This post was inspired by the 2014 Candidate Experience Awards Symposium.

“Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience.” 

— Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group

What Steve Burnett didn’t note was that the change in technology has made crafting great messages a bit more difficult: We need to understand what “well-crafted” means for different channels like Twitter, email, job boards and mobile, as well as through different stages, including pre-apply, interviewing, onboarding and resignation.

Yes, even resignation. This means that the candidate experience isn’t solely about the application process; it begins well before and ends well after. It continues throughout the entire relationship between the individual and the organization–even through hire, years of employment and resignation. Further, we should be looking to others internally and externally to help optimize how we communicate to and engage our candidates throughout their journey.

As you build out your communication strategies, focus on these three audiences in your pursuit of well-crafted messaging for the candidate experience:

The Candidate

Obvious, but we have to start here. Really take a look at how you’re talking to your candidates throughout the entire attraction and hiring process. Are your processes and next steps transparent? Are you being proactive in outreach and follow-ups?

The idea of “closing the loop” is a great way to think about your communication strategy to candidates. As candidates take actions in your recruiting process (i.e., visit your career site, apply for a job, interview with a hiring manager, etc.) they should receive an appropriate reaction from the organization at each point, whether it’s a customized automated response or a personal email from a recruiter or hiring manager. This clues in the candidate that you notice and thanks them for their interest and also enables you to set up what will happen next in the process to keep that interest.

The best communication sets proper expectations for candidates about your process: frequency of contact once they join your Talent Network; who they can expect communication from; potential timeline of each stage of the hiring process.

 

Internal Stakeholders

While communication with candidates is foremost, it’s also essential to be on the same page internally with your hiring managers and business partners. I quoted a great point from Lockheed Martin’s Marvin Smith on Twitter: We need to remember that hiring managers are ultimately the clients for talent acquisition. The better we understand their needs and communicate with them throughout the hiring process, the better the experience will be for both the business and the candidate. We need to give internal stakeholders a peek into “how the sauce is made,” giving insight into the candidate’s journey before their resume lands on the hiring manager’s desk.

So what does should internal communication look like? One term I’ve been hearing a lot is “Talent Advisor.” The Talent Advisor should serve as the champion of the business needs: building strong relationships with candidates and hiring managers and ensuring the hiring process is seamless on both sides. There may be one or a few people who take on this role right now in your organization, but perhaps in bits and pieces. If there isn’t budget for a team member focused on this integration function, you should be focused on setting up a process of meetings and communication between recruiters and hiring managers. There is nothing worse than when a candidate walks into an interview with the hiring manager and both people are completely disconnected. That stems from a disconnect between the recruiter and hiring manager, so don’t make a fool out of three people.

 

Current Employees (and Alumni)

At the Candidate Experience Symposium, a speaker discussed how bad organizations treat team members who are leaving the company, and I saw nearly everyone else nodding their heads. If everyone is nodding their heads, then HR needs to implement change in exit communication and process. The candidate experience, despite its name, does not end when a candidate turns into an employee–it spans the full lifetime between that individual and the organization. The candidate who  became an employee who became a retiree may continue to refer qualified talent and advocate for the company for life. The same goes for an employee who had a seamless and warm resignation. But an employee who had a great hiring experience and a great few years can quickly change their tune if the organization shows resentment or worse, apathy, during their exit.

Communication guidelines and touchpoint timeline are key to developing a clear and valuable employee exit process. Ensure the parting transition and terms are reasonable, provide the employee a forum for feedback and offer ways to stay in touch if they’re interested. Overall, after a candidate is passed on or an employee resigns, you should feel comfortable reaching out to them for future opportunities. This can be a huge boon to your employer brand and overall reputation–as an employer, you never know when their skills and your organization might be the perfect match.

The organizations that focus on communication and connection with potential, current and past candidates can truly affect their business results and company culture.

For more on bettering the candidate experience, read our analyst report with Brandon Hall Group on five key recruitment marketing components

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