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10 HR Best Practices Hindering Your Qualified Applicant Flow

For the past 10-15 years, I've been traveling around the country speaking at SHRM state and local chapter events.

The overall goal of SHRM and these events is to help the HR profession and to share best practices with each other.

What's a best practice?

A best practice is the agreed-upon way of doing things within an industry.

The formation of a best practice follows the Idea Adoption Curve. This curve relies on tech enthusiasts, visionaries, and early adopters who try out new crazy ideas!

Once these groups have success with these ideas and gain some level of traction, the ideas hit the late majority of people. The rest of the world starts to adopt these new trending ideas and they become best practice.

Skeptics are at the very far side... this is the group of people in any given profession that only accept a best practice once it is completely proven.

Best practices are great in heavily regulated areas, like payroll and benefits, where the main goal is reducing risk and errors.

But when it comes to the hiring world, best practices can actually cause more harm than good.

The problem with best practices in the HR world...

The adoption and evolution of best practices require a significant number of people on the front side of that adoption curve. These people need to be willing to try new things and evolve them until they become trends that actually work.

The fact of the matter is... in the HR world, new ideas have a hard time gaining traction. These best practices are entrenched and held down by most people as... "the way we do things."

In a normal job market, companies can manage with "the old way of doing things". But in a fast-paced, and chaotic job market, best practices aren't working.

Small Companies and Best Practice

Bigger companies can get away with using older best practices. They have the budget, resources, manpower, and brand recognition to make up for it.

Smaller companies don't have the same resources, budget, team size, and brand recognition. If they hold to those best practices for too long... they fall behind. And, when those best practices stop working, it negatively impacts small businesses at a much greater rate.

Instead of using best practices, small companies need to innovate.

10 HR best practices that aren't working

These hiring trends are decreasing the number of qualified applicants you're receiving.

1. Posting a job description as an ad.

The worst thing you can do for your applicant flow is posting a legal review job description as an ad. The job description is all about you, the employer, and your list of demands.

Big companies can get away with having a boring job ad. They have the brand recognition, and ability (and willingness) to pay more.

If you're the small guy, a boring job ad isn't going to entice the job seeker to apply. You simply don't have the brand power in the marketplace. This is one of the biggest reasons why we see less than 1% of the people who search for a job actually applying for the job. Job seekers don't engage with a boring job ad.

Your job ad is the first impression you make on potential job seekers... make your job ad compelling.

2. Not letting job seekers apply with their job board accounts.

Big companies can force job seekers to leave the job board to apply. Job seekers are more willing to jump through hoops and unnecessary steps to apply for the bigger, more well-known companies.

But, when you are a smaller company... you risk losing applicants by adding extra, unnecessary steps to your application process. As a small business... Your goal is to make it easy for job seekers to land in your inbox!

3. Posting and praying

You're missing out on applicant flow by posting your job and assuming the job board will do the rest. Companies see 1-3x more applicants when they are actively improving their job board results. It can be as simple as changing keywords or reducing the friction job seekers experience when applying.

4. Relying on free job boards.

For almost a decade now, employers have enjoyed the luxury of generating applicants from free job boards! Over the last few years, the amount of free traffic coming from these job boards is decreasing. In fact, since the pandemic, employers are seeing about 50% fewer applicants per job for free.

What would you do if you stopped receiving free applicants?

Here's the kicker... this doesn't mean you have to spend extra money!

5. Only sourcing applicants from job boards

If job boards are generating 70-90% of all your applicants, then your sourcing mix is out of balance.

Are you sourcing applicants from social media, your company website, and employee referrals?

6. Forgetting about social media.

Facebook and LinkedIn groups are powerful resources. These social media groups allow you to easily post your jobs. Making it easy to get in front of groups of job seekers in your industry or local area.

7. Not utilizing your marketing team

If your company views recruiting as an HR function, rather than a team sport, you have an applicant sourcing problem.

Get the marketing team involved! Use their resources to create a strategy that targets your company's fans, walk-ins, and website traffic.

Although you may not get as many applicants from your website, walk-in traffic, or your social media fans... these applicants are usually 3-5x higher quality. Meaning, applicants who don't come from job boards are 3-5x more likely to get hired... So, you need fewer of them.

8. Underestimating the power of an employee referral program.

Simply having an employee referral program isn't enough! Your employees need to know how to use the employee referral program. They need to understand the vital role it plays in your company's growth.

Most companies assume a successful employee referral program means offering more money per hire. But, that usually isn't the case.

When driving an employee referral program, it's important that you...

  • Create a drumbeat of communication
  • Reduce the friction
  • Increase engagement
  • Ensure consistent recognition of the new hires, and the person who referred them!

Did you know employee referrals are the best source for qualified applicants?

9. Ignoring employee referral "weak connections"

Most employers believe strong connections are the core drivers for employee referrals. This includes family members, best friends, past coworkers, etc.

Weak connections have just as much potential to drive employee referrals as strong ones.

"Weak connections" are job seekers that may not have a direct relationship with your employees.

We've recently hired several new employees who simply saw a social media post about a job opening from one of our employees. These job seekers applied without personally knowing their referrer (our employee) at all!

In order for your employee referral program to be successful, you have to put tools in place that make it easy. Help your employees easily share your open positions through social media.

10. Being passive and reactive versus active and proactive.

If you're throwing your jobs on the job boards and waiting to see what happens, you'll always fall behind.

You need a more proactive approach to refining, improving, and evolving your process. When you come across a problem with your process, you'll always be one step ahead.

You don't need best practices...

You need best principles, frameworks, and paradigms.

You need new ways to think through your hiring process and how to evolve it.

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