There is no ‘black hole’ in community…

Community. It’s the word in everyones lips right now. Which is always a worry. We descend into ‘fads’ so easily these days it seems and it would be a shame for community to end up being tarnished with the fad brush. I have long been a big fan of community – I believe it has the potential to transform  organisations and shape business models, deliver exponential results through enabling transparency and authenticity. But that’s a long way off yet and a blog for another day perhaps.

Closer to home, community is currently getting top billing in the area of Resourcing. Putting the debate around “Talent communities” aside for a blog or two, the principle of embedding community within an organisation to interact with employees, customers and in this case potential candidates is a good one I think.

However, a word of caution. As powerful and compelling as it might seem, I fear that many of the organisations currently being seduced by the lure of community see it as some sort of silver bullet, and may not clear about, or adequately prepared for, what they might be getting into.

You see, a good number of these companies are currently wading neck deep in candidates, attempting to manage these through a myriad of technology solutions including the ubiquitous ATS.  Consequently, they have earned the nickname of the “black hole” – everything goes in and nothing comes out. Hence ‘no feedback’ has a permanent home in the top 5 list of candidate gripes.

And no matter how much you invest in your shiny new career or talent community (Yuk), there is one thing that your prospective candidates will still expect from you, and its the same thing they expected from you when they tossed their CV into the gaping mouth of your ATS.

A response.

Yes folks. And don’t get any ideas that you can replace the generic “if you haven’t heard from us within 14 days then you didn’t cut it” email with a “if you haven’t heard from us within 14 days then you didn’t cut it” message from the community manager. Oh no. It won’t wash.

The fact is that by engaging in this way you are effectively making the first step to becoming a more social organisation as a whole and as such, there are much wider implications for your overall business strategy, not just your resourcing strategy.  Accordingly, you will have to think in much wider terms about internal involvement and engagement in this initiative, way beyond the reach and accountability of the resourcing team.

If you are currently looking at such an initiative, I would urge you to involve your marketing and wider HR colleagues as a minimum.  Community demands engagement, conversation and above all, a response.  But this doesn’t have to be a negative thing.  12 years ago most organisations took the same attitude towards their customers online.  Now, the smart companies are embracing their customers and using them to create innovation within their businesses.  It won’t be long before the smart companies take this approach to candidates and employees too. Are you one of those smart companies?!

If SpiderMan were a budding Community Manager, his uncle Ben would have told him. “Peter. With great community comes great responsibility.”  If Ridley Scott had made a movie about Alien Communities in space, his strap line would have been: “In Community, EVERYONE can hear you scream”


  1. Too bloody right, Gareth!! I feel I have ranted about this particular topic so many times, so I love it when somebody else has a go too – maybe the message will get through to people! The candidate has spent all the time applying for the role, it doesn’t take much to extend the courtesy to at least let them know the outcome of the application! Companies who don’t have an ATS (we don’t even mention that ours does regret notifications as we assume people will always want this!!) don’t really have to exactly put too much effort in surely – I’m sure there’s a way that a simple system can be set up to send out just a few lines to unsuccessful candidates to let them know that much.

    Sorry, rant over! Great post 🙂


    1. Hi Emily – yes, the basics often get missed and it amazes me that when candidates would feel a whole lot better with even a simple communication we consistently fail to deliver it. I know an automated email isnt ideal, but it is better than nothing and if worded appropriately can do wonders. But so many miss this. The mind boggles…! Thanks for the comments!


  2. Gareth, another great topic, and Emily I agree!

    So I think there were a few comments on the last blog about how easy it is to apply for jobs and therefore recruiters and HR teams are overloaded with applicants, which I will touch on at the end.

    As far as I see it engagement is key and can actually help filter the time wasters and the serious candidates who are applying for roles and certainly those that do go through the ATS are engaging with the company, do they not deserve the same response?

    I had an interesting debate yesterday between two friends about someone who had applied for a role, HR had put them through to a line manager (after screening) but the person in question was rejected meerley on the fact that the “skills” on the CV were not what he was looking for. The argument I put across is that in actually engaging with this candidate even for 2 minutes on the phone there would be a much clearer view about there personality, passion and motivation to do the job and despite not having all of the attributes they could possbily be the right “fit”? The candidate would feel like someone actually cared about their application and irrespective of getting the job or not they go away with some usefull feedback. At this point we were told to stop talking about work.

    I would be interested in what others think on this as Im not the one sat having to recruit on a regular basis, however if the technology is out there to allow recruiters to engage more effectively, why isnt it being utilised enough?


    1. Mike – the point about bothering to take 2 minutes to pick up the phone to an unsuitable `looking` CV, is an idealistic one in a world where flowers are everywhere, the air is clear and the good of `help`, is great than the `good` of income and business, and time management, and priority decision making.

      It just can’t be done. In essence, the application process is a competitive process, with one winner, a clutch of near-misses, and many also-rans. The job of the assessing party, i.e. the recruiter – is to make time-managed decisions about who should move from stage to stage.

      This can be overcome by great CV content and positioning. I spend a lot of time with potential candidates with great CVs – who took the care to approach me and say – I WANT a good job in your industry – and I want your guidance. They get the 2 minutes phone call, and if the is a genuine chance I can help, then the subsequent meeting to discuss their CV, and how it can get them an interview.

      Applying and recruiting is a two way process.


    2. Hi Mike – i totally agree on the fit piece and in terms of your mention of technology below, there is indeed technology that can make this happen. The issue as Steve identifies is that the volume is too large. What we need, and what is actually possible, is to put the assessment and matching technology at the front end of the application, not the back. In the example you give, the candidate could easily have been taken through an assessment and matching process to assess fit. the problem is that whilst we want this, many companies are nervous that this ‘filter’ will put good candidates off applying. It might do, but then again, we have to do something about the fire hose and the number of candidates who are just click click clicking as Steve points out.

      For me this is a bigger issue as mentioned in one of my previous blogs about overall strategy. the job boards emerged when the tech was in its infancy and created a recruitment landscape based around response. They simply replicated the offline print model. What we should be doing is more proactive sourcing and relying less on the job boards.


  3. This is all good stuff Gareth.
    2 points.

    1. If you are a corporate organisation asking for direct applications, with a recruitment team & HR department – this form of written communication should be absolutely essential. No excuses. You have the resources – and yes, it has a brand impact of sorts. Even the most flippant of applications, should be dealt with.

    2. If you are a recruitment agency – then this cannot happen, without incredible resources. Recruitment agencies don’t create the black hole of 100s of applications a day – job boards do. I have unashamedly given infinitely more attention to an application from my website, or through referral, or visibility – as they took the effort to write independently. Job board applications are too simple – spray and pray – and the loser is the recruitment agency who have to read the same applicant applying for 27 different roles from £15k to £85k.

    To recruiters – applicants who genuinely care about each individual applications, make GOOD applications – and merit encouragement and response. Those who click buttons incessantly to apply for numerous roles without bothering to read the advert, or the criteria required, and with an irrelevant standard covering letter – do less so.

    The culprit is job boards systems in some ways – but the ultimate culprit is the frivolous serial job applier.


    1. Steve,

      Good to get your view, like I have said I am not not sat recruiting every day so dont have the day to day frustrations you have or others within the industry. I was probably commenting more on a Corporate in house recruiter as opposed to a recruitment agency, although understandably the reputation and candidate experience is relevant to both.

      I am just interested to see if there are things that in house recruiters or recruitment conultancies would really like to see in terms of technology to assist with certain processes?


    2. Hi Steve – i agree although my post was aimed at companies who are thinking of putting the community tech into their career sites etc. Im not thinking about the agency side trying to do this. If the company is encouraging a dialogue, it has to follow through and deliver on that! I think a lot of companies are hearing the words ‘talent communities’ and community in general and thinking “what a jolly good idea!” without any thought given to the implications. Its bad enough now when a candidate disappears into the ATS, it could get a whole lot worse if they end up swimming around in a very poorly managed ‘career community’


  4. As someone who has been through two instances of looking for jobs by the time I am 25, I am very familiar with not hearing back at all! I have even had cases where I hear back from jobs I applied for about 2 months after I applied (and thought I didn’t get anything because I heard nothing) assuming I can be there the next day!

    Communication is the key, and I wish businesses would learn that, even if it’s only people applying for jobs, and not actual employees.


    1. Hi Helen. Thanks for the comment and I feel your pain. I hear so often business leaders say “we want to treat our candidates like customers”! All I can say is they have a long way to go to achieve that! Certainly if they treated their customers like they do their candidates they wouldn’t sell anything! Often they are one and the same anyway! We have a long way to go for sure! Thanks for stopping by 🙂


      1. No problem! It would be nice to be treated like a member of the team even if I’m only applying for a job! Is there any chance we could continue this conversation offline? I’d love to talk to you more about some of your content?


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