

While the customer has long been king in business—and rightly so—the digital age has enabled companies to treat customers like royalty by catering to their needs and preferences in unprecedented ways. Now, a competitive job market and underlying social and workforce trends have given employers another royal to consider: candidates. How is your Talent Acquisition organization taking advantage of digital capabilities to treat candidates like customers?

On the consumer side, the digital age has enabled companies to connect with their customers in ways they could never imagine before. The ability to look at things like buying patterns, social activities, online interests, and searches has made it possible for companies to engage with, and target, their customers in ways that elicit brand loyalty, trust, and future purchases.

The same can be said for the world of Talent Acquisition (TA) and candidates. After all, candidates are the primary customers of the TA function. The advent of technology in TA has changed the game forever. Mobile apply, automatic profile uploads, chatbot-enabled screening, texting, video interviewing, and other technologies have provided the opportunity for recruiting teams to build that same level of brand loyalty and trust with their candidates as the sales and marketing team aims to provide to customers.

This ability to cater to candidates is increasingly important given Global Human Capital Trends in areas such as workforce composition and alternative work arrangements, evolving career paths, and the need for organizations to build social capital as well as financial capital. Organizations must be able to:

    • Attract a wide variety of candidate types.
    • Keep promising candidates engaged, perhaps for years, beyond the initial contact, whether or not they eventually hire them.
    • Provide candidates with an experience that elicits a positive view of the organization and, as is quite often the case these days, a positive review online.

So why, in this age of digital revolution, when candidate relationships are so important, do “lack of feedback” and “poor communication” remain among the most persistent complaints we continue to hear from candidates?

There are a couple of reasons why we see this continue to happen.

The problem of plenty

Too much technology
Most of our large clients have anywhere between 12 and 20 talent acquisition technology and sourcing tools at their disposal. Applicant Tracking systems, Candidate Relationship Management systems, online sourcing, screening and assessment tools, social media sites, etc., have combined to create a mixed web of tools and technologies that recruiters, and TA leaders, struggle to bring together in a harmonious way. Further, despite the promises of “integration,” we rarely see the talent acquisition technology stack work together in a seamless way.

In several recent client engagements, we have discovered that the organization’s recruiting teams were using only a fraction, typically one-third, of the technologies and sourcing tools that they had purchased (and continued paying for) over the past several years. At one such client, a key TA leader in the organization told us they had so much technology at their fingertips that recruiters were getting bogged down and couldn’t find time to engage with candidates. In essence, their recruiters couldn’t find time to recruit!

The ease of applying
The days of filling out paper applications are way behind us. The digital age has made it easier than ever for candidates to apply for jobs, even while standing in line at the DMV. Further complicating the problem is that candidates can apply for multiple jobs in the same company or the same job in multiple companies. While “one-click buying” is great for online sellers, “one-click applying” creates a set of challenges for TA leaders. Further complicating the matter is that, of all the people that apply, potentially hundreds or thousands, only one will get the job. To keep the level of trust in your employment brand, TA leaders need solutions to deal with the candidates not selected as much as they do to deal with the one who gets the job.

An integrated and optimized technology solution
Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP research on high-impact talent acquisition1 highlights the differences between high-performing and low-performing organizations in terms of personalizing candidate experiences. According to the research, high performers are more than three times more likely than low performers to communicate effectively with candidates and provide transparent feedback.

High-performing organizations offer more-personalized candidate experiences

So how can organizations behave more like high performers in how they engage with candidates? Finding the right balance of optimizing the technology tools in place today while investing in newer technologies that continue to drive innovation will require TA leaders to take a hard look at their existing technology landscape. This typically involves a four-part technology rationalization effort:

      1. Catalogue the tools and services you have in place today to understand your current talent acquisition technology landscape.
      2. Calculate the total spend on those tools/services.
      3. Analyze the usage of those tools/services to determine which are used/unused and to what extent, and where/how they are used (e.g., in certain geographies or for certain types of jobs).
      4. Analyze the effectiveness of the tools/services in use, based on metrics such as number of applicants or number of hires.

Many organizations we work with find the results of this exercise surprising and enlightening. You may find, for example, you are paying for tools that no one uses or services that yield very little return on investment (ROI). Conversely, you may find certain tools/services are very effective and you want to use them more widely. This information can help you make decisions about TA strategy and future spending.

The digital revolution is here and it’s here to stay. Technology advancements will continue to make it easier for candidates to apply for jobs in your organization. Meanwhile the talent acquisition technology industry will continue to push the envelope even further with, for example, the advent of cognitive automation and artificial intelligence tools. For TA leaders, much like their counterparts in sales and marketing, the puzzle is figuring out how to provide engaging, personal experiences to candidates as customers and maintain ongoing, positive relationships with them, even as technology removes some of the human interaction. It’s about combining what technology does best with what your recruiters do best.

Your candidates, like your customers, are counting on you

Mike GrennierMike Grennier, is a specialist master in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, specializing in HR Transformation.


1 The Talent Acquisition Maturity Model, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Robin Erickson, PhD, and Denise Moulton, 2018.

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