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Ep 531: Kindness, Data & The Candidate Experience

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Many aspects of recruiting have changed significantly over the last two decades, with technology continuing to drive rapid leaps forward in innovation and efficiency. The candidate experience continues to be a conundrum, however, as it hasn’t improved or developed at the same pace as other areas of talent acquisition.

So why is this, and how can new and compelling business cases be made to drive a better candidate experience?

My guest this week is Amy Oviedo, Founder and CEO of Recruiting Experiences. Recruiting Experiences provides fractional recruiting support to employers and training for talent acquisition professionals. Amy is a passionate advocate for the candidate experience and the importance of kindness in the recruiting process.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Candidate experience as the backbone of effective recruiting

• Recruiting fundamentals and the importance of focusing on process

• Automation and simplification

• AI and the future of candidate experience

• Kindness in the context of recruiting

• Building business cases

• The perfect mix between people and technology

• Why a high volume of applications isn’t an excuse for a poor candidate experience

• What skills with talent acquisition professionals need in the future

Follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Transcript:

Matt Alder (Intro) (2m 18s):
Hi there this is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 531 of the Recruiting Future podcast. Many aspects of recruiting have changed significantly over the last two decades, with technology continuing to drive rapid leaps forward in innovation and efficiency. The candidate experience continues to be a conundrum, however, as it hasn’t improved or developed at the same pace as other areas of talent acquisition. So, why is this? And how can new and compelling business cases be made to drive a better candidate experience? My guest this week is Amy Oviedo, Founder and CEO of Recruiting Experiences.

Matt Alder (Intro) (3m 4s):
Recruiting Experiences provides fractional recruiting support to employers and training for talent acquisition professionals. Amy is a passionate advocate for the candidate experience and the importance of kindness in the recruiting process.

Matt Alder (3m 20s):
Hi Amy and welcome to the podcast.

Amy Oviedo (3m 23s):
Hi Matt.

Matt Alder (3m 25s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Amy Oviedo (3m 30s):
Thank you. I really appreciate the time this morning. I am Amy Oviedo. I am the CEO and Founder of Recruiting Experiences. I opened my firm in May of 2021. And prior to that had a 20-plus-year career, primarily in internal recruiting. And I came up through the ranks of working in and leading internal talent acquisition teams within the US primarily leading North American teams. And ultimately, every time I was brought into a team, I was told, “Get these agencies out of here. We wanna find ways to save money and time and build an internal experience that really works.”

Amy Oviedo (4m 12s):
And I found over the years there’s a big gap in between what internal teams do and what agencies were providing. And that was really what led me to eventually open a firm and really fill that gap in between what external agencies were providing and serve in a fractional HR role. So our team provides fractional recruiting services. We serve as an extension of the brands that we represent.

Matt Alder (4m 38s):
Just give us a bit more insight into what that means and what the team actually does.

Amy Oviedo (4m 44s):
Absolutely. So candidate experience is really the backbone of Recruiting Experiences. And as we represent our clients, instead of calling a client and saying, this is Amy with some Recruiting firm you’ve never heard of. I’m calling on behalf of my client using my client’s name, talking directly about them. We never lie or misrepresent. We’ll let them know that we’re consultants if they ask. But it just creates a different relationship with the candidate right out of the gates to really represent ourselves as an extension of that team. Sometimes we’re working alongside an existing talent acquisition team. Oftentimes we’re working in small and mid-sized businesses that don’t yet have their own talent acquisition teams.

Amy Oviedo (5m 25s):
So we’re really serving in that gap for them. Sometimes we’re even the full HR function. There isn’t that yet. In those growing organizations we work with a lot of tech organizations helping them to get their function up and running. And then ultimately we’ll hire their HR person on our way out, replacing ourselves and leaving them better than when we found it and able to manage their own internal process, long term.

Matt Alder (5m 52s):
When we were talking before this interview, it became apparent that we both started in this industry more or less at the same time. Tell us how you think recruiting’s changed in the last 20 years or so.

Amy Oviedo (6m 6s):
In a lot of ways it’s changed in that we have more tools, more options. And in so many ways, Matt, It really hasn’t. The fundamentals of the process are very similar. And if I think back to my early days coming into my first recruiting job, there really were no tools. I was handed a notebook and a pen and kind of expected to figure out I had a phone. And that was my whole tool set.

Matt Alder (6m 33s):
It sounds familiar. It sounds so good to me.

Amy Oviedo (6m 35s):
Yes. As I evolved from there, there were tools like Hot Jobs or Career Builder that came onto the scene and really evolved the way that we thought about building talent pools and pulling people together. And I was really thinking about how we’ve gotten to the place we are today where we’re missing some fundamentals, like getting back to a candidate in the process. And you only have to spend about 10 seconds on LinkedIn to find out that’s missing in so many processes today. When I think back to those early days, my very first internal recruiting job, I had an HR admin who helped me out. And every day she would print out letters of rejection to all the candidates that I had touched that day.

Amy Oviedo (7m 18s):
I would sign them on my train ride home, and hand them back to her in the morning. She’d stuff them in envelopes and send them. It was a completely inefficient process, right? And we have a million other ways to do that today. But at that time, it was something that was important to our growing organization that we let people know where they stood. We were part of a growing telecom company. We knew that those folks that we were engaging with would come back to our brand at some point and we wanted to make sure we were communicating with them. And when I think back on that, today, it sounds ridiculous, right? To send people a letter. But then I thought to my own university day in a Ball State Graduate Chirp, and we had a bar on campus that would give you a free beer if you brought in your rejection letter.

Amy Oviedo (8m 4s):
And those were in the days like before email, right?

Matt Alder (8m 8s):
I love it.

Amy Oviedo (8m 9s):
We brought an actual letter to the bar in exchange for a beer. So, it wasn’t all that foreign to do that. It must have been happening all over the place. We then evolved that process to we’ll send people a postcard, right? It’s a little faster, it’s easier, it’s cheaper. And then ultimately we put it in applicant tracking system, right? And hopefully, people’s processes have evolved way past just that basic of that first applicant tracking system. But today we have so many tools at our fingertips. There’s just no excuse for missing the basics and the fundamentals of a good recruiting process that allows people to know where they stand in the process and how they move through.

Amy Oviedo (8m 51s):
And for those of us who have been in it a long time, you know, we’ve had the luxury of seeing that process play out over time. But even for people entering today, the reality is recruiting is just a process. It’s matching people with jobs and trying to make it all work at the end of the day and creating really positive experiences that strengthen employer brands and make people wanna work for these organizations long-term.

Matt Alder (9m 19s):
Isn’t it incredibly ironic that we go back to times where we had to write letters, post them, and sign them, and all that sort of stuff that was done. I too have probably still got them in a box somewhere. I have a selection of rejection letters from the sort of the early nineties for jobs I was trying to get. Now, we’ve got all of these tools, all of this automation, AI, all of these kinds of things. But actually, the candidate experience seems to get worse and more impersonal as you say. Any insight into why that is?

Amy Oviedo (9m 50s):
Oh, I wish I knew. I don’t know why other than the entry point for a new recruiter is pretty low. The bar to somebody to move into that job. I don’t think there’s a lot of training on the market for someone because you’ve gotten a job before. Now you know how to get someone else a job. So my organization offers a talent acquisition professional certification. There’s a few others on the market as well that would help to train someone for the role. Ours really focuses on candidate experience, candidate communication, and putting some fundamentals in place to make sure that’s part of the process along the way.

Amy Oviedo (10m 31s):
Ultimately, I feel like there’s a lack of focus on process. When we go to hire a recruiter, we think about hiring somebody who’s really energetic, and bubbly, and is gonna represent the company well at career fair. And the reality is we don’t go to career fairs. That’s a pretty small part of the job, if at all. And ultimately, these are people who are sorting through things online. They’re spending time behind a desk. Yes, they’re engaging with candidates one-on-one, but that’s really more of an introvert or process-focused type job. And we don’t always go look for that when we’re filling that job. So putting the right people in the recruiting job who really can focus on that process orientation and check all the boxes along the way and make sure on Friday they followed up with everybody in their process is a part of that puzzle.

Amy Oviedo (11m 21s):
I don’t know that it solves everything. And then we can think about tools, right? If we don’t have the right people in the jobs or we just don’t have the time to get through all of the volume of applicants we have, then we can use automation and simplification in our process to be able to fill some of those gaps. I do think there’s a danger in moving too far to the AI side in a human-centered process like recruiting, but there are pieces of it that we can do, right? We’ve seen the automation around scheduling that’s really dramatically changed the life of a recruiter and how we get time back in our day to spend more time one-on-one with both hiring teams and candidates to get better at our jobs.

Matt Alder (12m 10s):
I’ll come back and ask you a bit more about AI and the future of the candidate experience in a second. Be before I do, I know that one of the big focuses that you have is kindness in the recruiting process. But what does that mean in the context of recruiting?

Amy Oviedo (12m 27s):
It is nothing more than treating people the way you wanna be treated when you’ve been a job seeker in the past than doing what you say that you’ll do. When we think about how recruiters are evaluated, usually it’s on time to fill cost per hire, all the traditional metrics that also go back 20 years. And what we should be evaluating on is hiring team satisfaction, candidate satisfaction, employer brand satisfaction. And we don’t always take the time to measure those things. So we can use metrics and data to really still measure something as soft as kindness in the process. But telling a candidate, I’ll get back to you on Friday, and then doing it is the simplest thing to do.

Amy Oviedo (13m 14s):
And oftentimes we get to Friday and we’re like, “Oh man, I didn’t realize so-and-so was gonna be outta the office. And now I don’t have an update for my candidate.” So that’s such an easy problem to solve. I can just text that candidate and say, “Hey, I didn’t realize so-and-so was gonna be outta the office. Can I get back to you on Monday?” That’s such an easy problem to solve and we don’t do it. We avoid the problem and then it compounds and that candidate goes through the weekend feeling bad and feeling like, “Ugh, somebody else let me down.” And all recruiters are bad and it’s just not the case. We could easily solve that problem and push it off another week by another day to get a real update to that person.

Amy Oviedo (13m 55s):
Use our tools to make that a quick automatic email update versus having to let someone down in the process.

Matt Alder (14m 4s):
There’ll be people listening who are in their TA, their recruiting jobs under tremendous pressures from kind of various sources. And we may think that this sounds great, but actually, we just do not have time to do it. As someone who’s running their own business with, obviously with this very much embedded in your approach, what are the tangible benefits you are seeing in your measuring to that people can use to create almost the business case for one of a better words, to bring more kindness into their process?

Amy Oviedo (14m 34s):
We are seeing for the clients, we support a faster time to fill. So when we engage with those candidates on a regular basis and we keep up with them, we use a three-day rule. So every three days we touch base with people at least to tell them we don’t know something. We’re moving on through the process. And where we know it’s going to be longer, we let them know that, of course. But in doing so, it drives hiring teams to move faster through the process also. It also creates an environment where, because we’re touching base with those candidates, we find out things like, “Oh, I’m expecting another offer on Thursday.” And we can then let the hiring team know, “Hey, if this is a top candidate for you, you need to be aware there’s an offer coming on Thursday.

Amy Oviedo (15m 21s):
Do we wanna move faster? Do we wanna push that final interview ahead and make a decision in that moment? Are we releasing this candidate because they’re not a top candidate? Or do we need to speed up to be able to compete with another potential offer that’s coming? When you don’t have that conversation often you don’t know that it’s coming and you get a surprise. So by eliminating surprises throughout the process and talking with folks more often, you get better outcomes in the end. We’re also able to build a better talent pool and keep track of those candidates who today maybe are not a fit for us, right? But if we’re looking at people who are in our industry who have the skills that we need but aren’t quite the right match today, we can track them through all these great tools we have at our fingertips.

Amy Oviedo (16m 6s):
We’ve given them a positive experience. Two years from now, they may be the perfect candidate. And if we didn’t give them a good experience today, you can guarantee they won’t come back at that time. But when it’s the right time and we can reach out to them, we’re able to pull them into the process much faster. And again, just decrease that time to fill because we have the right talent in our community to move our jobs along more quickly and get the right people into the right jobs more efficiently.

Matt Alder (16m 37s):
Going back to AI and the effect that has on the candidate experience, you talked about some of the benefits of automation in scheduling, but actually, you felt that recruiting was a very human experience and it was important to still have humans in the middle of that. We’re obviously entering a time where different organizations will do different kinds of experimenting with AI and some may move more towards automation than others. Would you think the perfect mixes, how do you think we should be using some of the incredible new technologies that are becoming available to everyone as part of the recruiting and communication process?

Amy Oviedo (17m 15s):
I think it’s a decision that has to be made based on the volume that your organization is dealing with. If you have the type of volume of candidates coming in to fill a high-volume environment that requires that you go down that road, that’s what those tools are made for. But if you’re working in an environment where you’re hiring 50 to a hundred people a year, you’re a small mid-size business, even if you’re in a growth environment, the reality is you’re probably just not going to have the need to put the expense into those tools. And for job seekers, I feel like there’s a lot of noise around, “Oh, my resume’s getting read by a robot.”

Amy Oviedo (18m 1s):
And for most employers between 80 and 90%, that’s just not the case, right? There’s still a human involved. It’s a very small subset of very large employers who are employing that technology to do that today. So one thing is we just have to be realistic about where it makes sense to use those types of tools long-term when we think about AI across every industry, not just the recruiting world. There’s a lot of places it would make sense to put it in and we’re not seeing it happen. I would imagine that in the future we won’t have waiters and waitresses, but that’s not happening very quickly. That world still looks the same because it’s a human thing, we expect it.

Amy Oviedo (18m 44s):
So I don’t see a time coming quickly, Matt, that we won’t have recruiters in the process. And when we think about volume of fortune environments where you’re getting 600 applications a day, that sounds like a lot. We were doing that with one coordinator, being the front-end person looking at those, and we were doing it really impactfully and touching base with all of those candidates, whether through an automated template that we’re just pushing out for those rejections for the 90% of candidates who weren’t qualified, but then touching base with the 10% who were. So you have to know your numbers and then be able to employ the right tools. You’ve had some great guests on recently talking about some of the newer tools on the market.

Amy Oviedo (19m 27s):
Things like being able to take your notes for you. That makes perfect sense to me, right? Take the things that are time-consuming and allow the AI to work for you and beside you. But don’t take the things that require some subjectivity in the process and automate those.

Matt Alder (19m 49s):
And obviously, there are lots of recruiters, TA professionals out there at the moment, looking apprehensively at technology and some of the things that are going on in the market. What would your advice to people be in terms of what do you think the core skills TA professionals are gonna need moving forward? What do you think they are? What should people be focusing their career development on?

Amy Oviedo (20m 13s):
They should really be focused on data analysis. How do we look at the trends that are happening within our business for the jobs and the candidates that we support and make good decisions? Where are candidates falling out of your funnel? Where are the candidates who are moving furthest in your funnel coming from? You have to be able to break your funnel down using good data to determine what’s working and what’s not. So I think that’s a piece that’s always been a little bit missing in our process. You have to have that process orientation to be able to deliver the kindness and the consistent candidate experiences that we need in recruiting.

Amy Oviedo (20m 56s):
And finally, aside of empathy, I get a lot of criticism for being soft in the environment. But if you were to look at every personality profile I’ve ever taken, you’ll find out that I’m extremely process and data-oriented. I make my decisions on data and metrics. But I believe in people. I believe in empathy because I’m a human, right? And I sell humans to other humans. And ultimately at the end of the day, that’s what recruiters are. We’re not salespeople. Cars, when you sell them, have no choice in the matter. If you buy the Honda, it goes where you sell it. When I am working with people, they have a choice.

Amy Oviedo (21m 39s):
They have motivations, ideas, and opinions, and the hiring team has all the same things. And that matchmaking process is a very human part of our world. It’s a huge decision to make a career change, and it does require some empathy and listening skills and things that are very human-centered. But to do it well over and over again, you’ve gotta think about the data, and the process, and simplify, and automate, and all of those extra pieces of the puzzle. So I would just encourage your listeners who are beginning their recruiting careers or continuing to bring new recruiters into their environments to think about rounding their team out with people who have that data focus, that process orientation, but also can see the human side of things.

Matt Alder (22m 31s):
Thank you very much for talking to me.

Amy Oviedo (22m 35s):
Absolutely, Matt. I appreciate the time.

Matt Alder (22m 37s):
My thanks to Amy. 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 recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and 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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