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Ep 417: Optimizing The Recruiting Process


With so many challenges in talent acquisition, process improvement and optimization are a constant theme as employers attempt to speed up their processes. But how do you speed up recruiting while protecting the integrity of quality of hire and DE&I?

My guest this week is Erin Crask, Director Solutions Architects at SHL. Erin and her team use science and data to help enhance people strategies, and she has a tremendous amount of experience helping companies to streamline their external and internal recruiting processes.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Current challenges in recruiting

• The danger of reactive decision making

• The dangers of scaling back assessment to speed up recruiting

• Making evidence based changes to processes

• Protecting the quality of hire while also shortening the selection timeline

• Using automation to provide feedback for all applicants

• Defending the integrity of the process with internal stakeholders

• Measuring the right things

• The critical elements of a high quality candidate experience

• Asynchronous processes to empower candidates

• Automation trends

• What does best in class internal mobility look like

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts.

Interview Transcript:

SHL (Ad) (0s):
Support for this podcast is provided by SHL. From talent acquisition to talent management. SHL solutions provide your organization with the power and scale to build your business with a skilled, motivated, and energized workforce you need. SHL takes the guesswork out of growing a talented team by helping you match the right people to the right moments with simplicity and speed. They equip recruiters and leaders with people insights at an organization, team, and individual level, accelerating growth, decision making, talent mobility, and inspiring an inclusive culture.

SHL (Ad) (44s):
To build a future where businesses thrive because their people thrive, visit to learn more.

Matt Alder (54s):
Before we start the show a quick announcement to say that my latest book, Digital Talent is now available to order or pre-order wherever you get your books. In a disrupted and technology enabled world of work. A company’s ability to attract, recruit, and retain people with digital skills can be the difference between business success and business failure. I’ve co-authored again with Mervyn Dinnen. And in the book, we explore how employers can find, recruit, retain, and develop the people they need in a time of intense digital transformation. The books out now in the UK, and will be published in the US and around the world on March the 29th.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 55s):
Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 417 of The Recruiting Future Podcast. With so many challenges in talent acquisition, process improvement and optimization are a constant theme as employers attempt to speed up their processes. But how do you speed up recruiting while protecting the integrity of quality of hire and DE&I? My guest this week is Erin Crask, Director Solutions Architects at SHL. Erin and her team use science and data to help enhance people strategies, and she has a tremendous amount of experience helping companies to streamline their external and internal recruiting processes.

Matt Alder (2m 41s):
Hi, Erin, and welcome to the podcast.

Erin Crask (2m 44s):
Hi, Matt, thank you so much for having me today.

Matt Alder (2m 46s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Could you just introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Erin Crask (2m 52s):
Absolutely. So, I’m Erin Crask. And I am our Director Solutions Architects at SHL. My background is in industrial and organizational psychology. And I have a real passion for figuring out how to work with companies to scale processes, but also thinking a lot about how to make work purposeful and meaningful. So, how do we actually create an environment that lets people thrive but also helps organizations get the right people in the door, put them in the right places to grow, and do that on a way that we can scale across small large organizations, different functions. So, I’m very excited to be talking today with you a little bit about the workplace.

Matt Alder (3m 34s):
Before we dive into the topics that we’re going to discuss, give us a little bit of background on SHL because it may be that people are listening have not heard of SHL or perhaps have an outdated view of what SHL actually do.

Erin Crask (3m 47s):
Yes. So SHL is a talent measurement and Talent Management Organization. I like to think of us as a great cross section between an HR technology firm and an assessment company where we’re helping organizations identify how to again, scale, their talent acquisition and talent management processes. Really thinking whole employee lifecycle, and using different ways of measurement and experience to help candidates gain insight about whether a job might be the right fit for them, to help recruiters gain insight to get the right people in the right roles, but also to help leaders and employees gain insight about how to grow, how to succession plan, how to measure and scale high potential?

Erin Crask (4m 34s):
So different kinds of ability to answer talent questions across the employee lifecycle. We’re really focused on using technology to innovate in scale to answer all sorts of talent questions.

Matt Alder (4m 45s):
Now, it’s a very, to put it mildly. It’s a very disruptive time in the talent space at the moment. We’ve got candidates shortages, we’ve got remote working, remote processes, recruiting strategies they’re having to choose range from week to week, shortage of recruiters, recruiter burnout, all these things are going on and we don’t have a sort of historical context or series of best practices to measure everything by into to help people. What are the themes that you’re seeing from the recruiting teams that you work with? What’s going well? What’s not going so well?

Erin Crask (5m 24s):
Yes. So, I’ve been talking to a lot of recruitment teams and a lot of organizations who are coming to us and saying, “We are tight on resources. And we’re all so tight on candidates. And we need to change and streamline.” And what I tried to… what I’m hearing a lot of is this reactive, brash decision process that recruiters are going through. Where they’re saying, we need to remove our assessments, we’re going to rely on historical methods, we’re going to screen resumes and get people in the door on the same day. We’re going to look at minimum qualifications and if people meet that they’re on the floor, and what that’s doing is creating inefficiencies that may actually take longer, because we’re going back to some manual processes.

Erin Crask (6m 16s):
In that case, we’re hearing people say, I’m going to cut the automation out of my process to try to minimize, but that’s actually creating inefficiencies that could take longer, because now you’ve cut your recruiters, reading resumes, again going through, and trying to figure out with this person’s resume, who might be an apple in this person’s resume, who might be an orange, or even just applications filled out different ways, who’s the right person to put in the job? Do they need these minimal qualifications? Let’s get them through the door. What happens in these cases is that organizations are now maybe they are getting more candidates through the door but they’re more likely also to be hiring the less qualified and lower performing people.

Erin Crask (6m 58s):
Along with the people who might be a great fit for the job. But you’ve removed your abilities to really understand the difference between who has the potential to succeed in this job, and who has the potential to learn it, and who doesn’t have that potential to be the right fit for this particular role? And those kinds of things have negative impacts. We then see negative impacts on performance, on business outcomes, on team and culture, on retention. You’ve now got good people leaving the organization because they’re surrounded by people who might not be a good fit for that role. So, there are actually bigger negative implications for this rash decision skinnying down. And so that’s what we’re seeing a lot of in the market is the desire to push that way.

Erin Crask (7m 40s):
And when I talk to recruiters, what I really tried to do is think about, what is the bigger picture strategy? And how do you create? How do you take this opportunity to say, “Yes, our process isn’t right anymore, but the labor market will shift again? So how can we take this opportunity to tweak our strategy? And make evidence-based changes that focus on real job requirements and also answer and address the problems that you’re facing today?” So that means saying, “Let’s skinny down our process.” Rather than saying, “Let’s cut off all the things that are might be taking time by just going back to the old ways of doing things.” Let’s say, yes, we need to skinny down our process and get people in the door faster.

Erin Crask (8m 24s):
But let’s do that by evaluating and removing measures that take time but don’t actually predict performance. What if we re-evaluated our application process to only ask the most critical things to get people in the door of the application process? Then say, “Okay, what are the most predictive measures?” Maybe it’s an assessment, maybe it’s a behavioral interview, depending on the type of role. Maybe it’s some sort of situational judgment test or whatever that predictive measure is, and only keep those most relevant and objective data points. And also provide transparency and feedback at scale to your candidates through that process. Thank you for your time.

Erin Crask (9m 4s):
Here’s a quick insight for you. Here’s what’s coming next, here’s the timeline, build that right into that process. So, they can go straight through from that application to that quick measurement, then they can get that immediate feedback. HR can then use that data in real time to say, “Okay, is this person likely to be a fit for the job or not? What insights do I use as I push them forward to the application process and get them in the door?” And so you can still scale and skinny, but we can be really strategic about what we’re keeping in our processes to make sure that we’re getting those better outcomes, protecting our culture, while also shortening the selection timeline and protecting our ability to get a better quality of hire.

Erin Crask (9m 44s):
We can’t make candidates appear out of nowhere. We can change our recruitment strategies to try to get more candidates and more diverse candidate pools but we need to think about our selection processes and the way we change our strategy in this moment of challenge and opportunity. Resist that temptation to make reactive change and lean in to the opportunity to make evidence-based change.

Matt Alder (10m 9s):
That’s so interesting, because that mirrors so many conversations I’m having with talent acquisition leaders about how they’re having to really optimize their processes to recruit the speed they need to recruit in the market at the moment. Just to sort of stay on that topic for a second, because I know it’s of particular interest to lots of people who are listening. Obviously, as you say, there is this temptation to be really reactive, and just remove bits from the recruitment process to make it short as possible without necessarily having a strategy behind that. And you’ve talked about the more strategic and effective alternative that people have.

Matt Alder (10m 51s):
What would you advise talent acquisition leaders or recruiters, people who are coming under pressure to take certain aspects out of their recruitment process from within their organization? What would your advice be to them in terms of sort of defending their ground and making sure that those changes are made in a sensible and strategic way?

Erin Crask (11m 12s):
Yes. Well, I think a lot of that comes back to measuring the right things, and then making changes based on that measurement. So, for example, we know candidate drop is a big piece that we’re measuring. We know that that’s something that we’re reacting to a lot in the market right now. But there’s this temptation to then say, “We have our metric, which is candidate drop, and we’re going to make a whole bunch of changes because of that.” But let’s take a second and say, “Where is candidate drop happening, and make the changes in the right place because of that?” So, let’s not just make cuts to places where candidates might not be dropping out, let’s re-evaluate each stage of the hiring process.

Erin Crask (11m 59s):
And one of the things that I do with my clients a lot of the time is I do what I call a candidate experience walk. And if you’ve ever worked in the medical profession, I have a background in healthcare, before I came over to the consulting side of the world. And when we worked in healthcare, we would do a patient experience walk, and we would say, “Okay, from you know, executive ABC, we’re going to park in the parking lot in the patient parking that we’re going to go find. And then we’re going to walk in, and we’re going to go through the whole process of checking in, finding where you need to go navigating the building, going through the reception process, in the paperwork process, in the waiting room process and all of these pieces.” And people are often shocked to find out what that experience looks like.

Erin Crask (12m 43s):
Because they just haven’t walked in those shoes in a while. They’re just thinking at a more strategic level about what kind of changes we need to make? So, we can do that from a candidate experience perspective, too. And it’s often pretty easy. Let’s go apply for one of our own jobs and see what it feels like. And that can actually help us inform what kinds of changes we should be making, where there’s duplication of efforts or lag time. And then we can start to diagnose and say, “What’s creating that lag time? And how can we automate those processes? Or how can we provide the right triggers to minimize time between steps or increase our automated communication so people know what to expect?” And then use metrics at that different stage to figure out where are people dropping out.

Erin Crask (13m 25s):
And let’s make changes based on that. And I like to think of… it so I like to think of that as it’s really just the candidate experience walk. How do we make sure that we’re using the right information to minimize that drop and ask, and make the right change based on the right data, ask the right questions?

Matt Alder (13m 46s):
Sticking with the candidate experience, because it is so important, and it does play a massive role in terms of reputation. And you know, whether people want to apply to an employer, and as you say, the efficiency of the recruitment process. You talked about sort of doing the walkthrough there and analyzing the different parts of the experience. What is your work indicate the major factors are in creating a positive candidate experience?

Erin Crask (14m 19s):
Yes. So, you’re so right. We’ve actually had the pleasure of doing a little bit of research together on SHL and you Matt. And some of the really interesting things we found out of that research, right that people are sharing their experiences online. That’s not surprising. Think about forums like Glassdoor, and we found that 72% of people will share a bad experience. And 55% of people will avoid applying to companies with negative reviews. So that was not surprising. But what was surprising out of that research was also that when people have good experiences during an application process, two thirds of candidates were also sharing that in information online as well, even when they didn’t get the role.

Erin Crask (15m 5s):
So that core question is, how do we harness that positive experience? And what tweaks can we be making to make candidates have a better experience that makes them want to share that even if they don’t get the role? And a couple of key themes that we found, were a switch from passive experiences where somebody completes a task, and then they wait for the next task to be given to them, and they complete them in order at the will of the organization. So, switching from that to a more interactive experience, where there may be multiple tasks along the way, and candidates can choose to complete them in the order. Or maybe there’s an interactive experience where they’re really getting a feel for what that job looks like.

Erin Crask (15m 52s):
Another piece is this idea of on my own time. So, when we think about scalability, what can we do that’s asynchronous for candidates? So they can opt in on their own time. And it doesn’t always have to be scheduled in the same way. Some organizations who are really on the leading edge of video interview are using video interview in this way, or virtual assessment and development center, or simulations that are asynchronous to help make candidates feel more empowered and able to have agency in that process. Another piece of that candidate experience is going from mass market to personal. And I like to think of this as my Netflix recommendation page.

Erin Crask (16m 34s):
Right? So how do we go from a traditional candidate experience where everyone is experiencing the same thing? Think about your top. The top 10 most watched things on Netflix right now, right? They’re gonna show up the same for everybody. Everyone has the same experience. But Netflix also feeds me recommendations based on what I watch. And so how do we create that stream of personalization for our candidates too and one way we can do that is through creating personalized feedback messages based on the way that candidates are talking about themselves or taking assessments or pieces like that. And there are ways we can automate that kind of personalization and feedback.

Erin Crask (17m 14s):
So, it also scales with you. So how do we create these small changes, to give candidates more agency, create a more interactive experience where they can see themselves in the role, also creating a more personal experience, where they’re getting information about themselves? It really helps candidates see themselves in the job. It also helps them feel more invested and interested in the process, and helps them feel like they’re having a good experience. I think more positively of your organization. So those are some of those trends we’re seeing in the candidate experience. And those are the kinds of things that we can do to drive more people to stay in our processes as well.

Matt Alder (17m 56s):
You mentioned automation a lot in the conversation. And it’s such a big topic in talent acquisition at the moment. But it’s one that I still think people are really wrestling with in terms of how do they do it properly? How do they get the most value from it, particularly in terms of improving and personalizing the candidate experience? Like you’ve just said, what are you seeing in terms of automation? What are people who are at the cutting edge doing here?

Erin Crask (18m 27s):
Well, first, technology plays a significant role here. And I’ll walk through like a tactical process real quick. And then I also want to then take a step back and think about, how do we do this in a way that works for people that are already really busy in their lives, right? So that the big picture idea here is that technology can help us automate. And so, think about your application process being linked directly to a trigger, maybe if you have a minimum, if you have a bona fide occupational qualification or a minimum qualification that you know is critical for a role. You could just have an automated go- or no-go decision in your application process that sends someone directly to the next stage.

Erin Crask (19m 12s):
You can automatically trigger someone into an experience, maybe that has a realistic job preview, maybe it has that video interview in it, maybe it has that assessment in it. And so, you can automatically trigger candidates into that process in real time. So, they don’t have any lag between those stages. And that would automate that step. And then, if you have an assessment built in, you could use technology to then say, “Okay, how I’m going to take those assessment scores? And I’m going to feed back to candidates a little bit of information about their top three strengths.” That’s something that we’re doing at SHL right now saying, what are our top three strengths? And how can I share with candidates? “Hey, you took time to fill out this information for me.

Erin Crask (19m 52s):
Let me share some value with you. Here’s some information about where you’re likely to show up very, very strong at work. And then also as a bonus, here is the timeline of what you can expect for the rest of this process.” And you can just build that into the end of that candidate experience. And all of that’s happened in one seamless interaction. And then if you have your technology in place, you can have the data from that candidate experience sent immediately to your HRIS system, you can have then recruiters use that data to do the reporting and insights from that data to drive interviews and next steps. You can use that same platform to input scores from interviews and be able to stack read candidates and understand hey, based on the way that they performed in the assessment in the interview, who are my strongest candidates here.

Erin Crask (20m 45s):
So, it’s really about using technology and setting up these steps so that they auto trigger each other. And that the role of the recruiter doesn’t become to push candidates through the process, it becomes to use the insights to make the best decisions and drive things faster. So that’s the role of technology. And one of the things I want to take a moment to stop and say here is that, we’re all working over capacity already. I talked to recruiters who are so busy, and the idea of developing a consumer grade candidate experience. So, kind of like a that market ready flashy candidate experience, that sounds intimidating, and like a lot of work.

Erin Crask (21m 32s):
But my message to them would be, I want you to resist the temptation to feel like this work is a project and think about how you might take anyone idea and start small, fail fast, and continually iterate, to get to a future state. So, this might start with just building in a few sentences at the end of that first candidate stage that says, “Hey, this is what you can expect next. Here’s about the timeline that you can expect to hear from us, then maybe you work into a feedback component, and then maybe you work into revamping your application.” So, you can take this one step at a time and continuously iterate as the market continues to change as the need changes.

Erin Crask (22m 19s):
So, there’s an opportunity also that that provides to really experiment and iterate in an agile way that doesn’t require a huge project with a big project plan to get there. So, take this in bite sized stages as you work through this innovation.

Matt Alder (22m 36s):
Looking at recruiting from different perspective, one of the huge issues of the moment, which is obviously related to the talent market shortages that we’re seeing is internal hiring. And it’s something that all organizations are looking at. But I know that lots of people are struggling to do it well, for lots of reasons. And also, there are issues with candidate experience, even with internal candidates. From what you’re seeing, what do best in class employers do when it comes to internal mobility? And what can we learn from them?

Erin Crask (23m 17s):
So, this is a topic I’m seeing talked a lot about from both my clients and also from other industry leaders, from folks like the Harvard Business Review is publishing on this person is publishing on this right now. A lot of folks talking about how do we handle that internal talent, especially when the candidate pipeline is dry, how do we pull internally? And some of the trends and some of the best in class practices in this area surround what is ultimately not new. But what we’ve been doing for external candidates, it’s marketing our jobs better and in creating opportunities for our candidates to have easy access to internal opportunities.

Erin Crask (24m 3s):
So, the how might we question here is, how might we make sure that everyone that works for our organization understands, even cross functionally, the different opportunities they have to grow in the organization? So internal visibility is one component of that. A second component of that is good measurement. So oftentimes, we fall into the trap of saying, “Well, this person has already worked here. And I either believe they don’t have the potential because of what I’ve seen them do in the past, or I believe they have the potential because of also what I’ve seen them do in the past and then we don’t hold them to the same rigorous standards, and it becomes inequitable. In the selection process, we have multiple candidates, but if you’ve already cherry picked a favorite or tag somebody is maybe not the right fit, we don’t give them that equal opportunity to put their best foot forward.

Erin Crask (24m 54s):
So, this means using behavioral interview processes, using your same assessments, using job samples or presentations to allow somebody to step out of the shoes that are wearing today, and show what they might do in the future. So those are really important components. And the more seriously you take that process, the more seriously your candidates will behave in that process as well. So, you need to take the process seriously, so they understand that they are being taken serious and can also opt into that process and put their best foot forward for the role. So, that’s where you really start to see from an internal mobility standpoint, how you know, who is right for your internal roles, and how you get those folks in the right spot?

Erin Crask (25m 40s):
I also want to highlight the use of technology here. So, organizations are starting to create different kinds of dashboarding and insights to say, especially from across business functions. Here are the kinds of people I’m looking for, in a future role. Where do I have talent today? And how might, I pull from the talent I have today to identify folks in the organization who might be a good fit for this role. So that’s something that we’re doing at SHL. It’s something that folks are doing using general dashboarding software as well. But being able to have data from your people across the organization, some folks are using skills taxonomies for that.

Erin Crask (26m 23s):
That’s a hot word right now on the market, what are the different skills? And what kinds of skills do I need in this job? And then who has those skills across the organization? And how can I hunt them out? So, starting to use technology to enable that internal mobility both from a candidate visibility, process quality, and data visualization process helps really maximize the talent you have internally, and also grow your people in a more systematic way.

Matt Alder (26m 50s):
So final question. We’ve covered a huge amount of ground in the conversation about talent acquisition and assessment, and internal mobility. What’s the one key takeaway or action point that you want to leave everyone with today?

Erin Crask (27m 4s):
Thank you for asking, because we have talked so much about what you could do and what the market is demanding. But the couple of takeaways I would love to leave, especially our recruitment teams, our recruitment strategy folks here with today are one, keep it easy to resist the temptation to over-complicate processes, skinny them down to make them scalable, keep it easy. Number two, one step at a time. So, let’s iterate small pieces of our process. Make small shifts that can make big differences, figure out if that works and then try something different. And three, use your candidate experience, walk, go apply for your jobs.

Erin Crask (27m 47s):
See what it feels like find your inefficiencies. We can sit in meetings in whiteboard or SWOT analysis, exactly all the things that need to change. And sometimes we forget that we just can go experience exactly what our candidates see. So, keep it easy, one step at a time, and go participate in your candidate experience.

Matt Alder (28m 8s):
Erin, thank you very much for talking to me.

Erin Crask (28m 11s):
Thank you so much, Matt.

Matt Alder (28m 13s):
My thanks to Erin. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts on Spotify or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site. You can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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