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Surveys Don't Work

(October 16, 2006) Eyewitness testimony is notoriously wrong.

At the same time, numerous psychological studies have shown that human beings are not very good at identifying people they saw only once for a relatively short period of time. The studies reveal error rates of as high as fifty percent a frightening statistic given that many convictions may be based largely or solely on such testimony.

These studies show further that the ability to identify a stranger is diminished by stress (and what crime situation is not intensely stressful?), that cross-racial identifications are especially unreliable, and that contrary to what one might think, those witnesses who claim to be "certain" of their identifications are no better at it than everyone else, just more confident. (Findlaw)

We were reminded of this important truth by a new study from the folks at AllRetailJobs and JobsInLogistics.

AllRetailJobs.com, the leading retail job board, conducted an in depth study to assess the validity of drop-down boxes, used by many ATSs to list possible sources of hire. By simulating the typical drop down box format, candidates were asked to select the source of hire. This question was posed to more than 60,000 retail candidates when they filled out applications for jobs on AllRetailJobs.com. As all the candidates applied directly from AllRetailJobs.com, 100% should have chosen AllRetailJobs.com. Yet 5 out of 6 candidates selected alternative source options a staggering 83% inaccuracy.

The paper offers a dozen reasons why candidates might make a mistake answering the question:

  1. They don't remember (some ATSs ask "where did you hear about this job" on the tenth page of the application) and some companies rely on information gathered during an interview, which can be several weeks later.
  2. Some ATSs don't even have the right information in their drop-down list. One major corporation listed the board JobsInLogistics.com as "Jobs and Logic" for months before the recruiterpersuaded the ATS to make the necessary change. It was subsequently changed to Jobs in Logic.
  3. Some ATSs have a confusing drop-down list with dozens or even hundreds of sources, sometimes not even in alphabetical order.
  4. Some ATSs require a primary drop-down list followed by a secondary drop-down list, making it very difficult for the candidate to even find the site they were last on.
  5. Some ATSs expect the candidate to type in their source - the first instinct for many candidates is to type in "internet" or "online", not a website name.
  6. As the completion of the drop-down box is not mandatory on some ATS, the candidate may simply skip this question.
  7. Many candidates will assume their "source" was where they started (such as Google, Yahoo, MSN)
  8. Some candidates may search on multiple job boards and not remember which one they were just on last.
  9. Some candidates do not want to reveal their source, so will often opt to choose no source or friend/associate, etc.
  10. Some candidates want to pander favor by appearing dedicated to the company. So they choose the corporate name. After all this is where they are applying on the ATS.
  11. Some candidates choose entirely unrelated sources (such as Highway Billboards), and nobody knows why.
  12. Apathy prevails - instead of wading through dozens of options, which to them are irrelevant to applying for a position; they may simply click on "other" or the first source that comes to mind.

The report concludes that:

What may come as a big surprise to HR and Staffing management is the gross inaccuracies of most Applicant Tracking Systems in reporting source of hire information. Whereas a few ATSs use sophisticated tracking tags, the majority rely solely on basic drop-down boxes to obtain "facevalue" data from applicants who apply for their open positions. Job boards are finding an overwhelming discrepancy in the number of applicants sent to a company's ATS and the total recorded by the ATS reports. It follows that many companies are basing their vendor choice of job boards on highly inaccurate data, which is so far from reality that they are useless and damaging. Companies are unwittingly making strategic job board selection decisions on highly flawed data. They are in danger of underutilizing their most successful source of hire in favor of less focused vendors.

It's astonishing that, an our highly measured internet era, so little measurement is used to understand and evaluate key Recruiting processes. The vast majority of ATS systems are designed to generate flawed data. Since there is no quality control in Recruiting Data (How did that happen?), there is no accountability in the data generated by most so-called enterprise systems.

The report is an eye opening "quick read". Download a copy from us. We're sure it will be remembered as the beginning of the end of unmeasured conventional wisdom in our space.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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