We promised to answer the questions we didn’t get to from our latest webinar “What the CandE Winners Teach Us About Candidate Experience”―and here they are. Gerry Crispin of The Talent Board, Kevin Grossman of PeopleFluent and I all chime in on some interesting questions about starting, improving and measuring the candidate experience.
Where do you start in the candidate experience, and how do you branch out to improve each area?
Gerry: The first thing I would do is build a strategy to establish a ‘baseline’ measure for how my firm treats all candidates and then begin to listen to the various audiences that make up my candidate pools―by job family, level or skill, whatever is the most critical to my business’s plans.
Any recruiter can do that easily by asking their candidates about their satisfaction with their experience (however far along they got) immediately after they have ‘closed’ the job and informed everyone that the position was filled. The simplest way to do that is to embed a link to a survey in your email signature with a call to action like, “Tell us about your experience. We are committed to making it better.” If you’re not able to do that for every candidate, you could start during the onboarding process of your new hires, either through an online survey or asking them face-to-face about their experience during the recruiting process. If that’s all you do, you will learn much more than you can possibly imagine about what candidates need during their research, application, screening and testing, offer and onboarding stages.
How do you get feedback from candidates or onboarded employees? And when do you ask for it?
Gerry: For interview or recruiting experience feedback, you can survey at different stages throughout the process. You can ask candidates after they apply about whether they found what they needed to feel confident about their choice in applying, or you could also survey them after their interview process has concluded, asking if they felt they were able to share everything that was important about their skills, knowledge and experience. We know that authenticity, transparency and fairness are hallmarks of recruiting practices that influence the candidate experience rating, so questions should be designed to focus on the candidate’s stage in the process. The onboarding process with new hires is the best time to confirm your earlier conversations and differentiate between the candidates you hire and those you don’t.
Only 15 to 30 percent of employers ask candidates and new hires about their recruiting experience. You can’t improve your candidate experience unless you know where you’re starting from.
Chris: I agree with Gerry on all of the above. I would also add that we can capture less structured data by keeping lines of communication open through whatever channel works best for our specific team. It’s important to pick the best channel, whether social media, a survey, chat or a LinkedIn community, for your particular organization and provide an open forum for candidates to continuously learn about your organization and share their stories and input. It’s integral to then put the insight you’re receiving into action to improve each step of the candidate experience.
What do you see as separating an average candidate experience from a great one?
Gerry: Four things:
- Active Listening: Really hear what candidates are experiencing and what they need to make better decisions.
- Get Candidates Up To Bat: Ensure each candidate has the opportunity to tell you in their own words why they believe they are qualified (even if they don’t go further than the application).
- Set Clear Expectations: You have to be transparent about the job, the culture of work, development/opportunity and the recruiting process (and then deliver on them!).
- Closure: By keeping your promise to inform candidates when the position is closed, it is more likely they’ll return when they are more competitive and might also encourage others to apply.
When and how do you set candidate expectations both before and after they apply?
Gerry: Setting expectations for candidates is absolutely critical, and it reflects on the transparency of the organization. Different jobs might need a different set of expectations. For example, do your college students really understand how to take an interview? If you do panel interviews, do the candidates understand the approach? Do you provide a specific relevant example of a behavior-based question for each of the positions that you hire? What promises are made to candidates who have interviewed and asked about the organization making a decision? How often has that promise been met? There are a number of things companies are not doing, and they should.
When we think about treating candidates as customers, we might want to think about how 38,000 candidates answered this question: “What do you wish you would have known before applying?” The most frequent answer by a wide margin was salary. How many companies are actually putting a “price” on a job or an explanation around it?
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory does something quite interesting: They put on their career site a promise that if you apply to our company, this is the experience you will have. They listed the various things that would go on. That’s pretty powerful.
Other ways you can set expectations are through mobile apps or interview training, allowing candidates resources, guidance and advice to make them feel more prepared for the process.
It’s also important to let candidates know what they can expect from the interview process in the next 24, 48 hours or the next week. Telling people what is going to happen in advance is powerful, especially with what to expect with interviews and follow ups. But, you must stick to those expectations.
Kevin: Candidates want to know how long it will take to get through the application, what will happen after submittal and who they can expect to hear from. That can all be put on the career site easily and it allows for a much more transparent candidate experience right off the bat.
In fact, companies need to ensure these two things happen for candidates each and every time:
- Acknowledge that their application and interest has been received.
- Be transparent and personal once they’ve been dispositioned at any point in the screening process (or if they get an offer, which is the easy part).
That’s it. Automation can help scale when dealing with a large number of unqualified applicants, but if more recruiters and hiring managers gave some level of personal response to those dispositioned candidates, they would then be more likely to not only apply again at a later date, but they’ll recommend your company to other job seekers and recommend your products and services to other buyers. The Candidate Experience Awards data from the past few years continues to underscore this valuable employment branding advantage.
Can you give some examples of how to handle a global hiring process that might differ from country to country?
Gerry: We are expanding the awards in Europe―we have six countries involved―as well as in Australia and New Zealand. If Canada has as many as 25 firms participating this year, we’ll break out their data separately. For the last several years we’ve done the Candidate Experience Awards in the UK
There are some differences across countries. For example, in many countries, third-party recruiters who are partnering with individual companies tend to me much bigger of a factor in representing the companies. We tend to see some more practices that are being done by external recruiters. The four things we talked about are still critical issues, accountability, setting expectations, giving candidates a chance at bat, etc. Those things remain pretty consistent across cultural norms, but the expression of who is doing it is a little different.
How does technology impact the candidate experience?
Gerry: Technology is a platform. How it’s used can enhance or abuse the candidate experience.
Technology is essential to leverage the human element, but the reality is that it is how that human element is perceived by the candidate that determines whether it is positive or not.
Chris: An exceptional candidate experience starts with a well-designed recruiting strategy, but technology is the backbone of how to execute and measure every step in the candidate journey. When thinking about the technology that affects this experience, it typically fall into two categories: recruitment marketing technology, which focuses on the pre-applicant experience; and the ATS (and larger Talent Acquisition Platforms), which focus on the hiring and onboarding processes.
Recruitment Marketing Platforms can enable you to see the complete candidate experience, from first touch point all the way through application. This is where integration between your recruitment marketing and ATS technologies is integral. Through deep integration, especially from a data perspective, you can see the individual data all connected into a complete journey: where certain types of candidates are engaging, which of your channels are most effective and how to make decisions in where to budget your money in the future. Technology has to drive future decisions.
Kevin: PeopleFluent recommends that employers ensure their career sites are mobile optimized and include video. Moving to responsive design and mobile-friendly career sites means that they’re readable and consistent on any device. This experience will help reduce drop-off rates and increase qualified applicant conversation rates. Also, include video in your career site and candidate portal to differentiate your organization’s workplace culture, overall brand and especially job postings.
In addition, shorten your online application. If it takes 45 minutes to complete, then it’s 40 minutes too long. Attract applicants based on skills and experience needed, not just the literal requisition (especially for non-technical repetitive hiring). This allows you to create proactive people pipelines based on skills, not the job itself, which can maximize your recruitment dollar.
Being proactive with sourcing and screening doesn’t have to be aspirational―you can do it with your own applicant databases and applicant tracking technology. People pools help improve the candidate experience and employer brand. For instance, informing candidates who weren’t selected that they will be kept in a pool and considered for future positions will not only let them avoid having to reapply, but also create a more positive impression of your company and keep them engaged for future openings.
A people pool strategy also can enhance talent mobility: your internal candidate experience. Using employee data stored in your fully integrated talent management system can illuminate people already in place and their unique skills and strengths, helping retain your best employees by giving them the opportunity to advance through the ranks.