The Candidate Experience

Posted on: Thursday, 26 September 2019 in Opinion Pieces .

The Candidate Experience

The pressure is on for employers. As record numbers of jobs are created and companies struggle to fill open roles, the job seeker is increasingly in the driving seat. In a tough talent market, successful businesses understand that to stand out from the competition it’s not enough to simply move candidates from one stage of the recruitment process to the next – they need to be mindful of every single interaction. Although the way in which organisations view the candidate experience has come a long way over the past 20 years, Joanne McAuley from Clarendon Executive says some businesses are still falling short, and looks at what improvements can be made.

When you’ve had a bad experience at a restaurant, you don’t go back – and you might warn others not to go there either. This consumer-grade experience is now the same when it comes to the hiring process. When a candidate has a poor experience of your company they can take to numerous networking sites –Glassdoor, LinkedIn, twitter, for example - to vent frustration, not to mention sharing said feedback verbally amongst their social and professional circles.
Of course, as the saying goes, ‘you can’t please everyone’, but what can and should businesses be doing to minimise the risks of a bad candidate experience and instead encourage candidates to become enthusiastic ambassadors for your brand, even if they don’t ultimately land the job?

Don’t just talk the talk
While many companies are talking more readily about the candidate experience, fewer are actually measuring or trying to improve it. It’s worth taking time to map out the candidate journey, and identifying key touchpoints throughout the process – this may help you recognise areas in which you think you may be falling down.
These touchpoints usually include:

1/ Pre-application – Perform a skills gap analysis to identify the job titles and responsibilities you may require. This skills-first approach improves the candidate experience because it focuses on finding people to meet business needs rather than the other way round.

Keep job descriptions as simple and jargon-free as possible. The amount of detail you provide will usually be commensurate with the seniority and complexity of the role but, in either case, be sure to include the nuts and bolts i.e. job title, location, responsibilities, and a bit about your culture and the work environment.
It’s also best to distinguish your essential criteria from your desirable criteria to encourage as many potentially strong candidates as possible.

2/ The Application Process – Keep it streamlined and engaging. Also, it may sound obvious, but make it easy for candidates to apply to your jobs. Career pages are often buried in obscure sections of company websites. Make yours as easy to find as possible, as well as mobile-friendly, and share any openings on social media channels relevant to the type of candidate you are seeking to attract. In addition to a traditional job spec, video content can prove an extremely effective and engaging means of conveying company culture.

To reduce the number of candidates dropping out of your application process without completing it, provide clear application instructions at the outset, and if possible, do not ask candidates to login to your system to apply.

Acknowledging candidates’ applications is good practice and indeed common courtesy. It may not be possible to respond to each applicant individually but if you are going to send a generic or automated thank you email, ensure it is at least sent from a personal email address.

Candidates invest a lot of time in researching companies and applying for the right roles, let alone preparing for interviews. When they don't receive any feedback or they have a "thank you, but no thank you" response, this can generate feelings of injustice, confusion, worthlessness, frustration and disappointment. Professional yet kind rejection letters, acknowledging your appreciation of their time and interest in your company marks you as an employer of choice, too.

Follow up early and often. Send a rejection or interview invitation as soon as possible. Getting back to candidates promptly, with either good news or bad, will further demonstrate that you value your candidates’ time.

3/ Interviews – In the acknowledgement that most candidates are already employed full-time, one solid way to improve your candidate experience is to be accommodating, if possible, when it comes to scheduling various interviews and meetings.

Once the interview is confirmed, provide candidates with information including whom they will be meeting at the interview, how long you expect it to take and the format. Try not to overlook logistical details such as how to enter the building as a visitor – from parking, if there is any, to the check-in process.
Be accessible and make it clear to your applicants who their main point of contact should be throughout the hiring process. When questions or concerns crop up, they’ll then know who to approach.

Finally, candidates expect to be told soon after interview whether they have been successful or not. As they have taken the time to attend an interview, it’s professional to do this by phone rather than email and, for unsuccessful candidates, to follow this up with carefully considered feedback.

Invite feedback
While mapping out the above touchpoints may help an organisation better understand where they are going wrong, it mightn’t explain why. Nobody has greater insights into how your experience could be improved than your candidates. So, don’t hesitate to implement a candidate feedback survey for final-stage candidates and new hires – and expect to receive the good with the bad as that’s where lessons are learnt and improvements can be made.

Silence is ‘not’ golden
One of the recurring themes throughout all the advice above is communication. Communicating well and often can be a huge asset to you as an employer. In today’s information age, with all the tools available to be in contact at any moment with anyone, radio silence is ill advised.
Make a candidate feel welcome and they will be receptive to your culture. A positive candidate experience does not have to cost much, but its returns are hard to calculate.

Joanne McAuley

Joanne McAuley

Joanne McAuley is a Partner at Clarendon Executive, specialists in executive search, performance and the provision of interim management in Northern Ireland. With over 20 years’ experience in recruiting at the highest level, Joanne has an exceptional track record in senior and board appointments within the public, private and third sectors.

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