We often talk about “meeting people where they are.” When we do that, what do we really mean?
For many of us, that means providing a mobile solution, one that lets job-seekers submit an application while walking the dog or parked outside a restaurant. It’s about an easy scroll, a real time pace that matches daily life, and a vibe that fits modern sensibilities.
But what if this phrase meant something beyond convenience? What if it pushed past just the vibe? “Meeting people where they are” can mean something revolutionary: choosing technology that responds to people, not relying on people’s responses for technology.
As a psychologist, one of my priorities is to understand how we can design software inspired by the ways people spend their time. In addition, my colleagues and I focus on learning from human relationships, to anticipate what will make people stick with the job application and see it through to the first day on the job.
To investigate this, let’s think about an important part of a job candidate’s journey: the interview.
Glassdoor’s analysis of interview reports on its site concluded that the amount of time spent on the interviewing stage of the recruitment process increased markedly in the 2010s, including a near-doubling of the average time over the first half of the decade. Other Glassdoor research noted differences by industry, but none averaged fewer than about a 10-day long interview process. Employers often battle high rates of attrition before the interview, with some industry leaders reporting that the majority of scheduled interviews turn into no-shows.
That’s a broken system. What’s going on?
Before we even get to the point of deploying interview scheduling software, something’s gone wrong. That’s because the best software responds to people, not the other way around.
In the focus on features for recruiters and hiring managers — syncing calendars, sending messages, integrating functionality with other systems — we tend to forget the lead-up to that point, and the real job-seekers who travel that journey. Simply put, we pay too little attention to the candidates themselves, the ones in the hiring process who make or break the value of the software.
Learning from the way real people learn, play, and live.
First, the lead-up to the interview. What can we learn here from human behavior? Let’s start by examining how today’s job-seekers spend their time.
Recent research has noted that for the youngest American adults, those ages 18-29, internet use is becoming the default focus of one’s waking hours, with 48% of respondents in this age group saying they are online “almost constantly,” followed by ages 30-49, 42% of whom confirm their always-on status.
When it comes to staying informed about current events, a majority of US adults (65%) now say they use search engines to find the latest headlines “often” or “sometimes,” not far behind the 68% who use news websites at these frequencies. This suggests that many adults prefer to be in the driver’s seat to inform themselves, seeking information via their own inquiries.
These statistics make it clear that candidates will respond best to a system made for their always-on status. A candidate experience in which a person can make progress around the clock has become essential. The 9-to-5, “you’ll hear from us in 2 to 3 business days” approach is based on business operations, not human behavior. Relatedly, people want to be able to find information about jobs themselves by asking questions, similar to how they seek information via search engines.
How can we make candidates want to keep going?
Next, let’s dig deeper into what we can learn from human relationships. Psychologists have long understood the concept of “reciprocity.”
A basic tenet of this phenomenon is that we tend to help those who have helped us — what we term “direct reciprocity.” We also are more likely to help those who we know have helped others, who therefore have a reputation for being supportive and willing to lend a hand. This is called “rewarding reputation.”
Candidates are therefore more likely to be responsive if they perceive an employer as being responsive to their interests. Treating candidates like partners in a back and forth exchange stands a far better chance of triggering reciprocity than an application experience in which job-seekers are giving more than they’re receiving.
Despite this, many candidates are asked to create a user account, provide their contact information for a database, supply redundant pieces of information, and navigate through time consuming steps, all while receiving little in return — no personal touch, no affirmation, no answers to their questions, no updates.
When it then comes time to utilize interview scheduling software, where are those candidates? They’ve either dropped off, or they’ve reached that point with little motivation left to follow through.
Think of it this way: As an employer, before you get to candidate interviews, you should have given that candidate an opportunity to interview you. That's technology that responds to people, not the other way around.
Imagine how groundbreaking an always-on, in-line information solution would have on your candidates.
How many jobs are available? What do people do on a typical workday? What’s the starting pay? What should I expect from the interview?
Those questions — and simply feeling welcome to ask those questions — can make all the difference. Interview scheduling software with a seamless integration and numerous key features will matter little if you’re losing candidates before they get on those calendars. Instead, interview scheduling should be one piece of a holistic, responsive candidate experience, one that is made for and responds to real people, from the first “hello” to the employment paperwork.
“Meeting people where they are” becomes more than a tagline.
In talent acquisition, we should always strive to view our mission through a wide-angle lens. At every turn, let’s consider both the recruiter’s priorities and the lived experiences of job-seekers.
All the pieces of the talent acquisition process intersect. One step can be either a roadblock to what lies ahead or a catalyst for next steps.
When we build our approaches with an understanding of human behavior, we select the technology that responds to people. That’s how we connect with the folks who are just right for our jobs.
Then it becomes simple: we meet people where they are.