NEWS + ADVICE
Real-World Examples to Make Your Candidate Experience Efforts Pay Off
Tips to improve the candidate experience with real-world examples from recruiters that are putting in extra efforts to achieve positive results.
If you’ve spent any time in recruitment, you know the candidate experience is important. But are you doing everything you can to influence positive outcomes? You may hold the keys to coveted positions, but you don’t hold all the power. Though interested candidates hope to sell themselves to gain consideration, there’s a sales aspect to the recruitment side too.
“You’re trying to talk somebody into taking your job versus of all the other opportunities that they might have ahead of them,” says Meg Duba, Talent Acquisition – National and Homeland Security, Idaho National Laboratory. Amp up your candidate experience game to support your ability to recruit cleared talent with these methods.
Ease of Applying
One of the first steps employers can take to improve the candidate experience is streamlining the application process. In a 2020 Job Seeker Nation Survey1, 24% of respondents said a complicated job application process led to a negative candidate experience. So make it as easy to apply as possible, as 49% said an easy process led to a positive candidate experience1.
“It’s important to make sure you have a mobile friendly application process, something that isn’t too cumbersome, as people are often looking at jobs on their phones or tablets nowadays,” suggests John McCracken, Director of Recruiting, SOSi. “You want to make it easy for somebody to engage with you and submit their interests in a job.”
As a recruiter, you’re assessing if a candidate will be a good fit, but job seekers are also gathering information to make an informed decision about your company. Are you available to answer their questions and concerns?
“I think the most important aspect of a good candidate experience is getting back to the candidates quickly,” emphasizes Molly Moss, Recruiting Specialist, JGMS. This is especially critical, as the top reported reason that leads to a negative candidate experience is lack of response from an employer or recruiter1. “If you have a disgruntled candidate there’s a really good chance they’re going to be completely uninterested in reapplying, because they’ve had a bad customer facing experience,” adds Molly Moss. “So I think it’s really important that the company or the recruiter get back to the candidate—not just once, but that they have a high touch.”
What does a high rate of touch look like? “Recently there was a candidate who I was working with, and over the time from the original interview to when he finally accepted, there were hours spent on the phone with him as his travel relocation person, his mental health therapist, and marriage counselor,” shares Meg Duba. “It took being willing to talk after hours or multitasking whenever I’m in a meeting on one side but texting him on the other side, or contacting him via phone just to check in. But it’s definitely a success story in this case because he did end up accepting.” Meg Duba explained that was an extreme case, but being empathetic to people’s situations is paramount, especially when a huge relocation is expected, like in that situation.
While you don’t need to touch base with a candidate on a daily basis, do communicate within a timely manner. Don’t leave them hanging—that will only encourage them to look elsewhere. Something that may help facilitate ease of high-touch communication is text messaging. “I think it’s super efficient, and I think candidates actually prefer that in some cases,” advises John McCracken. “Think about in our everyday lives how much we prefer to text people versus call.”
John McCracken adds, “It benefits the candidate by respecting their time and ease of communication as well. It’s also good for recruiters because we get more responses out of folks that way. And it adds a personable touch, where once a candidate feels like you’re in their text messages, you’re akin to a friend, and they’ll be more likely to text you back and ask you for updates, and you can be more responsive in turn. It adds a faster, more effective method of communication.”
One of the best things you can strive to do as a recruiter is to set expectations for your candidates. This means proactively sharing information about the steps candidates will encounter in your hiring process and when they can expect a follow-up.
When you’re able to share exactly what to expect and the process lines up with that, “It shows that you the recruiter are engaged with the business, you’re in lockstep with the hiring manager, and it gives you credibility as a representative of the company,” explains John McCracken. “And for candidates, it gives them that much more confidence in you, as well as lending itself to a better experience when they’re not left sitting there wondering.” So clearly communicate your hiring process and share the names or even LinkedIn URLs of the people who will be interviewing them. Whatever can be done to put the candidate at ease will maximize their experience and create a more relaxed environment.
Even if you’re not ready to move forward in the hiring process with a particular candidate immediately, you can still communicate and set expectations for the future. After attending a ClearedJobs.Net job fair, Molly Moss said, “We contacted well over 50 candidates. We touched base with them and let them know, we’ve got your application, we’re going to keep your resume on file, and will reach out to you when we have opportunities that we’d like to share for your consideration. In doing so we’ve been able to have a reliable and substantial candidate pool built on just those very small communication steps.”
Highlight Company Culture
Job seekers aren’t just interested in what their job will entail, they’re also very interested in understanding day-to-day life at your company. Share information about your company culture to give them a glimpse of your world and to add to your unique selling proposition.
“People, especially younger generations, care very much about what kind of employer they’re going to work for and what their employer stands for, and that factors into their decision-making,” says John McCracken. Company culture is “actually something we like to lead with, because we don’t want to just come across as your everyday government contractor.”
Highlight your company’s culture as a way to differentiate yourself. For example, John McCracken emphasizes, “I know you got tens of calls or emails about plenty of positions just like this, but here’s what makes SOSi different, here’s what makes this particular opportunity different, and here’s what your career path would look like at a place like SOSi.”
Preparing the Offer
It can be irritating for both candidates and employers if there is too much back and forth in the offer and negotiation stage. At this point in the process you’ve exerted efforts towards a positive candidate experience, so why not put your best foot forward when it comes to the actual offer too? Meg Duba shares, “We just made an offer to a high level position, and I was working with him behind the scenes to make sure that whenever we did have an offer, it was not going to be insulting.”
“We were taking all things into consideration like cost of living and vacation, to make sure the offer was well thought out, researched, all inclusive, and that we didn’t leave anything out, to avoid a bunch of back and forth,” adds Meg Duba. “It feels good to know that you got a win because of the extra effort that you put in.”
Giving Feedback and Closure
You can’t extend an offer to every candidate, but ”If you give that candidate feedback, even if it’s negative, you can end it on a positive,” says Molly Moss. Many job seekers don’t have all the answers when it comes to job search and they can greatly benefit from your expertise. When you share meaningful information and give candidates feedback, you not only help that candidate but also the reputation of your company.
“I think a lot of times it’s easy for us just to say, sorry we’re not going to be moving forward with you,” adds Molly Moss. ”But I’ve found that even a no can turn into a very positive way of getting that candidate to return and explore your opportunities further if you’re willing to give them honest feedback and they’re willing to hear it.”
Another thing we can collectively improve on is offering closure. Some job seekers apply, have an initial phone screening, or even get through to the interview stage only to be left waiting with no definitive answer. If a candidate doesn’t make the cut to the next stage, let them know quickly.
“It’s important that you communicate with and thank the candidates, even if they’re not considered a qualifiable candidate,” urges Molly Moss. “If you can’t have a conversation with them, at least send an email that says, we’re not going to consider you for this position, but we’d love to stay in touch with you.” Keep the line of communication open by inviting them to seek opportunities with your company down the road. By investing in your candidates this way, they’re going to come through the other side with a positive experience, and will potentially refer others to your opportunities.
It’s All About the Relationship
At the end of the day, people hire people and relationship building remains the foundation of recruiting and job search. “Stay open to communication with your candidates even if you don’t have an opportunity for them right now, just relationship build,” emphasizes Molly Moss.
When we equate our candidates to a mere piece of paper in a pile of resumes, we all lose. “I want to make sure that they understand, that even though in my case, Idaho National Laboratory is who is paying my paycheck, that’s a small portion of it,” explains Meg Duba. “Without the candidates, I don’t continue to get that paycheck, so it’s a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t water one area, the other areas are going to be negatively affected as well.”
“If you’re good at your job, you’ll start getting word of mouth and referrals,” concludes Meg Duba. “So if I do a good job up front and throughout the entire process, that’s going to make my life a whole lot easier as I progress into my career.”
Recruiting and catering to the needs of hiring managers, your bosses, and candidates isn’t an easy job. But if you’re up to the task, maximize your efforts to sell candidates on what your company has to offer and strive for a positive candidate experience to reap the rewards.