Insights from the Candidate Experience Awards (#theCandes) at #HRTechConf

This is my 3rd year attending the HR Technology Conference and one of my favorite sessions the last 2 years has been the Candidate Experience Awards.  There are a number of companies doing some great things in thinking about what they need to do to improve the candidate experience.  By really focusing on their recruiting processes to create an environment for better communication, more transparency and easier information exchange.

With double the number of participants from last year, the awards and soon to be published Benchmark Study (will be available on their website) are going to be extremely valuable to what we know about the candidate experience and how we approach trying to make it better as organizations.

While they haven’t provided all the data from their study yet, here are some data points they shared that are very interesting (and included on their fact sheet):

  • 90% of employers use an ATS to manage the applicant / recruiting process.
  • Through this process they receive an estimated 45,000,000 applications or nearly 130 applicants / job.  Employers are always balancing how to create a positive experience for candidates while being able to share the message “you’re not qualified” with appropriate candidates.
  • Of the 17,500 candidates that completed the full survey, 73% would definitely tell their inner circle about a positive apply experience (60% would share negative) and 32% would share a positive experience on Social Media (22% would share negative.)
  • A number of candidates were frustrated by the “black hole”, with 47% citing receiving a “do not reply” automated response and 23% receiving no response at all.

These are just some of the data points that will ultimately be shared in the final benchmark study.  However, the data to me is not the most powerful part of this session as the company stories are always the most intriguing and insightful.  So let’s get to the award winners.

Overall there were 37 winners out of 90 total company entries and 62 call-backs.  Of this 37, 7 of the companies were recognized “with distinction” for what they are doing with their candidate experience. You can see a full list of the winners here.

These companies were:

Let’s take a look at some of the innovative ways that these companies are improving the experience of their candidates.

Here are their stories:

Open Communication with Candidates

A common theme with PepsiCo in their interactions with candidates is to be as open and transparent as possible throughout the process.

This led PepsiCo to be a stand-out at this year’s Candidate Experience awards with nearly twice the number of completed candidate surveys than every other company that participated.

In order to get so many candidates to complete the feedback survey, they did a few things of note that were different from their peers.

  • First, instead of sending the survey to candidates immediately after they applied for a position, they sent the email 3 days after.  This allowed for a wide variety of feedback as many of these candidates received a response (both positive and negative) about their application.
  • Second, they also took the bold step to include the contact information and a personal note from Chris Hoyt (@TheRecruiterGuy).  From which they got a lot of interesting responses of the good and bad variety.  And was definitely worth the extra data points on their process.

To go along with this open communication theme, they also use Kenexa to provide candidates a portal with the status of their application.  This enables candidates to easily keep up to date with their status on their own and gives recruiters a simple way to communicate to candidates when they ask about their status.

Candidates are your Customers

Adidas, whose brands include TaylorMade and Reebok, sees candidate experience not only as a recruiting goal but one that’s integral to their entire organization as a whole.  They understand the fact that any candidate that applies for a position at their company probably has had a positive interaction with their marketing brand as well (and are probably a customer.)  With this realization, they know that any negative experience in the recruiting process could reflect poorly on the brand itself and hurt it’s core business.

Since it’s so important to the organization, they go out of their way to include the candidate experience in their corporate policy.  For every candidate that applies to the organization, it is mandated that they need to get back to every single one with a final response to their application.  While some of those responses are never fun to make, they’ve heard from candidates based on feedback that by closing the loop on every application, it results in a much better experience for them to at least know where they stand with the organization.

Small and Growing Fast

CaseMate, who makes custom cases for smartphones, was by far the smallest organization on the panel but is growing rapidly.  With this rapid growth, there are a number of challenges and opportunities that they see in their recruiting process.

As you can see from their Careers page, they have a fun and vibrant culture that they recruit for.  In addition to this their recruiters are easy to contact especially through social media where each recruiter has their own Twitter profile (follow @alexputman) for which to interact with candidates.

They also do monthly anonymous surveys with employees to begin to understand what they need to work on from a recruiting and on-boarding perspective.

High Touch Candidate Experience

For RMS, a risk management company, this is the second year in a row that they’ve won this award.  They take a very different approach from their peers.  They understand that their business and the jobs they recruit are not for everyone and they need to find and engage with a targeted group of individuals that really fit what they are looking for.

On top of that, once they attract these candidates, it’s important for them to make sure they remain engaged in the recruiting process.  This has resulted in a recruiting process that is very high touch with candidates.  From dedicated office hours where candidates can communicate directly with a member of the recruiting team every day to sponsoring social games that fit the skills and interests they are looking for in candidates, RMS strives to ensure that once the right candidates find them, there should be few reasons for these candidates to fall off in the recruiting process.

Creating a Better Referral Process

At Deloitte, they stood out from the pack with their focus on referrals.  This is not a new strategy by any means for companies but at Deloitte they take it a step further.  With nearly 50% of their hires coming from referrals, they’ve made it a priority to make submitting referrals as easy and transparent as possible.  Every referral that comes into their organization will know their status within 48 hours of it being submitted.  On top of that they will inform not only the referral candidate of status but the referee as well so they can make sure that they are in tune with the process.

All of this makes for a process that encourages employees to refer their connections.

Better Candidate Experience for the Large Enterprise

Much like Adidas, ADP understands the importance a candidate’s experience can have to the larger enterprise.  They know that many of the candidates that apply may be a future employee but also understand they may be future (or current) customers as well as potential acquisition target in the future.  So ensuring a positive experience with their brand is first and foremost in their recruiting process.

One way that they do this is by continuously surveying candidates that go through their process and asking them for input on their experience as well as input on the recruiters that they interacted with in the process.  They compile these surveys and in turn tie incentive bonuses of their recruiters to positive survey findings (among other variables) for each recruiter.  By doing this, they are able encourage positive interactions between their recruiters and candidates.

A Better Candidate Experience

While the candidate experience will be important for most organizations, the way that it is best structured will change and differ based on the inherent goals and challenges you have in your process.

As an industry, we are still trying to figure out the best ways to ensure candidates as a whole have a good candidate experience and will continue to try new things to improve it.  As it stands, however, there are a few things that stand out to me that can help your candidate experience today:

  • Better more open communication with candidates: Whether you use live chat, social recruiting, application status portals or direct emails to recruiters, if you can provide a direct way for candidates to interact with your recruiting organization, it should help.
  • Close the Loop: I’ve adopted this term from Ed Newman (@newmaed) but for every person that applies they need to receive some final communication (good or bad) about their application.  The more personal you can make it the better but we need to begin eliminating the “black holes” that exist in many of our ATS.  If you want to take this a step further, Elaine Orler (@ElaineOrler) suggests that you look at it from a time perspective.  You should spend the same amount of time evaluating a candidate as they have to do in your process.  Thought this way that should get rid of any of those 45 minute application processes that currently exist.
  • It’s not just a recruiting issue: As many of the winners mentioned, candidates having a bad experience with your recruiting organization can affect your core business as well.  Your employer brand is inexplicably tied to your marketing brand and you need to protect it with a process that is thoughtful and makes sense from both sides of the equation.

This is not the last we’ve heard of the candidate experience and I look forward to sharing other great stories about how companies are improving it in the future.  Use the insights above to help shape and mold your process so that it works for your organization and I would venture that the more you do to improve your candidate experience, the more positive results you will see in your recruitment marketing strategy.

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