The Realistic Job Preview

The eBook for the North American 2013 Candidate Experience Report was released this week by The Talent Board. If you work in HR or Recruiting I encourage you to read it; you can register to receive the eBook here. The report covers a wide range of topics from candidate attraction to the application process to screen and selection and nearly 50,000 candidates who applied to close to 100 companies shared their insights.
One of the areas I found quite interesting was the information gathered around Type of Interview Events.  Per the report, “A small number (5.3 percent) of candidates participated in a realistic job preview (RJP) via a ride along, job shadow or actual workplace experience. Traditionally, the RJP serves two functions – educate the candidate on a range of workplace conditions and demands of the performance environment and inviting candidates to self-select out. RJP research shows candidates that are given a fair and balanced understanding of the job are more likely to increase their commitment and work through rough spots they encounter.”
I was somewhat surprised that the percentage of candidates participating in an in-person RJP was so small.  Granted, this probably has a lot to do with the type of position; it’s highly unlikely that a company will take Joe the Coder Candidate through a RJP and tell him “Hey Joe; we want you to sit with Steve for 4 hours and watch as he knocks out some Python coding!” Paint = drying, am I right?
Why an RJP?
The first step in the interview process, of course, is making sure the right candidates are applying; being ‘realistic’ in recruiting, targeting and acquisition strategies helps at this point.  Accurate, complete and meaningful job descriptions, postings, and messaging means you should be able to successfully limit the number of candidates – resulting in applications from only those who are truly a fit for both the job and the organization.
Being realistic means resisting the urge to market malarkey; not every moment in the job you’re trying to fill or in your organization is filled with sunshine, champagne and jubilant employees. Throughout the recruiting process you need to share a balanced view of what day-to-day life is really like including being brutally honest about the job’s inherent joys and satisfactions as well as the challenges and frustrations.
There is great value for both the employer and the candidate when the candidate truly understands the realities of the job, the work environment, and the dynamics of the team/co-workers. There are one of two outcomes – either the employee makes the decision to remove themselves from consideration (good thing!) or they have a keen sense of what the job and work environment will truly be like and agree to move forward (also a good thing!). I’ve worked with hiring managers to successfully provide RJPs during the hiring process for route sales positions, health care professionals, HR staff, manufacturing jobs and high-volume phone/customer service positions. It makes a difference.
And remember Joe the Coder?  He also wants to learn all he can about the job; from the expectations to the time demands to the type of equipment and technology he’ll have available.  The RJP applies to all positions.
Technology as Friend
It’s important to provide the opportunity for candidates to ‘see’ where they will be working; I’ve always made sure that final candidates check out the physical space (office or cubicle), get a tour of the facility in which they will toil, and observe other employees in action.
Some organizations are successfully using video to share some of this information with job seekers; as an example check out the series of Home Depot’s Behind the Apron videos on their career site. Sure, the videos are snazzily produced and full of corporate-speak but notice that amongst all the talk about passion and pride it’s also mentioned that the job in customer service is “hard work” and “challenging.”
While this may make sense in a high-volume hiring environment, I don’t think a video can replace a deep and heartfelt conversation between hiring manager and candidate nor can it replace time spent on-site by the candidate.  But it’s better than nothing.
Technology as Foe
If an employer opts to hide their head in the sand and not share the ‘real deal’ they can be assured their current and former employees are doing it for them; online reviews at sites like Glassdoor can attest to that.
But technology is not really a foe.  In this case technology is a bit like Jiminy Cricket – serving as a conscience and reminding employers of the importance of telling the truth.
Wishing upon a star is not good enough.
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