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As recruitment marketing professionals, we talk a lot about the candidate experience and how it helps us hire the best talent. What we don’t talk about enough is the candidate experience for everyone else ‒ all the people we don’t hire or extend an offer to.

A mere 2% of applicants get to the interview stage, and only a small percentage of those candidates receive offers. What does that tell me? We’re placing an excessive focus on a very small number of people! I’m not saying it’s wrong ‒ maybe just a bit short-sighted. It’s not all about the 1 person we hire, it’s about the 99 other people who applied and the 50 others who came to our career site or viewed our jobs.

When you consider that today’s talent will be “on the market” 10-12 times in their career ‒ likely re-entering the market each time with greater skills ‒ it makes perfect sense to devote some attention to the experience of those we haven’t hired.

Last year, I spoke at SmashFly Transform and shared stories about Fiserv’s candidate experience journey. One story that really resonated with the audience came from a candidate who we didn’t hire. I simply read a feedback note he sent us.

The strong reaction from my peers got me thinking about how important the journey is for the candidates that don’t make it all the way. Below is the candidate’s actual feedback to Fiserv and a breakdown of 8 lessons we can all learn from it.

“I know this is unusual. I felt compelled to give some feedback on Fiserv’s hiring process. Even though I was given unfortunate news, I was satisfied with how the process works (1), I felt comfortable and welcomed each of the three interviews. (2) The questions asked of me were smart and insightful. (3) I was given timely and excellent direction where needed. And throughout the process, (4) if I had questions outside of an interview, I was replied back to in a professional manner. (5) The benefit app breaking down the cost of health coverage was useful, I’ve never seen that before in pre-employment. (6) I read online through third-party sites how the Fiserv employees, both current and former, showed excellent satisfaction with the company and other employees . (7) I can understand why, if this is how Fiserv treats all processes through the company, you’re successful. I want to thank you and everyone involved again for my interviews and time. (8) Although I was not selected, I know I made the right choice in applying.”

Lesson 1: Make the effort to understand every part of the candidate experience; I suggest walking through your own experience from beginning to end through multiple channels. Survey candidates during every part of the process, including post-interview ‒ especially when they didn’t get the job. At Fiserv, we take the opportunity to survey candidates at at all stages of our hiring process, even when someone is just window shopping. We use a tool called Qualtrics, and it’s accessible from a mobile device, so the feedback stays in the moment.

Lesson 2: People appreciate details, so physically go the extra mile on site at the interview. At Fiserv’s large locations, every candidate who comes in for a first interview gets a welcome bag from the recruiting team. We call it the “white glove” treatment. The bag has a bottle of water, pen and notepad, a few mints and a note from our recruiting team encouraging the candidate to have a great interview, connect with us on social media and leave feedback about their experience on Glassdoor. 

Lesson 3: Personalize the interview questions to make sure they are relevant. One way we do this at Fiserv is through our candidate experience hiring manager training. Hiring managers who go through this training learn how to create behavioral-based interview questions that are aligned with the role and specific to the candidate experience. The talent you want to hire is also listening to how you view the business and the role, as well as considering what it would be like to work with you and for you.

Lesson 4: Revisit the questions you get asked most from candidates. Think about your own job experience. What resources can you create, information can you relay or expectations can you set that will make their experience easier? At Fiserv, we created a page on our career site dedicated to our hiring process, and there is a substantial FAQ section for candidates to review.  Our recruiters and recruiting coordinators act as interview “wingmen” (and wingwomen!), an approachable source for answers throughout the interviewing process.

Lesson 5: Treat all candidate as if they are already in the organization by giving them information that reveals what it’s really like to work there. Ask yourself, do they have the tools to visualize themselves in your company now or in the future? At Fiserv, we offer a tool called Benefits Alex to help candidates really understand the value of our benefits package. It helps people form a more holistic view of our benefits and shows them that we care about what they value. We are also about to launch several new videos on our career site that feature real associates to give candidates a look inside what it’s like to work at Fiserv.

Lesson 6: Make sure your online reputation supports you in an authentic, transparent way. If it doesn’t already position you as a wonderful place to work ‒ stop here and start working on that now. This is especially critical for brands that don’t have the luxury of big-name recognition. At Fiserv, we’re proud of our Glassdoor rating, and we constantly “work on it,” encouraging our candidates and employees to share honest feedback for the world to see.

Lesson 7: Understand that your recruitment process makes either a positive or negative first impression about your culture. If you treat every candidate well every time, you’ll have a good shot at re-engaging them down the road when there might be a better role or better fit. Our recruiters and sourcers are very mindful of our silver and bronze medalists and reconnect with them often about new opportunities and/or to network for referrals. We track these candidates in our CRM and ATS, to ensure we don’t lose site of good talent that didn’t work out the first time around.

Lesson 8: Track your Net Promoter Score score. Does it help or hurt when people rate and share their experience, and would they ever recommend you to a friend? Again, just because someone isn’t a right fit right now, doesn’t mean they won’t become the right fit, or know someone else who is. We track this through our candidate survey.

I’ll leave you with this quote: “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

It truly sums up why I love what I do every day and why I’m passionate about it. As recruitment marketers, we need to stay aware and ahead of how our process makes everyone feel: not just the candidates that are the perfect fit for the right job at the current time. Talent can always come back around ‒ and we in talent acquisition should aim for that goal.

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