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Hundreds of candidate and employee experience enthusiasts gathered for the IAMPHENOM conference last week. We were there, and we’re bringing what we learned to you!

Phenom People CEO & co-founder Mahe Bayireddi set the scene in his opening keynote, “The 4th Industrial Revolution Is Upon Us.” Digital and cultural progress will continue to transform more than 1 billion jobs in the next 10 years. As keepers of the candidate, employee, recruiter, and manager experiences, we have the ability to impact this transformation in a major way. 

Cue two jam-packed days of presentations, case studies, and a ton of data. Still, a few trends emerged at IAMPHENOM 2020: artificial intelligence, personalization, accessibility, and data-driven decisions. 

Artificial intelligence

You knew the question was coming: is artificial intelligence replacing our jobs?

Merck’s Ajay Patel answered this question with a resounding “No!” Automating tasks like scheduling interviews and sending transactional emails free up recruiters. Then, they can focus more on strategic, deeply human things like building relationships with hiring managers and candidates.

Ajay thinks the cost of not using AI can be huge. Candidate resentment is up 40 percent since 2016. Negative experiences mean candidates are less willing to apply in the future, refer a friend, or even interact with your company as a consumer.

Hilton’s Sarah Smart put this risk in perspective. Her team receives 1.9 million applications every year and hires 100,000. AI is essential for Hilton to provide a smooth experience for those 1.8 million rejected applicants…and retain them as customers. 

Where do you focus recruiter time freed up by AI? That can vary from company to company depending on your talent challenges and goals. Amit Parmar, Global Vice President of Human Resources at Unisys, prioritizes adding human touch points to the onboarding process. 


“When we are building experiences for candidates, employees, and recruiters, are we thinking about these people?”

opening keynote at #IAMPHENOM20

Technology does more than just free up recruiters’ time. AI, and Phenom People’s platform specifically, provide data for you to better understand your candidates (where they live, what jobs they are interested in, where they are in the candidate journey) and employees (career aspirations, skill gaps, what talent groups they align with). 

You have the data. Now, you need to create a personalized experience using content. This includes curating targeted photos and videos for repeat career site visitors, creating chatbot questions catered to where the candidate is in their journey, developing relevant employee stories and promoting opportunities for employees. 

Chip Heath, New York Times bestselling author and Stanford professor, implores us to create and share “moments that matter.” We are all makers of moments, he says. Most experiences fade, but people remember pits, peaks, and transitions.

For example, John Deere welcomes new employees on their first day through moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection. This shows up as a welcome banner at their desk, an email from the CEO, and lunch offsite with a small group.

We can all create these moments that stick in employee’s memories (which will lead to great stories for candidates!). 

Personalization also means meeting the candidate where they are. Michelle Sargent, Vice President of Business Development with Recruitics, shared that 75% of candidates say they look at social channels and evaluate brand sentiment long before they ever apply. This influenced how Brother USA’s Tony Prudente and Recruitics built Brother USA’s employer brand. They thought beyond the career site and built the brand with social media in mind. Then, they activated it across their digital channels.


This personalized experience must be accessible to all. iDisibility co-founder Joyce Bender gave an inspiring session on including people with disabilities in diversity discussions.  

“You have millions of people who are ready to work,” Joyce says. “If you want to stay relevant, go to this untapped labor pool. If you want your own employees to be engaged, hire people with disabilities.” 

71 percent of people with disabilities leave the career site if it’s not accessible. Therefore, we need to design with empathy, said Phenom People’s Suman Damera, Sean O’Donnell, and Eric Offner. 

Suman, who is visually impaired, draws his purpose from his own experiences. “If I cannot search for a product properly, view colors, fill out shipping information, and it’s not accessible, it’s impossible for a person like me to buy the product,” he says. “Designing with empathy enables a person like me to take action.” 

Data-driven adjustments and decisions

Building a new world of work is a work in progress. It requires constantly tweaking, testing, and adjusting our efforts. Ultimately, it means challenging the status quo. 

Always be open to feedback, says Quadient’s Shelia Gray. Despite it making them vulnerable to criticism, Shelia and her team give candidates a voice. Panel moderator Kevin Grossman supports the strategy. He said that being open to candidate feedback is a major differentiator for job seekers and a strong indicator of a positive culture. 

That includes negative feedback, too. New York Presbyterian Hospital’s David Crawford recalls an all-hands meeting after launching their employer brand. During a Q&A session, one employee asked, “If we are so great at career development, why have I applied to over 30 jobs and haven’t heard back about a single one?” This was a wake up call for David and his team. That feedback ignited their efforts to improve their internal mobility process. 

In true IAMPHENOM spirit, let’s not forget about the data. Speakers urged us to record our wins along the way.

Ashley Burns reported her success metrics since implementing Phenom People for Newell Brands. After starting from scratch, their talent community is now over 14,000 members. Chatbot conversion has also been a major focus. Newell Brands now has a 96 percent apply rate from job seekers viewing applications through the chatbot. 

A quick chatbot hack from Ashley: candidate FAQs are great pieces of feedback. Ashley and her team use FAQs to identify content opportunities. This improves their career site and candidate experience. 

Ashley Cheretes, Head of Employer Brand & Recruitment Marketing at Cigna, and her team built email campaigns that convert in their first 60 days with Phenom People’s CRM. Ashley’s advice? Test, test, test. 

Leading up to a recruiting event, Ashley and her team changed the time the pre-event email went out to prospects. Instead of sending it the day before, they sent it first thing in the morning. They more than doubled their open rate, and ultimately extended 37 offers that day. Heck yeah!

Thank you, IAMPHENOM!

We returned to work energized and excited to continue transforming the talent experience. Thanks for a great week!