Curating a compelling employee experience has been an obsession of mine since selling my business in 2022. Since then, I’ve identified Why Your Company Needs a Comprehensive Employee and Customer Experience Plan and created a roadmap for Auditing the employee journey. I’ve also helped entrepreneurs and business leaders Learn how to increase company revenue, profit and valuation by fostering a Culture of Caring through workshops. However, my primary insight occurred in 2023, as I looked for a senior marketing role for seven months, without success. I learned that a vast majority of employers are failing employees before they are ever hired, and this article highlights lessons based on my job search experience.
Job Search Statistics
From June through December 2023, I submitted seventy-two job applications for senior marketing roles through LinkedIn. Based on recruiting industry statistics, I should have secured ~18 interviews and one job offer. My efforts failed to meet the averages. Here are three industry statistics for reference:
- According to Quora, on average, a person can expect to receive a response to about 20% of the job applications they submit.
- ZipJob considers 10% to 20% to be average, and 20% to 30% to be a good application-to-interview ratio.
- According to LinkedIn, it takes 21 to 80 job applications to get one job offer, on average.
By comparison, my numbers, despite three decades of experience, were far worse than average:
- LinkedIn Applications: 72 (2.5 applications per week over a 7-month period)
- Automated Confirmations (emails or equivalent notifications): 29 (40%)
- Automated Rejections: 13 (18%)
- Human Communications (personalized rejection email): 1 (1.4%)
- Interviews Secured: zero
- Job Offers: zero
Employee Lesson: Optimize Your Resume
As you can see, I did not perform well. While I believe I can attribute much of my lackluster success to my age (over 50), I am no slouch when it comes to credentials and general recruiting best practices, having run my own agency for 22 years. In fact, I have run a career community and networking group, pdxMindShare, since 1999, where we have hosted interview, resume and cover letter workshops. I was even inspired to research blog posts on the topic:
- Navigating the Job Market in 2024: Best Practices for Success
- How to craft a resume that performs well with HR software filters
I will admit that my LinkedIn-generated resume, which I used until early December 2023, was far too long and did not follow best practices, it was a formality that should not have prevented me from generating attention or interest based on my qualifications. To properly optimize my resume for ATS resume filters, I utilized the free versions of Wellfound and JobScan but it may have been too little, too late. I also would have benefitted by creating customized resumes for each role/job type, as well as unique cover letters, which I failed to do consistently.
Employer Lesson: Automate, yet Personalize
As an entrepreneur with past hiring responsibilities and a new-found passion for employee experience, I was appalled by the lack of automation and personalization of communications during my job search. I would have expected to receive an automated confirmation of receipt of my application from 80% of companies, yet only heard from half that number. Similarly, I would have also hoped to receive some sort of message that I was not selected or an equivalent update about the job status from at least half of employers, vs. only 18%.
Automated messages can be created and triggered by the hiring manager or HR team, especially on LinkedIn and supporting ATS platforms, yet less than 20% elected to set up at least one message. These brands indicate a lack of interest in setting the stage early for future employees, as a company that cares. At my agency, we manually sent status updates regarding job openings, particularly when we selected a hire and closed the listing. Depending on the company size, number of applicants and timeline, I would highly recommend companies that have core values around employee engagement should send personalized notes to rejected applicants, not just the new hire.
There is another element to consider in the hiring process: pre-qualification. While employers are increasingly transparent about hiring policies and procedures, many companies may be turning off otherwise qualified applicants with additional requirements. For example, I was required to take an IQ-style test to evaluate my fitness and I failed. Nothing communicates a company values potential employees more than a notification that I failed my assessment.
Even though the test was allegedly helpful in determining my qualification for a specific role (which I have done my entire career with remarkable success) it made me feel like a grade-A idiot. More frustratingly, I know too many peers that would have performed similarly on the assessment and would have also been ruled out. Be careful what you ask of candidates, as it may create false positives (and negatives). Rather than utilize a standardized test, I recommend asking past and present employees in the role to craft an assessment that truly sheds light on strengths, personality traits, knowledge and experience required to succeed in the role. I hope it does not involve story problems.
Although my job search was unsuccessful in 2023, 2024 is already starting strong. I have built out a small but sustainable fractional chief marketing officer advisory business while I continue to look for a part-time role as a thought leader. I even secured my first interview since leaving my old role. During the job search, I learned much about myself and validated that far too many employers are missing a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate a culture of caring during the recruiting process. Companies that want to attract the best possible talent will implement a combination of automated and personalized communications with applicants at all levels of the organization. I hope your job search and recruiting efforts are more successful based on insights from my experience.