Cooking up the Right Ingredients to Create a Positive Candidate Experience: The Human Factor

“If I told you that the candidate and employee experience will directly impact your bottom line, would you agree? I can guarantee you a positive candidate experience has a major impact. It’s simple: a candidate is a prospective customer and [an] advocate, so investing in [your] customer experience, in your talent program, will create the same advocates – it’s really that simple.”

– Marc Havercroft, Chief Operating Officer & Head of Strategy, SAP SuccessFactors

The importance of delivering a positive candidate experience at every turn cannot be understated. Your brand as an employer is just as important as your marketing brand – perhaps even more so.

Deliver a bad experience and it’s likely that the aggrieved candidate will share their frustration with their personal networks and, quite possibly on social media. That can cost real money. A 2016 study by Harvard Business Review and ICM Unlimited found that companies with 10,000-plus workers spend up to AUD$10 million in additional wages to make up for their poor reputation as an employer.

According to a 2018 survey by The Talent Board, 60% of employers in Asia-Pacific believe that their overall candidate experience is either ‘leading’ or ‘competitive.’ And incredibly, not a single organisation felt that they deliver a candidate experience that lags the rest of the market. Candidates themselves are much more critical, however, rating employers 13.8 percent lower on average than employers rate themselves.

So clearly, there’s room for improvement. And, in doing so, a demonstrable payoff:

  • A more engaged workforce
  • Higher retention rates
  • More referrals of external talent
  • Solid, receptive talent pools for
    future hiring
  • A robust external employer brand and a
    solid reputation as a good place to work

Making it
a Reality

There are many factors that go into delivering a delightful
candidate experience. From a human interaction perspective, these can include:

  • Empathy and authenticity (walk in the
    candidates’ shoes)
  • Communicate effectively
  • Challenge and educate candidates around
    market expectations for the role and the remuneration
  • A structured interview process, both by
    phone and face-to-face
  • Educating hiring mangers on how best
    to interview
  • Promptness in rejection emails, while
    providing candidates with an understanding of why if possible
  • Soliciting candidate feedback

People are indeed people and, while Talent Acquisition (TA) sits within the realm of Human Resources (not my favourite term but the most recognised), it’s this ‘human’ part that is too often deprioritised. A truly satisfying candidate experience comes from the interactions candidates have with the actual recruiters and TA professionals during the recruitment process. Technology plays a part in this and will increase its impact on the experience in the future – as artificial intelligence and machine learning become more mainstream.

Going through the recruitment process can be tremendously emotional for a candidate. It’s vital to ensure that their journey is guided by someone with an intimate knowledge of the role, and the culture of both the organisation and the team they’ll be working with. That kind of insight will help them make an informed decision that fulfils both their life goals and their career goals.

Another factor most businesses forget is that TA is oftentimes the first experience someone may have with a particular brand. A recruiter is more than just a recruiter – they are an ambassador from a commercial aspect as well. It’s a lesson that Virgin Media actually quantified: six percent of rejected candidates switched providers based on a negative candidate experience, losing the company just over AUD$8 million in revenue.

Ensure that your TA team does not lose sight of its incredibly impactful
role in your company’s success. Exhibiting humility and empathy to candidates
throughout the recruitment experience – from juniors to seasoned professionals
– is key to success, especially in today’s hyper-competitive job market. The
candidate experience is a primary market differentiator that should not be
undervalued or overlooked.

Another key to success is to ask for feedback. Consider implementing
a post-recruitment candidate survey to quantify their experiences and pinpoint
problem areas. Make sure that this reaches hires as well as rejected candidates
in order to get a balanced view. And remember to ask open-ended questions, like
“What could we have done better?”

Want to know the best piece of feedback I ever received from a
candidate? It was this: “That is probably the nicest rejection letter ever!”

But it’s not just managing the candidate’s
experience that leaves a positive impression, it’s also incumbent on the TA
team to effectively manage hiring managers – ensuring they understand their
roles and responsibilities in delivering a positive experience. If the
candidate’s experience with every individual they encounter during the hiring
process is a positive one, even those you reject will have good things to say
and share about your organisation.

Whilst TA is often perceived as a purely transactional process, we
in the recruitment and HR business – and anyone who is involved in the hiring
of employees – need to walk a mile in our candidates’ shoes.  Job hunting and interviewing for positions is stressful
for just about anyone. We must keep in mind that we are dealing with our
organisations’ number one asset – its current and future employees. We need
them as much as they need us – so we should make their journey one to remember.