Job Seekers Prefer Human Touch

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer August 26, 2016

Most U.S. job seekers still prefer personal, live interactions with potential employers when searching for work rather than a totally automated experience, according to the results of a recent survey.

Over three-fourths (77 percent) of 1,000 respondents who have searched for a job in the past five years or who intend to do so soon said they prefer human interaction when job hunting, according to a survey from the American Staffing Association (ASA).

The survey also found that the top way candidates actually land a job is via the "high touch" method of word-of-mouth (43 percent), followed by job board websites, employer careers sites and internal contacts at the prospective employer (all at 30 percent). Four in 10 respondents reported using an employment agency or staffing firm during the job search.

"A combination of technology and personal contacts is the winning strategy while on the job hunt," said Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the ASA. "Even with all of the recent advances in Web-based job sourcing, some things never change. Your network of friends, former colleagues and family members still might be the key to your finding your ideal job."

Human interaction is a critical component of the job search, said Jim Caporrimo, regional vice president for Adecco Staffing USA, based in the New York City area, "largely because it helps build trust between the candidate and the recruiter," he said. To successfully complete the job-search process, candidates "must trust that their recruiter understands their needs and genuinely cares about their personal career journey."

Nicole Belyna, SHRM-SCP, a strategic recruitment business partner at Thompson Creek Window Co., based in Lanham, Md., said her company has moved away from using paid job boards and is switching out its applicant tracking system and updating its careers site to better engage with candidates. "It's our job to proactively do the work, not the job seeker," she said. 

"To successfully place a candidate, a recruiter must look outside of their candidate's resume to better understand [his or her] interpersonal skills and personality," Caporrimo said. He suggested recruiters meet with every candidate face-to-face, to determine a candidate's soft skills such as confidence, compassion, leadership and communication.

"If I am interested in a candidate, I'll call them," Belyna said, "even if it's just a quick message to say that we're interested and to look out for my e-mail." She added that prospective candidates get immediate responses from the company on social media, and hiring managers encourage candidates to contact them directly with any questions that may go beyond HR. 

Outside of in-person meetings, personal gestures help demonstrate a recruiter's investment in the candidate's career path.

"One thing that helps drive personal interactions is sending handwritten thank-you notes after meeting with candidates, which can continue up until the candidate has been placed," Caporrimo said.

And always close the loop with applicants who've gotten to the phone-screen stage, Belyna said. "It may be a personalized e-mail or a phone call. Sometimes, the conversations can be hard, but in general, candidates are grateful for the follow-up. I provide some feedback and encourage them to stay in touch."

Additional opportunities to personally interact with prospective candidates include traditional career fairs and hiring events, job seeker meetups, and hosted happy hours.

Belyna is the president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, which organizes a monthly event for job seekers that's held at a local recruiting firm. Lunch is provided, and job seekers can have their resumes reviewed and network with the hosting firm's recruiters.

She said she especially enjoys hosting "industry nights or happy hours," because job seekers tend to feel more comfortable at those types of events. "Members of our team attend so they can meet candidates, answer their questions and be the real faces of the company," she said. "It's up to the team to collectively engage the candidates and get moving forward in the process. Even attendees who may not be interested should walk away with a positive experience and potentially provide us with a referral."

Concerns About Job Search Technology

While more respondents said word-of-mouth interactions have gotten them the jobs they sought, 47 percent view the Internet as the most helpful resource when looking for work, according to the ASA poll. Using personal interactive job search methods such as internal contacts, staffing firms, recruiters and job fairs were viewed as the most helpful resources by 39 percent of recent job seekers.

Respondents said the huge number of job listings and the visibility their resumes attract on job boards are the best benefits of using the Internet to job search. But 61 percent feel uneasy about providing their personal employment information online, and 55 percent say job boards and careers sites are too impersonal.

"Job candidates love the exposure and research provided by job boards but hate the black hole [of never hearing back from anyone]," said Craig Fisher, head of employer brand at software firm CA Technologies and CEO of TalentNet, a social business strategy firm based in Dallas. He added that recruiters often prefer the automated processes of job boards and applicant tracking systems to personally contacting every applicant. 

"But the bottom line is that even though machine learning and chat bots threaten to overtake many of our screening and response processes, nothing beats the personal connection," Fisher said. "As HR technology vendors try to solve recruiting problems with technology to address the massive numbers of job applications many employers receive each year, let's remember that most people don't feel they have a better experience talking to a machine than they do talking to a person. Just because a process is more automated does not make it better."



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Member Benefit: Ask-An-Advisor Service

SHRM's HR Knowledge Advisors offer guidance and resources to assist members with their HR inquiries.

SHRM's HR Knowledge Advisors offer guidance and resources to assist members with their HR inquiries.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.