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Top Priority in 2019: Improving the Candidate Experience

What’s it like to apply for a job at your company? Despite our current fierce competition for top talent, nearly 60 percent of job seekers say they have a poor candidate experience. Typically, it feels like their resume and carefully crafted cover letter went into a black hole. They’re usually told “no phone calls” and email inquiries about their status get no response. Are applicants being considered or have they been rejected, and why? They often never find out.

Just how much uncertainty and disrespect should a candidate put up with? I can tell you this: top talent won’t put up with it at all. They’ll be accepting positions at companies that provide an engaging candidate experience from beginning to end. Creating that kind of experience, along with a focus on employer branding, are “by far” the top recruiting initiatives for employers in 2019, according to Talent Board research.

For many reasons, you should care a great deal about how candidates experience your company, no matter how brief their encounter. A major reason is that candidates talk and their bad experience can ruin your reputation and employer brand. A few negative comments over the neighborhood fence or on rating sites like Glassdoor can mean top talent won’t even bother to apply for your jobs. And there goes your competitive edge … Not only that, negative experiences moved candidates to stop buying a company’s products and services, so you not only lose out on top talent, you lose customers at the same time.

But let’s focus on the positive side. The reverse is true when you have a strategy in place to create a positive and respectful candidate experience. This experience may begin with interactions that happen with your company even before candidates decide to apply, and continue to be positive even if they don’t get the job. Regardless of whether they get an offer, satisfied candidates are more than twice as likely to recommend you and become your customer compared to those who were dissatisfied with their experience (according to IBM Workforce Institute research). A great candidate experience helps grow your talent pipeline, customer base, and profits. You need a strategic candidate plan in order to be competitive.

Strategies for attracting and engaging today’s candidates

The job market has become something to reckon with now that open positions outnumber available talent. Companies of every size across industries now understand the critical importance of attracting and engaging quality candidates and the competitive advantage of developing an effective process to do it. The hiring process should be easy for candidates to understand and follow, and communication about the job and company must be honest.

The Talent Board offers a number of best talent acquisition practices from winners of their 2019 Candidate Experience Awards. The feedback is based on what candidates say they want from organizations and from the organizations themselves. Among their findings, which can become the foundation to develop or update your strategies, are:

  • Use assessments early in the process to screen for the most qualified candidates and the best fit with your organization.
  • Tell candidates what to expect during the process, alleviating anxiety and helping them prepare. Before interviews, provide an agenda and names and backgrounds of interviewers. For virtual interviews, provide technology information in advance. If in-person, offer a workplace tour (and opportunity to chat with employees).
  • Respect job interviewers’ time by being prompt. Make sure that everyone in the interview process understands the importance of being punctual. This is especially important to candidates taking time from current jobs to interview.
  • Provide feedback on the same day as the interview or as soon as possible afterward. “Candidates crave feedback, but most aren’t getting it.” (This is a competitive opportunity!) Ask candidates for feedback as well. (There’s no better way to improve your process.)
  • Reduce candidate’s anxiety by explaining what’s next in the process after the interview. Tell them the same day they are interviewed.
  • Don’t leave candidates hanging; give them closure. (And if they’ve spent time interviewing, I suggest a personal phone call.) Nearly half of candidates have heard nothing from employers after two months.
  • Keep engaging with great candidates, even if they aren’t your first choice for a position. They might fit into a different position down the road, and qualify with a shorter process. (Their connection with you might elicit referrals for other positions as well.)

Watch for surprising trends like these

  • Despite all of our available technologies, most people prefer in-person interviews.
  • Rather than lifeless, text-heavy job descriptions, people want more career-path examples and better understanding of growth opportunities at your company.
  • Employers plan to invest heavily in more job description videos this year, but candidates’ value of them is decreasing.
  • 80 percent of organizations use both Facebook and Twitter for recruiting, but only about 15 percent of job seekers use Facebook for job opportunities and just four percent see Twitter as a valuable source for job searches (Talent Board). Despite what you may think, social media may not be your best tool to reach candidates.
  • Texting and chatbots are gaining in popularity. In particular, chatbots are used at the beginning of the application process, for answering questions, and for administrative tasks.
  • Since candidates are increasingly using mobile devices, your website and brand need to look good on them. Even small companies need to pay attention to this, otherwise they may lose candidates who find them technologically backward.
  • Companies are increasingly using outside providers for things like background checks and testing. These outsiders are candidate touchpoints in your process, so choose them carefully and monitor their performance.
  • Regularly audit your recruitment processes to make certain they are working as you intend and continuously look for new trends you should incorporate.

If you treat candidates like your best customers or your future boss, you’ll naturally treat them right. And if you think of the candidate experience in terms of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” your process will improve significantly. It’s really that simple.

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