Realistic job preview – unrealistic expectations?

Posted August 09, 2012 by


Editor’s note: We pulled out this article from the archives because we thought it was still a relevant message that recruiters should carry forward. The fire hose of applicants is still very real, although now we talk a lot more about the candidate experience. The challenge of retaining new hires also relates here–it all ties into giving candidates a realistic job preview. Employers will find author Joe Murphy’s comments good food for thought. 

Conversations about Realistic Job Preview (RJP) are on the rise.  In the past six months I have had an unusually high number of discussions with corporate talent leaders about methods to help the candidate make a more informed decision.  Why the increased interest?  Talent teams want to address a problem that won’t actually be solved by giving a realistic job preview – to stop unqualified candidates from applying, to stop the flood of resume  spam, to reduce the flow of applicants.  Realistic Job Preview, while an important tool in the recruiting process, will not reverse the deluge of applicants the sourcing engines have created. 

Let me offer a definition.  Realistic Job Preview gives candidates a balanced exploration and overview of what happens on a day-to-day basis in a given job.  It will present the challenges, frustrations, demands.  It will present the satisfiers, rewards and motivators.   It is a matter-of-fact approach to present the job for what it is.  This story can often be told in a three to five minute video.

Many examples of job preview on career sites are un-balanced, showing only the glamour, the sunshine, the positive.   I call this hype, not help.  Most jobs just are not made that way, they have balance, so should the preview.  But even if your RJP has balance it won’t stop many people from applying.

Why your Realistic Job Preview isn’t stopping the flow of applicants

There are a number of reasons RJP will not make a meaningful dent in candidate flow.  Maybe your company has been actively working on one or more of initiatives like these:

  • Efforts to become an employer of choice
  • Being recognized as a great place to work
  • Incentive based referral programs
  • Marketing driven employment branding
  • Corporate citizenship and sustainability reputations

The list goes on, and on.  A five minute video will be challenged to counter act the momentum of attraction and the prospect of a job at one of the best places to work.  People come to your site because you have captured share of mind for their career aspirations, they feel they can offer you their best, they want a job, no, a career!

Employers star gaze and look for one out of many candidatesCorporations have invested heavily in building and projecting messages into the talent pools that attract the masses in the hope of finding the ONE.  I call it blinded by star gazing.  While staring at the hopeful STAR in the sky, the entire Milky Way was pouring into the top of the candidate funnel.  The funnel gets clogged.  A galaxy of applicants, (who, by the way, all think they are STARS) get neglected and sucked into the ATS black hole and maybe lose some of their glow from the candidate experience.  Recruiting crumbles under the weight.  A cry of help beams forth from the edge of the recruiting universe – STOP (the flow of unqualified candidates) PLEASE!

Someone suggested: Maybe if we tell them more accurate information about the job, and what it is really like to work here, fewer people will apply.  In particular, we hope it will stop those who don’t want this type of work, those who don’t have what it takes to be successful, and those who don’t fit our culture. Great concept, but it does not work very well.  The two biggest reasons RJP does not get a lot of drop-off in applicant flow are disregard for the “R” in RJP and the corporate marketing ego.

Someone suggested: Maybe if we tell them more accurate information about the job, and what it is really like to work here, fewer people will apply. But the two biggest reasons Realistic Job Preview does not get a lot of drop-off in applicant flow are disregard for the “R” in RJP and the corporate marketing ego.

No appetite and hungry candidates

Most companies do not have an appetite for being realistic. Here are a few real examples.

A firm had more than 70% turnover in new sales representatives in the fourth month.   There were a number of factors contributing to this, but unrealistic communications about expectations was at the core.  When we came back with the script for the REALISTIC Job Preview, the editorial pen struck out most of the REALSITIC message.  The executives said they could not put that message out on the street, no one would want to apply.

Hiring At Scale? Read “Guide to Creating Job Postings That Will Attract More Top Talent”

A prominent company has over 20 testimonials on their career site that would make just about anyone who reads them want to APPLY NOW.  I have spoken with their recruiters, trainers and experienced performers.  Not one of the testimonials is realistic and by that I mean balanced, in the information provided.  Truthful?  Yes indeed.  This is not about deception, but the compelling success stories lack a clear line of sight to the effort it takes to achieve the success described in each scenario.

Mutual decision making

Information from Realistic Job Preview is on way onlyThe fatal flaw in pursuing RJP is the assumption that it will impact the recruiting process in a meaningful way.  Make no doubt, I am a proponent of using the principles of RJP.  However, at the end of the day, it is the company that is in the decision seat.  An RJP is a one-way information exchange that educates the candidate.  The recruiter gets no data to differentiate among those candidates left in the pipeline.

The former Ohio State University professor and RJP researcher Dr. John Wanous, identified that indeed RJP was a useful tool to help a candidate self-select out of consideration.  However it was impacting less than 10% of candidates on entry level, simple jobs.  One of clients is achieving similar results with a more complex job.  RJP can help a small percentage of candidates with their career choices.

Alternatively, and even more valued was the RJP’s impact on helping with retention.  After weeks or months on the job, when the tough days show up, the new hires react with: “You told me this was part of the job, there is no bait and switch here, I will stick it through to better days.”

Related: How your diversity activities can increase retention

RJP tells you something about those who dropped off.  It tells you nothing about those who remain, those who are still being drawn in by your employment brand and career prospects.

To help recruiters with their choices, the hiring decisions they make, you need to gather more useful information from candidates, better candidate data. That is the role of pre-employment assessments.  And simulations for pre-employment assessment collect more data about an individual that just about any other means of candidate evaluation.  That will be the topic of another article.


Joe MurphyThis article provided by permission from Joseph P. Murphy of Shaker Consulting Group. Deliver an exceptional candidate experience with Shaker Consulting Group’s Virtual Job Tryout®.  


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