About Kevin Grossman
Kevin W Grossman is the Talent Board President and board member, responsible for the candidate experience awards worldwide. He is also the co-host of the #worktrends podcast, with Talent Culture. Kevin is a well-known blogger, known for his “HR business” blogs. He is also the author of the book, 'Tech Job Hunt Handbook' inspiring candidates worldwide, and preparing organizations for the best candidate experience.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Kevin, today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with automation and AI technologies.
We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome, Kevin. We're thrilled to have you.
Thank you so very much for having me.
Thank you for your time.
So, Kevin, I want to begin with the first question. If you could tell us something a little bit about the Talent Board Candidates experience Awards?
Sure, So Talent Board is a nonprofit research organization that was founded in 2011 and it's all about elevating and promoting a quality candidate experience.
So every year we do survey research with hundreds of employers from around the world in North America, EMEA, APAC, and now Latin America as well. And they first self assess what they're doing in recruitment from pre-application, on-boarding and then they target a population of their own job candidates, most of whom are those who didn't get hired at the end of the day and then ask them about their feedback about the hiring and recruiting process. And then we aggregate all that information.
We release it in research reports, articles, webinars, workshops, hopefully, one of these days in-person events again. But for now, we're doing virtual events, and that's what the program is all about.
Well, That's amazing! That's quite well, a bowl full of knowledge for everybody. And I'm sure that's very useful to a lot of HR professionals out there.
So, Kevin, you're a blogger. You're an author and you’ve covered a wide range of topics starting from responsible parenting to HR business and present leadership. How do you keep your interests and passions so varied?
You have to just, really continually educate yourself. So my philosophy, like many of my mentors, that I have today considered themselves to be lifelong students, always learning something new. We should always be experiencing it.
So I'm an avid reader and also having two children there's no end to the adventure of being a parent as well. I think because of that, it keeps my interest in a lot of different things. And I've also have learned a lot of valuable life lessons in both work as well as in person, and they all intertwine and overlap anyway.
I don't think there's not any specific delineation in between either one. How we carry ourselves, how we live our lives, and how that impacts those around us is very, very important to me and my wife and those who work with me and for me as well.
"So I'm always learning, always! I'm gonna learn something new with you today on this podcast."
And when we did before we even started the podcast, we were talking about what's going on in our world today with the healthcare crisis. So that's really the bottom line for that.
Absolutely! I think learning is very important in continuing to have a very productive and purposeful life.
And yeah, I did catch on to that page of you being an avid reader, Would you like to share what you're reading now? And you know what is it all about?
Sure, actually, just to give you some context, I read a good selection of fiction and non-fiction. Right now I'm reading some non-fiction, actually re-reading something.
I'm also a big music fan, too. I'm kind of self-taught drummer practicing again since I only have the time at home to do that as well. But I'm a big fan of lots of kinds of music, but particularly rock and roll music. And so there's a band out of Canada called Rush and the lyricist and the drummer who, unfortunately just passed away in January of brain cancer. He's also been, a big avid traveler, which my wife and I are also.
And so anyway, long story short. He has written a series of non-fiction books about his life, his journeys, his travels, and this one that I'm reading now is called 'Ghost Rider- Healing on the Traveling Road.'
And it's about in the mid-nineties he lost his daughter in a single-car accident. She was coming back from college, and then six months later he lost his wife to cancer, so he was pretty devastated. And so this book is about him dealing with that and healing himself, riding a motorcycle 55,000 miles across North America all the way down to South America and back again.
I'm an avid fan of his philosophy, his sensibilities in these books. I wanted to read it again right now because of the global devastation that we're experiencing, it's not just one thing, the health care crisis and the impact that it's having on communities, locals to our nations you're in India, I'm in the United States and those who are getting very sick and unfortunately those who are dying but also the economic fallout that we're seeing.
It’s just so much so fast, millions of people suddenly out of work and it's very overwhelming to a lot of us when we try to even grapple with that in our own local communities.
So I’m re-reading it again because to get myself into that mind frame of, we can heal from this, we can all come back from devastation, we are resilient as humans, and that's why I'm re-reading it now.
Right, Yes! I think as humans we have always come back from whatever we've been. You know, we continue to survive, and we continue to thrive. So I think this again will be, you know, it's going to be a lot of learning.
Still, how are you going to cope up with things, and especially at workplaces, when you talk about workplaces, recruiters are going to go through a lot of change, right? What is your viewpoint on this?
If you could also give a few tips to our viewers who are also candidates, how would they get noticed by trained companies or how would they now Because I think there’s going to be a splurge in the number of candidates suddenly.
The graduate students of this year are going to look out for jobs, and all of the companies are going to have so many options open to them suddenly. Right? So how is it that they should approach them? What kind of tips would you give them to uncover these opportunities?
Well, I would start with the candidate side because whether they are new graduates coming into a much different, new world that we're all in now, or individuals who have been laid off for, and most likely won't be hired back.
And we also have to consider that there are the individuals that are working at smaller businesses which make up the bulk of the business, especially in the United States, but potentially globally as well and then there are the mid-size and larger organizations that may be hiring, I think as a person who is saying, 'Wow, I need to find a job.'
Obviously, if I was an individual who was working in retail, hospitality, potentially even the airlines right now the list goes on, those industries that have been really just torn to shreds right now because of this full stop on.
Doing the things that we used to do being close together and traveling and going to restaurants and I think they're gonna need to look, what are the other services or organizations that are hiring I mean, obviously grocery chains.
As far as I know, and what I've been reading they're still hiring and actually need folks because there's a risk associated with that, too, that you're gonna be potentially exposed to COVID-19 because you're gonna be in the public sector.
But if you have customer service skills, sales skills in that retail context or that hospitality context I think you want to look to those companies, industries, businesses locally, I'm better at hiring that you still know.
There are also food delivery, grocery delivery, although that's kind of fits and starts right now in the United States, at least because of the one company called Instacart, that employs a lot of those contract delivery workers who are on strike right now, at least as of earlier this week, and that said, look to those parts of the service industry that are still hiring.
Do your research, go on, LinkedIn, read the news to a certain degree, especially the business section and see who is actually hiring and see what kind of skills are applicable that you could potentially do, you're gonna be applying for those jobs with a lot of other people potentially, too.
But that's one level of that. There’s also obviously health care is there for a reason due to COVID and Coronavirus that is completely ramping right now. Logistics, the supply chain is there, so there are industries that are hiring, and there are jobs that are out there, but you need to you gotta be able to know how do I take what I know. What I do? How can I apply that to this role?
Because there are a lot of transferable skills in the services sector in the industry. Look to mentors, find somebody that you trust, whether it's a family member, a friend, or a peer or a colleague you used to work with and run these scenarios by them. I asked them what they think, coach each other.
If you know somebody in HR and recruiting, for that matter, reach out to them and say, 'Can you help me, right now? How do I make myself transferrable?' And I know a lot of us in the HR recruiting space, whether they're solution providers, service providers, as well as practitioners and they are still moving forward. They're trying to do their part there to help, guide and mentor individuals so that they can get folks back to work because again it's a lot really quick, and we're still not done.
April is going to be probably even more devastating to certain industries, so that's my recommendation for candidates. I mean, obviously in recruiting for if you're in an industry or a company that is a full stop, hiring freeze and even having to lay off in furlough.
Unfortunately, what tends to go first, just recruiting, sales and marketing, when you're in that kind of a full stop situation and just keeping just a few people but there's an opportunity for recruiting teams that are still trying to stay alive and keep moving forward, even if there is a hiring freeze in place.
This is an opportunity to look at the process. Maybe there are things now that we can improve as it relates to the candidate experience. I mean, I would argue that how you communicate now with your candidates and your current employees who are also candidates in their own right, even if they're employed with you still.
How you communicate with them, how you treat them now will impact your business in your brands for years to come, and because
"Everybody is just hyper-aware, stressed about what's going on so this is an opportunity to improve your communications to your candidates and your employees."
Look at your process, maybe this is an opportunity to do an inventory of all the systems and technologies that are in place? Are they working to full capacity? Is there full utilization of them? What can you do to better maximize that with your direct partner right now if you don't have to start cutting contracts and cutting costs?
What can you do to maximize that so that when we come out of this you're in a better position to quickly ramp again with your company, leveraging your technology and your improved processes and your communications? Look at your job descriptions, the work you can do in your career site during this time. Also,
"Are you sharing on your career site about what's going on with COVID-19 and how you're dealing with it as an organization?"
I’m letting you know that I think there are too many potential companies that are worried about what to talk about. But I think right now we gotta talk about it all. So if you're doing this is what you're doing at your organization. Sorry, we're having a hiring freeze right now, Thanks for your application, but we're just not hiring anybody and this is why and this is also what we're trying to do to be transparent about it.
Those are my recommendations for the candidates as well as the talent acquisition recruiting teams in HR.
Right, I think, as you said, transparency, which is very very important, especially right now, because there would be a lot of candidates really looking to get recruited. And I think they're really hoping that they might land up with a good job right now.
So keeping that channel open and taking for the recruiters taking stock up the situation of their recruitment process, it would be a good time with that. So if we talk generic, right, On a genetic level let's call it a situation.
Now, a candidate's experience has a lot of stages, right? So what do you think is the most important stage in that hole, in the recruitment cycle and where do you think most recruiters lack and how can they improve themselves?
Well, my answer is going to be all of them are important. I mean and I say that seriously because I think I mean, candidates, the experience is 24*7 it's all the time.
It's anytime I interact with the company I'm currently working with again as a moral perpetual candidate or at the company I'm interested in, and I'd like to work at all those things, the impact of my overall perception of that business in that brand and how I'm treated and communicated with throughout, impacts my perception of fairness in the process.
So what I would argue is that and what we see in our data every year, the biggest gaps or as we call
"The biggest perception gaps between what you think as an employer you're delivering in recruiting versus what the candidates actually experience, are in the front ends."
So when I'm researching it when I applied and then even in the screening and interview phase and when you're telling me that you're going to reject me, those were the biggest gaps than the overall perception that we see. Most companies when you get to the point when you're actually making offers to individuals and you're gonna hire them.
Most companies all in at that point, and they're all doing their investing much more because obviously you want to hire these people that's why you're making offers. So the front end of the process and what we see every year in our data, in our research is that communication and feedback are really the true backbone differentiators.
"Candidates don't care what your technology stack is. What they care about is whether they're being engaged from the beginning? Are you being clear about expectations about what's gonna happen next after they apply, before they apply, once they're screened, interviewed, and is there a definitive closure?"
So when I have applied at an organization and if your company that has any volume at all, and you have obviously, you're using technology to screen and you're capturing those in an applicant tracking system, whatever the system is.
Those that are applying if the message that you're sending to them as an automated message says thank you very much for applying if you're qualified will be in touch is almost as worse as if you didn't say anything at all because most companies aren't following up.
That's it. That's the only automated message those people are going to get now. In fairness to employers it's also a daunting task, right? Cause if you have any volume of hiring at all, it's an uphill battle you're gonna have always way more bit many people that are applying. And especially today, probably applications are gonna go up for those companies are still hiring.
So it's a lot, and it's hard to be definitive. But
"If the message instead said, 'Thank you very much for applying, we're not gonna pursue you at this time but here are some other opportunities or check back and try again in a few months', you're being clear about it."
Nobody wants to be rejected, but most people who apply are gonna be qualified not enough to get screened. And as long as there's also a delay not too long of a delay, make sure once I apply, if I hit submit and you automatically send me a rejection note. That's not good.
If you give me a few days and then tell me within a week, definitively we're not gonna pursue you but thank you very much for your time. I'm gonna be bummed.
That may even feel like you didn't even do anything or look at my application, but at least clear. And we know in our own data that when things are clear and definitive and expectations are set correctly throughout the process, I'm more likely to hire you than I would otherwise every single year around the world, that's what we see.
So that alone, just that part of the application process, where most people research you and apply and that's as far as they're ever going to go. They're never going to go any further. That's going to be critical to improve that part of your communication even if most of it's all automated, it’s fine. Just be clear about it. So communication and feedback are probably the backbone differentiators.
Expectations setting, being more transparent, and then also and all those things that helped to improve the overall level of perceived fairness from the candidate. And that's what's key it in today.
You can aspire to have happy candidates but that doesn't matter, really. What matters is that even if there's a negative skew in their overall rating, as long as you were clear throughout and told them 'Sorry, we're gonna pass' whatever stage that is, that's exactly what you need to be doing. Whether that's 10 candidates or 10,000 for the larger companies, know that we are getting thousands of applications a month, for that matter.
That's just, those are easy things for companies to do now, especially doing when they have hired for they can clean up those communications now going forward. But for any company that feels like not replying or keeping it really vague at all, I would argue that we see in our data that actually is can eat away your brand over time.
So it's really about communication and communicating more like over-communicating to the candidate and then making sure that the feedback is correct so that there could be a possibility that the person actually at a later point in time might re-apply to your organization with the right skills sets.
So you don't want to leave them with the impression that you're not important to us. We want to kind of give you the right experience. Otherwise, they will probably not come back or even recommend it to another friend.
That's, by the way, ultimately the key is what we're helping companies and the industry understand, is that there is a potential definitive impact on your business in your brand that will determine whether or not a candidate, external or internal, decides to either ever apply again ever for others or make purchases even when applicable, especially for consumer-based companies.
"Candidate experience can and does define an impact of what they'll do going forward and we ask those questions every year, and on the negative side we call it resentment."
So, candidates who say I am never gonna do anything with you again at all you treated me bad, whatever their perception was, that's the resentment and on the average right now it's the highest in North America followed by AMEA, APEC and then Latin America, which we've only been researching for one year with a small group that looks how that changes over time.
On the other hand, though, 25% of the candidates who said they had a great experience overall and they're willing to increase their relationship and 90% on the average of all the candidates under our research don't get hired so that's the case.
And there are many people that say they had a great experience. That's a positive thing to think about. It's not always about the bad. There are those candidates who don't get hired, who are still willing to do something, whatever that means, whatever it is for them. And usually, we're talking about applying again or referring.
That's usually the main thing. But it also could mean whether or not I go and I make a purchase from your business or influence a friend and say, 'you know, you need to go buy that stuff' and that's the difference. That's really again the business impact that we do measure and see every year.
Right, I think you know, you're right. It's really about, how we give them a complete holistic experience so that they walk away with not an impression that they were not valued but they walk away when they really feel uplifted and, you know, even though they might get rejected, at least they walk away with that feeling that, yes, I was treated with all fairness and I had a great candidate experience and that is what they will walk away with, you know?
And also in the candidate engagement part, wherein we see a lot of drop-offs between the periods that we offer them and periods that they finally get hired. There is a lot of time in between, and then when we are kind of interviewing them and a decision takes a lot of time.
There's a lot of gaps, a long day that we spend on an application and then there are so many drop-offs that you see. How do you kind of increase that rate? How do you make sure that these drop-offs are lower?
So time is always a factor in recruiting? And if you're doing high volume hiring like a lot of maybe a lot of hourly positions, it's a lot of repetitive tasks at your organization that you want to hire for on a regular basis and then the roles that they perform.
Then you want to keep that high pipeline moving as quickly as possible because you're gonna have those that are going to leave it's whatever your churn rate is of how many people actually do, what your retention rate is for that group you want to keep that moving pretty quickly, so there's not, there shouldn't be a lot of really huge lengths of the time. I mean, especially prior to what we're in now.
There were even hourly employees, even contractors, for that matter, had a lot more choice, right? And so it was hard. Some local businesses or the employee and a lot of hourly workers were also struggling because there's a lot of opportunities for those individuals to go elsewhere or to choose and that's why we saw a lot higher levels of what we'll call candidate ghosting, right?
It's one thing for the employer to ghost the candidates and just not ever get back to them. But we have a lot of candidate ghosting that is starting to happen more often, even for hourly positions. They just wouldn't show up on their first day because they got something else, that's different it’s gonna be different now.
But I think that time is a factor for professional hires. It's just the same hiring managers that have a tendency to like wanna hold on to candidates or recruiters be like let's just wait a couple of weeks and see how these have won the ruins pan out.
I mean, the point is, if you're letting them know why you're doing, I mean what's going on, like listen, we're in the process of reviewing other candidates. We'll get back to you in two weeks, and then you do what you say. That's one thing.
So it goes back to expectations setting. But the more that it gets strung out, I would argue that even for employers when we know the candidates you know there isn't gonna be a buyer's market for them anymore because of the sheer volume of people that are gonna be available to work.
But that doesn't mean that you just keep everybody waiting for either because I think that it's still going to affect your brand in the long term. In the near term, if you choose to just string people or not respond, your volumes may go up. But that doesn't mean that you don't stop communicating with them and set expectations.
And my whole thing is that if you're not, if the person is just not gonna be qualified for the role, then there's no reason to not disposition them and to tell them that just did. Why were you waiting? I mean, that's gonna vary for a lot of different types of rules so time is a factor here so that's the way you prevent that kind of a drop off again, just goes hand in hand with the communication and the time factor.
Even today, because you may have a, again, a significant volume of applicants applying for jobs that are much more finite for now. But time's still a big factor, and it potentially can’t come around again on the negative side or the positive side.
If you're being clear, concise, and contracting the time you don't need, it doesn't have to be weeks and weeks and weeks and months, and the systems that you have in place, your technology platforms that communicate with your candidates. You have different rules.
You can have features that you can set up in trigger points of when communications are sent, whether it's activated by the recruiter or automated, you control all that. So there's no excuse for either: A) not responding at all and going weeks and weeks and then deciding, now we're gonna disposition these 50 candidates weeks later and even if they're still scrambling to look for work, they're gonna remember the fact that you didn't get back to them for weeks.
So it's just that's why it's so. It's so ultra-low, ultra hypercritical now more than ever to keep time in mind and communication and I would even argue hyper-personalization is where we're moving with systems like yours and others that work with us on the candy side, our sponsors, etc.
"Hyper personalization is still where we're going, and automation can help you do that to keep things very clear with every single person that's in your system, wherever they're in the pipeline at any given time, and help to empower recruiters so they're still gonna be the human touch over here."
But that's only for this many people that are being screened in an interview. And everybody over here is gonna be more automated. So how can you personalize that more and more? That's where we need to go.
Absolutely. And that was actually my following question talking about tech and AI. But I think you’ve already answered that so beautifully.
And when it comes to AI and tech, have you seen an increase in the adoption of technology in your career lifetime? And do you really see organizations you know, very proactively using AI to improve their candidate engagement and experience?
More, so, yes, I think, a lot of midsize to large organizations that have implemented AI-related recruiting technologies, chatbots, screening tools, sourcing tools even, matching algorithms.
I think that the consensus is that when it is what it works, I think the technology, the computing power, and the algorithms are better than they've ever been. And I think that it is working more and more or and this level of automation is definitely helping companies to be more efficient and focused to be able to empower recruiting to the point where that human interaction is that much better at the end of the day?
Yes, there's always gonna be some displacement anytime, something new like this. And I know sort of those human sourcers that have been worried for a while. But I think right now we still have to run the robots.
So I don't think a lot of individuals, even recruiters, and sourcers are like that when they get over that hump, they're worried but they're actually helping them improve their jobs. So I am seeing more and more adoption and good case studies that are coming out.
I've done a few of my own podcasts for the candidates that highlight companies that are definitely seeing results of leveraging smart technologies, AI-related technologies, candidates themselves we’ve asked a couple of questions in our research, How do they feel? Did they engage in a chat when they were researching? Did they engage the chat when they were applying? since those are the main things they're gonna they're gonna have activity with.
And we see a higher level, higher positive ratings in our research from those that have that interaction. Because also, it's filling a communication gap where there was little to none before.
Most of the time, if you had human recruiters answering candidate questions, maybe you did it a few times a week. You reminded your social channels. Maybe that's happening. But to do that all the time with a lot of repetitive questions that's where this technology is, is one of the areas at least it's really, really helping to improve so we see the higher ratings in that.
And the companies who in our research every year part of our namesake again as the Candidate Experience award. So even though it's an anonymous and confidential research program companies every year have the highest ratings in our research.
Then we'd celebrate them and we give them awards. And those are the ones that we talk publicly that are listed on our website. But more and more of them, not all of them, but more of them are expanding their use of AI-related technology, I’m generalizing right now but that's what we're seeing.
Yeah, that's very interesting to hear, Kevin. I agree with you, add owns like a chatbot, and you know that something we’ve done in peopleHum as well. Still, I think, you know, it just enhances and makes the entire process easier and much more efficient and kind of reduces the manual task of HR professionals so they can just think about the higher orders of work.
And they don't really have to go into the grind of just doing all these natural tasks and I think that's where tech and you know, things like chatbots can really, really help. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
So and just to kind of touch upon certain aspects of how do you treat candidates correctly? So, do you see any bias treating candidates with respect to inclusion diversity? Any kind of bias?
"We're biased creatures as humans. We're hardwired that way. Our systems won't ever be completely biased free. Not in the near future. There's definitely bias in recruiting and hiring."
I think there's a lot of organizations that whether it's binding resumes, using the latest screening technologies, AI-related technologies used to help them shortlist the candidates that they can then review, reducing the amount of bias in their job descriptions, there's a lot of tools out there today that helps but they're helping to remove and that the biased language in your job descriptions, on your career site, in your communications, even for that matter.
I think they're more companies are more conscious of that bias in hiring and have done a variety of things in their processes, as well as the technologies they implement to mitigate that and reduce that as much as they can. So they're not gonna get it all the way out. But I know that they're there more conscious of it now than ever before.
And there are a lot of programs to target other ethnicities, other cultures, more females. I have two girls at home and you know we encourage them to do all sorts of things, including science and math and technology and no limits, and companies were trying to make sure that they are being truly inclusive for all those individuals, transgender individuals whatever your background is.
Are you truly being inclusive so that at the end of the day it's about, 'does this person not only have the immediate skills and experience to do this job but do they have the potential to do this job?' And I think that's another thing that some AI-related technologies, job simulation, job tryout, kinds of assessments that are in the market.
Does this person have the potential to thrive in this job regardless of their background? And so there's a lot out there that help companies to do that. So, yeah, I think we are mitigating bias better than we ever have. But there's still a lot of work to do.
Of course, there's always a lot of scope for improvement, but I think I agree with you. You know, we're trying to mitigate it to a certain level, and that's helping us recruit better. I think, so thank you so much for that answer also,
I think I've exhausted the questions that I had in mind. I just want to ask you if you know there are any other important sound bites that you would like to leave for our viewers?
I’ve said earlier now is the time to make sure that your communications strategy with your candidates as well as your employees is clear and concise and transparent as you possibly can it be.
With everything that's going on right now, how you're managing the health care crisis at your own organizations. If you have to furlough and lay off, how are you communicating with them and that? Are you in there? What are you trying to do to help them find some other work somewhere else? If you're an industry or company, that's hiring still, how are you communicating that to the market and to the candidates and to the employees? And are you trying to take a lead on helping those that now are looking for work?
I think, and that includes, you know, measuring and asking for candidate feedback as well as employee feedback. So I would recommend whether you do it yourself internally or you participated in a benchmark research program like ours, where you actually can compare yourself against companies big and small, across industries confidentially and anonymously.
"This is the time to continue to ask for feedback and to communicate what you're doing as a business to those individuals."
So that would be my recommendation is that we have to be able to balance what's happening in a health care crisis globally as well as how do we keep moving forward? How do we, you know, as a business is, how do we stay alive? How do we get these people back to work at some point?
How did we do all this and government intervention aside, just whether you're a for-profit public sector or nonprofit like we are is a research organization, how can you contribute to helping others right now is supercritical. And again, communicating with your candidates and you’re in please is extremely important right now.
Absolutely. That's wonderful messaging, Kevin. So thank you so much for a lovely interview. I've had a lovely conversation with you.
Thank you very much. Thank you for your time.