What your Candidate Experience is Missing

Meghan M. Biro of Talent Culture recently wrote a LinkedIn article on her top tips to improve candidate experience, and we at Aspen cannot agree more with her sentiments.

As a talent analytics company, we cannot stress the importance of two specific tips that Meghan mentions enough: 1) communication and 2) honest feedback. The job application process is a two way flow of communication between recruiter and candidate – so why do we so often see processes that make it easy for candidates to stay silent?

Like Meghan, we believe that collecting real-time feedback from candidates allows for a flexible and ever-evolving hiring process. One option is to monitor candidate experience all year long, and have in depth analysis on your business groups, functions, regions and recruiting processes on a quarterly basis. Another option is to have a dedicated team whose job is to make sure no candidate falls into a black hole – and guarantee that all of your special initiatives get the appropriate advocacy.

Give your candidates a voice- you might be surprised at what they have to say.

NYC – You think you know everything…oh wait – thats the other team…

David Wright of the NY Mets – arguably one of the best third base players currently, takes on the Phils in the 3 game series this week.


This is a continuation of a series produced by Aspen Advisors on improving recruiting progressively and systematically over the next six months, in parallel with the Major League Baseball Season. 

SERIES 3:  Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets @ Citi Field / April 13, 14, 15


Testing and formalized assessment is a good thing.  Our Prime Group in Pando has some interesting behaviors when it comes to formalizing assessment. This group tends to use 1) additional online assessments during the application process, 2) has a copy of the resume handy during an interview consistently, 3) takes notes, and 4) uses formalized questions that are clearly prepared and observed during an interview.

Now other companies do share some or all of these behaviors – no question. However, it is interesting that those traits happen more consistently in companies that score better overall when it comes to experience ratings from candidates, new hires, and hiring managers. Oddly enough, they don’t necessary score “better” when interview processes are reviewed. All the scores are within margin of error, so don’t look for a quick upshot in feedback when you increase formality. In fact, the Prime Group picks up the same number of low scores for interview and assessment topics. That does not surprise me – its a candidate driven marketplace, and in demand talent may feel that some formalized assessment may not be required.

The takeaway? Make an effort to review your assessment processes and the perception of formality in those processes from both the candidate and hiring manager’s point of view.  Using the traits above long term mirrors the profile of companies that have higher experience scores from hiring managers reviewing recruiting’s performance, and candidate scoring on the recruiting experience. Formality isn’t a bad thing – in fact, I look my best in a tuxedo 🙂


Smooth or harden lines to reinforce your story.  “WHAT? What’s smoothing a line?” LOL. I know.

When you create a trend line, you have usually the ability to choose how the line is actually drawn. You can either have a connect the dots kind of look or a smooth look. However, you can see that the visual tends to tell to story. The smoother the line, the less volatile the trend appears.

Screenshot 2015-04-14 10.23.35

Example of chart 1 with SMOOTH lines, indicating within tolerances or targets

If I was to change the line to be straight line connections, it can show a jaggedness, which can be used to communicate that the trend itself has volatility.

Example of chart 1 with hard lines, indicating volatility

Example of chart 1 with HARDENED lines, indicating volatility

So when you tell the story, if you think the trend line is good or in compliance – give it a smooth line. If it is not, give it a hardened line. The audience will immediately understand that improvement is needed, or the trend needs correction.


Analysis / Problem Identification is a key dimension for any recruiters and recruiting leaders. Honing those skills means better understanding the competencies of that dimension, as listed below. There are probably one or more you can work on, but also one or more you are an expert in. Pick the ones you will develop, and pick at least one you can mentor somebody else on.

Recognizes the problem first; Stays ahead of the problem; Remains effective when another’s direction is uncertain; Persuades people to provide information to help resolve upcoming issues; Cites little problems before they become big problems


Tracking Currency. You would think this is a straight forward concept – but there are global implications here for sure. In many cases, costs are allocated in the regional currencies, and then there is a global currency for a business. As an example, we have customers that track costs in over 10 different currencies, as they have several operating groups located globally. So local data on costs are collected in Rupees, Yen, Australian Dollar, US Dollar, GBP, Euro, and so on. Meanwhile, the global organization is has its headquarters in the EU, so they report to the markets in the Euro, but the US market is the highest growing market. What to do??

First – stop trying to convert everything. Market fluctuations allow for too much volatility, and after a year, what you converted from US Dollar to Euro then means something different now. Instead, report regionally first, in a regional currency. If you have an operating company in Asia, with a headquarters in Singapore – use the Singapore dollar as the regional aggregating currency, don’t covert to Euros – that does not mean much to the operators in Singapore or Asia.

Second – find out what the official company currency is. If you are public – you have one, but if you have several operating entities, you have actually have more than one (see if you are traded on multiple exchanges). If you are private, this could get ugly quick – so talk to finance on what they want you do to when aggregating costs. This is important for tracking expenses, cost per hire, relocation expenses, and so on.

Opening Day: A New Season for Recruiting Teams


My brother Steve and I – 10 years ago. A couple of die hard baseball fans playing with major league players in Florida.


A sign of summer – baseball is here. My favorite 6 months of the year. Another season, and I reflect on how things in the recruiting world are now since last April, and the April before.

As in baseball, the leadership and management is NOT solely responsible for the day to day experiences and results when recruiting talent. The responsibility is shared with the ones in the field, and the ones who play every day. The manager is not a catcher, pitcher, infielder, or an outfielder. The manager is not pitching the ball, or throwing to first. Now conversely, it is the manager that calls for certain pitches. Its the manager that creates the batting order and who plays each day. The manager is the one calling for certain plays. There is a back and forth on responsibility for sure.

Change CAN come overnight – but sustainable change takes more work, planning and adoption. Those improvements come with consistent effort and concentration. So I have prepared some ways to improve – all season long.


The baseball season kicks off today. Its a long season, ripe with opportunity for players and managers to get better through that season. As such, I have written a post, like above, for each series that the major league baseball team Philadelphia Phillies play. Yes – I am a Phillies fan – a die hard Phillies fan.

Posts like this are set to release on the opening pitch of each series, the 2 to 4 games that the teams oppose each other over a 2 to 4 day period. Each post has content designed to enable recruiting efficiency. The posts will showcase which competencies one could improve as a recruiter or sourcer, will have methods on executing analytics, and data proven techniques to improve the recruiting experience for candidates and hiring managers. Everything is data driven or based on evidence from Pando, not just random set of editorials. Like baseball, we run things at Aspen by the numbers, so I did the same with the posts.


In addition, I will be traveling the country again through April to October. Some of these posts may coordinate with the many conferences associated with recruiting and HR. I will attend some baseball games with some great leaders in recruiting, so watch for those pics online. We will also be engaging with the TRU conference series (via Bill Boorman) and Future of Talent Institute (via Kevin Wheeler) to keep the work progressive and global. I will drop in some items from these conferences, viewpoints from all kinds of players, and those who judge the game (but don’t necessarily play).

I’m excited to share and participate in this “season of improvement” for recruiting. I am not convinced that my Philadelphia Phillies will make the playoffs (the odds are really against them) – but I am convinced that any recruiter or leader who wants to improve can when given the right tools and allowed the ability to give their best efforts. 

SERIES 1: Boston Red Sox vs. Philadelphia Phillies @ Citizens Bank Park / April 6, 8, 9


Did you know that increasing the amount of hiring manager interaction with a candidate directly has been proven to increase candidate experience ratings? I bet you didn’t 🙂 We have all kinds of data like that in Pando.

The key communication points, such as interview scheduling, offer letters, thank you notes and so on have been a trait that companies with a higher rating of candidate experience have in common. That does not mean that recruiters should stop or are bad at those things – it just means the candidate likes interacting with the hiring manager too. In fact, hiring managers at companies with highly rated candidate experience are much more likely to execute such activities. So take a look at the process you do, and the one the hiring manager does, and move one or two of your interactions over to the hiring manager (this assumes that you don’t do a bunch of this already). Here are some suggestions – have the hiring manager leave a message or personal email about scheduling an interview; have a thank you come from the manager; have the manager follow up prior to an interview saying “please prepare a few questions”; have the manager extend the offer – even if that means all questions still go to recruiting for negotiation. Those are just a few, but candidates clearly state that those experiences occurred in companies they rated highly.


Track metrics in multiple time frequencies. Metrics are always required – but what is a “Metric” – and what is its “frequency”? A metric is a trend line – plain and simple. Its a measurement over time. You can use a bar chart or a line chart, or other visuals, but if the X axis is time…its a metric. Measuring over time and showing a visual of those results is one of the easiest ways to show how improvements are occurring. However, that X axis needs to be looked at several different ways. In Pando, we tracking metrics daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually and year to date. THAT IS MORE THAN MOST and because we can easily – so don’t get nuts. Most organizations have trouble tracking daily – so they don’t see how work is executed day to day or on the weekends. However, its likely you are tracking things monthly. So start tracking one frequency sooner and later – weekly and quarterly, so you can see consistency in how your team executes in these other intervals. Start with simply hires, then interviews. Then do time to fill. Then start segmenting by team, recruiter, division and so on…you will start to see differences you never saw before – and opportunities for improvement.


Planning and Organizing is a key dimension for any recruiter or sourcer. Honing those skills means better understanding the competencies of that dimension, as listed below. There are probably one or more you can work on, but also one or more you are an expert in. Pick the ones you will develop, and pick at least one you can mentor somebody else on.

multitasks appropriately; integrates with management effectively; improves manager efficiency; handles incompletion of tasks well; performs against intended plans well; uses good planning technique; handles missed deadlines well; use of procedures as intended; keeps track of activities and records; creates client schedules appropriately; arranges schedules regardless of difficulty; performs weekly planning effectively


Time to Fill. We have seen several variants of “time to fill” because companies start measuring from approval, or posting, or first applicant and then stop at offer, hire, start date, blah blah blah…UGH. What a benchmarking mess.

We can only measure what is in the data. For Pando, “Time to Fill” is actually Time to Offer Accept (TTOA). It is the designated start date for active recruiting until the candidate has accepted the offer in the system. Your company can designate its own recruiting start date – when the recruiter was assigned, when the req was posted, when it was approved – whatever. That is NOT a standard company to company – but the concept of GO is. The reason we use offer accept is because its candidate driven. They are the ones who determine the date – not you. So you determine GO, they determine STOP. Its the cleanest, easiest to track, works globally, works across functions, and is specific to any business.

“But it should be when the requistion closes or is marked as filled”. WRONG 🙂 In some organizations, they have multiple positions on a requisition. So you have to track by when the position was available, and when it was filled, not the requisition. In Pando for these organizations we have to track both, and that can be an interesting variance in itself. Tracking TTOA is a sure fire way to have comparisons across industries, regions, recruiters, and so on.

Are you a Recruiting Samurai? Then identify your “Keiretsu culture”…

Great interview this week with the head of US HR for a major Japanese automobile company. We were talking about what makes their business unique, what they look for in leadership, and so on. We got to assessment, and I learned that during their interview processes that every leader in the organization in the California office has to interview the final candidate. All 12 officers.

My response?  I asked her if a Keiretsu-like culture was alive and well in her organization. She said “Absolutely!” Her tone changed after that because she realized I was in on a secret. Keiretsu is a corporate relationship and governance structure that has been used in Japanese business for quite some time. Its not publicized as it was back in the 1980s/90s, and globalization of companies have severely decimated the actual corporate alignment it used – but the cultural aspects associated with that business model can still linger – even here in the States. Its not everywhere in Japan – please don’t make that leap. Lots of books and data on this, but if you think Fedex or Facebook has a culture…you should do some reading on Keiretsu.

She continued to tell me that assessing candidates to fit into their culture is done by making sure that all the players agree that the person belongs. Its a careful sell across the organization top down that allows for support and exposure all at once. Culture is their greatest asset, and its primarily how they invest in their recruiting and assessment efforts.

That is where the lesson is…allocating time to what is important in assessment. They spend over 80% of assessment on ONE THING. But at least they know what that is…culture.

What are the primary drivers in YOUR business? Technology? Innovation? Culture? Leadership? You probably already know, but the question is have you invested your resources in such a way  that you are really vetting against those significant assets?

If its “leadership”, are you asking questions in interviews about leading teams? Developing them? Addressing conflict? Are you presenting cases regarding leadership and having them work out the problems? Are they interviewing with not only the hiring manager but well regarded leaders in the organization? Are the leaders designated certain questions about leading teams, and are they debriefing specifically on those topics? Are you having top individual contributors ask about leadership and management techniques and comment if those candidates can lead people like them?

If you don’t know what makes your company tick – you better ask. If they don’t know – guess. But at least take your assessment resources and strategize how you are really measuring those really important assets.

By the way – retention in this company is tremendous if you think it doesn’t work. And for the record, I don’t have a patent on Recruiting Samurai. I am sure I saw that somewhere else.

Sourcing and the Great Assumption

First to admit that I am not a sourcing guru. For one reason or another, that is assumed by people I meet, and at first I was not sure why that followed me around. Don’t get me wrong, on the daily grind of recruiting I was able to cold call and hunt down the folks, but no better than many recruiters – I just made tons of phone calls 🙂 I will admit, dropping about 150 voice mails before 9am each morning always helped.

As the world becomes socially smaller though, I really admire all the sourcing folks out there that really spend time and effort understanding the methodology of cutting through all the networks, groups, media sites, and of course those who gate crash and get the names. I have not honed this skill over the years, primarily because I have to focus on other competencies to hone, and have advised many to outsource this work to experts who hone those competencies daily.

I still stand firm on my belief that for positions where you need to recruit, as in you really need to sell it, you need to PLAN on having at least 50 conversations in the bag before you make the hire, give or take a few. These include the interviews and back and forth with the managers/candidates, so assume that about 15 of them are already off the table for sourcing.  You need to have 35 strong, detailed conversations about the job, people in the marketplace, their qualifications / interest / motivations / experience, and then some secondary validation in order to feel really good about the 3 to 5 people you are putting in mix. If you can’t count the 35, I think you are making some really big assumptions when stating “this is the best talent”.

Of course you may want to double count previous conversations you have had in the space, but I just call that knowledge. Maybe you can cut out a few, but don’t you think that you should at least have 25 good conversations with either people you trust will know the right people OR the actual prospects themselves in order to find a slate of 4 or 5? If not, what are you using as your decision engine…the resume or LinkedIn profile that they produced themselves?

So back to the Great Assumption – Managers think recruiters / sourcers are actually doing this work (or more) to find the talent that is needed AND we also think that in order to be successful, we need to have this amount of effort.


Sourcing is not about math. Sourcing is about results. We know the matching can just happen. This is not a manufacturing process. There are people who just gel with the recruiters, leaders, and managers. Chaos happens, and we break through the math all the time. Maybe “great” recruiters are lucky, or the brand works, or maybe they are just highly skilled and tuned to the managers, so their research is solid.

Besides – I can prove that sourcing at this level is unlikely to happen all the time anyway:

  • 2100 hours in a year for a person to work
  • assume 20% for non-recruiting meetings, training, water cooler time (1680 hours left)
  • assume all meaningful convos + notes captured are 30 minutes (3360 sessions)
  • 50 sessions per hire (67 positions filled a year)
  • Meanwhile – you forgot scheduling, research, document prep, offer letters, admin, and a bunch of other stuff.

Maybe your team does less – maybe they do more. But even IF they are doing less or more, you can’t deny the numbers…so what are you giving up? I appreciate if you team is really good at finding 2 people and selling it hard to the managers who buy it when you tell them “this is the best talent” and a great hire happens. Be honest – did you REALLY source to 35 to 50 conversations or just get people who match.

And it is AWESOME to get people who match. That is the goal. Just don’t tell the managers you busted 100 hours of sourcing and hard selling when you made three phone calls and got three great candidates.

We need to be cautious about the Great Assumption – that we sourced “all the talent”. 1 – it is difficult to prove, 2 – it is difficult to have it happen consistently, and most importantly – 3 – it does not really matter if you have a great hire and the person is productive.

Take Action and Translate to Everyday:
Let your managers in on the secret. Let them know that you will plan to have 35 to 50 conversations with the likely suspects after research and knowledge is gathered, meaning it could take X amount of time. You may be able to shortcut and get results early by finding people in the first 10 conversations, rather than the last 10. But if that happens, you will not talk to the other 40 on the list.

It’s now on them to close the deal, and you will assist as needed. Remember – results are not a measure of effort, and you have other managers looking for results.