AFTER GRADUATION, CHEN YAN LONG sent almost 300 application letters to companies in Shanghai, but only received five replies. “I was depressed”, says Chen. “I didn’t know how I could improve, because very few companies contacted me to give me an official rejection.” Yuan Yuan, another ‘fresh’ employee, says that less that 10% of companies replied to her applications. She developed a cynical response to this, stating that “this always happens in China”. Chen and Yuan, like millions of Chinese graduates are “forgotten”. This is partly because of the huge workload required to send official rejection emails or make phone calls, but also because most China based multinationals are not making the most of the technology available to them.
For a company such as Hisoft, recruitment is still largely limited to Microsoft Outlook and the physical printing of resumes. In fact, a stack of printed resumes often represents the entire screening process. Recruitment Director, Rick Wu, realises that this process only represents a short-term solution and is currently seeking a “solid and suitable system that fits China.” The software solution that has grabbed his attention is PageUp People, which is used globally by companies including BHP Billiton, Theiss, and Flight Centre. As a rapidly growing company, Hisoft simply cannot afford to stick with their old and inefficient methods.
According to a Taleo White Paper of U.S. Fortune 500 companies, 93% say they are using some kind of specialised recruitment management system such as PeopleSoft, Taleo, Brassring or PageUp People. [quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]The two most pressing issues for HR were hiring qualified people in a timely manner (31%), and retaining staff and managing turnover (27%)[/quote] The picture in China however, is very different. In a survey of HR professionals in Beijing and Shanghai conducted by Network HR, only 23% of respondents indicated that their company used recruitment management software. Ironically an earlier survey of a similar audience, conducted in November 2006, indicated that the two most pressing issues for HR were hiring qualified people in a timely manner (31%), and retaining staff and managing turnover (27%).
The good news is that the use of technology in China is growing to meet this demand. Karen Cariss of PageUp People states that Chinese based multinationals are beginning to move from a reactive, vacancy by vacancy model to a more nimble, proactive and creative approach to the attraction of talent to an organisation. “We can see from history that organisations which embrace the latest methodologies and support them with technology will gain an advantage over their less progressive competitors”, she said.” China based companies are no exception, but they have been slow to take action in the past, possibly because HR, as a field, has been slow to find its voice.”
Cariss believes that China based HR departments need to “catch up” to international technology standards, and that technology can be employed at all stages of the recruitment process. She argues that a strategic and planned approach to the use of technology will enable companies to take a lead over their competitors in what she calls, the “war for talent”. Otherwise, a company’s employer brand can be damaged.
She highlights the importance of communicating with job candidates at all stages of the process, even when they are unsuccessful. Cariss tells a story. “A major soft-drink manufacturer has been conducting yearly campus recruitment campaigns across China, which attracts, on average, about 20,000 candidates. However, because of the sheer volume of applications and a lack of technology which limits the efficiency of the HR team, only the final 400 people ever get notified of their success. [quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The HR department is essentially influencing these 19,600 candidates to open a bottle of their competitors’ products![/quote] The other 19,600 unsuccessful candidates hear nothing, not even an e-mail. This is a disastrous employer brand and public relations issue – the HR department is essentially influencing these 19,600 candidates to open a bottle of their competitors’ products! If a company ignored unsuccessful candidates in Australia or the US, then the marketing and sales departments would be the first to complain.”
Chen and Yuan’s experiences were similar. Both remember the companies that treated them with respect, which ensured strong brand building. To this day, Yuan talks highly of the Grand Hyatt, who provided an official letter and didn’t “forget her”. Chen adds, that “Accenture was one company that did send me an official rejection letter, and consequently I believe that they are very professional.”
While technology can be employed in adding a personal touch for all candidates who apply, it can also do so much more. It is the integration of requisition, sourcing, screening, selection, offering, on-boarding, and reporting, that will give a company the competitive advantage.
Requisition – Getting permission to hire
ClarkMorgan co-founder, and 14 year veteran of talent development in China, Morry Morgan, states that “recruitment is tightly woven into workforce and succession plans, which are in turn driven by the overall strategy of the organisation. Using technology, means that assignments can be automatically fed to the recruitment software, like PageUp People or Taleo, directly from the HRIS platform.”
He continues by adding that even a small company like ClarkMorgan with 25 full-time staff uses software, in this case its own system called OpenEye, to add key data about a job position. This allows for rapid, accurate and visible recruitment requisitions. “We’re always looking for the best trainers in China, and these people don’t sit around the phone, waiting for you to call. You have to move fast!”
Sourcing – Pulling in the candidates
ClarkMorgan HR & Administration Director, Faye Pan, believes the key benefit of recruitment software is its ability to build ‘talent pools’. Instead of recruitment agencies collecting the data, a company, with the appropriate technology, can attract applications using job boards, such as Zhaopin. com or 51job, or even their own website. ClarkMorgan links its recruitment advertisements to its website, to attract staff, without any agency or job board costs.
“Having candidates visit our website builds brand awareness, more than outsourcing this process,” says Pan. “This ensures that we are able to build a solid relationship with new talent quickly.”
Screening – Looking for the golden egg
Technology allows for the standardisation of application forms and resumes, which makes for easier comparisons. This means candidates can be screened in and out quickly resulting in quality shortlists delivered rapidly to hiring managers. Faye Pan understands that it is at this part of the process that unsuccessful staff can be informed without any loss of goodwill. “Letting someone down sooner, rather than later, will protect your employer brand and consumer brand,” states Pan, repeating Karen Cariss’s earlier message.
Selection – Finding the golden egg
Competency based interview guides built into the system, as well as integrated testing and background checking, assist recruiting teams and hiring managers to move quickly. Information which assists in the decision making process is delivered online, directly to the recruiter’s desktop. This means that there is faster turnaround time, and greater candidate experience.
Offer – Getting them to say yes
Technology enables all the data collected throughout the recruitment process to be incorporated into the candidates offer. Offer documentation can be posted and accepted online and automatically fed into the HRIS/payroll system. As a result, the recruitment process is quicker, more efficient and there is a seamless transfer of details.
On-boarding – Making it more welcoming
Automation of the offer enables quick on-boarding by combining security, email, IT requirements into the offer. Consequently new starters get a great first impression of the organisation and are brought up to speed very quickly.
Reporting – Keeping open eyed
Generating reports from recruitment technology gives recruiters and hiring managers instant access to information about the health, or otherwise, of their organisation in relation to the recruitment process. The depth of the talent pool (internal and external) can be measured, bottlenecks in the process identified and addressed, non adherence to key processes (eg. reference checking) can be made visible and overall success factors can be benchmarked. Indeed, technology in the recruitment process will allow for overall competitive advantage.
As Cariss states, “The organisation which moves swiftly, has detailed information at its fingertips and provides the candidate with an unparalleled level of service will be the organisation which stays ahead of its competitors in these highly competitive times.” This is part of solid Interview Skills, which maintains a healthy employer brand, keeps candidates happy, and could possibly grow your sales.