Candidate Engagement, Candidate Experience, Career Site Optimization, Company culture, Employer Brand, Innovation, messaging, Mobile, recruitment marketing, Recruitment Marketing Concepts, recruitment metrics, SEO, Talent Network

Defining the Candidate Experience

Candidate ExperienceIf you are a recruiting organization and looking to improve your candidate experience, I urge you to apply for the Candidate Experience Awards.  This will be a great way to learn new techniques and benchmark your candidate experience against the industry’s best.

It’s no secret that recruiting organizations are becoming more cognizant of the candidate experience and the effects a good (or bad) one can have on their organization and recruitment marketing efforts.  However, when we speak about the candidate experience, in most cases, we focus on the application and interview process.  While this is a big part of the equation, a true candidate experience has many more layers to be successful.

So for our purposes, I’ve crafted a definition.  This is purely mine but I think brings the point across:

The Candidate Experience is the collective result of ALL the interactions you have with candidates in the recruitment marketing and hiring process.

Simple enough.  So when you look at this definition, there should be a few things that stand out.

First, it’s “ALL” the interactions that we have with candidates throughout the process.  An interaction doesn’t have to be human to human but can be through messaging, communications or through 3rd party sources such as Glassdoor in addition to the needed and impactful human interactions.

Second, it’s both the recruitment marketing AND hiring process.  The Candidate Experience starts with that first interaction a candidate has with your company no matter if it’s a job ad on a job board or meeting a recruiter at a Career Fair or visiting your Career Site.  It starts way before they start to apply for a specific job.

Third, it’s collective.  While you can have great messaging and an informative Career Site, if your application process stinks, candidates are going to leave with a bad experience.  So you really need to focus on the candidate experience across your entire process.

Where are Interactions Happening?

Interactions with candidates happen in a variety of places and stages in the recruiting process.  Here are a few of the most common places where you can improve your candidate experience:

Job Attraction:  This refers to all the places you utilize to attract candidates to your job openings.  So when you think about this, it’s all about the messaging, branding and sources that you use to attract candidates.  In many cases this is the first place that a candidate will interact with your company and even if they don’t apply for a job, you should be able to have them walk away with a feeling that they understand your organization and value of the opportunities you offer.  You need to be able to measure and analyze this with recruitment metrics.

A few questions to think about:

  • Are we accurately measuring the effectiveness of our channels and messaging?
  • If so, what messaging is hitting home with candidates?  What’s not?
  • Do we provide a way for candidates to engage with us without applying?
  • Are the sources we are using the right places for the candidates we are looking to attract?
  • Where are candidates dropping off during the process?  What could be the cause?
  • If you are doing social recruiting, how responsive are you to candidates that interact with your channels?

Targeted Engagement:  With candidates that were already in your ATS (silver medalists?), join your Talent Network or are proactively sourced in your CRM, you are most likely engaging them with email and SMS.  These communications can help separate you from other employers or put you in the dreaded spam folder if you are not too careful.  The key is having timely and targeted communications when interacting with these precious recruiting contacts.

A few questions to think about:

  • Do we currently have our talent contacts separated into relevant talent pipelines (by discipline, location, seniority, etc.)?
  • Are we sending generic emails with all job openings to everyone or sending targeted job opening emails to any relevant contacts?
  • Are we sending any non-job related emails to candidates?  (Think company culture, videos, interesting blog articles, newsletters, etc.)
  • What messages are getting the best response rates?  Most opt-outs?

Research:  Before candidates apply, they most likely will do research on your organization and what it’s like to work there.  While they will do some of this on 3rd party sites that you can’t control, they will also go to your Career Site for information.  Your Career Site represents your greatest defense against misinformation and can be a tremendous resource in selling the value proposition of your specific opportunities.

A few questions to think about:

  • Is your Career Site both SEO and Mobile friendly?
  • Do you have targeted content and landing pages directed at specific candidates? (Think Military, Engineers or specific campus recruiting.)
  • How easy is it for candidates to find relevant jobs?  Is the job search integrated within the flow of your Career Site? (May not be the case if you rely on ATS job search.)
  • Do your Career Site metrics have tight source capture for candidates that go to the site via outside source and then decide to navigate the site?

Apply Flow:  One of the biggest complaints of candidates about applying is the application process.  From the time it takes to submit an application to the supposed Black Hole of not hearing back on a submitted application.  Some positive changes to your application process can go a long way to pleasing candidates.

A few questions to think about:

  • How long is your application compared to other organizations?
  • What is the minimum amount of information we would need to make a interview decision on a candidate?  (You can always capture more information after they apply.)
  • Do you capture feedback from candidates that just completed the process?  Is it automated?
  • If candidates have trouble with the application process, how can they reach out to you?
  • Do you send a confirmation to candidates that you received their application?
  • Do you get back to every candidate with the final status of their application?

Interview Process: Once a candidate enters the interview stage the need to follow up gets even more crucial.  Interest has been expressed on both sides and even if they aren’t hired, you want them to have positive things to say.  Here the candidate experience is affect by hiring manager interactions, feedback, follow-up and setting a clear picture of the interview process.

A few questions to think about:

  • How clearly do you state the steps and time horizon of the interview process to candidates?  Is there a central location where this is laid out (maybe on your Career Site.)?
  • Do you “close the loop” on every interaction a candidate makes with your organization (i.e. next steps after an interview, final decision, etc.)?
  • Are your hiring managers and recruiters on the same page for candidate interviews and what they are looking for?

Employee Engagement:  This is the one area that can help to affect the 3rd party channels that ultimately affect candidate perceptions.  Having a good on-boarding process, working environment and company culture will get candidates talking about your company and submitting referrals.  You should encourage employees to share their thoughts on what it’s like to work at your organization (hopefully they have had a good experience.)

A few questions to think about:

  • How involved do we get current employees in talent acquisition?
  • What are your current scores on sites like Glassdoor?  Why are they good or bad?
  • How can we work with HR to better prepare hires for success at the organization?

Go improve It

So there’s my definition and a look at the different areas that can affect a candidate’s overall experience.  I hope this gives you some ideas on some small ways that you can improve your candidate experience.  The key is consistently look to improve it and use data to see what works in doing so.  As I’ve said before, the Candidate Experience is not a one time effort but a consistent one with incremental changes that lead to a better experience overall.

About Christopher Brablc

I'm the Recruiting & Marketing Geek at SmashFly Technologies and help recruiting organizations improve their recruiting process and results. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/smashfly or connect with me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisbrablc

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