Candidates or companies: who makes the recruitment decision ?

What was a decade ago a nearly nonsense question, has now turned into a more complex subject. Who is the decision maker in a recruitment process? Companies or candidates? For years, HR departments (and more recently Recruitment or Talent Acquisition teams) have structured themselves for a clear purpose: find, attract, select and retain the best candidates in the market. Said otherwise, being the decision maker.

The selection phase in particular has been strengthened: structured interviews, candidate scorecards, business cases etc. Companies developed tools and processes, so they’re able to make quicker and rational decisions on how to recruit. Besides, following an old and implied tradition, companies decide and candidates bend the knee. But if you ask the question to the persons directly involved, the perception is rather different.

A mirror perception

On November 14th 2019, Hellowork published some interesting results of a study they led on more that 3.100 candidates and 500 HR professionals (recruiters, HR managers, CEOs). One of the questions was: today, who do you think is in the decision-making position? Well, 70% of the HR persons declare that candidates are the decision makers. And, on the other side, 62% of the candidates declare that companies make the decision. These figures are interesting on two levels: 1) if recruiters are already aware that candidates have more and more weight in the decision process, these 70% also include hiring managers, CEOs, people who are usually not directly involved in the first steps of a recruitment process. That’s a clear tipping point, indicating that at every company level, professionals become aware that the rules are changing; 2) having such high numbers on both sides is a sign that we are today on a market adjustment phase, where decision making balance is swinging: candidates get more selective (even if they still acknowledge that they have to convince an employer to get a job), and companies need to adapt to the new selection standards.

A new generation of candidates

We could discuss hours about x/y/z generations, and the deep impact it generates on recruitment activities. Let’s focus on two aspects. First, young candidates have become more selective, not only on the job itself, but also on the “side elements” linked to the function: flexibility on working hours and location, the meaning of their job and their concrete impact on the company, the alignment of company values with their own ambitions, the opportunities offered to grow as a professional (coaching, training paths) etc. Second, following this willingness of being more “in control” on how/with whom you work, we observe in OECD countries a constant and strong increase of independent workers on the market. What is called “gig economy” is growing extremely fast: in an article published in June 2018, the US bank Morgan Stanley stated that by 2027, 50% of the total US workforce will be freelancer (35% today). In Europe, the proportion of freelancers doubled between 2000 and 2014. The economical crisis of 2008 didn’t slow down this trend. For employers, the signal is loud and clear: they need to rethink the selection of candidates, but also the collaboration model once they’re onboarded.

The “Glassdoor effect”

In addition of new ambitions and wishes, candidates have now access to multiple tools and platforms to get information on their future employers. Social media are a great example. As well as notation websites, where current or former employees (and even candidates) are able to leave reviews on their experience with companies. Glassdoor is probably the most famous one. Famous enough to generate a “Glassdoor effect” companies cannot deny anymore. In a great article from December 2017, David Mallon gave some figures explaining why it became a real deal: in 10 years, 35 millions of comments have been written, 700 000 companies have been reviewed, offices in 13 countries... It became so impactful that, according a study from Tom Lakin published in 2015, candidates trust more Glassdoor than companies’ corporate contents to make an opinion. In the decision making balance we talk about, it’s a point that has to be highlighted. Candidates compare, the same way they check reviews online to buy a laptop or to chose a movie to watch, and it’s giving them a bigger place in the decision process.

The mistake of being less selective

What should companies do to keep attracting talents? Fasten up recruitment processes, propose flexible work schemes, offer broader salary packages? With no doubt! But one of the biggest mistakes an employer could do, is definitely lower expectations or evaluation standards. That’s tempting, because that’s easy: “it’s hard for me to hire good candidates, so I’m going to fall back on average/underqualified ones, they’re easier to convince!”. Maths are correct, and it can certainly solve short terms issues. But as you can assume, it will create mid/long term issues within the organization: underperforming teams, retention issues, degraded quality for clients... In addition, companies need to understand that if top-tier candidates are more selective, it means that they should also be ready to go through robust and structured recruitment processes. Candidates are ok to have several interviews, as long as it’s clearly explained, and that feedbacks are quick and transparent. Thus, companies have a strong interest to work on their selection process, not to make it light and easy, but to make it reactive and structured. It can be expensive to do so (need to hire experienced recruiters, redesign processes, build structured evaluations), but it becomes a necessity to attract top talents.

So, who decides?

What about, as an employer, involving the candidate in the decision making process? Ask a candidate: do you think you are a good fit for our company? That might sound absurd, but that’s already happening! Both candidates and employers are now decision makers. Companies are not hiring bags of potatoes, but educated, skilled and well informed persons. And as candidates are increasingly aware of their influence, employers need to adapt and consider candidates as real stakeholders in the decision making. Said otherwise, being fair, transparent, professional, selective and collaborative. The same approach as closing a deal with a business partner. That’s a new standard, and successful companies should consider that as a norm, not a luxury anymore.

Nicolas Caillet

AION Consulting

Credits e-rh&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=novembre2019 be-the-same