There are a number of similarities found in both e-Shopping and online recruitment. Some of the differences also warrant a closer look, since there are a number of less-than-stellar practices that have evolved in online recruitment that could be improved by taking their cues from the success of online shopping.

Online shopping has grown into a $600B+ industry globally in a relatively short timeframe. Convenience and service are two of the most common benefits cited for this evolution in e-Commerce. It’s no longer a novel way to shop – it’s a realistic option when you’re looking to buy almost anything.
For consumers, the ability to easily search and browse, select, pay and track your purchase from its origins to your doorstep – without the hassles associated with in-person shopping – provides the control and tactile experience they would otherwise have in a traditional mall or store experience. Additionally, the ability for consumers to provide relevant and impactful after-purchase feedback through social networks and other forums is a powerful way to keep e-Retailers on their toes and accountable. It’s a great structure that continues to gain traction, with anticipated double digit year-over-year growth expected for the foreseeable future.

Online Recruitment – e-Shopping’s Close Cousin?
On closer examination, a number of similarities in the online versions of shopping and recruitment become evident. We can see common activities and thought patterns throughout each process: Online shoppers are initially engaged and are given a sales pitch that communicates the merits of the product in the Shop/Sell stage. The parallel in recruiting is when job seekers engage with a potential employer in the “Search/Learn” stage, beginning with educating themselves about the company and opportunity.
Next comes the purchasing decision by a consumer who has found the product they want. We can call this the “Buy” stage. In recruitment, if an organization has done a good job with their employer brand and has provided compelling details about the role by “selling” the opportunity, they are rewarded by candidates “buying” – submitting their resume and/or application when they “Apply“.

This is the fork in the road, where we start to travel different paths. The process for an on-line retail customer who has engaged with a successful e-Retailer can be enjoyable and leaves few stones unturned: Personalized and customized welcome and confirmation messages; access to live service personnel to answer questions; accurate delivery tracking; mechanisms to provide and receive feedback; special offers; etc. A key contributor to the growth in online shopping has been the industry’s ability to create “high-touch”, arms-length post-purchase features that coddle the customer and reinforce their choice. Other practices enable the cultivation of ongoing relationships between seller and buyer, assuming the vendor has lived up to their promises and their purchase arrives intact, as described, and within a reasonable timeframe.

Compare this with the “low- to no-touch” experience of many applicants, after they have subscribed to the prospective employer’s well-crafted messages, visuals and other features that are involved in presentation of their brand, value propositions and job opportunities:
A conventional, volume-oriented method of responding to candidates consists of an automated standard message that disingenuously thanks them for their interest. An additional dash of indifference cautions them that ONLY those candidates of interest MIGHT be contacted. In other words, “the heck with the rest of you – if you aren’t suitable, you probably won’t be contacted.” And finally, comes the ‘resume black hole’ – the place where jobseeker profiles are sent after they hit ‘send’ and their résumés are never seen again, with candidates never knowing whether their submissions have been reviewed.
The common practice described above is an often cited source of jobseeker dissatisfaction that regrettably, has become the status quo. When candidates apply to jobs online, these have become common expectations. This approach – after the candidate has “bought” – can be described in its worst form as dismissive, discourteous and dissociative.

There are exceptions – the above describes the procedures that are vying for the “least thoughtful” award, and it wouldn’t be fair to paint the entire marketplace with the same brush. Some organizations recognize the potential benefits of being considerate to candidates, or they at least recognize the risks associated with failing to do so.
To their credit, these organizations invest resources in replying to candidates when they are excluded from consideration; some will provide an automated acknowledgement to candidates when their resume has been viewed, a feature similar to that which is available on LinkedIn. These examples of improved candidate experiences are unfortunately, the exception, with the lion’s share of the marketplace being slow to adopt such practices.