Monthly Archives: March 2012

Job Applicants Want a Touchable Application Process – It’s Time to Give it To Them

touch table at SXSW

I heard a lot of frustration in their voices.  A very tech savvy crowd yes, but still unsure how to present themselves as a job applicant.  “I have a beautiful resume, but the online application is asking me to cut and paste my resume,” laments one job seeker.

“I fill my resume with keywords, but never hear a word from the company after filling out the online application.”

“How do I link up to my online portfolio when they just want me to type in my work experience?”

The questions during the SXSW 2012 session on “Online Personality Disorder: Resumes and Profiles” highlighted the gap between the expertise of the applicant, and the technology of the average applicant tracking system.  I had to raise my hand and admit I am with an applicant tracking system (although one of those that does allow portfolio uploads, online profiles, and formatted resumes), and suggest that when a cut and paste resume is required (by an ancient system, ahem), make sure to put a link to your online profile/ portfolio at the top of the resume text.

In this age of TVs that change the channel based on your hand motions, video enabled vending machines that measure your smile, and touch table computers, basic electronic resume applications fall flat.

The truth is that applicants want to reach out and touch the application process.  They want to put their unique mark on their application – they want to demonstrate their passion and their skills.  They don’t necessarily want to apply with just “two clicks,” they want to interact with the organization and provide relevant information.

And the truth is, hiring managers want to let them.  But too often time constraints and technology get in the way.  The solution isn’t to go back to the paper resume or in-person hiring event.  The solution is to adapt applicant tracking technology to let applicants express themselves, while automating as much as possible.

Here’s some ideas on making the online application and the hiring process “touchable” for the applicant, and still protect the hiring manager’s time:

  • Allow the applicant to upload digital portfolios, images, and formatted resumes as part of their online application
  • Provide easy ways for the applicant to link to their online professional content
  • Give applicants status updates throughout the process – via email, text or a self-service portal.
  • Word status updates and email communication as personally and warmly as professionally possible, so applicants realize they are communicating with a real person
  • Consider using a company like Send Out Cards to send out recycled paper thank you notes with a status update after a phone interview.
  • Provide a kiosk in the employer’s lobby to allow applicants to apply online and/or check their status.  It’s relatively inexpensive to do with an ipad kiosk.
  • Use in-depth job descriptions and basic pre-screening questions to allow applicants who aren’t a fit to self-select out.  This allows more time for the hiring manager to review the information of qualified applicants.

Technology doesn’t have to be impersonal.  In fact, most innovation in tech sectors over the last few years has focused on making technology more and more personal.  Talent management systems and HR can provide a touchable application experience for applicants.  We all just have to try harder.

Hack Your Brain

Note: This blog was a test of using storify to export to wordpress. It posted as an active blog – wish it had posted in draft mode first. Storify has great potential, though, but would like to suggest a few usability tweaks to it. The below is meant as a timeline of what I thought was most important from a SXSW session I went to.

  1. Facilitator: Megan Miller
  2. First up: Michael Scanlon from Lumosity
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    Thu, Mar 15 2012 11:12:27
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    Peak mental performance around an average of 7 hrs sleep a night. Moderate exercise helps too. Good for heart, good for brain. #SXbrainhack

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 15:17:11
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    Playing a musical instrument is positively correlated to increasing IQ over time. #sxbrainhack

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 15:20:58
  6. Next: Dan Wetmore from Sheepdog Sciences
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    Thu, Mar 15 2012 11:28:18
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    “Leverage what the brain does well to compensate for what the brain does poorly” #sxbrainhack #sxblonon #sxsw

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 15:35:11
  9. Last: Dave Asprey from Bulletproof – formerly diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome – brain hacked his way out of it
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    Thu, Mar 15 2012 11:22:22
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    Hack ur brain by hacking your heart first. Decrease heart rate variability to increase brain power #sxbrainhack #SXSW

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 15:37:25
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    Thu, Mar 15 2012 11:22:22
  13. Yoga breathing can mimic the positive effects of LSD
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    questions about (legal) drugs to help improve performance all lead to recommendation to meditate & do breathing exercises. #sxbrainhack

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 15:57:13
  15. Question from audience:  if hacking your brain works, why doesn’t science explore these types of treatements?  A: from Michael Scanlon:  traditional science starts with a hypothesis and then finds data, which limits the perspective to the hypothesis.  Future = Big Data will tell us the solution without a hypothesis.
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    “Big data and the quantified self movement is going to kick science’s ass.” Biohacker Dave Asprey @ #SXbrainhack #SXSW

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:01:41
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    #sxbrainhack blew my mind and I am excited about the implications for #ADHD treatmt

    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:06:43

Takeaways for HR Tech from SXSW 2012

SXSW Interactive 2012 was my first time at SXSW, and I found inspiration for making HR Tech better from a number of channels including film, gaming, media agencies, and consumer focused start-ups.

Treat applicants like a consumer and let them be social

  • Let applicants be social about the jobs they are applying to, potentially letting them share the  fact that they are applying with friends, ask for recommendations
  • Help applicants sell themselves – they have a difficult time demonstrating their passion to an  applicant tracking system
  • Let applicants link to their rich online content, if applicable to the job application

APIs are a growing trend

  • Companies are making millions off just API transactions
  • APIs are now primarily written in REST, not SOAP
  • Well-document your API and make the documentation public
  • Create tools for programmers to build transactions with your API

Mobile is huge and is not being replaced by tablets

  • It is now an appendage to people, and everyone was a “cyborg” during SXSW12, per Amber Case
  • Mobile has become notebook, internet, phone, map, entertainer, camera, video cam and more, in one
  • Video and photos are the new “text”

From the gaming world we learn the importance of incentivizing users = goals & metrics

  • With gaming, people are incentivized to complete tasks
  • People like to see visually that they are making goals
  • Users by nature have a hard time figuring out metrics and are embarrassed by it
  • Requirements for a user to get into a good flow with software:
    • Goals, then challenges,  then skills, then feedback, then control

Relevance more important that simplicity

  • In user’s mind, relevance = usability
  • No matter how simple you make something, it isn’t usable to the user unless it does what they wanted to do
  • In the case of job applications, less clicks does not = user satisfaction.  Rather, the right questions and truthful feedback = user satisfaction.

#SXSW Interactive – Saturday & Sunday in Photos

Samsung’s smart TV – no need for a remote, just use hand gestures to change the channel, the volume, or any setting.  Development kit available.

Keynote speaker Baratunde Thurston inspired us to use comedy to change society. “Comedians are good at smashing idols” – per @occupyjudaism.

Touch table at the Nokia tent. I want this for our coffee house.

Cell phone charging lock boxes

Boxing robots powered by Kinect – using hand gestures. Motion technology is a big theme.

Third Eye Blind. Gotta love alternative music launched in the 90s. I do, so I had to throw that in here.

“make mistakes. Make big ones” #Tambor #SXSW

#SXSW Interactive – Friday Reflections of a Newbie

It’s rainy and cold in Austin, but the locals are cheering on the rain. That’s ok, because it can’t put a damper on the enthusiasm of #SXSWi.

This is my first time at the convention, so I have a couple newbie observations. First of all, I’ve never seen so many gadgets in one place – and that’s not on the trade show floor – but rather in attendees hands. High powered cameras, video cameras, mobile devices galore and of course ipads and laptops, so much so, that attendees camp around power outlets. (Someone please come up with a phone that lasts all day – when actually used all day.) Each session is given a twitter hash tag, and often the speakers encourage tweets throughout the session, and use twitterfeed to pull questions from the audience. I like that use of technology.

After this, I am convinced of the mobile device as a staple of society moving forward. (No, I wasn’t already). I’m excited to see what form it will take. We need innovators to break out of the rectangular box design.

Speaking of mobile innovation, one demonstrator that stood out to me, Isis, offers a mobile wallet solution. It requires a user to have a NFC-enabled phone, which will be release by major carriers this summer. Merchants just need to have a contactless reader that accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. To make it even simpler, the merchants should also have Isis software, although it can work without. Customers just select their payment option on their phone by clicking on the credit card icon they want to use, then tap their phone against the reader, and payment is transferred. Great concept, although it still gives a percentage to the big four credit card companies, which takes money out of local economies, but maybe this will allow for a surge of local credit cards? Might be possible with this setup. I was told I could integrate a local rewards program into the software.

Went to an intriguing session about training positive neuroplasticity. Too much information to share here, but I’m definitely going to share it with our development team. As you might have guessed, the condition of our bodies is directly related to the performance of our brains. However, moderation is the key – simple things can exercise your body and brain without hitting the gym five times a week. And easy nutritional guidelines help as well. It has implications for ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism, and I can’t wait to research that more.

Knowing there are a lot of smart people in attendance, I was surprised at the amount of lame questions asked at the end of the session (people not using their brains), until one attendee asked a GREAT question – if it is shown that these types of non-pharmaceutical solutions are available for our health, why isn’t science delving into these areas of research? WHY INDEED? Basically, the neuro-scientist said that a hypothesis is currently necessary to prove/ disprove something in the medical world. Thankfully with all the data floating around in cyberspace, we can start to figure things out by just chugging through all that data – without first having a hypothesis.

Was proud of the representation of my home state at a session by a group of Ohio design companies who highlighted some of the very innovative machines they’ve built – a vending machine that records your photo and dispenses ice cream based on the strength of your smile – various carnival games that exist in real-life, but that are controlled remotely by users over the internet – a mobile 1973 RV named MERV that interacts with students at college visitations – really creative stuff.

Creativity is the name of the game, and I’m ready to get some more inspiration.

#SXSW Thursday – The Startup Crawl

While SXSW doesn’t officially start until Friday, I was excited to be able to jump on board with a new official event – the “startup crawl” – on Thursday night.

I jumped on a shuttle bus and joined other tech fans to shuffle from downtown startup to downtown startup. The array of technical creativity was impressive. I noticed a lot of very young faces in the crowd. After asking around, I realized that quite a few of the startup companies rely on college interns to help build their next new product. Austin, I am told, is a very young city.

Two companies stood out to me because of their creative approach to real-world need:

digby – mobilizing retail

digby puts a kind of hot spot they call localpoint into a retail location, and then recognizes customer phones as they walk through the door. With their mobile app, customers can then receive personalized content and coupons based on what store they are in, or even where they are in the store. The company offers a development kit that allows small businesses to build their own apps, but also has built these types of apps for large retailers such as The Home Depot and Toys R Us.

They say they don’t keep a record who the actual customer is, just the ID of the phone. For small businesses, though, if the app recognizes loyal customers as they walk through the door, it would meet a need to provide personalized service to those best customers. Would be really creep if wal-mart did that though.

Within the HR tech space, I could see some use for this for job applications onsite.

Bypass Lane

I have to admit Bypass Lane was my favorite startup of the night. This company offers a mobile app that allows you to order a drink or food at a large event, such as a football game, and then get it delivered to you, or schedule it for pickup. The app was live at the bar where they hosted their startup stop last night, and I was able to download the app while at their location, and order a drink from the bar. I got a text when the drink was ready and went and picked it up.

Right now they have limited their app to just large venues such as the Ford Center. I asked if they would set it up for my coffee house. Instead of the laugh I thought I would get, the developer said pensively that they hope to push it out to small business somehow, but haven’t focused on that market yet. I would love to see them team up with an independent business organization, such as AMIBA, who could offer it to their members.

Speaking of small business, I’ve read a few articles in the national media about SXSW and they seem to focus on giants such as google and Microsoft offering their innovations. That’s not what SXSW is about. SXSW is about independent business, innovators and startups. They invite the big guys too, just because it’s fair, but they get the same amount of consideration by attendees as the above startup companies I mentioned.

These conference is about recognizing that innovation and talent can come from someone’s PC in the basement as much as the billion dollar lab at a software giant. I’m very excited to learn from those talents today.

The Job Search: Some Paper Airplanes Use the Right Airport

There’s been a trend within the last couple months of national news media focusing on the black hole of the applicant experience, sending out the vibes that all applicant tracking systems work the same, and basically, suck.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing to me for my industry to be represented this way.

While I’d concur that there are some popular applicant tracking systems that serve as resume black holes, not all ATS’s are made the same.  A good ATS can ensure that the hiring organization follows a structured process that ensures every applicant is reviewed, whether by machine or man, for the jobs.

When users of our applicant tracking system post a job on their career site, a short questionnaire is attached to the job.  That questionnaire has been customized by HR based on the requirements of the job, and usually contains around 4-5 questions that can easily screen applicants out or in.  One Fortune 500 user who hires engineers includes questions such as “Are you at least 18 years of age – AND – able to provide proof you are eligible to work in the country where this position is posted?” and “What is your highest level of education?”  Simple answers to these questions can screen out 20% of the applicants up front.  Applicants are presented with a kind message letting them know they don’t meet the basic criteria – a great example of software narrowing down the applicants the organization has to wade through and providing instant feedback to the applicant.

Next, the applicant answers a couple more specific questions about the job that may not filter them out of the running, but provide valuable feedback to the person reviewing the app.  For example, many companies will ask an open ended question such as “Why are you interested in working for us in this position?”  This type of question provides an opportunity for the applicant to shine – to communicate his enthusiasm for the job, and outline why he is a good fit.  Lastly, the applicant provides a resume or fills out structured information about his work experience and education.

When the application is submitted, it is put into a queue for the hiring organization to review.  Most of our users ask a HR Generalist to first step through and review each application.  The generalist then flags those that are the best fit for the hiring manager to review, and with a couple clicks, sends all the top applications to the hiring manager via an easy to use web portal.  The hiring manager will then review the best applications and note which applicants should be invited for an interview.  Those applicants that are not a fit are updated to a not-qualified status.  The ATS automatically sends them an email informing them of their status.

Only when the above steps do not provide great candidates do our users begin to search across resumes using keywords.  And when they do, they are searching across job titles, essentially offering applicants a second chance at being matched to a good job.

Intelligently using an applicant tracking system in this way provides feedback to applicants, saves HR and hiring managers time, and provides a way for applicants to demonstrate their best fit to a real person.  Our clients don’t have to worry about their applicants’ resumes falling into a black hole, or paper airplanes finding no place to land.

Jennifer Brogee
Certified Usability Analyst
CIO, myStaffingPro