A big employer is finally addressing a major pain point for job applicants

Knowing where they stand.
Knowing where they stand.
Image: AP Photo/Mel Evans
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In the so-called war for talent, US corporations try to lure candidates with cushy new benefits, dazzling work spaces (tree houses, anyone?), and promises of better work-life balance.

Johnson & Johnson, the medical supply giant, is trying something that may hold even greater appeal for anyone who’s ever sent a resume into the proverbial black hole before: It’s giving job applicants the ability to follow their progress through the recruitment process and providing them feedback about where they stand.

The system should address a common complaint from candidates about the opacity of the hiring process, said Sjoerd Gehring, J&J’s vice president for talent acquisition.

“We’re focused on bring the consumer experience into the hiring experience, because that’s what candidates expect,” Gehring said. “We can track a pizza we order from Domino’s—why can’t we give candidates the same ability to track where they are in the hiring process?”

To build the new platform, Gehring said he deliberately avoided hiring recruitment professionals, and instead added half a dozen consumer marketers and website designers, to help make the system as user-friendly as possible.

Companies are increasingly aware that how they treat candidates during the hiring process can reflect on how they’re viewed by other prospective hires, particularly with the advent of review sites like Glassdoor. When employers fail to notify candidates they didn’t get the job, it breeds resentment—and negative opinions about the company can spread.

Given that J&J receives 1 million applications a year for 25,000 openings, there has been a lot of opportunity for candidates to slip through the cracks. If all goes as planned, the new system will reduce the chances that anyone gets lost in the shuffle, while showing off J&J ‘s technology as the company recruits against (and from) tech titans like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. “This would give us a distinct competitive advantage,” Gehring said.

J&J is already using Google’s smart search technology to power its existing job board, in an effort to improve the matches between job seekers and openings. The company has also hired psychologists to aid it in designing personality and skills tests to help it identify the ideal candidates for each role.

The company is making the investment in hiring because the stakes are high, Gehring said. “This is the No. 1 priority for a business thinking about their organization in the long term,” he said. “If we don’t have the right people at J&J, we won’t have a bright future.”