April 21, 2021

Talking to Hung Lee about candidate expectations

Hung is Curator of Recruiting Brainfood, one of the most powerful HR and recruiting communities. We spoke with him about the findings of our recent survey.
7 min read
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Jeremy Bourhis
Demand Generation Manager
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Hung Lee is Curator of Recruiting Brainfood, one of the most powerful HR, talent and recruiting communities in the world.

In light of our recent survey of 6,500 candidates about their expectations, we wanted to talk to him about our findings and more. Read on for the full conversation below.

What were your initial thoughts about our findings?

I have long believed that scheduling is a subterranean problem in recruiting and a real part of why people get annoyed – it’s hard work, it’s unnecessary, and it’s basically high effort, low value.

It feels like: why is it so hard to do? So it doesn’t surprise me that it has a huge impact on candidate experience.

Particularly interesting was the high rate of US women that drop out because of scheduling issues. As a group, they probably feel this most because of the additional domestic responsibilities that they may still take on.

But even if women will feel it most, it affects everyone. The movement to remote working has revealed a lot of iniquities that people have always had to deal with. So for instance, the person that’s most able to be a “good candidate” is usually a single person living on their own, aged 25 to 28, without kids, without a partner — without any distractions.

There’s going to be a new set of diversity challenges with remote working, but I think the overall case is that remote should really help. There are tons of people who were previously locked out of the workforce because of the need to be on premise.

And that was felt disproportionately by people that were economically impoverished, physically challenged or had caregiving responsibilities.

If you think about an old three round interview, that means three rounds of childcare organization, or three rounds of having to figure out where to put grandma. So when you do remote interviews, those responsibilities don’t go away — but the requirements to really change your lifestyle go down.

What is your view on the results on human touch vs automation?

Candidates like automation, but they also want a human touch – which seems like a paradox. But I think candidates don’t really care about what’s actually happening in the background, they just want to avoid a stressful ambiguous period of not knowing what’s going on.

Most candidates know when they send an application, it’s not going to be answered automatically. And they also know they’re not going to convert every application into a job offer.

A great part of why this information isn’t forthcoming is because of the lack of capacity from a human worker to give it to every candidate.

Automation can remove a lot of that ambiguity and fill the gap, freeing staff to give a better human touch when there is more commitment later in the process.

So I’m a believer that the human touch is significant when there’s already an investment from the candidate. If I’ve just spammed in an application and I get an automated response, fair enough. But if I put energy into a call with somebody, I’d probably expect some sort of reciprocal response, even if I’ve been rejected.

When people say they want the human touch, they don’t want a fully automated experience but it’s likely based on where the candidate is in the process and they’re more likely to have hostility towards a non-human response when they feel that they’ve contributed more.

So how does that extend throughout the process?

We’re starting at a very low bar of expectations – and that gives plenty of space to improve the experience. Because it’s already at such a low bar, but we will make a mistake if we feel that every single interaction a candidate would make requires a human being and a human response.

There’s good evidence to suggest that at the very early stages of the recruiting process, the candidate actually doesn’t want human interaction. And the candidate asks different types of questions to an automated service than they would do to human beings – often more direct and candid.

If talking to a chatbot, they’d say things like “what’s the salary”, “do I need a visa?” They basically do the extraction of information in a much more straightforward way, with no requirements, small talk, no expenditure of energy.

There’s also no sense that you’ll be jeopardising your application by asking whatever questions you want.

So human beings don’t need to be at the beginning. We need to be much further back in the process, what candidates need as they go through is timeliness and transparency. And they’ll be satisfied with that.

Where do businesses start designing the ultimate candidate experience?

I’m very forgiving of companies that make errors, simply because when you have a vacancy it’s usually not “designed”. Someone’s left and you need to replace them, you get the role advertised and it’s like a complete chaos. So I think in that circumstance, it’s suboptimal, it’s not ideal, but it’s also forgivable.

First thing for a framework is to analyse your own capacity before you go out. How many man hours are available for this recruitment? If it is zero, then your first thing to do is try and create that time before you go out and communicate.

There’s some basic internal analysis before you go external. But one of the big things in recruiting generally is it feels like an external activity. You rush out and you talk to candidates and we bring people in and stuff. But oftentimes the most important conversations you’ll have is going to be internal.

You studied anthropology. Tell us about what you learned there that you apply to recruitment and HR.

What’s interesting in HR and recruiting is that we’re starting to scratch at the level of some anthropological understanding. Some of the concepts that have long been familiar in anthropology, social psychology, sociology are percolating into the world of work.

We’re starting to use terms like workplace culture and values but to be honest with you, I can’t help but think we’re very immature playing around with these ideas in the corporate setting.

I think we’re getting to the point where we’re going to embrace that a little bit more. So one thing we hopefully have learned from the agile movement generally, is not to fear the failure but rather fear the overdesign.

What would be your top recommendations to anyone looking at the area of candidate experience?

Implement a chat bot, no doubt. Because you want to give the person the ability to interrogate the factual information.

I would also implement technology which allows a candidate to access where they are in process through self-serve. There’s no reason why that’s an email, they should just be able to log in and check where they’re at.

I would implement a scheduling solution so they can choose the most appropriate timings

I’d give them some choice as to how they are assessed. Meaning an ability to potentially vary the assessments as suits.

And finally, something that really improves candidate experience is access to people who are not part of the recruiting process that are existing employees.

We recently surveyed 6,500 candidates in the US, UK, France and Germany. Read our report on how interview scheduling impacts candidate experience and a business’ ability to hire.