This post was influenced in part by SmashFly CEO Mike Hennessy’s presentation at the HR Technology Conference. I highly recommend you check it out via Slideshare!

The world we live in has changed and it’s evolved in a few distinct and important ways. I’ve included a few below:

Big Brother Knows: No one is truly anonymous. With social media and digital profiles, every person has a line on Google and we are able to know more about a person before we even meet them.

Real Connections made online: More than ever before, the ability to make meaningful connections without physically meeting someone is achievable. When I started at SmashFly and began building relationships in the HCM space, Twitter was my best friend. I was able to create valuable relationships with people that I cherish today and most of them were created online and it in turn facilitated in-person connections. This is now how most buyer / seller relationships begin.

User Generated Content Reigns: We have more information available at our fingerprints than any other generation. And this has affected our behavior. Most consumers utilize more sources of information when making a decision than they have before. We are also using from multiple sources and sites and this is where user generated content comes in.

As consumers, we increasingly rely on user-generated content to make educated decisions. If there’s information we need the first place we go is Google and our connections. And the most important part is that we trust this content more than marketing messages.

So what’s the culmination of all these trends and does it affect how we buy and sell?

It has made for a more educated buyer that lives in a world that’s increasingly transparent. This means they come in less for education on what a product does and differences and moreso on price and quality. Most buyers know more or less what they want and what you provide as a seller and are willing to go to another provider to get a better deal.

In short, you need them more than they need you. And the same is true in the candidate experience.

Candidates are becoming increasingly savvy in understanding their skills and value in the marketplace. They also better understand that a job is not just a job but a place where you’ll be spending a majority of your time. So they are much more discerning of the company they want to be getting their paycheck. There’s also much more resources like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to better understand the true nature of a job and employer.  In short, candidates are taking charge.

Attracting with the Candidate Experience

This thought is nothing new.

Matt Charney’s wrote a blog “Candidate Experience: Rage Against the Machines”, which I highly recommend you read on the subject and greatly influenced this post.

In recruiting, we tend to believe that our job opportunities are destinations so to speak. That candidates will be determined to search out and find our specific job position when they are ready to make the next move.  This rarely happens.

Add in that the focus of most candidate experience efforts starts at the application process and moves downstream and we begin to have a flawed initiative.

Why is this flawed? If you believe the above on a more educated buyer that has does the necessary research when they make decisions, then I wonder the following. Why do we focus most of our time and energy just on the one part where we convert candidates that ALREADY FOUND US?

Sure, we want to ensure that we successfully convert them and provide a good experience but isn’t it just as important to expand our reach and relationships to untapped candidate audiences?

The candidate experience doesn’t start at the application process but way before. It starts when a candidate first hears about your company, views a post on social, gets a call or message from a recruiter, visits your Career Site, buys your product or one of many interactions that a candidate can have to initiate a relationship.

Making sure the application process is good is a pre-requisite and a process oriented initiative can be done to improve it (and depending on your ATS there’s only so much you can do.) But the front end of the candidate experience is where the meat is. We need to be asking questions like:

  • How can we create the best experience across all our recruitment marketing interactions?
  • How can we ensure that a candidate receives consistent messaging and a value pitch that resonates with them at a personal level?
  • How can you build relationships that last and bridge the gap between having the right position and a candidate being ready to move on?

The focus here is building a full experience vs. one that provides only the limited population that converts all the way to the application process. It’s about filling the top of the funnel to levels that you never have and ensuring more quality in terms of applicants.


Where To Focus in the Pre-Applicant Candidate Experience

The Pre-Applicant candidate experience is about attraction and becoming part of the conversation as candidates learns about their value and the organizations where they want to work.

As we mentioned before, your voice will not be the only input in terms of how they make the decision. You have a bunch of other voices vying for their attention from reviews on Glassdoor to their connections on Linkedin to your competitors offering similar positions.

How do we cut through all these voices and improve the candidate experience in the pre-applicant recruiting process? Here’s a few areas of focus.

Employer Value Proposition: First things first. Your organization needs to understand the unique value it offers as an employer. You need to answer the “Why Us?” question and articulate it in your brand and messaging.

Once you have that, it’s important to ensure this message is ingrained in all of your recruiting channels and sources. This includes your job ads, Career Site, email campaigns, follow-up messaging, social channels and others.

It really needs to be consistent for every interaction. A candidate needs to walk away understanding the true value of working for your organization each time they engage with your brand.

Easy Sign Up: Our first conversion goal for recruitment campaigns should be the Talent Network. It’s a great way for candidates to dip their toes in the water with your company in a low commitment way. Once you capture, it’s all about engagement. You’ve got an in with them, it’s up to you to communicate your value proposition.

For candidates, it provides an easy way to connect that isn’t the application process, which is a big commitment. Having easy sign-up directly in your apply process and via all of your channels provides candidates the ability to raise their hand that’s not job requisition focused.  From there you can collect more information on the candidate and create better relationships with them to potentially fill future positions.

Understand What’s Working: How is your candidate flow and recruitment marketing funnel look from a performance standpoint? Are there blips in the funnel that show bottlenecks at specific stages? How effective are we at converting the candidates that we are nurturing in our Talent Network? Where are our best candidates coming from?

All these questions should have an answer through recruiting analytics and you should be monitoring to understand where to invest resources and eliminate bottlenecks in the candidate experience.

The Candidate Experience Begins Early and Never Ends

The real point of this post is that candidate experience focused solely on the application and hiring process is shortsighted and in many cases, you’ve already set the expectations with the candidate that you cannot change. If we don’t focus on telling our story and ensuring the experience is positive from their initial interaction we are missing out on a huge opportunity.

So the question is, what are you doing to focus on the pre-applicant candidate experience?


Candidate Experience



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