lighthouse research special report

Lighthouse Research and Advisory Special Research Report

by Ben Eubanks

Candidate experience is on everyone’s lips these days, but the discussion is rare when companies actually ask candidates what they want and attempt to provide it. In our latest research study on Video and the Candidate Experience, we looked not just at how companies are using video but also at how candidates want to consume and interact with video in the hiring process.

This study, sponsored by talent acquisition technology provider SparcStart, sheds light on ways companies are wasting money on video production while failing to meet the preferences for candidates.  I walked away from this study with an overwhelming sense of “people want to work for people, not companies,” so let’s jump into the data and see what we found.

Key Research Findings

  • Candidates want to see videos of hiring managers 2.5x more often than company overviews and 10x more often than an HR/recruiter message.
  • A hiring manager welcome video would make a candidate 46% more likely to consider the job and 30% more likely to respond to a recruiter or apply.
  • 55% of active job seekers said employee-generated video would be more credible/trustworthy than company-produced video.
  • Employers believe that hiring managers are the most persuasive source of information for candidates, but only 3% of employers are using this kind of content to reach job seekers.

Candidates want Information Directly from Employees

How much did your company spend on that “company overview” branding video that you have on your careers page? $5,000? $25,000? Whatever the investment, it might come as a bit of a shock to find out that candidates, especially active ones, don’t really see that as a source of valuable information during the job search process.

Figure 1: Candidate Video Preferences

Source: 2017 Video and the Candidate Experience Study (n=301 candidates)

As you can see in the data, candidates overwhelmingly want to see and hear from the hiring manager in the application process. The theme that “people want to work for people, not companies” is especially apparent in this response.

Candidates want to see videos of hiring managers 2.5x more often than company overviews and 10x more often than an HR/recruiter message.

Additionally, the second most common preference for candidates was to see and learn more about the job itself through a preview of sorts.Candidates naturally want to perform well in the interview and on the job and they believe that these two sources of information can help them to do so, which echoes our research earlier this year around candidate experience, assessments, and video interviews. The exciting part is that candidates went a step further, saying that this was not only what they wanted to see to gather information, but also that it could potentially lead them to consider and apply for jobs that might have otherwise not been on their radar.

Candidates said a hiring manager welcome video would make the person 46% more likely to consider the job and 30% more likely to respond to a recruiter or apply.

The theme that connects these top two answers and that should serve as a powerful takeaway for employers is this: candidate experience is especially powerful when it feels somewhat tailored. If I’m applying for a job and get to see information about that job beyond a static job description that I believe might help me to make a better decision or better understand the role, that’s incredibly valuable. In the same way, employers can provide short videos or comments directly from hiring managers or job preview information as a way to help guide candidates toward better decisions and improve the overall candidate experience at the same time.

Credibility is Key When Using Video

While our survey didn’t dive into specifics around why employee-generated video is more valuable for candidates than company-produced video, one of our hypotheses is that people naturally want to see a more raw, personal video than a scripted, highly produced video that doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. That’s why tools like live video streaming or even social photo/video sharing have become more pervasive in the last few years. As consumers we look for this kind of information, so why wouldn’t job candidates?

55% of active job seekers said employee-generated video would be more credible/trustworthy than company-produced video.

One of the things I was careful of doing in this study was trying to specifically quantify the value and credibility of information coming from hiring managers versus the company. As we can see in this example, when we asked candidates about what source provides the most credible, trustworthy information, it’s clear that employee video is preferred.

What’s surprising is that employers agreed.

Figure 2: Employers Say Hiring Managers Offer Most Persuasive Information

Source: 2017 Video and the Candidate Experience Study (n=224 employers)

In this question we asked employers to rank the most persuasive sources of information for candidates. Hiring managers came in first followed by employee testimonials, yet when we asked how many employers were using these types of information in their candidate journey, only 3 percent were using hiring manager videos and just 13 percent were using employee testimonials.

This begs the question, if candidates crave this information and employers consider it to be the most valuable, why aren’t companies offering these kinds of elements on their career page, social channels, and other platforms?

Key Takeaways

One of the fun parts of doing this dual research is that it helps to shed light on where employers can improve their practices to meet the needs of candidates. In this case, there are a few clear takeaways.

  1. Employers need to start exploring how to embed more hiring manager content into their candidate experience. They know it works. Candidates know it works. There’s no excuse and it could lead to a radical improvement in candidate perception and trust.
  2. Go for something less “pretty” and more “raw” in terms of video. Trying to produce and script a video diminishes the value in the eyes of candidates and it takes longer, costs more, and is generally more of a hassle for the hiring managers and other employees taking part.

If you get nothing else from this research, take it as a helpful push to look for ways to interact with and ask questions of your own candidate audience. Hopefully this sheds some light on how employers are completely missing the mark on what candidates really want in the hiring process and gives you an idea for how you can improve your own approach.

Disclaimer: All research insights and opinions provided by Lighthouse Research & Advisory are unbiased and are not influenced by sponsorship (in this case, by SparcStart). As an independent analyst firm we perform research in a variety of HCM areas in order to better understand the market and this study is one of multiple research efforts we have produced this year in an effort to help employers hire, engage, and retain their best workers. Questions about our policy and approach can be directed to

Republished with permission from Lighthouse Research and Advisory.


Shaking You Lose

Let me assume for a moment, that you are not in an active job search. I’ll go a step further and assume that you are successful in your current role – you are achieving results and your management values you.

What are the chances that you will take time out of your day, put your current job at risk and engage with a recruiter based on the following:

You must have:

  • Demonstrated proficiency in the fundamental concepts, principles, practices and procedures related to employment and unemployment law and generally accepted employment practices.
  • Strong working knowledge of web search engines/tools, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and applicant tracking system required.
  • Demonstrated ability to oversee, monitor, evaluate and motivate the performance of professional and support staff is required.
  • A collaborative and motivational management style which is inclusive and which promotes a participatory style of Human Resources management is preferred.
  • Ability to build consensus, provide strong leadership in a team environment, and have the highest sense of professional integrity.
  • Highly proficient communication, customer service, and interpersonal skills are required to work successfully with various levels of leadership and management personnel, as well as the public and external community.

(This list came from a Director of Talent Acquisition position posted on July 18, 2017 on Indeed.)

Not likely?  (Let me guess you didn’t even read the entire list.)  This list doesn’t excite you with possibility and persuade you to explore other opportunities? You are not alone, yet we wonder why so few prospects respond to recruiter outreach.

The content that passes for job marketing is stunningly ineffective.

 Why do we keep using it?

Research exists on the information that individuals want when considering a job opportunity. They want to know the following:

  • What is the job, is it the right level for me?
  • What are the responsibilities?
  • Where is it?
  • Who will I work with?
  • What is the environment (travel, office or home)?
  • Why should I apply, what is special about this job?
  • Who is the company?
  • What is the company culture?

When recruiting organizations reach out to potential candidates and don’t include all this information, they don’t respond. Simple economics show that enhanced job descriptions are a valuable investment. Working harder at cold calling and emailing individuals who have not expressed interest is expensive and produces diminishing returns.

The market has changed, the outreach hasn’t. Marketing jobs with traditional job descriptions is outdated.  If you are not persuaded by the marketing content that you are sending to others, it is time to change.

The Psychology Behind Video-Phobia

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 4.27.20 PM

By Matthew Low

If you don’t like watching yourself on video, you are among the majority. The fear of being on camera is not new, but thanks to apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, millennials are loving it, and Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are slowly getting on board.

The reason you hate the way you look on video: the combo effect of mere-exposure and confirmation bias.

Formulated in 1968 by psychologist, Robert Zajonc, the mere-exposure effect asserts that people react more favorably to things they see more often. Since we see ourselves most frequently in the mirror, this is our preferred self-image. According to the mere-exposure effect, when your slight facial asymmetries are left unflipped by the camera, you see an unappealing, deformed version of yourself.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 4.22.04 PM.png

To Megan Kelly, the image on the left looks wrong since she sees herself in the mirror as the image on the right.   To TV viewers, the image on the left is more familiar.


Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for and find information that backs up our previously held beliefs and reinforces our brains heuristics. Heuristics are brain tricks (shortcuts) that help humans make sense of the world around them, in rapid pace. We want to be right, so we look for all the information that is going to corroborate our thoughts. If you think you are going to look awkward on camera, when reviewing your video, you will actively search out evidence that this is true. This means that some people can only ever see their faults.

The fear of video stems from judgements from others; we don’t want others to see the flaws we see in ourselves. Fight this idea. You are literally the only person in the world that thinks this! No one else has the same biases about you, as you do.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 4.24.04 PM

        To Payton Manning, the image on the right is how he sees himself.  To football fans, the image on the left seems familiar.


4 ways to overcome your video fears

Confirmation bias and the peculiarities of the mere-exposure effect come together to make sure that seeing yourself on screen is anxiety-inducing.

Once you are conscious of your subconscious fears,  you can start to fight back against them.

  1. First things first. Your brain is lying to you. The first thing you should tell yourself when you feel the anxiety is “Quiet, brain!” Remind yourself of the fallacies behind the fear of video, your brain is trying to confirm your belief that you look awkward/bad/ugly – and getting it wrong!
  2. Refocus your attention. If your fears are getting in the way of a good performance while making your video, think about ways to refocus your attention away from the camera. Concentrate even more on making sure you’re delivering value, and getting your point across.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help. If you’re feeling nervous about jumping in front of the camera, ask for what you need. If you need someone to help you film – ask a colleague. If you need to have cue cards, have them! The more comfortable you feel, the better the shoot will go.
  4. Realize that people don’t care. Develop a mantra that you can tell yourself whenever you feel fearful.  All your anxieties are stemming from fallacies that are only in your Get in front the camera, and love yourself!

Matthew Low is an Account Manager at SparcStart.  He analyses videos for enhanced job descriptions and coaches recruiters on how to help hiring managers overcome their video-phobia.












Sparc wins Global HR Excellence Award for Innovation and Product Leadership


February 15, 2017: SparcStart accepted the award for Innovation and Product Leadership at the Global HR Excellence awards in Mumbai, India.  SparcStart was selected from more than 700 participating companies representing leading technology and service organizations from around the world.

“Sparc is now being used on four continents and our global clients are using Sparcs to differentiate themselves in markets and industries around the world,” commented Maury Hanigan, CEO of SparcStart, the New York based recruitment marketing platform.  “We are honored to be singled out for this award from among so many strong contenders.”

SparcStart was selected based on its innovative and unique approach to job marketing. The SparcStart platform combines multiple technologies to create dynamic and engaging job profiles. The platform was recognized for its ease of use, scalability and enterprise-level safeguards.

“Today’s candidates use their phones extensively in their job search and are not engaged by long job descriptions. They expect content that is dynamic, informative and credible,” added Hanigan. “Advertising jobs using 1990’s technology of text-only job descriptions posted on job boards is ineffective. To be competitive, you need new tools.” SparcStart’s visually impactful and comprehensive information about the job is more powerful in attracting qualified candidates than a standard job description.

This prestigious honor adds to Sparc’s impressive accolades including the 2014 HR Tech Top Product of the Year Award, the 2015 Mobile Recruitment Award, and the 2016 HRO TekTonic Award.

About the World HRD Congress: The Global HR Excellence Awards are granted annually in Mumbai during the World HRD Congress, where global HR leaders from over 130 countries come together for a unique learning opportunity. The Congress is governed by a Global and National Advisory Council. The Global HR Excellence Awards are selected by industry leaders and academics.

About SparcStart: SparcStart adds video, mobile and social capabilities to job descriptions. Sparcs help employers attract qualified candidates, strengthen employer branding and increase recruiter productivity. By enhancing traditional job descriptions, organizations establish a more efficient recruitment process, reinforce the employer brand, and create a better candidate experience. SparcStart is used by Fortune 500 companies and global leaders.


Find out more at:

Using CandE Research To Build A Results-Driven Recruiting Budget

As companies are preparing their 2017 budgets, it can be difficult to determine how to allocate funds to generate the needed results.  Fortunately, the data collected from more than 130,000 candidates who participated in the Candidate Experience survey provides solid direction.  Understanding how candidates behave and what they respond to can guide spending toward productive investments.

Ideally, all historical spending should be reviewed and reallocated as appropriate, yet renewing existing contracts is often the norm.  For the purpose of this discussion, assume that the number of recruiters is stable, external sourcing is stable, and that the LinkedIn Recruiter Licenses are set.

The overall areas where you allocate your money can be narrowed down to 10 major categories:

  • job advertising
  • corporate career site
  • ATS
  • CRM/sourcing
  • campus
  • employee referral
  • social media content creation
  • career fairs/community presence
  • candidate care
  • video interviews

Identifying Goals

To spend effectively, you must identify the issues you need to address and the results you want to achieve. There are generally two major areas that employers struggle with in recruiting: either a lack of qualified candidates applying or a low conversion rate of candidates who view the job and complete the recruitment process. Analyzing your recent results and anticipating your upcoming hiring needs will help you prioritize the investments you want to make. But before you commit budget dollars, it is important to understand candidate behavior and how those behaviors impact the job process.

Aligning with Candidate Behavior

To generate the maximum benefit from your investment, your budget allocation needs to be clearly aligned with candidates’ behavior. CandE data shows that 76% of candidates conduct research to identify new career opportunities.  Knowing how and where they are looking for information is essential to allocating your budget and generating the maximum response. 

career oppertunity

When candidates gather information, they utilize 3 main tools.

The first is mobile: 86% of candidates use a mobile device for at least part of their job search. If your information is not mobile responsive or mobile friendly, the odds of getting in front of qualified individuals are dramatically reduced.

The second tool is video: 72% of internet traffic comes through some form of video. We would much rather have someone talk to us, tell us what we want to know, than give us paragraphs of text. If your recruiting information is presented in paragraphs of text, you will generate minimal engagement.

The third, arguably the most important, is social media: 90% of candidates 18-29 years old use social media. This is the primary way that candidates communicate with each other and adds to the plethora of reasons that social media cannot be overlooked.

Often times, employers do not incorporate these three tools into their recruitment efforts. Some employers have great, engaging content on job boards, but when candidates do their own research they can be lead to a job posting which is simply boring text. This ends up de-engaging the candidate and defeats the purpose of candidate engagement.

Once you understand candidate behavior you can direct your focus to the specific problems you want to solve.

Specific Problem Areas

If you want to address the issue of not having enough candidates, there are 4 key areas that will specifically address this problem:

  • Increasing sourcing and social media interaction
  • Making content more engaging, by adding video
  • Increasing employee referral
  • Improving job postings

If the issue arises from low conversion rates, there is a different set of solutions:

  • Shortening and improving the application and the end-to-end recruiting process
  • Communicating regularly with candidates
  • Clearly explaining the recruiting process

If losing candidates and not having enough conversion is an issue, the problem might be the length of the job application. A question that was asked to 130,000 candidates on the CandE survey addressed the time to complete an application. The results ranged from less than 5 minutes to over 90 minutes.

complete application

The “sweet spot” for a job application is 5-15 minutes.  Longer applications can cause candidate loss, and shorter applications can make candidates feel as though they have not had the opportunity to present their qualifications or that they were not taken seriously.

CandE Winner Best Practice

When it comes to communicating with candidates about the recruiting process, Cumming, a CandE award winner, does an excellent job on their website. They give the candidates an expected time frame and the steps in the process.  This transparency and management of candidate expectations dramatically increases the candidate experience. 


Maximizing Results

Overall, there are many effective ways that you can allocate your budget in order to increase applicant traffic and drive conversion. There is no one or no right answer when it comes to what and where you should be increasing spending. Once you narrow your problem down to a specific area, there are many options to take advantage of.  If you understand problem and analyze candidate behavior, you can spend against the problem and generate the maximum return.

Data provided by The Talent Board, a non-profit organization focused on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience. The organization, awards program and its sponsors are dedicated to recognizing the candidate experience offered by companies throughout the entire recruitment cycle and to forever changing the manner in which job candidates are treated.

Additional research for this article was conducted by Melis Ulutas.

Q&A with Gerry Crispin

On August 9th, Gerry Crispin shared his observations and expertise on the steps employers can take to increase their candidate attraction. Gerry drew on data from the 2015 Candidate Experience Research data which includes survey results from 130,000 candidates. The webinar was scheduled for just 30 minutes which didn’t allow time to respond to participants’ question. 

Gerry graciously agreed to follow up and provide additional information based on questions. 

The topics covered included:

  • Key information candidates need to determine if your job represents a great opportunity for them
  • Critical components of starting the candidate experience successfully
  • Leaderships’ toughest challenge in instigating essential change

You can view the webinar here.

Q: Can you give an example of someone doing [candidate experience] well?

All the employers that won the candidate experience award – essentially because their candidates rated them highest, are slowly being interviewed by Kevin Grossman. You can download quite a few podcasts of employers doing this well.

Q: Please finish remarks about letting candidates know about the process. (You started talking about this and cut yourself off saying you could talk an hour on this subject alone.)

Accenture offers candidates an app customized by a recruiter to help those invited in for interviews to prepare. Genentech requires anyone coming in for an interview to take an online course on interviewing. Pacific Northwest National Labs, T-Mobile, Deloitte, Capital One, Corning, Google and others are increasingly describing different aspects of their recruiting process from how they review and choose candidates to go forward with, what kind of interviews and the types of questions they ask. RMS and NBC Universal are examples of employers setting up chat rooms to answer candidate questions about what to expect

Q:How can we do a better job about salary?

Easy, share the range of the entry level salary being offered for key positions where this is an issue. Use 1 standard deviation or typically the range for 80% of the hires.

Q: Does [information candidates want to know] apply to certain candidates?

Yes. Your candidate’s’ interests may not be related to what other firms need to do.

Q: How do you scale it?

Focus on critical positions. Survey representative samples throughout the year.

The Three Steps of Candidate Attraction

Why is it easier to see other people’s mistakes?

Imagine you own a retail store located well off the main road.  Very few people drive by and as a result, you’re not selling much.  You think if the store was more inviting, more customers would come.  So you spend six figures on new shelving, better lighting and even hire a consultant to advise on traffic flow. 

Not much changes.

So you decide to change your product signage making it easier for customer to understand and learn about the products you offer.  You change the font and layout, and rewrite the product descriptions. You put an ad in the Penny Saver even though the only people who actually read it are retirees who don’t use your products.

The people who do wander into the store buy more so your head of Merchandising is convinced that you are spending money on the right things, but you are not so sure.  Not enough people are coming into the store, and of the ones that do, most don’t have the resources to be serious buyers.  Will spending more money on store signage really be the answer?

You don’t need a background in retail, or marketing or any other business discipline to understand that building customer traffic will require advertising.  If customers don’t know the store is there, it doesn’t matter how well designed and stocked it is. 

Now take this scenario to Talent Acquisition.  You need more applicant flow so you spend the bulk of your budget on your career site adding videos and making it mobile friendly.  That doesn’t seem to generate the quality candidates you want so you decide to rewrite your job descriptions and even post on several job boards. 

When that doesn’t work, you seize on the data from Glassdoor and LinkedIn showing that candidates conduct job research on those sites.  So you spend money on both of them.

Not much changes.

Generating candidates is a three step process.  When you break down the three steps, it becomes clear what outcome you will get from investments in each of the steps.

The 3 Steps of Candidate Acquisition
Source of Data: 2016 Candidate Experience Research Report

Step 1: Discovery

The first step is Discovery.  Much like the retail store, candidates need to know your jobs exists.  Right now there are approximately 5 million open jobs in the United States.  Unemployment is at historical lows and very, very few qualified people are searching job boards looking for a job.  Even fewer are randomly exploring corporate careers sites to see if they can find an appropriate job.

That doesn’t mean that a lot of job switching isn’t going on.  People trade up their positions all the time.  On average, 50 million people change jobs every year.  If you want more of them to apply to you, you need to get your jobs in front of them.  People discover jobs through a variety of channels: recruiters reach out to them, a friend calls or emails them, they see the job on social media, an employee refers them, or other serendipitous methods.

On average, 50 million people change jobs every year. 

Once they discover a job that looks interesting and could be a good career move, they go to step 2. 

Step 2: Research

Once their interest has been piqued, they want to know more about the job before they make the investment to apply.  The Candidate Experience Research by The Talent Board shows that 76% of candidates conduct research before they apply.  This is where the investment in your career site, Glassdoor and LinkedIn comes into play.  Informative, interesting and positive information on these sites will keep candidates in your pipeline and advance them to step 3.

Step 3: Apply

The final step is Apply.  For candidates who have maintained interest in the job, they are ready to invest the time and effort to apply.  Having a streamlined, well-constructed and mobile friendly application will maximize your conversion from viewers to applicants. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.06.32 PMIf your goal is to increase your pool of applicants, spending money on the Research sites, including your own careers site, will only move the needle a little.  Good research sites will keep interested candidates interested, but they do nothing to attract more candidates. 

If you want to increase your candidate pool with more qualified candidates, you need to invest in the Discovery phase. Discovery requires outreach, advertising and promotion.  Your content must be mobile friendly since candidates, especially Millennials, use their phones as their primary source of information.  The information must be interesting and engaging since most candidates are not actively looking for a job and you need to entice them to consider yours.  Video is the most effective medium for capturing candidates’ attention.  And most importantly, you must make social sharing effortless for individuals.  To put your job in front of the maximum number of qualified candidates, you must leverage the power of social media and make it easy for individuals to pass your jobs along to friends and colleagues. 

If you want potential candidates to take action, your Discovery efforts must be job specific.  General information about your company, culture and opportunities will not generate a response from individuals. The hook that prompts action is a specific job that is interesting and appealing to an individual.  Potential candidates become aware of a job and immediately assess whether or not the job is a good career move and will advance their career.   If the job looks promising, then the individual wants to know more about the hiring organization and they begin their Research phase.  But without a specific job to focus the research, the process never advances. 

Text-only job descriptions are yesterday’s technology and don’t interest today’s candidates.

Sparc is the leading candidate attraction tool.
Sparc is the leading candidate attraction tool.

Best-in-class Discovery tools are:

  • self-contained: candidates do not need to go to another source for basic information,
  • engaging: include video welcoming message from the potential boss,
  • sharable: social share buttons built in and
  • compelling: highlight strengths of the job. 

Understanding the three steps to candidate attraction, and the critical elements of each step, will help you assess your strengths and weaknesses, allocate your resources better and improve your results.  With a well-disciplined approach, you can build an effective and consistent process that will generate the qualified candidates you need to achieve your recruiting goals.

Maury Hanigan is CEO of Sparc, the award-winning candidate attraction tool that engages today’s most sought-after talent. Candidates meet their potential boss and co-workers through 20-second videos that are short enough to keep candidate’s attention but powerful enough to draw their interest. Sparcs can be viewed easily on mobile devices and shared quickly on social media. Engage today’s top candidates now by visiting

Recruiting? What If Your Team Is White And Male?

With the major West Coast tech companies publicly announcing their employee diversity stats, an honest conversation is starting about the dominance of white male culture in most large tech organizations. Good intentions and accountability can make a difference, but the difficult question remains about how to change.

Of course, for tech companies, there is unquestionably a supply issue and the long-term solutions require systemic changes in our educational and immigration systems. But the shortage of developers has never been a reason that Intel, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have accepted for not meeting their hiring goals.

And on almost any corporate career page, there are pictures of diverse employees. It is possible to pull out a checklist and fill in all the boxes on a diversity checklist because these pages are so contrived that there is undoubtedly one of each. And laughably, many of the same faces appear on multiple corporate sites, the result of using stock photographs. Just walk around a college career fair and see how many booths feature the same group of diverse “employees.” This gang, available on shutter, is everywhere.


What happens if the team you are hiring for is currently all male and you would like to add some diversity to it? Doesn’t showing three men send a strong message about what the organization is like and what the organization aims to be? But including a woman or person of color who has no connection to the position is disingenuous and deceptive. What should you do? As always, the answer is: it depends.

For real change, there needs to be some credibility. If your organization advertises itself as wildly diverse and a candidate arrives for an interview just to realize that nobody looks like him or her, you’re going to have a tough time convincing that individual of anything including assurances of challenging work and career progression. I’ve seen recruiters genuinely dumbfounded at the reluctance of women and minorities to accept job offers. Who would want to work for a company that misrepresented itself right from the get-go?

But talent acquisition managers face the reality that candidates want to see people like them succeeding in the organization. Imagine if you spoke no Chinese and were applying for a job with a Chinese company in China. Wouldn’t you want to know that at least one other person like you was able to succeed in that situation? For women walking into tech companies, veterans entering civilian employment or under-represented minorities applying for any job, the workplace can feel that foreign to them.

So what do you do?

If you are recruiting for a role on an all-male team, don’t include three videos of women.

One solution is to give visibility to the diversity you have, but this can be tricky. I’ve never met a black person who didn’t know that they were being included in a corporate photo shoot because they were black. Some of them resent the exploitation, some are just resigned to it, and some are excited to be a welcoming beacon to other minorities. It is important to understand that there are employees who just want to be regular employees rather than be labeled as black/gay/veteran. Hopefully, there will also be employees who want to take an active role in improving the workforce. Chances are, they are adults and it is possible to have adult conversations with them about the role they want to play.

Start with some honest conversations. These may be one-on-one or they may be in small groups. But the most important thing is to listen and be prepared to act on the suggestions.

If a woman confides that she is unwilling to actively recruit other women to the organization because the Friday afternoon beer blasts initiate unwelcome behavior, the organization needs to do something about it. There may also be suggestions about participation in events or other investments that will make a difference. And then be prepared to respect individuals’ feelings about participation in recruiting. If they don’t want to be a token, don’t ask them to be. If they want to be actively involved in recruiting, give them time and recognition for doing so.

The other side of that equation is being honest with candidates. Tech companies have taken a brave and admirable step in releasing their diversity stats. The numbers aren’t flattering, but Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have publicly acknowledged their situations. Their credibility soared by telling the world that they are prepared to be held accountable. Who knew that honesty could be so powerful?

So when clients ask us about diversity, our answer is this: be honest. If you are recruiting for a role on an all-male team, don’t include three videos of women. Be thoughtful about who you have to represent co-workers. And use the videos for the incredible capability they have – let your veterans state their service and let your dyslexics mention their dyslexia. Candidates like the authenticity of employee-generated video and often watch the videos for jobs other than the one they are applying for. When you crowdsource video clips from your employees, amazing things can happen. Stop scripting a hoax.

This article was previously published on TechCrunch, January 21, 2016.

The Evolution Of Job Postings

The most successful job ad ever written was Shackleton’s broadside advertising for the crew of the Endurance.  Printed with hand-set type on cheap paper and glued to piers and posts around the harbor, it read:

A reported 5,000 men lined up to apply.   If your knowledge of history extends to arctic explorers, you know how the expedition turned out.  But the ad was amazing on so many levels, including honesty.

So how did the recruitment advertising business go from honest, succinct, well-placed and candidate-producing gems to the pages-long, generic, unnoticed and ineffective garble that is posted on job boards and career sites today?  How did we get so bad at this?

Bizarrely, the answer is technology.  While technology usually makes communication and processes better, it has actually undermined the way we advertise our jobs.

If you start at the beginning, think 3,000 BC to 600 AD, employment worked entirely on employee referrals (and large doses of forced conscription).  If you needed a worker, someone in your village recommended a cousin or neighbor.  With the introduction of paper manufacturing in the early 1300’s, broadsides were posted in public places advertising jobs.

The adoption of movable type in 1609 gave birth to the newspaper and around 1700, the first Help Wanted ad appeared.  By the beginning of the 1900’s, they looked something like this:

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, the Help Wanted ads became the backbone of recruitment advertising.  Since they were paid for by the line, great recruiters mastered a form of haiku that rarely exceeded 100-200 characters (and you complain about Twitter because …?).

Every major newspaper, and small town gazette had pages of ads.  They still exist in newspapers today, even in the playground of the wealthy, the Hamptons.

But then the internet became the primary communication tool replacing newspapers, magazines, telephone and mail, and with it came the job board.  Monster launched in 1999, not the first digital help-wanted source, but for a decade the dominant one.  At its height, it listed over a million jobs on any given day.  During the 2000’s, the industry exploded and currently counts more than 100,000 job boards (not jobs, job boards).  A secondary industry emerged to aggregate the boards with the launch of Indeed in 2004, SmashFly in 2007 and others.

And the content changed because pricing changed.  No longer charged by the line, job ads could be as long as you wanted for one flat fee.  Going from the 2-3 sentence Help Wanted ad to the unlimited-length job posting could have been an opportunity to provide detailed and useful information about jobs; but generating original content is difficult and time consuming.  Instead, recruiters (with some prodding from the Legal Department) started posting job descriptions.

While technology usually makes communication and processes better, it has actually undermined the way we advertise our jobs.

Job descriptions were originally created as legal documents.  They are the basis against which an employee is evaluated, and potentially fired.  They were never intended to be marketing documents and work poorly in that capacity.  It is comparable to real estate agents selling a house by posting the mortgage documents.

And technology advanced faster than the recruiting industry again by making computers mobile and reducing screen size to 2.5×4 inches.  Reading job descriptions on small screens, even when they are mobile friendly, is tedious at best.  Yet the majority of jobs are posted on a job board or corporate career site,both of which were designed for a desktop computer. And in this age of functional full-employment, visits to job sites are in precipitous decline.

So we have gone from having honest posters prominently displayed where potential candidates are looking, to mind-numbing paragraphs hosted on sites designed for obsolete equipment.

If that is not discouraging enough, the entire format of information delivery has changed.  Assuming straight-line growth in Cisco’s estimate of video content on the internet, 72% of internet content will be video this year.  Candidates aren’t reading.  They want to see, and hear, and watch.  Text-only job descriptions are as obsolete as the equipment they were designed for.

Candidates expect to see current, authentic and relevant information about a potential job.  They want to know who they will work for, and who they will work with.  They want to see the work environment and get a sense of the culture.  They want a video-mobile job profile that can be shared on social media.  For companies that are using this new format, the number of shares, views and applies is many times the response they get with posted job descriptions.  The technology and content are once again aligning, for the first time in 300 years.

Anyone need employees for hazardous journey?


Maury Hanigan is CEO of Sparc, a job marketing platform that is designed for video, mobile and social recruiting.  For more information, visit: