Last fall, employers faced major workplace disruptions (re: social distancing and stay-at-home measures) as well as economic uncertainty, which caused a work shortage of sorts. Today, the situation has flipped: work is plentiful — with nearly a 40% increase in job postings since February 2020 — but there aren’t enough workers to meet the supply.
For reasons ranging from the Delta variant, to governmental aid, to workers demanding fair compensation, or searching out more work-life balance — people simply aren’t flocking back to work as expected. This is proving to be a major challenge for all employers industry-wide, but especially those with high-volume hiring needs.
To provide support in this area, we recently held a webinar with two experts in the field, Nancy Cochran from Appcast and Thomas Knight from Advantage Solutions. We discuss the changes Thomas and his team have made to make sure they hit their goal of 30,000 hires for their customers at large grocery, big box, and for Club Demonstration Services (CDS) inside of Costco by the end of 2021, as well as the critical role of data and technology in high-volume hiring. From this interview, we’ve outlined the top 3 things you can do right away to improve your high-volume hiring efforts.
Meet the experts
Thomas Knight, Director, Talent Acquisition and Employment Marketing at Advantage Solutions
Thomas Knight is Director, Talent Acquisition and Employment Marketing at Advantage Solutions, which is the leading business solutions provider in North America, working with over 3,500 consumer goods clients in 200,000 retail locations. 92% of their hires are in the high-volume space, with most of them being samplers, merchandisers and stockers in grocery and convenience stores.
After businesses were forced to lay off tens of thousands of in-store employees in March 2020, Thomas and his team now have upwards of 60,000 jobs to fill by the end of 2021 as stores continue to open back up. Making this even more challenging is the fact that much of their demographic is older, currently relying on the stimulus check and/or afraid of the Delta variant.
Nancy Cochran, Director at Appcast
Nancy Cochran is a Director at Appcast, the global leader in programmatic recruitment advertising technology and services. Appcast manages $600 million in advertising spend annually, places 610 million job ads and has produced 1.2 billion applications since its founding in 2014.
With access to millions of data points tracked for close to a decade, Appcast’s research offers a unique and helpful look into how to improve high-volume hiring with today’s candidates.
1. Make your job titles and descriptions relevant and easy to find
Both Nancy and Thomas agree that there are essentially two boxes you want to check when it comes to job descriptions: searchability and relevancy.
Searchability simply means how easy your job is to find for candidates based on its title and description. Using the correct keywords is one way to improve your chances of candidates finding your postings. Using tools like Appcast can help with research on what keywords are most effective in reaching your candidates.
For example, there’s recently been a big shift in the hospitality industry. Waitresses, bartenders and other people who may currently be on unemployment benefits and not re-entering the workforce. Thomas and his team have been tracking these people to understand what they’re searching and what they’re clicking on, largely through the keywords they’re using, and incorporating these keywords in the job descriptions they need filled at Advantage.
Another, more immediate way to improve your searchability is to add structured data to job postings, which are essentially key pieces of information formatted in such a way to allow easy reading and classification by Google and other search engines. These include title, pay rate, company, location and others. Of all these traits, the most important to get right is geographic information. It’s one of the most direct ways to reach more candidates.
Google shows candidates local jobs within their zip code, so if you expand which zip codes your job ads show up in to include other places that are an easy commute, for example, you can expand your geographical footprint and tap into entirely new talent pools. Being remote and communicating this to Google through structured data opens up your marketing ability even more!
Read articles from Google to learn how to add structured data to job postings, and test to see how your job post appears to Google by using Google’s Schema Validator. If your page doesn’t comply 100% with schema guidelines, the validator will suggest how to improve your searchability. Keep in mind though that in some cases, you may not be able to comply 100%.
You can also improve your searchability by A/B testing your job titles. A title might do really well in the pacific northwest, but not in the southeast. As Nancy describes, this may be because your job title is known more commonly by another name in the southeast. Data, from platforms like Appcast, can help you understand these types of nuances (i.e. locals saying “sneaker” instead of “shoe”) and make sure that you’re titles are aptly named for their respective markets.
The second box you want to check when it comes to job descriptions is relevancy. Shorter job descriptions containing only what’s important to candidates are key. At the end of the day, you want your descriptions to help paint a realistic job preview for candidates; to help them gauge if they’re aligned to your company’s values, if they can do the job, if their time, availability and desired pay rate fits.
Other priorities for today’s candidates are workplace safety, DEI and value propositions beyond pay rate such as perks and benefits. The better you can showcase these features in your descriptions, the better luck you’ll have sparking candidate interest.
2. Keep your application process brief, but engaging
As you already know, a shorter application process is better for moving candidates further down your funnel. Appcast found that an application flow shorter than 5 minutes produces 385% more applicants than a flow that takes more than 15 minutes. That said, there is also a point where the process becomes too easy, which affects the quality of candidates applying.
To strike the right balance between quantity and quality, Thomas removed as many friction points from the application process (discovered through data) as possible while still requiring enough input to keep quality candidates invested, while weeding out candidates that weren’t serious. In most cases, this meant requiring candidates to only provide basic information like their resume and contact information and then immediately having them talk with a recruiter to further qualify them.
Only after this conversation, if it’s deemed necessary, does Advantage ask for more information. They also allow candidates who have reached a certain level in the hiring process to schedule their own interviews to keep them engaged and less likely to “ghost” the interview.
Thomas implemented these changes after discovering that the main cause of candidates ghosting his jobs was recruiters not getting back to them quickly enough after applying. They were losing them to other companies who contacted them sooner (or whose processes were easier). To combat this, in addition to changing the flow of their application process, Thomas now has recruiters contact applicants within 20 minutes of applying (yes, I said just 20 minutes!).
They’ve also taken measures to improve the quality of their quick apply candidates as well. Candidates can still apply within seconds, but they’re now required to answer a few simple questions to slow them down and take a moment to think about what they’re applying for instead of just title searching and easy applying to jobs. Example questions include “are you of legal age?” and “are you legally authorized to work in the United States?”.
3. Let technology do the heavy lifting
Technology and high-volume hiring go hand-in-hand, as the right technology can be automated to save recruiters hours a day in monotonous tasks like interview scheduling and placing ads. You can post your job ad across a dozen platforms in a single click, or, like Advantage, transfer the responsibility of scheduling interviews entirely to candidates.
The other major benefit that technology provides is the access to data you wouldn’t otherwise have — data, as Nancy explains, that you can constantly bring to leadership and say, “here’s what’s working, here’s where applicants are dropping off and here’s what needs to be fixed based on this data”.
For example, together with his programmatic team, Thomas constantly looks at daily, weekly and monthly data reports to optimize his application process and adjust his budget. He also tracks conversion rates at different stages of the funnel, changes to job titles descriptions and the effects these changes have on the kinds of candidates he’s attracting and the number of hires he’s producing.
If you’re new to programmatic ads and need data to help create your first budget, or need data to bring to leadership for a larger budget, Appcast regularly publishes their Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report featuring cost per click (CPC) and cost per apply (CPA) data for different industries. Considering that a few pennies can make a difference in gaining the visibility you need to hire high-volume candidates, this data can serve as your guiding light. Plus, the report offers ideal job title and description lengths to improve the performance of your ads as well.
Rally Note: Watch this Pro Tip of Tom discussing some technology best pactices:
For more help leveraging technology in your RM and TA efforts, check out Appcast’s blog featuring advice and data from a wide array of practitioners.
Thriving in today’s labor shortage starts with understanding the wants and needs of your specific candidates, communicating that information in your job titles and descriptions and making it as easy as possible for candidates to find your roles and go through your application process.
Hopefully, by following in Thomas’s footsteps, and taking advantage of the functionality and data offered by tools like Appcast, you can enter the new year with your most effective high-volume hiring strategy yet. For more advice from Thomas and Nancy, be sure to watch the full webinar here!