6 ways to improve your candidate experience

6 ways to improve your candidate experience

Long held up as a critical talent strategy, candidate experience still ranks low for all but the savviest consumer brands. If you really want to improve your candidate experience, here are six (relatively) easy ways to go about it:

1. Attract fewer applicants in the first place. 

In my previous post (2 April, 2014) I explain in detail why attracting fewer applicants is a good thing. When you attract the right people, application volume should decrease in importance and lead to a better overall candidate experience.   

2. Companies should be measuring candidate experience for all applicants ... not just those who successfully applied. 

Currently most companies only poll successful job applicants to find out their experience of the hiring process, but that’s akin to asking big tippers to rate their restaurant experience. (And for companies that use recruitment process outsourcing partners, policy can sometimes make the practice actually worse. Contracts can contain punitive language for poor applicant experience, creating a misalignment with the group responsible for actually reporting on the experience).  

None of it should be acceptable. New technologies make surveying candidate experience much easier. A solution called Mystery Applicant, for example, uses questions chosen at random to poll candidates during different moments in the application process (and offers a remarkably complete picture of candidate experience from initial query to close).  

3. Ensure the hiring manager interacts with applicants— and in particular with candidates on the short list. 

There’s a direct relationship between how candidates feel about the hiring process and how closely the hiring manager participated in that process. When candidates are relegated to speak mostly to a recruiter, candidates feel they did not merit attention. Make the on-site visit extra special. Are your candidates at the center of the process, and if so, how exactly do you enchant them when they visit your location? One company we worked with gave potential employees an iPad upon arrival. The iPad contained a detailed schedule of their visit, profiles of the executives they would meet, and information about working for the company. Visitors were also told to use the iPad for personal and professional reasons (e.g. checking emails, social networking, etc.) in a nod to each visitor’s generous investment of time visiting the company’s offices. The company also paired candidates with a “buddy” who ensured they were escorted to each meeting and had company for lunch. The motivation was two-fold: (a) make it more likely a finalist will select the position and (b) leave a positive impression on those who were not selected with the belief that they may become candidates again in the near future. Remember, your focus s not to woo a single candidate for a specific job, but to provide a positive experience for many candidates.  

4. If you’re trying to leave a good impression, involve customer service. 

It stands to reason that the true satisfaction experts at your company are likely to be sitting in customer service. Why not involve them in redesigning your candidate experience process? At GE they did just that. The hiring process was designed by customer service to ensure all applicants felt satisfied by the application process, even if not selected. Given GE’s hunger for top-flight talent, the strategy makes perfect sense. They even tie hiring manager KPIs and bonuses to candidate experience in order to ensure it’s more than lip service.  

5. Consider providing extra value through educational content. 

All job applicants—but in particular students—are hungry for information about their careers and the job market. And while career fairs are not on the verge of disappearing, they are often too generic to provide meaningful value to applicants. We’ve seen companies have remarkable success with new mediums such as webinars (with narrow and highly targeted topics) and even Twitter chats. These are channels that younger workers already use, offer a high-level of engagement, and are remarkably inexpensive for employers adept at using social. A recent survey by Boston Consulting Group showed employers that use social networking for HR capably have revenue growth 1.5 times higher than those employers that define themselves as least capable.

6. Banish the concept of one-time relationships. 

When an applicant applies for a particular job, consider that individual a potential member of your talent network—someone you can query about future jobs that may open at your organisation. (And if it wasn’t clear before, this is why candidate experience matters so much! Rejected candidates may fit a future role perfectly, and they have friends and colleagues you want to impress. Each relationship matters.) Rather than treating a rejection as the end of the road, a rejection should be the beginning of a new path in your relationship with that professional.  

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