May 05

Leading Indicators of Applicant Conversion

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once estimated bad hires had cost his company “well over $100 million.” Well-known recruiter Jörgen Sundberg puts the cost of onboarding an employee at $240,000. And, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings.

As a recruiter, your job is to “get it right.” Your responsibility is to find and recruit people that:

  1. have the necessary skills for the job
  2. are aligned with the vision of the company
  3. are engaged with the company brand in a productive way

But how? You can’t predict the future. You can only make an educated guess. And that educated guess should be rooted in some fundamental, unwavering leading indicators of success. Welcome to the focus of this article. We’re going to connect the dots between the top performers at your company and the persona of potential candidates in your recruiting funnel.

Qualifications and Skills

The most prominent leading indicator of applicant conversion is the alignment of skills and qualifications. (Notice we didn’t say strongest… that’s the next section.)

So how do you ensure that you’re recruiting candidates that can actually do the job?

For experienced-level hires, this one is fairly straightforward. Recruiters are given a job description from a hiring manager, they search for candidates that match those skills, and then begin screening for experience level with the critical skills required for the position. For entry-level hires, aligning the skills gap gets a bit trickier. It’s not your fault.Blame it on the language barrier. The newest members of the workforce simply don’t possess the vocabulary to properly market their skills. Further, many of them are unaware of the skills they possess. There’s a huge disconnect between the stated required skills in a job description and the stated learned skills of a college course. (This is where our secret sauce comes in, and is a huge differentiating factor of The

Blame it on the language barrier. The newest members of the workforce simply don’t possess the vocabulary to properly market their skills. Further, many of them are unaware of the skills they actually possess. There’s a huge disconnect between the stated required skills in a job description and the stated learned skills of a college course. (This is where our secret sauce comes in, and is a huge differentiating factor of The Whether).

But not all hope is lost. One way to extract the skills you seek from entry-level candidates is to give them a project. Provide a clear business challenge, a list of goals, and desired output format. The candidates that respond will show you a lot about their abilities and skill sets (whether they know how to talk about them, or not).

Pay attention to their:

  • grammar
  • presentation and communication style
  • critical thinking
  • solution quality
  • research approach

Speaks much, much louder than a resume… don’t you think? And for the candidate, they get a much, much deeper understanding of the type of work they will be walking into. Which is hugely advantageous for your recruiters when the candidate of choice has multiple, similar offers to consider.

Understanding the Fabric of Your Company

The next leading indicator of applicant conversion (and quite possibly the strongest and most reliable) is the alignment of professional values.

So how do you figure out if your candidates care about the same things that your company cares about?

It’s all about people. The company is absolutely, unequivocally, no-doubt-about-it, 100% dependent on the people within the ranks. Until recently, it was commonplace for company executives to deliver a mandate of company values to the team and state “This is what our company values. And this is who we are.” What HR executives around the world are recognizing is this mandate is inherently biased, and oftentimes, misleading to the actual values that are on display in the everyday life of the employees (again… the most vital component of any company striving for success).

Those same HR executives are now utilizing assessments to help them understand (with less bias or leadership interference) the true fabric of their company culture. Assessments – when utilized correctly – can reveal a great deal of information about the motivations, abilities, and personality traits that live within an organization. Smart HR executives deploy the same assessment across the entire organization (making it absolutely clear that the results will not generate negative actions for employees… just opportunities to switch business units and/or lead a team).The aggregate results of the assessment will generate an incredibly compelling story about the types of people that succeed within the company,

The aggregate results of the assessment will generate an incredibly compelling story about:

  1. the types of people that succeed within the company
  2. the naturally occurring and shared professional values of the team
  3. the most prevalent (or absent) abilities of the team or business unit
  4. the most prevalent caution areas of the team
  5. the primary motivators of the team

Leveraging Your New-found Understanding

Types of people that succeed within the company

Internally, you can use this data to inform your strategy for identifying the future leaders within your organization. What do your leaders have in common? Who are the members of the team that exemplify those same attributes? Grant them opportunities to take on more responsibility within their business unit.

Externally, your recruiters now possess an incredible jump-start on finding viable candidates for your open positions. During the candidate selection process, have your favorite candidates take the same assessment. Compare their results to the results of your existing time. Experiment with segmentation. How do they fare against the entire team? Your leadership team? The business unit they are considering? The other candidates you’re considering?

The naturally occurring and shared professional values of the team

Internally, you can use this data to compare the “stated values” of the company to the “real values” of your team members. Do they align? Are the diametrically opposed? Are there any new values that we can adopt or promote? From there, you can build a small “values committee” (use a balanced cross-section of team members) to build an intentional action plan around promoting, exemplifying, and rewarding the adoption of these values.

Externally, your recruiters can integrate these values into their communication strategy and help candidates understand the true culture of the company. Recruiters can also help candidates understand where they fit within the culture of their potential business unit. Candidates could also understand what they have in common with the leadership team and gain deeper insight around their shared values with the company.

The most prevalent (or absent) abilities of the team or business unit

Internally, you can use this data to assess business unit strengths and gaps. This data often helps leadership teams understand the types of people that are missing from their business unit. They can then work with HR to see if there are people in other business units that could fill the gaps.

Externally, this gives your recruiters an incredibly clear target. “Find someone with ‘Ability X’ (and be sure to consider their values, personality, etc.).”

The most prevalent caution areas of the team

Internally, you can use this data to direct your 12-month team-building plans.

Externally, your recruiters can provide transparency around the caution areas that make up the team and the challenges that candidates should expect on day one.

The primary motivators of the team

Internally, this data is valuable for your leadership team to understand how their business units respond to motivation. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s recognition. Maybe it’s increased responsibility. Knowing this can have a significant impact on company morale and benefit packages.

Externally, your recruiters can understand what motivates each candidate. Subsequently, they can leverage those motivators and nurture each candidate in a genuinely personal way.

Engaging with the Company Brand

The last leading indicator of applicant conversion is the candidate’s engagement with your employer brand (and your systematic efforts to respond quickly).

Think about it… you started with 100 potential candidates checking out your opportunities. You reach out to each of them and invite them to take the assessment and participate in the project. Half of those candidates respond and tackle their “assignments” on time. 15 of those respondents delivered solid work. And of the 15 that turned in solid work, 5 of them have been engaged with your brand and sharing your content on social media – simply because they believe in the mission of the company and love the product/service that you offer. Those are the 5 applicants you want to invite for a group interview. Now your hiring managers talk with only the applicants that are competent, align with your company values, and believe in the mission.

But don’t think that this happens automatically. Your team needs a plan to respond, encourage, and help the potential candidates in each stage of your recruiting funnel.

  • When someone views your content – know what they looked at, understand where they came from to find it, and identify the call to action that you want them to take accordingly.
  • When someone favorites your content – understand what it is about that particular piece that stood out to them. Then send them additional content to supplement their efforts.
  • When someone shares your content – understand why they shared it and what you can do to encourage more people to share.
  • When someone indicates interest in applying for one of your opportunities – have them complete the assessment and submit a response to your project(s).

How you treat a candidate during their job search will speak very loudly about the culture of your company. Treat each candidate with respect, transparency, honesty, and cordial communication. They will appreciate your efforts and speak highly of your brand. For more information on this, check out the “Nurture” section of Inbound Recruiting.

Bottom Line:

You invest a lot of time, money, and effort in finding the right candidate for your opportunity. While you can’t predict the future, you absolutely can pay attention to the leading indicators. Note the candidate’s engagement. Give them projects to work on. Track your dialog with them. Build rapport and establish a relationship built on transparency and trust. That way, there are no surprises on either side of the conversation.

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