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3 ways Johnson & Johnson is taking talent acquisition to the next level

The best way to attract top candidates? Evolve the hiring process with technology aimed at reinventing what it’s like to apply for a job.

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Jargon-y job descriptions. Pages-long applications. Waiting and waiting to hear back. Not knowing if a real person is even looking at your application.

Let’s face it: Applying for a job can sometimes feel like a thankless process.

“The fundamental building blocks of the job search haven’t changed since the 1970s,” says Sjoerd Gehring, Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Johnson & Johnson. “The resumes, the lack of transparency, the way your application goes into a black box—the whole world has moved on, but this process hasn’t.”

But Johnson & Johnson is working to change that.

With roughly 1 million applicants for more than 25,000 job openings each year, the company is in a unique position to disrupt the talent acquisition process.

“We have a level of freedom and agility to make changes, but also the muscle and discipline to invest in innovation,” Gehring says.

One way to do it: Harness forward-thinking technologies to help attract great talent to the brand.

“What we’ve realized is that our candidates are our customers, and that we should use the same tools to attract and retain employees that we use to introduce someone to our products,” says Trevor Higgs, Director of Candidate Experience, Johnson & Johnson. “That’s how we’ll get the best talent possible to help us do things like work to cure cancer.”

Here’s a look at three innovative approaches the company is taking to improve the candidate experience.

Making job descriptions more dynamic and mobile-friendly

Talent Acquisition Images

An example of a job posting created with Ruutly

The average applicant spends about eight seconds reading a job posting, which can be a problem if you consider the fact that most descriptions run longer than a couple of sentences.

“We’re asking people to spend their most valuable resource—time—with our company, so we need to provide the best possible experience from the start,” Higgs says.

So Johnson & Johnson has chosen to create more mobile-friendly postings.

To do this, the company is partnering with a startup called Ruutly to transform rote descriptions into interactive ads for jobs. Starting this month, when a job-seeker visits the Johnson & Johnson career site, a job opening pops up as a visually appealing, pared-down description that includes information not normally found in a standard post.

“Instead of just focusing on the job title and background about the company, we’re also highlighting secondary benefits that differentiate us from other companies,” Gehring explains.

Addressing unconscious bias

How a job posting presents visually is just half the equation—the language itself can also influence who applies.

“There are a ton of biases in job descriptions, and they tend to be recycled over and over for long periods of time,” Gehring says.

That’s why Johnson & Johnson is using Textio, an augmented writing platform that scans job descriptions for phrases that could turn off potential applicants.

The tool uses artificial intelligence technology to provide a score of how successful a particular job posting will be compared to similar jobs in the same location. So if a description rates, say, a 38 on a scale of 100, that means it’ll only do better than 38% of the market—in other words, not good.

“We want all our descriptions to score a 90% or more, so we’ve got to remove the corporate clichés, change the tonality and use phrases with proven success rates,” says Chuck Fuges, Global Head of Sourcing, Johnson & Johnson, who is leading the global launch of the Textio platform.

We found that many of our job descriptions skewed masculine, but when we started editing the descriptions with Textio in the pilot program, we saw a 9% increase in female applicants.
Chuck Fuges

And since Textio operates in real time—measuring the response rate of the words not just in Johnson & Johnson postings, but in those from all other companies using the service—it’s constantly tweaking its algorithms as it accumulates more data.

“So we’re leveraging data from hundreds of other companies—that’s millions of other data points to compare our postings to,” Fuges explains.

One of the most common tendencies Textio helps uncover: gender bias.

For example, certain phrases appeal to male applicants, while others skew toward females. The platform highlights those phrases in blue and pink as it scans the text, with the goal of achieving gender neutrality in the final job posting.

“We found that many of our job postings skewed masculine, but when we started editing the descriptions with Textio in the pilot program, we saw a 9% increase in female applicants,” Fuges says.

The ultimate goal is for the company’s applicant pool to reflect the people it serves—not only in gender makeup, but also ethnic and religious affiliation and socioeconomic background. “Our workforce should reflect the surrounding community, so a job description that attracts a diverse pool of applicants will help us achieve that,” Higgs says.

Creating an honest feedback loop

In today’s digitally connected world, there are countless ways customers can let companies know they have a voice—and Johnson & Johnson believes the hiring process should be no different.

Talent Acquisition Images

A Net Promoter Score survey

So in January the company started using a service called Net Promoter Score to measure applicants’ satisfaction rate throughout the job-seeking process.

“We send out two surveys: one in the beginning to see how easy the process was and how favorably you’re feeling about the company, and another one at the end—no matter what happens—to see how you feel again,” Higgs says.

To date, the company has sent the surveys to about 39,000 applicants, with an eye toward whether candidates felt supported during the process, if the turnaround time seemed too long or too short, and if they’d recommend the company to friends or family.

“Now we have an opportunity for candidates to give us feedback that we can actually do something with,” Gehring says. For example, the company launched a custom-built platform in October called J&J Shine, which gives job applicants what they want: more transparency throughout the application process, like the ability to track their progress in real time.

Job-seekers will also receive relevant articles and videos from trusted career destination The Muse that match up with where they are in the hiring process, such as tips for negotiating an offer. Candidates will also have access to Johnson & Johnson-specific content to help them get to know the company better.

“Research has told us that the job application process can be a total black box experience, so we’re literally shining a light on it—giving applicants the respect they deserve,” Gehring says. “Now you can track your recruiting status just like you can track a mail package.”

And to bring even more clarity to the experience, J&J Shine also has a Twitter handle that provides candidates with personalized responses to questions within one business day.

That’s a far cry from sending your application out into the great unknown.

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