Expert Interview: Caitlin MacGregor, CEO of Plum, Discussing Online Recruiting

How has online recruiting evolved since you got into the business?

Since coming into the business, online recruiting has evolved from being an online job search platform where job seekers can search and apply for jobs to a competitive marketing tool. We have seen an evolution of the business having the upper hand at choosing candidates, to a world where candidates are now being sold on the idea of working at a certain location. With the increase of online recruiting and the tools available, job seekers have more access than ever to available jobs and can become very targeted with their search and selection, or they can utilize their ability to apply for a larger number of jobs at once.

What this means from an online recruitment standpoint is that employers are now having to use marketing tactics to promote their corporate brand and have their jobs standout from the competition. You are seeing a turn in recruitment practices where employers are having to not only promote their job openings but also the perks of working for that company. We are having to apply tactics to sell the job seekers on the jobs. Being able to provide job seekers a benefit for applying to your job, such as providing them with an assessment that outlines their strengths and talents, helps your job and brand stand out, and also gives job seekers something to use as a competitive advantage. In addition to this, we are seeing an increase in the number of freelance and offsite jobs that are being hired for through online recruitment.

By removing geographic barriers, employers can now open up their off-site jobs to everyone. What this means is that we are also increasing the chances of hiring someone that is not a fit and not realizing it until months down the road. Employers lose the ability to monitor new hires closely to ensure they are working out. Being able to understand immediately with confidence who will be a match based on components outside of skill, will alleviate the employer’s risk.

How are online recruiting sites changing the hiring process?

Online recruiting started as a supplement offer to HR departments to utilize and they have now become a necessary part of the hiring process. Resumes have moved away from being a piece of paper to a digital submission. Job seekers are searching for jobs online using multiple platforms. They have an ability now to apply to a vast amount of job positions with one simple click. Before employers used the job description as a way of filtering out candidates. Now employers are having to use Employer Branding to attract the best, so the job description needs to attract as many people as possible, rather than filter people out. That means that there are EVEN MORE applicants than ever. Which means we need to absolutely use something else to filter. We are beginning to enter a situation where we need to decipher quality over quantity with minimal time.

Employers are having to ensure they have the proper tools to sort through the large applicant pool and hiring the right match. It is becoming more important now than ever in the hiring process for employers to be able to quickly assess job seekers, find possible matches and meet with them in the shortest amount of time. Wasting time sorting through candidates can mean losing your top candidate. Being able to identify your perfect match immediately allows you to hire them before someone else does or continue to nurture them so they don’t go somewhere else.

What do you think are the biggest headaches employers have with online recruiting?

The biggest headaches that employers have today with online recruiting is experienced in two folds. One is the vast competition that online recruiting has created when trying to ensure that your job post stands out from the rest, and the other is the volume of applicants employers are receiving per open job role. Where in the past employers had to just post a job, they are now having to post a job, pay to boost that post, pay for ad space, update their ads to ensure they are at the top of the search list and understand the psyche of the job seeker to make sure their posts come up in their searches, and filter through such a large number of applicants in such a short time. Employers are having to consider and correctly implement strategies in the online recruitment world that is costing them time and money. The employer risk has ultimately increased. We are now in a situation where we need to determine how to mitigate the employer’s risk by finding the perfect match within a large pool of candidates and in a recruitment environment that is full of noise.

Another headache that employers have with online recruiting is that we are experiencing a higher turnover rate in the industry. With things such as targeted ads etc. the competition can easily reach out to your employees when they have an opening available. In addition to that, things such as LinkedIn are making it easy for your employees to promote themselves and be discovered by recruiters quickly. It is up to the employer to ensure that they are properly challenging their employees and placing them in a job position that maximize their skills and not penalize them for their weaknesses. Ensuring that you are creating a good culture and job fit for your employees will lead to the ability to keep existing employees in a more open ‘poaching’ environment, as 89% of turnover is due to culture fit and not skill.

What about job seekers? What frustrates them?

From a job seeker’s perspective, online recruitment has increased their competition and has taken some of the personal aspect away from the hiring process. Removing the geographic barriers that once were in place, job seekers now have to compete for a job against anyone who has visibility to the ad/job posting etc. Add into this equation that many companies are using tools to assist in the screening of the hiring process, job seekers have to work extra hard to ensure that their resume and cover letter have keywords in them so that they are not overlooked. They are being judged by paper and many times never given a fair chance to showcase their value. In the past where a job seeker could drop off their resume in person and develop a relationship and sell themselves almost immediately, they are now having to use tactics in their online submission and their online profiles to sell themselves to an employer.

It’s much harder as a job seeker to remain anonymous but in the same token, it’s much harder to stand out. Job seekers would benefit greatly from the ability to truly showcase who they are outside of their resume and cover letter which provides only a superficial view of their skills. Being able to provide a job seeker with a 3rd party credential that speaks to their problem-solving skills and social intelligence can help alleviate the frustrations they experience.

How can employers make the online recruiting process easier and more efficient?

Employers have such an amazing opportunity today to utilize technology to make their recruiting process easier and more efficient. On average, an employer will spend one full day (8+ hours) reading through resumes if hiring for 5 roles. That doesn’t include the interview process. However, with the technology options available out there employers can now screen and assess their applicants, finding a match before even bringing them in for an interview. This will save time and money, but also ensure they are guaranteed to only meet with the top candidates for that role.

The hiring process is evolving and moving online, it makes only natural sense that the tools and tactics we implement in the process follow.

What types of information should recruiters be looking at when evaluating a job candidate?

Recruiters need to move away from evaluating only skills and experience and begin to evaluate a job candidate on their problem-solving and social intelligence skills which are the number one predictor of success. Where we have gone to school or where we have worked in the past is not an indicator of a candidate’s success on the job. 89% of turnover is due to attitude and culture fit and has nothing to do with skill.

Recruiters need to start gaining insight into a candidate’s traits and begin to use that information during the hiring process. Implementing a pre-assessment survey into the beginning of the hiring process will provide employers with insight into candidates, increase their chances of success on hiring a match for the role and also save the company time and money- a bad hire will cost a company up to 5X the employee’s annual salary.

What do you find they focus too much attention on?

As I said, employers are spending too much attention on a candidate’s skill and experience and not enough time on the candidate’s problem-solving abilities and social intelligence, which has proven to be the best indicator of success. Having insight into this will dictate what their happiness and success will be on a job. For example, if a candidate has a strong desire to do something new every day, a high need for learning new things and a need to have an interpersonal connection, they would suffer in a data entry position and excel in sales, despite what their educational background may tell you. Obtaining a degree or designation in something does not mean that they will be a fit.

How is online recruiting improving the way employers hire?

Online recruiting is improving the way that employers hire by giving them the ability to target their job postings, have a larger candidate pool and gain greater insight into the candidates outside of primary their skills. Employers can really target their candidate pool and increase their chances of hiring. They are decreasing the time it takes to replace an employee and combining that with technology tools they are increasing their chances of hiring the right match for the job and the company the first time.

What improvements would you like to see made to online recruiting tools?

I would like to see a shift in focus from assessing candidates on simply skill level and experience to having the tools implemented in the online recruiting process that would allow us to assess a candidate on their traits and ultimately their chance of success on the job. This would not only save our employers time and money but it will help candidates ensure they are focusing on and placing their efforts in trying to obtain a job in a company that would be a fit for them, ultimately leading to overall success for both the employer and the candidate. I would also like to see the online recruitment process improve by placing assessments at the front end of the recruiting and hiring process. Giving employers the ability to sort through the high number of applicants and placing their focus on only those who are a true match for the job. Identifying matches prior to reviewing resumes or conducting interviews will not only ensure that your time is well spent on those who are highly qualified, but it will also ensure that we are removing the bias out of hiring and increasing the chance of improving diversity by focusing purely on the assessment match scores. Today, there is such an importance more than ever in the online recruitment process to ensure that you are sorting through and finding the best match for the job the first time.

Caitlin MacGregor is the CEO/Co-founder of Plum (, a SaaS hiring solution that matches employers and applicants using cutting-edge behavioral science.

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