So we come round to the time of year when we have the annual RAD awards. The Recruitment Advertising Design (I had to ask what the ‘D’ stood for) awards for the uninitiated. From years of working in the recruitment industry my experience is that throughout the day there will be mild frissons of excitement with posh frocks and dinner suits draped around office corridors and the eager anticipation of wondering who’s going to scoop up the awards this year. And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a few rumblings of cynicism about such things as ‘digital strategy’ and ‘look how much they had to spend.’
When I worked in recruitment advertising it was generally the Accounts Department and the Research Team who were the ones without the hangovers on the Friday morning after the event. In the old rec ads days the thought of handing out a table seat to anyone outside the creative or client side teams would be met with a certain amount of puzzlement. “Who? Really? I don’t think so.” This event used to largely be about the creative folk and the Account Directors who (whisper it quietly) might just play a big part in getting those innovative ideas signed off by the client in the first place.
Now there is a wider mix of people attending the awards working in areas such as employer branding, digital and social media that reflects the range of tools that we now use to engage with and attract candidates. That is a key part of how it has evolved when we engage with candidates across many platforms rather than just responding to an ad in the recruitment section of the local press. And there’s the social side, of course and by the end of evening everyone has forgotten who does what anyway, but it’s a good opportunity to meet old friends and admire increasingly receding hairlines from people who have forgotten just how long they have worked in the industry. And in many ways that is exactly how it should be. A celebration of what has been achieved and great creative work (or should it be ‘Design’)
What are we judging?
Recruitment Marketing is often seen as a poor relation to the world of Marketing (proper advertising, as someone once told me) which is an unfair label given the quality of the work that is produced with the very best going on to win awards at even bigger events in the world of, umm, Marketing.
As the industry has evolved the RADs have also evolved. If we still just had awards for print media and the best ad in the Sunday TImes I’m sure there would still be people showing up (some actually wouldn’t notice), but we have awards for ‘Employer Brand’, “Best Use of Digital Media’ and ‘Best Use of Mobile’. But I wonder on what basis are these judged? There are some very strong contenders looking at this year’s entries, but what constitutes ‘Best’? And who judges who wins what in Employer Brand? What metrics are being defined to truly measure what wins in ‘Employer Brand’, for example? There is no qualifying criteria to this category – ‘Best? Most effective? Most nicely designed? ‘ so it’s always intriguing to see what wins the award and why.
The Candidate Experience Award goes to…
This year saw the introduction of a new category – Candidate Experience. Now we’re talking. The problem is this is an event that is largely (though not exclusively) focused on attraction and design rather than metrics. I was intrigued to see on what basis the candidate experience award was going to be judged. Except in the end, it wasn’t because according to the organisers, “Following two rounds of reviews and significant deliberation, the judges decided not to shortlist or appoint a winner for this award, since it wouldn’t have supported the high quality standards of the RADs.”
Well that’s disappointing
And that’s created a tricky dilemma in my mind because I’m thinking how can you have award winning recruitment, but at the same time not have anything that is entered that has actually delivered a positive candidate experience? It’s like designing a new product that everyone thinks looks amazing until someone says,
“And what about the customer?”
“The customer. What did they think of it?”
“I’ve absolutely no idea. But what does that matter because it looks great.”
So I am not surprised that a Candidate Experience award isn’t being awarded this year despite a commendable effort to introduce the category because how would they be measuring it? Equally I don’t believe that amongst all the fabulous list of clients – and there really is some great work and well thought out strategies amongst those finalists – that none of them translate into a great candidate experience. They just don’t have the evidence to prove it.
But does it matter? In the context of these awards does it actually matter? I still think it does.
The RAD awards contribute hugely to the industry of recruitment communications and will continue to do so and it is a fine balance delineating the boundaries between the creative execution through to the recruitment strategy itself for an event that is largely focused on the former. But the DRUM Marketing Awards, which are now one of the marketing industries largest and most sought after awards do have specific categories for ‘Customer Insight’ as well as one of the key criteria for the Brand of the Year being how strategies ‘influenced a change in customer attitudes’. And to compare again to our friends in marketing, would you expect a Marketing award where the category for Best Customer Experience wasn’t awarded because none of the entries was good enough?
Creativity vs Experience
So are the RAD awards a display of great creative execution or are they going to focus as much on the success of that work based on the measurement and outcomes? It is about attracting the right quality of applicant and successful hires that is the whole point of recruitment and we don’t want to undervalue that. Let’s not forget we are in a people industry and this includes the candidates and the job applicants. It is admirable that the RAD organisers thought to introduce the Candidate Experience as a category, but it can’t ever have credibility just being judged by anyone other than candidates themselves and not just a panel of judges.
But whatever the debate (and there is usually one every year) about criteria, judges, quality of the champagne, the RAD awards showcase brilliant work and bring together industry colleagues and maybe that’s what it should always be about.
Good luck to all the finalists. I look forward to waking up tomorrow with a clear head and finding out who all the winners were and who this year swept the board/cleaned up/had too much money to spend/was not even in the right category.
P.S. And if you really want to measure the candidate experience, pop on over to Mystery Applicant.