Candidate Experience: Why should we care?

If you are in the recruiting profession, it’s hard to get away from the candidate experience.  It’s one of those hot topics right now that everyone is talking about.  You go to recruiting conferences and you here speakers talk about the importance of treating candidates better (i.e. “As an industry, we need to treat candidates like human beings instead of widgets.”)  You have executives and members of your organization coming to you to talk about how we do this “new candidate experience” thing.   And you have organizations such as the Candidate Experience Awards to begin bench marking what a good candidate experience looks like by asking practitioners and candidates alike.

But the skeptic in me always asks the question, why should we care?  Sure, we want to respond like humans to candidates but if I’m hiring quality talent does it really matter if I don’t get back to everyone that applies?  Or that my employer branding stinks?  Or that my job ads are boring?  It is quite possible that you just don’t care.  Filling reqs is all that’s important and as long as you are doing that, bully with everything else.

The thing is as an industry I think that we do candidate experience a disservice with all the warm and fuzzies that we use when we describe candidate experience, what it looks like and what the value truly is.  Getting back to all candidates in a timely fashion is great but what does that do for my organization.  Enhancing my employer brand is great but give me some insight on how it helps do what we came here to do: recruit quality talent.  Does improving the candidate experience help us increase applicant flow?  Improve referral traffic?  Fill jobs with our Talent Network?  Recruit more passive candidates?  Get more offers accepted when offered?  Get more qualified candidates and hires?

I truly believe a better candidate experience will drive true business outcomes in your recruitment marketing strategy.  There are some already doing this (check out last year’s Candidate Experience Awards winners with recognition: Bozzuto, Case-Mate, Hyatt, BTRG, Blue-Cross Blue-Shield of Michigan) and I urge you to do the same.

So the question is what should you be measuring and how should you be evaluating all the efforts you put on the candidate experience?

Well here’s a few reasons to care about the candidate experience and what you can be doing to make sure you are measuring them:

Increased Applicant Flow

With any candidate experience initiative, you have the tremendous opportunity to help bolster your current applicant flow.  This is not only because the process is easier and more streamlined but also due to providing candidates with the information, expectations and options necessary to make an educated decision on whether to apply for a job.  When we talk about candidate experience initiatives that can help increase applicant flow, here’s a few I can think of:

  • Applicant capture:  Getting back to candidates is great.  It provides them with a a response and let’s them move on with the job seeking process.  But the question is what are you doing to keep in touch with them?  Are you telling them they did not get the job and just ending the relationship?  Or are you providing them options to remain engaged like a Talent Network or social recruiting profiles?  It’s easy to forget candidates that aren’t ready for a position today actually go on with their careers after you interact.  Having simple ways to remain in touch can help you keep top of mind while they get necessary experience and find a job that fits them.
  • Talent Network opt-in: Whether it’s directly in the apply flow (dual purpose job ads), on your Career Site or through events and other channels, you need to provide the ability for candidates to opt-in to engage without needing to apply.  Not every candidate is ready to apply today and you may not have a position open that fits their specific skill-set.  However, provide them an opportunity to opt-in to engagement with you via email or SMS and/or through social media channels.  This will then provide a free source of candidates to utilize for every future job that opens.  Ping contacts in your Talent Network that a new job opens up (but only if it fits their skills and qualifications.)  This is a free source to help you improve applicant flow and in turn fill requisitions more quickly.

Improved Quality

This can go hand and hand with increased applicant flow in that the more candidates you receive for positions, the more selective you can be about selecting quality candidates.  Also with this you will need to have a mechanism to measure this in your ATS beyond the applicant measure and back to the source that the candidate came in on (job board, Career Site, social network, etc.)  However, in general, you will be able to know this intrinsically in the process.  Filling jobs will be easier, you will be presenting more candidates to hiring managers and as part of it, you’ll be making harder decisions on who moves forward.  When you think of candidate experience and it’s affect on quality here’s a few breakouts that you think about:

  • Measuring Quality: With this, it’s important to understand the sources you use that bring in the candidates that fit your organization.  Every organizations determination of quality in different and you need to figure out the stages in your recruiting process that determine quality (i.e. is it when they get to the second interview?  When they are screened by a recruiter?  When they are part of the final selection process?)  Then it’s all about ensuring your ATS and recruitment marketing technology is accurately capturing recruitment metrics on these candidates and tying them back to the source.  If you are using candidate self-selection you are not receiving the accurate metrics to measure quality of your strategy.  With this information you can then improve your recruitment marketing mix by using sources that provide more qualified candidates and firing ones that don’t.
  • Information Gathering:  Through your Talent Network and ongoing relationship with candidates, you have the unique opportunity to gather more information and learn more about them.  From interests to updated skills to their likes and dislikes.  All this information can and should be used to identify those candidates that are good fits in the organization and can help you identify quality individuals and match them to the right jobs in your organization.
  • Easier Apply: Now I’m not saying that you should make your apply process be a single step and just get their email but I will say that if it goes for more than 10-15 minutes, you are going to get a lot of people who drop off, even quality candidates.  The key to the application is having the happy medium of understanding what information you need to make an educated decision on a candidate and what information you can capture later on after they apply.  The easier the application, the less candidate drop-off you’ll receive but the key is lessening barriers while maintaining necessary information needed to do your job.  By making becoming an applicant more accessible you should improve overall candidate quality.

Better Brand Awareness (Internally and Externally)

A better overall candidate experience should lead to a better brand at your organization.  This brand will help your bottom line value in terms of the two above: improved applicant flow and increased candidate quality.  It should also help you in a few other areas as well, let’s take a look:

  • Employer Branding: With more compelling and informative content on your Career Site and through your other channels, you will be able to explicitly share your employer value proposition to candidates.  With this, you should not only attract active job seekers but if convincing enough start interfacing with passive job seekers who are casually looking for new opportunities.  The key is ensuring that your messaging and branding applies to both groups and truly highlights the uniqueness of working for your organization.
  • More Referrals: Getting your employees involved in the recruiting process is integral to success.  Referrals are a tremendous source for any recruiting organization but you really need to prove to employees that it’s worth their time and effort.  First, ensuring that the application process is easy and straightforward is a huge benefit.  You don’t want employees getting angry calls from their connections saying how bad the apply process is.  Second, you need to have them be proud of the organization culture and be able to communicate the party line in terms of employer value.  This second part goes directly into your messaging outwardly on the Career Site and in your internal communications with these folks.  The more resources and better tools you can provide employees the more referrals will be a significant source of your recruiting success.

They’re Your Customers

This is the big one especially when you are communicating the need for a better candidate experience to senior level management (especially outside of HR.)  Many of the candidates that apply to your jobs have some affiliation with you and in some cases are current customers and can be future ones.  So the experience they have with your recruiting process whether good or bad will more than likely affect their perception of your organization as a whole.  This can affect sales, word of mouth, social media sharing and other marketing and sales efforts from some of your favorite customers.

So when we look at it in this vein, how would you answer these questions:

  • Should our application be 10 minutes or 30 minutes?
  • Should our messaging be aspirational or a set of job requirements?
  • Should our messaging be targeted or generic?
  • Should we use a SEO job search or ATS job search on the Career Site?
  • Should our job search and application be Mobile friendly?
  • Should we send opt-in contacts just jobs or other content as well?
  • Should the jobs we send be targeted or be any new open job?
  • Should we get back to every candidate that applies for a position?
  • Should we provide candidates with the steps in the recruiting process or have them guess?
  • Should job ads just be needed qualifications or should it try to sell the position as well?
  • Should we spend money on making our experience better or spend it on a new job posting or other recruiting initiative?
  • Should we be measuring the sources we are using or use what we always use?

There are also a number of other questions you can ask about the candidate experience but when you read those above it should become clear what you should be doing for most of those scenarios. But if you train your team to look at it this way, these decisions become much easier to make.

Better Candidate Experience

You don’t really know who a candidate is until they reach the interview phase but many organizations still act like pre-application is all a numbers game.  We need to strive to ensure all qualified candidates can get in simply and smoothly without compromising our ability to make decisions on them overall.

Candidate Experience can provide real value to your recruiting organization, the key is to make it intrinsic to your recruiting team to make the right decisions when it comes to candidates.  You want candidates to leave with a positive (or at least not negative) experience from applying to your organization because who knows, they might be a great candidate in the future or a great customer already.

Check out other posts on the Candidate Experience at the SmashFly Recruitment Blog.

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