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The surprising complexity of the candidate’s world

the candidate's worldIf you’re talking about the candidate’s world, you tend to use shorthand to talk about what happens: ‘active’ candidates, ‘passive’ candidates, applies, cost of hire, and so on. No surprise – every industry relies on verbal shortcuts – otherwise we’d go nuts explaining ourselves.

But these verbal compressions tend to affect the way we think as well. Consider – if you’ve divided the world into active and passive candidates, well….then that’s all there are, right?

Umm, no.

It’s better to think about candidates (which for our purposes are pretty much anyone outside of tenured profs and Supreme Court justices) as existing on a long, infinitely gradated scale. At one end there is the completely focused, self-aware candidate with a sweeping knowledge of the labor market as it affects her, a deep skill set with regard to searching, interviewing, and negotiating for the perfect job. At the other end there is a candidate that is clueless as to his own motivations and needs, lack of insight into his skill set, and no knowledge of how to get from point A to point B – in fact, he may be unaware that she could find another job.

In between there are almost infinite variations. For example, a truly skilled engineer with superior people skills who is stuck in a cubicle and has no idea how to get out. Or a upwardly mobile salesperson with limited skills and major ambition.

In other words, ‘the candidate’ is not monolithic. The candidate’s behavior is driven by information (or lack thereof), friends, family, bosses, financial desperation, fear, hope, and several dozen other factors. The candidate’s world is complex.

So why should you care?

Think about the typical job board or online recruiting site. Who is it aimed at? A motivated, aware, and (hopefully) somewhat skilled candidate that knows what she is looking for – and how to find it. Not that clear about what you want? Sorry. Unaware of how your skills map into a particular job? Tough luck. Not even sure you qualify for the job? Apply anyway.

The candidate is not A or B. The candidate is a point along a very wide scale. If you don’t recognize that – and adjust for that in how you design your site – you will lower the quality of candidates that actually reach the employer. Why? Because you’ll send the employer a bunch of candidates that weren’t qualified, didn’t know if they had the right skills, or even just applied on a whim.

My advice: recognize the complexity of the candidate’s world – and do your best to match your services, functions, and site to those complexities.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I was hoping for some more girth on the subject. I do agree that ‘the candidate’ is much more than what we think. That’s why it’s good to know them somehow and why I encourage those that are a bit lost when it comes to marketing themselves to flesh themselves out online. Be it contributing to Twitter, Linkedin or, yes, even Facebook, any additional info outside the resume goes a long way.

  2. Yes!

    I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s a big gap between how recruiters and employers view the hiring process and how the majority of those middle-spectrum candidates approach a job search, and it definitely hurts both sides.

    One of Careerleaf’s early-stage innovations was designing its job search tools to “stealth coach” job seekers toward being that first kind of candidate, who knows how to research, network, and follow-up.

    Regardless of what tech you use, I think a job board that’s community-minded in terms of providing advice and resources to its job seekers can really help develop the kind of quality talent pools that employers want to be fishing in. Probably the only widespread criticism of “Millennials” that I’ll agree with is that they don’t usually have enough training or skill in those soft skills that can push you from one end of that spectrum the other.

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