How an open house can help solve your talent recruitment challenges

The simple act of opening your doors physically or virtually may help bypass a broken hiring system.

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Talent has become a vital issue for leaders of all stripes, whether they're trying to staff up line employees at a retail outlet or find their next transformation leader. What's incredibly odd about the talent shortage, particularly with higher-level roles, is that all the fancy technology employed to optimize the hiring process seems to fail to deliver that straightforward objective. In an informal survey of peers, friends and associates, outside entry-level positions, almost no one in that group got their current job by applying to the role through the company's recruiting system.

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The stories are surprisingly similar: convoluted web-based application processes that result in absolutely no communication, save for a "We're not interested" email that shows up days or—in one case—six months after applying. Speak with employers these days, and they nearly universally lament the lack of qualified candidates. When discussing this problem, everything from overly complex job descriptions to poorly-trained artificial intelligence filters that reject candidates before their applications ever see the eyes of a human are cited. Even worse, many candidates who make it through the robotic gauntlet aren't suitable for the role.

I've personally experienced this in my own career, with an impressive 0% success rate of applying for jobs through the "proper" channel versus using my personal network or connecting with a recruiter. Clearly, the application process is broken at most companies as it seems there's an unbridgeable gap between qualified candidates and employers desperate to fill openings.

Get people in the doors

What's intriguing about this scenario is that employers can generally determine if someone is a potential fit with a short conversation. Even with the automated tools, these conversations are still the first step in the application process after an initial screen. It can certainly be burdensome to have dozens of 30-minute conversations scattered around your calendar, but what if you could compress those activities into a single-day sprint?

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This practice has been in use for years in job fairs, but employers from Amazon to local restaurants have been experimenting with holding an open house more recently. The process is as simple as it sounds: Designate a day for an open house, promote it in outlets where you're likely to encounter qualified candidates and open your doors to those people. Setup booths or stations for various departments or roles, and you'll not only have potential candidates coming to you, but you can use the booth to perform a quick initial screen and then immediately send those who pass the screen for more in-depth interviews.

Candidates get to experience your company's people, facilities and culture in a way that they never could through a static website, and you have a pool of individuals who have demonstrated an interest in your organization and the role merely by showing up. You'll be able to meaningfully compare candidates, maximize the value of your time and even make offers on the spot, finishing the day with your talent gap addressed.

Host a virtual open house

An open house need not be solely an in-person exercise. A well-organized virtual event will provide an even larger pool of potential candidates and perhaps access to individuals you would not previously encounter. Regardless of whether your event is physical, virtual or both, keep in mind that you're presenting your company and selling your organization just as much as job candidates are presenting themselves as potential employees.

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Too many companies lament the shortage of qualified candidates on the one hand, yet fail to make their hiring experience interesting, exciting and compelling. At least 75% of your time should be dedicated to planning an open house event with the remaining 25% focused on executing the event. Like most things, thorough planning and preparation will make for successful execution.

For what may well be less investment in time and expense, an open house can accomplish more for addressing your talent shortage than the best automated systems, the fanciest AI and the most robust job descriptions. After all, what better way to find your next rockstar than to look him or her in the eye, chat about their experience and see if there's a mutual fit?

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By Patrick Gray

Patrick Gray works for a leading global professional services firm, where he helps companies rapidly invent and launch new businesses. He is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companio...