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I am not a number, I am a free man!

by scott.goodman

"We want information, information, information."

"Who are you?"

"The new number two."

"Who is number one?"

"You are number six."

"I am not a number, I am a free man."

For those of you who are not up on your heavy metal, the above lyrics are from Iron Maiden’s “The Prisioner.” The song opens with the above dialogue inspired by the 1967 British television series of the same name.

I listened to the song yesterday with my 9 year-old son who is learning to play guitar and has taken a liking to 80s hard rock / metal.  Later that day (with the lyrics stuck in my head), I listened to a friend complain about his frustration looking for a job online and how he felt that he was nothing more than a number, rather than a person.   In this online digital world identities are being lost.  Individuals and companies are finding it difficult to differentiate themselves. 

My friend described his painful candidate experience sifting through job sites loaded with too much spam and no way for a candidate to get through it easily.   He recounted that many online job ads look the same and online job sites don’t offer companies a way to stand out.  Most job ads seem fairly generic and full of buzzwords – unique opportunity, world-class team, rewarding career path, etc.  Job ads that list criteria for success include the following skills and behaviors: highly motivated, bright, persuasive, self-assured, excellent communicator.  As opposed to what: unmotivated, unintelligent, unconvincing, timid, and poor communicator. 

For those determined enough to make it through the maze and actually find a differentiated job posting, the reward is to provide information, information and more information to the prospective employer.   Unfortunately, many companies have yet to embrace candidates’ expectations for bi-directional sharing of information.  Those companies that don’t “get it” leave candidates with a brand-negative experience. 

Technology is a great thing, but when it comes to applying for a job, one could argue that it’s all too easy.  A person can apply for hundreds of jobs with a few mouse clicks using a boilerplate cover letter and typical resume.   With multiple people applying for multiple jobs, employers spend a ridiculous amount of time filtering resumes.  The sheer volume of applicants makes it almost impossible to pick out the best candidates.  It is just too hard for employers to assess talent in this manner. I was dismayed to learn (off the record) of a Fortune 500 company that looks at only a fraction of the applications it receives.  I suspect that they are not alone in this practice.

So, undoubtedly some people’s job searches falter since they can't get on the radar of the right decision maker – either because of the numbers game (too many applicants to look at) or the inability to differentiate themselves via the click the radio button / paste resume here process. They are left behind because they failed to get noticed - even though they were well qualified - perhaps even the best qualified.  In today’s tough economy there are many competent, reliable, and hard working individuals that are not given the opportunity to demonstrate this fact to an employer.  As HR professionals we can do better.

At Shaker Consulting Group we offer companies an engaging, web-based, interactive experience to assist in the business process known as staffing.  Our Virtual Job Tryout® gives candidates an opportunity to try out the job, while providing recruiters and hiring managers with insights into the candidates’ likelihood of success.  A recent candidate aptly described his Virtual Job Tryout experience as “Not your typical online job application. I actually really enjoyed the process and I feel as though I have a better understanding of the job and its requirements and that the company will have a better understanding of me as an individual - not just what is on my resume.”  If you want to stand out from your competition with a candidate experience as unique as your brand and an evaluation process as challenging as the jobs you are looking to fill, give us a call.

Candidates expect two-way information exchange, a realistic job preview, and an opportunity to demonstrate what they bring to the table.   They also expect to be treated like customers and to be kept informed on a periodic basis.  Applicants are often left pondering many questions such as, Did you receive my application?, When will I hear back from you?, Have I been knocked out of the process?, etc.  My colleague, Joe Murphy, has blogged about the candidate experience and expectations elsewhere. 

Several years ago, Dr. John Sullivan wrote about the mistreatment of applicants and called for an applicant Bill of RightsGerry Crispin along with a group of collaborators has written a monograph on the Candidate Experience, and Dr. Charles Handler has proposed a Pre-Employment Assessment Candidate Bill of Rights.   These are all positive steps in the right direction.  After all, none of us want to feel as though we’re just a number.