You know that game, White Elephant, that some people play around the holidays? Basically, everyone wraps up something inexpensive (or free – if it’s lying around your house), each person is assigned a number, and the person with the number one gets to pick the first gift. Those beautifully wrapped presents have so much promise! But when you open one, it’s just someone else’s junk: a pair of socks they never wore, a useless kitchen gadget, or old knick-knacks. Although this game can be quite amusing, you don’t want your hiring process to feel like a game of white elephant.
Think about the last time you reviewed a resume that was clearly wordsmithed to sound awesome, but in reality, the person’s work history was anything but. Pretty annoying, right? Applicants feel the same way when they aren’t given a complete picture of the job – that is, when undesirable aspects of the job are kept hidden until the last few steps of the hiring process, or worse, a few weeks into their new job.
A well-designed hiring system is a two-way street: the organization evaluates applicants according to job-relevant criteria through an application, assessment, interview, background check, etc. At the same time, applicants evaluate the organization and the job of interest according to their own preferences and career goals.
How Do Applicants Evaluate The Job?
Applicants have a lot of outside sources available at the click of a mouse (or the touch of a phone!) to make their evaluations – news stories, reviews on Glassdoor, social media posts, and insight from friends, relatives, or friends of friends who are current or previous employees. These sources offer the organization little control over what information applicants receive during the hiring process. On the other hand, some applicants may be less diligent, thus lacking a complete picture of who the organization is and what the job fully entails.
In these situations, one way that organizations can take control is to include a Realistic Job Preview (RJP) as part of the hiring process. A RJP simply refers to sharing an honest picture of the job with an applicant – it’s about selling the benefits of the organization, sharing the positives about the position, AND discussing the challenges or difficulties one might face on the job. This balance is important. If you share only the good, you risk shocking new hires the first few weeks on the job, which may breed feelings of distrust, skepticism, and betrayal. On the other hand, if you share only the bad, you might alienate and scare away applicants unnecessarily.
How Do I Incorporate RJPs in the Hiring Process?
Early and often! Ideally, RJP information is incorporated at multiple points in the hiring process, that way applicants are reminded often of how awesome you are, but also keenly aware that not everything is sunshine and rainbows.
Start with the careers section of your organization’s website – does it clearly communicate the organization’s greater purpose, values, and the way it cares for employees?
Next, review the job description. This should honestly and accurately outline the key responsibilities, job duties, and requirements. If it’s not clear what the day to day is like, you may need to add more detail. Don’t add too much sugar coating or spin – if you do, you risk misinforming applicants and wasting everyone’s time.
Finally, work with supervisors of the job and current employees to develop a few bullet points that can be shared during the interview. What is the best part about this job? What is the biggest dissatisfier? Giving hiring managers a few standard points to share ensures that all applicants receive the same message.
Next Level Realistic Job Previews
To really amp up your RJP game, bring the job to life through a video. RJP videos require more effort and investment but reap big rewards. They can be advertised in advance of opening the position, linked to in the job description, and included as a step in your online application. In other words, before applicants even apply or agree to an on-site interview, you’re giving them a chance to make an informed decision about their fit for the job.
Key components of RJP videos include: showing individuals performing the job, highlighting the work environment, and incorporating testimonials from current employees and supervisors about the good and the bad. If it’s a dirty job, don’t hide it! If the benefits are top-notch, tell them! If the schedule is gruesome, talk about the impact this could have - missing out on weddings, birthday parties, and your kids’ recitals or baseball games. Help candidates connect the dots between the “asks” of the job and what those mean on a personal level.
In a world where you can receive hundreds of applications a day, the goal is to attract the right applicants – those who not only meet the requirements and qualifications but who are up to the challenge. When you think about it that way, RJPs should be a non-negotiable part of your recruitment strategy and hiring process. They help empower candidates and narrow the applicant pool so recruiters and hiring managers can spend time with those candidates who are all in.