Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Making Online Hiring More Efficient For HR And For Hiring Managers

This post applies both to human resources and to the hiring managers who give assignments to HR. You have to make sure your listing is actionable. 

Almost everyone has sent a résumé to a company in response to an on-line job listing and then heard nothing back. It is maddening.  It happens because those listings don’t contain the appropriate information and candidates are responding “blind” and the person or computer screening the resume doesn’t necessarily have the right information to evaluate the resume submissions.

One listing I recently saw, and this is an exact quote, “We are looking for several qualified candidates in account management.  Three to 12 years’ experience.  Appropriate candidates must be passionate, committed and willing to work hard.”  That was it. Nothing more.

Huh?  This is inviting dozens, if not hundreds of inappropriate responses.  The company surely knows who it is looking for and what their real background should be, yet it is nowhere in this listing.  This is the rule rather than the exception.

First, we all know that the most important aspect of any job is a prospective employee’s ability to actually do the job, not their number of years’ experience, not their passion and not their college or degree.  I just saw a listing for a company looking for a marketing director.  The first part of the spec was “8-10 years’ experience”, but it said nothing about the company and nothing about the job itself. This job post is absolutely guaranteed to bring in the wrong people. Generic listings are totally inactionable.  Now, would someone with fourteen years or eighteen years’ experience be disqualified?  Should they be disqualified?  And if someone has only six years’ experience, but has handled whatever the issue is, be excluded?

One of the problems becomes that neither the mechanical scanner (key words) nor the person doing the résumé scanning may not have enough knowledge about either the job or the résumé they are looking at to enable them to evaluate the résumé and interview the candidate.  This happens frequently.

A brief description of the issues and problems (those that can be aired publically) should be included so that responders actually know what the job is.  For instance, if the job calls for 60-70% travel, why not include it?  Saying that in the listing will preclude the wrong people from answering.
Qualified candidates are constantly commenting to me that they submitted a résumé to a company that they would like to work for, but never heard back. And, their complaint goes on, they would be perfect for the listed position, at least on the surface. 

I know that companies don’t like to put salaries in job postings, but salaries are a more effective screening tool.  It won’t preclude juniors from applying, but listing salaries is effective in eliminating people who make more money than the job pays (unless they are willing to take a job cut. See below.).

All hiring managers should double check the on-line listings for the jobs they want to fill.  In addition, I would propose other steps to be taken. 

Rather than merely looking at résumés, all job postings should require an applicant to submit a cover letter telling the company why they are qualified to interview for the job.  This requires more work on the part of the company, but is far more efficient and beneficial and will save the company time in the long run.  First, it enables the company to determine how articulate a candidate is and how well they write.  If the cover letter is inarticulate or way too long, it enables a company to effectively screen.  Second, it gives the company a real tool which will enable them to properly evaluate a résumé and a candidate.  It gives the candidate space to sell themselves and say why they are qualified for the job.

I have written before about companies acknowledging résumés that are submitted.  It is so easy to create a form email and send to applicants.  A simple email can be a great and positive gesture and create good will.  And it eliminates the anger which comes from not hearing anything back.
Since so much hiring is done through on-line recruiting, it behooves a company to make it as efficient for them as possible.  And it will help candidates to truly understand whether a job is right for them or not.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Adventures In Advertising: Standing Up To A Client

Apropos of all the discussion today about branding and social media and the power of companies and people to affiliate or not with other brands and companies, I thought I would tell a true story.  It happened a long time ago.

In 1977 I was briefly the head of account management at what may be the worst agency in the city.  I didn’t know until I got there because a good friend of mine worked there and introduced me, telling me it was a wonderful agency.  They offered me a lot of money, so I took the job.  The agency was called Hicks & Greist.

One of their accounts was Borden’s.  They had a number of brands, including ReaLemon and Wyler’s Lemonade.  One day in the spring of that year, the agency received a letter signed by the president of Borden’s.   In no uncertain terms, it instructed the agency not to buy any spot or network television in or adjacent to the upcoming new series, Soap.  Soap was to debut in the fall.  It was a comedy about a couple of different families and their relationships, ostensibly, it was about adultery, divorce, homosexuality, secret affairs and the like.  The cast included Billy Crystal and Robert Guillaume.  It came several years after All in the Family was on the air and became very successful. By today's standards it was very mild, but in those days it was very cutting edge.

I had previously seen the pilot and thought it was innocuous and fairly funny. Despite prior publicity and controversy, it was harmless and in many ways, far more mundane than All in the Family. But then, again, I am a liberal. I was incensed at the censorship by my client.  I called the director of marketing of the food division and nicely asked about the letter; he was a good guy and a friend (enough of a friend that I was present at his elopement, but that is merely a coincidence.)  His comment to me was astounding.  He told me that no one there had ever seen it, but said his management was a bunch of old and conservative men and there was nothing he could or would do about it. 

I thought it the client's right not to advertise on the show, but I objected to the fact that they had never seen it.  My thought process was that how could a company boycott something they knew nothing about. 

I asked him if he and his management would be open to screening the show.  I called ABC and, they thought it was a great idea and offered to go out to Columbus with me.  They volunteered to pay my airfare, so I did not have to obtain internal approval for the flight.  In a couple of days the marketing director got back to me and said that his management would be open to ABC and me coming out to Columbus for a screening.  Both he and I were surprised by the invitation.

So on the appointed day, I flew out there with a group of ABC executives.   We got there mid-morning.  The client was quite cordial and, I thought, receptive.  We played the pilot for them, which was half an hour (actually much less because there were no commercial breaks).  The entire executive group laughed all the way through it.  The client president looked at me afterwards and thanked me.  He told me he would not withdraw his memo and did not want commercials in the show because he wanted to protect his franchise from any negative publicity.  He did concede that if a scatter spot buy ended up in an adjacency, he would be inclined to look the other way, but he wouldn’t announce it because he did not want to create any controversy.  I was actually pleased with the response.  At least now they would know the facts and could make a decision based on knowledge, which is all I wanted.

They invited us to have lunch and, after a nice meal, I flew back to the agency. It had been a very cordial meeting.  By the time I returned to New York and arrived at the agency, they had been told about the meeting by the marketing director who was very complimentary towards me.  Nevertheless, the agency was furious with me, despite the positive results.  They made it clear that the agency was not the arbiter of their clients’ social actions and that I had no business making the trip or challenging their actions or beliefs (think of this in today's terms).  This, despite the fact that the marketing director had told the president of the agency that he and they were proud of the stance I had taken and thought better of the agency for it. I was bawled out and told that I had to clear all subsequent out of town trips with agency management.  The agency’s position left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Soap ran for four or five successful years and, immediately after it first aired, most of the controversy died down and was forgotten.  I resigned from the agency shortly after this event. I had only been there about six months.  They were not my kind of people.

I have always felt that ad agencies should be the conscience of their clients and their brands.  That discussion has come to the fore in recent weeks and months; the issues with the NRA is a good example.  It has taken a very long time.   

Ad agencies should always stand up for their beliefs.
Creative Commons License