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Is The Low Touch Impersonal Portal Process Driving Away Top Talent?

Date: 25 June 2015

It could be seen as somewhat ironic that as we live in a touch-screen dominated world, we are in fact losing the personal touch that so many of us hold in such high regard.

This is also true in the recruitment space - there has been a shift in the way that the recruitment process is approached. While it used to be a very human process, professionals have naturally decided to move with the times, embracing the age of big data, and there has been an increase in portal hiring processes and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO).

The use of such processes for recruitment purposes makes sense on paper. They provide a single point of entry for candidates, data management functionality and structure, and can save time and costs, resulting in better margins.

For highly commoditised and generalist roles, these systems can efficiently process high numbers of applicants.

However, for talent scarce, talent dependent and niche specialist roles, these portal processes are not necessarily the best solution. The need to process subjective, unstructured details about complicated candidate skillsets, and turn around processes at speed often requires a more personalised approach to recruitment.

An Impersonal Service

Elissavet Vraka, YouGov, has noted that “more and more employers are using online recruitment methods to source, screen and hire potential employees.” Although useful for managing applications at scale, such systems usually offer a low-touch, impersonal and often long-winded process. Furthermore, portals usually have no means to assess cultural fit. Such downfalls can lead to the best talent disengaging with the application process, and with a war on talent waging, businesses cannot afford to let any potentially exceptional employees slip through the net.

Brand Reputation

Portal processes can also pose a threat to brand reputation if not managed effectively. There is often a lack of communication to candidates who submit their details to employer websites or job boards, causing negative candidate sentiment towards the firm. The implications of this can go beyond an individual’s view of a firm, as candidates share their view with the wider industry - and can result in damaging a brands’ reputation.  In this way poor portal hiring can potentially put off the best individuals for the job, and damage employer brands.

Missing Top Talent

When it comes to specialist talent, a key downfall with the portal based systems is that they are not always intelligent enough to filter out the best talent for the role.  This is because online portal processes often use a “cut-off” method, so if someone doesn’t pass a particular stage or fulfil basic criteria set within the process they are automatically rejected – despite possessing other skills that could make them a better-rounded potential employee. This approach to hiring sometimes results in a weakened shortlist of candidates making it through the process.

Lengthy Processes

Finally, portal processes tend to increase the length of the recruitment processes. A recent YouGov survey has found that whilst 74% of the 1,178 respondents from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region believe that online recruitment processes facilitate the hiring process, for 70% of them, the entire process can last up to two months. Depending on the sector, we have found that this can extend to up to as long six months. When it comes to niche talent, several firms are often competing to secure the best talent, therefore employers need to move fast in order to secure the best candidate.

Where does that leave recruitment?

These pitfalls cause a dilemma, because being online and utilising digital tools is obviously necessary for keeping up-to-date in the 21st Century. Striking a balance between utilising modern technologies and maintaining a personal, accurate and efficient service is therefore vital, especially when recruiting specialist talent.

Here are some ways portals can be optimised to improve the online hiring process, and keep top candidates engaged:

  • Streamline your process - Critically assess the length of your hiring process and remove unnecessary stages to reduce timescales. Request only the information that you really need to know from candidates, or risk deterring top talent who feel that they “do not need to” apply for jobs. 
  • Revise your assessment criteria - Revisit your assessment criteria to ensure it filters applications correctly. Find common denominators with the top talent in your firm and use this as a basis for setting these criteria, as well as considering other kinds of talent that could be a potential fit. Carefully consider this filtering process or risk disregarding exceptional talent.
  • Be culturally aware – Add a “cultural fit” element to your hiring process.  Don’t rely solely on the “cut-off method” that portal solutions champion.  Build in an assessment criteria to assess cultural fit at latter stages of the process, such as a cultural questionnaire or video interview or better still conduct cultural fit interviews in person. Also develop strong employer brand, to attract the candidates that are the correct cultural fit for your organisation.
  • Communicate – Revise the communications sent to applicants at each stage of the process. Guarantee responses within a specified time frame so candidates remain engaged and add a personal touch to your messaging to regain the human element to the hiring process. Better still, if time and resources allow, reach out personally to candidates to give feedback to ensure rejected candidates still maintain a positive sentiment towards the organisation and protect your employer brand.
  • Be Flexible – Allow a degree of flexibility within your hiring process to enable you to consider “out-of-the-box” candidates. Sometimes candidates that fall outside of your usual criteria can be the most valuable. Work with your recruitment specialist to identify such options, sanity check your process and stay competitive with regards to talent.


If you’re struggling to fill a hard-to-fill vacancy, our professional recruitment specialists can help to provide the human touch that the 21st Century working world still so desperately needs.

For further consultation or advice on how to optimise your recruitment process, contact the Phaidon International Consulting Team.




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