When I contracted a new EAP vendor, I manufactured a reason to schedule several counseling appointments. Okay, so I admit it. With my crazy life, it wasn't that hard to find an excuse. When we started our first Health Reimbursement Account, I enrolled even though my husband's plan was cheaper.
So that I could shop my own HR programs, experience them as a consumer/employee rather than an administrator, catch issues early and speak about our benefits with more credibility. Obviously some benefits, such as short-term disability, workers' comp and life insurance can't really be mystery shopped (because doing so would be fraud) so skip them and focus on sampling your employment application process. Experts like Gerry Crispin as well as family and friends' horror stories condemn the collective candidate experience as pretty dismal.
Every time I tweak my applicant tracking system, I concoct a silly name and apply for a random job to see how the process feels to an applicant. I encourage all HR pros (and heck, CEO's) to do the same. Just as importantly, occasionally apply for jobs with other organizations, no matter how happy you are with your employer. It doesn't really matter what you apply for: courtesy clerk, VP of Talent Management, janitor or sales associate. The point is that you experience the different phases of the application process and notice what is awesome and what is annoying as hell. Then you go back to your own organization and try to incorporate what you liked while eliminating as many nails-on-chalkboard moments as possible.
For example, you may encounter a site requiring dozens of screens of application data *AND* on top of that, they want you to upload a resume … a document duplicating 90% of the information so incredibly painstakingly inputted for the last 50 minutes … aargh! And after all that effort, good luck getting any communication at all, even a standard email receipt.
As an HR pro, you don't want top talent being faced with that. Figure out another way to get what you need without inflicting unnecessary and ungainly
processes that prompt people to put their heads through the wall, or worse, abandon the process and go apply somewhere more welcoming.
It's all a balance. This is what works for me. Applicants complete a handful of basic demographic questions. They upload their resume. Then they complete a very short application that is customized by position so that only the most relevant information is requested. After that, they are prompted to answer several questions that delve into some critical logistics and they answer two questions that speak to the core values of my organization. Additional information, such as the criminal background check required by our licensor, can be obtained later if an interview takes place.
While I continue to struggle with communicating adequately with the scores of entry level, part-time hourly applicants–many of whom might fit a different schedule or future job, I do make an effort to communicate with candidates, especially post-interview. We're all using technology, so it is easy to send out no thank you letters or emails explaining delays in the decision process. It's sad to say, but if I didn't shop my own ATS and didn't apply for other jobs from time to time, it's possible I might be a little more complacent about how my candidates experience my organization.
HR metrics and measures abound, but sometimes there's no substitute for what we learn from a little personal experience with the programs and processes we
inflict on create for others. Thoughts, HR pros?
About the author: Krista Francis, SPHR, is nonprofit HR Director and sometimes Acting Executive Director. She lives outside of Washington DC with her soccer-crazy hubby, two active teenagers, a neurotic cat and the best dog in the world, Rocky, aka Party like a Rockstar. In her loads of free time, she tries to keep her scooter running, tests margaritas for quality control purposes and blogs at aliveHR. You can connect with her on Twitter as @kristafrancis.
photo credit: antwerp