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Recruitment Personalization: Are You Netflix Or Blockbuster?

Personalization. This is something that you and your team have probably talked about a lot recently. In fact, it’s probably one of the most used and commonly discussed themes in recruitment today.

When we really break it down, what does personalization actually mean? Why is it such an important part of helping you hire the best talent for your company?

The story of Netflix and Blockbuster is a great example of the importance of personalizing the consumer (and candidate) experience. 

The Netflix effect

We live in an “on-demand” world. Food, taxis, films, music – it’s all right at our fingertips. We don’t need to wait or go out of our way to get the things we want anymore. They simply come to us.

People have come to expect the services they receive to be personalized. Consumers want companies to recommend food that they might like, music they should listen to, and shows they should watch.

The brands that are most successful today pay attention to these new rules of engagement. They’re redefining what it means to be customer-focused. Everything is built around customer preferences. This is the new normal.

It’s easy for us to separate “candidates” and “consumers” when we think about hiring. There’s a bit of a problem here though – they’re the same people. Candidates are consumers.

And they’re approaching job applications in the same way they would any other purchasing decision. They expect the experience to look and feel personalized – like it was designed with them in mind. They have less patience for companies that are slow to respond or don’t put in the effort to build a relationship.

We like to call this the “Netflix effect”.

The Blockbuster experience

At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster employed 84,300 people worldwide, including about 58,500 in the United States and about 25,800 in other countries, and had over 9,000 stores.

It was a complete behemoth – the undisputed champion of the video rental industry.

So what happened? They lost sight of what really mattered to their customers at the time; delivering entertainment direct to people’s homes.

Why go to a Blockbuster store to rent a movie when you could just sit back and have one delivered to your home direct by Netflix? (Netflix started out as a DVD-by-mail business).

By 2010, Blockbuster had totally fallen from grace – crashing to a comparatively tiny valuation of $24 million. 

When we look back at Blockbuster, we can learn an enduring lesson about the dangers of not adapting to the changing demands and expectations of the market.

Candidate expectations have changed (we’re not just talking about millennials and Generation Z here either). They expect the Netflix experience. 

Today’s candidates expect the experience they get when they apply for a job to be the same as when they buy a product. 

But, recruiting processes can be pretty jarring by comparison (if the employer doesn’t take the time to build high-quality candidate experiences). For example, many companies have everything set up to “process” applications, rather than to build relationships.

There are obvious gaps in this system.

Recruiting departments aren’t at fault here – most lack the tools to apply the “Netflix experience” to their Talent Acquisition function.

In fact, what we expect of talent teams has changed substantially. We want them to know everything about the people they’re recruiting: to communicate instantly, to find needles in haystacks, and to market to candidates that aren’t ready to apply – all while hiring faster and more efficiently. 

This is where tools like Beamery come in. We understand that most recruiters have a pretty heavy workload – if you’re going to ask them to do something new, you need a system that is smart enough to automate tasks that would take much longer if they were done manually.

There’s a very real cost to moving too slowly. Companies that can’t or won’t adapt are literally fading away. 52% of the companies that were on the Fortune 500 list in the year 2000 are now extinct.

And the rate of change is accelerating. Who knows what will happen over the next decade...

What does real personalization look like in recruiting?

One of the reasons why companies like Amazon and Netflix are so lauded when it comes to personalization is because everything they do is designed to build a deep, long-term relationship.

The more you use their services, the smarter and more personalized they become.

Recruiting should be no different. There’s a lot of noise in the market about personalizing careers site content and job recommendations; both are important parts of getting a candidate’s attention, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Consistent, relevant communication is what builds the relationship, and helps companies turn candidates into brand followers, advocates, and eventually, applicants.

Without this, all of the resources that you invest in attracting and converting candidates are wasted.

To be successful (and meet the changing expectations of the market), companies need to engage candidates on their terms. This could mean anything from using the mediums that target candidates are active on (social media, WhatsApp, email), to sharing content that relates to the level of awareness or stage of the talent lifecycle that people are at.

Today’s candidates are savvier, more informed, and more particular than ever before. Every employer needs to adapt if they want to be successful.


Top candidates have more options than ever before and, in such a competitive setting, every aspect of the recruiting experience matters. It’s on the talent function to design the new way of working that will bring in (and retain) the best talent.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you attract, engage, and hire today’s top talent, learn more about building personalized candidate experiences with Beamery.