"Candidates are consumers" is bullshit

For the last few months I have been heads down on a new product. I guess you could call it that, but whatever you call it, it’s what I have been working on outside the amazing customer work and projects. This new product takes a look at what a baseline candidate experience should be. At first, we called it “ideal” but that seemed to ruffle a LOT of feathers. So much so, people were getting stuck on that word alone. So, we are calling it a baseline. Why baseline, well, I believe in the Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. Lofty right? And I think we can all agree that we are not treating our candidates in the way we would like to be treated. And yet, the “golden rule” experience line was too wordy, so baseline it is.

But, let me back up. For me this all started when I gave a talk a few years ago. The talk was about eliminating friction to create meaningful experiences. This whole talk was based on what I now believe to be a fallacy that candidates are consumers. I know we’re reading this everywhere and have been for years. The truth is…they ain’t. While they have some consumer-style behavior, like researching a product (company) before they transact, that’s about it. You see, the whole notion that the candidate experience should be like buying something from Amazon is bullshit.

Here’s why: If I want Doritos (like when don’t I want Doritos), I should be able to get Doritos in a heartbeat. I am a grown ass woman who can eat Doritos whenever I like thank you very much. But if I want to WORK for Doritos, I should carefully consider what that would be like. As a consumer, I already know how much I LOVE Doritos because I have tried them before and I love them. If I want to try the Flaming Hot variety, it is easy for me to try it and like it or ditch it for the far superior Nacho Cheese (stop judging me). You see, buying a product should be frictionless. It is easy to ditch it if you don’t like it.

Now changing jobs, that should take some thought, some deciding, some research. You don’t KNOW what it’s like to work there. You don’t KNOW what the job actually is. You simply do not have the information. And frankly, you know what you already have. You know what the commute is like. You know what your paycheck looks like every month. You know how much your health insurance costs. You know how much vacation you have. You know your boss and your coworkers. You know their quirks and how to manage, navigate and maneuver in your current job and organization. You know what those Doritos taste like. Testing a new flavor is NOT easy. And here is where we get to the key difference and why this whole notion that the candidate is a consumer is bullshit: They don’t know what it’s like and we don’t tell them the truth…and they know it.

Which takes me back to the opening of this mini-rant. There is a baseline of experience that we should be creating. Today, most of the friction lies in the application. We think that if we make it harder for them to apply we will get people who REALLY want to work here (ahem, bullshit). Guess what, that doesn’t work. That’s why we are missing quality talent on our reqs. But, if we put more friction in the education and nurture phases to tell people what our company is REALLY like and what the job REALLY is, and got a BIG CHUNK of friction out of the application, you would see an difference in quality and experience.

All of this is to say it’s time to think differently about the candidate and employee experience. It’s not about no friction, it’s about well-placed, thoughtful friction. It’s about treating others like we would like to be treated. It’s the right thing to do. Now will someone send me some Doritos?