Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Thinking of the customer

Gretchen on the Technical Careers @ Microsoft threw in one of my favourite themes recently in a wonderful post on the success of her blog:

I've said this many times, but often when corporate recruiters think about their 'customers,' they consider their company as a whole, their hiring managers, the VPs they support, even the individual interviewers. But all too often, they place a lower emphasis on what I consider to be one of the most important customers... the external applicant. Besides being committed to ensuring external applicants have a positive, smooth experience, in-house recruiters need to understand the importance our external applicants play in the livelihood of our company. You buy our products. You use our services. And a recruiter serves as a key ambassador of the company. Treating an external applicant with deserved respect can make the difference between a future customer ... or an ex-customer.

You can see my findings about treating the candidate as a customer in a few posts; in 'Understand what matters to the candidate', in 'Do you know more about your customers than your staff' and in 'Linking the corporate and employment brand'.

Recruitment managers pandering solely to the desires of the hiring manager is rather like a marketing manager thinking their only client is the head of manufacturing. Sure they need to act in a professional manner, providing relevant feedback and responding promptly but those should be taken as granted. In the short term it is unlikely that they have an alternative channel.

Far too often HR folk think that employment brand (which is after all a subset of the corporate brand) is a question of working with an ad agency to make their advertisements pretty. It isn't. It's about working through all of your recruitment activities and saying 'how would I feel if I was a candidate going through this'. Few do this really well.

So, get rid of those 'if you don't hear from us presume we don't want you' messages (is it really too much for you to figure out how to reject someone so they will want to come back again for another try). Would you buy from Amazon if it took 1 hour to go through it's buying process? No, so why do you make candidates go through a similar time to apply? Do your competitors?

External recruitment companies on the whole have a much better attitude to the candidate. They realise that they have to be sold to, and the best ones will do so in a sustainable manner (ie so they get referrals because they are professional). And guess what - that is now what you the internal recruiter are benchmarked against. If you take 2 weeks to respond to a CV and the agencies take 1 day at most guess who they think is smarter? In fact the 24 hours is now what they expect and your 2 weeks is seen as poor performance.

The customer is king, and in a tight labour market your candidate is your main customer.