Candidate experience is not a passing craze

Last week, PSI Talent Measurement sponsored the annual recruitment conference hosted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) in London.

In attendance were hundreds of graduate recruiters and HR professionals from across a wide range of industries. In the exhibition area were a myriad of talent management suppliers showcasing their latest products and services (PSI Talent Measurement included). It was a fantastic place to network and learn about some of the great current innovations in our field.

The keynote speeches also revealed some interesting figures around the state of the graduate market. For example, £72 million was invested into UK graduate recruitment in 2017. The average time to hire has reduced from 11 weeks (2016) to 8 weeks (2017). This suggests much of that investment may have gone into processing candidates more efficiently. One mechanism by which organizations are achieving more efficiency is video interviewing; this technique now covers more than 50% of the graduate recruitment market in the UK.

Apprenticeships grew year-on-year by 13%, despite the number of young people in the UK reducing (due to low birth rates in the early 90s). This certainly has no bearing on university Careers department activities; just over 90% of them still organize careers fairs, and have seen an approximate 20% increase (year-on-year) in targeted student engagement activity (highly linked to the social mobility agenda).

During a Q&A at the end of the first keynote, Stephen Isherwood (Chief Executive of ISE) was asked “If you could tell us your New Years’ resolution for graduate recruitment, what would it be?”  The answer seemed to predict the tone for many of the following presentations throughout the day.  “I’d want to focus more on the candidate experience” was the response.

This topic dominated many of the supplier presentations in one of the breakout rooms. It also clearly resonated with the delegates at PSI’s speaking slot at the end of the day. Alongside Philippa Riley (PSI’s International R&D Director), I asked the crowd (via interactive poll) to tell us their most significant considerations when deciding on the assessment tools they wanted to use in a campaign. The top response, from 86 votes, was around ensuring a “positive candidate experience” (29%), closely followed by “identifying the right talent” (23%). Third came “fairness and diversity” (22%), above “cost” (14%), “branding” (4%) and “time to hire” (4%).

This did not surprise me at all. Recruiters are more aware than ever of the tangible commercial impact from the candidate experience (see Virgin Media’s 2014 case study, one of the most insightful examples), and they want to get it right. Throughout the day, many suppliers were showcasing their video interviewing products, virtual reality environments/headsets and Games Based Assessment tools which address the precise issue of candidate experience, meanwhile expertly justifying their impact through practical examples.

The takeaway for me though, which I emphasized during PSI’s talk, was that the emphasis on candidate experience must coincide with identifying the right talent. Our delegates demonstrated this by barely voting for “uniqueness” (1%) as something they want in their recruitment process; this suggests to me that the candidate experience is not viewed as a passing craze by any industry.

This is something of which we remind ourselves frequently at PSI. While we are experimenting with new methods of assessment (such as escape rooms and micro-simulations), we are very conscious of the need to validate our methods to prove they are not just a gimmick, but they genuinely predict performance as well.

Author: Jordon Jones

In praise of evidence based practice – thoughts from the BPS DOP Conference

As an Occupational Psychologist, there are few better ways to kick off the year from a work perspective than the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference, which was this year held in Stratford Upon Avon. A great event to connect with colleagues in the ‘occ psych’ world, find out about interesting practitioner projects, and relevant research from Universities and the next generation of students entering our field.

The keynote talks were particularly thought-provoking. As a psychologist, it was (geekily!) exciting to see in person the legend that is Edwin Locke, who has done seminal work on goal setting theory (which I first remember first hearing about on MSc in Sheffield nearly 20 years ago!). Some great insight and challenge from him, such as that the often-made distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is arbitrary ie even if we are motivated by external factors (eg money), they reflect internal motivations.

Also great to hear from was Prof John Antonakis from the University of Lausanne, who is leading a campaign to improve the conduct of management/psychological science – supporting evidence based practice – in part through his role as a journal editor. He talked through some of the ‘diseases’ of scientific research, such as ‘significosis’ (seeking significant results) and ‘neophilia’ (seeking novelty). A particular bugbear was around novel ideas that enter public consciousness through the use of “narratives based on strong metaphor”, and gave the example of the ‘Queen Bee’ syndrome: the idea that women who achieve success and then keep other women down – which is not supported by evidence.

As a practitioner in the assessment space, I particularly enjoyed hearing from others working in this area. The Civil Service presented a symposium on a number of initiatives they have been working on. Phil Wilson and James McShea talked about the work the Fast Stream have done to increase the diversity of applicants, to fulfil the agenda of a more representative Civil Service. Sonia Pawson talked about the move to collaborative hiring; using team members to help recruit senior staff.  What was particularly notable, and commendable was the focus on evidence and research to support initiatives and ensure value for money (very much aligned with the theme of evidence based practice also touched on by John Antonakis’ talk). This point was emphasised by the winner of the Practitioner of the Year award, Antonia Dietmann (Head of Employee Engagement at HM Courts and Tribunals Service) who, in her acceptance speech, referred to the budget and resource challenges faced by the Civil Service, alongside the ambitious objectives they have to work to.

The PSI Talent Measurement team had a strong presence at the conference too, with very well received sessions on online assessment and candidate experience, audio and video SJT formats, and a workshop on behavioural assessment in a digital age.

Lots of new ideas and future research avenues for the team, setting us up nicely for 2018 😊

Author: Philippa Riley