The Candidate Experience: A consumer dilemma...

Think back to the most important item you ever bought. Whether it was a house, a car, an engagement ring or a much sought-after collectible, I’m sure you did your research - consulted reviews, comparison sites, friends, relatives and maybe even the experts. Every buy is an important investment, and we all like to know we've got the most for our money and that we’re getting exactly ‘what it said on the box’.

Now think about some of the most important decisions you've ever made. How did you go about deciding the best path to take…?


According to a recent study on candidate behaviour by CareerBuilder, ‘job search behaviour is increasingly similar to consumer buying behaviour.’ It found that job hunters compare between fourteen and fifteen resources as they search for their next job with nearly ‘two-thirds of workers using employee ratings sites at some point during their job search (with two-thirds also saying they did this prior to their application.)’ This consumer approach to job-hunting means that it is essential for companies to understand how their company is being perceived and just how their recruitment process is contributing to that perception.

During these job searches, future applicants are looking for companies that align with their values and chosen career path. Consequently, it is essential for recruiters to develop an in-depth understanding of what drives and influences their target candidates, and how their company brand and recruitment strategy  impact a potential candidate’s decision making. Recruitment has become a consumer product, the question is how to get potential candidates to buy it?

To increase the chance of purchase, special attention must be paid to every factor that influences the process. A potential candidate’s company experience starts well before the application stage, and in such a digital world, is received from a range of locations. As it appears that job candidates are now approaching their search with a consumer mind-set, so must recruiters:

The Attraction…

How are you ‘greeting’ potential candidates? Do they receive an encouraging welcome? Consider your website and careers page; does it explain to its viewers what makes you unique? Why they should strive to work for you? Does it offer this information in a stimulating, organised way that enables the viewer to make an informed decision? CareerBuilder found that 74% of applicants read a company’s website before applying. Therefore, the impression it offers greatly influences the candidate's decision to apply.

This ‘greeting’, though, is received over a variety of platforms. How does your organisation’s personality express itself over social platforms? What conversations are you building up and what is your company doing to generate external conversation starters? With 81% of candidates using social and professional networks to research organisations prior to application, it’s essential to keep on top of the company’s social presence.

The consumer mind-set kicks in further as job-hunters widen their search with CareerBuilder finding that 74% read up on a company online. Respond to this by embracing the media and sharing company triumphs – excite your readers.

The Interaction…

As a consumer what makes you happiest (apart from acquiring the end product)? For most, it’s being kept in the loop after you've made a payment. Especially if you’re waiting to have it delivered.

Consider an application like a payment. An applicant makes their payment by applying. Then they wait. The longer they wait, the more frustrated they feel and the less they respect and engage with the company. However, if they receive regular updates, their frustration turns to motivation and excitement. The more informative these updates the more enamoured the candidate becomes with an organisation. Communication is key in both the consumer and the candidate world. With 32% of job applicants stating that they are less likely to buy from a company that doesn't respond to their job application, the impact this has on candidate perception is clear.

The Follow-up…

In the consumer world feedback is a necessity. It alerts the manufacturers to dissatisfaction and faults, whilst offering other customers a credible review of a product they are yet to buy. In the candidate world, the same should apply. By gathering feedback from both successful and unsuccessful candidates, before and after the process, companies can understand more about how they are perceived, what drives their target market and the affect their recruitment process has upon a candidate’s impression of the company. By feeding this back into future recruitment strategies they come out a stronger contender in their industry and, much like manufacturers, they are more attractive to their target market.

Alongside this, encourage candidates to become a subscriber to your organisation. Most companies offer consumers the chance to subscribe to email updates and social pages so they can communicate the organisations latest developments - offer candidates the same opportunity. By establishing a talent network candidates can keep easily informed on future job opportunities. It ensures that unsuccessful applicants know that their efforts were valued and that future opportunities may be available to them whilst, at the same time, providing recruiters with a database of talent to consider when new openings arise.


As candidates approach their job hunt with a more consumer based mind-set so must recruiters. By thinking of recruitment strategies as a customer service instead of a company service, the candidate gets placed at the forefront of each decision. With this outlook, the candidate experience can only improve and, consequently, so will the talent your company attracts. However, the only way to understand, monitor and improve a recruitment process is to gather feedback. In the consumer marketplace this is easy, every site has a star rating, a review option and the opportunity to get in contact with the manufacturer. But are you offering the same open dialogue to job candidates?


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