Recruiting, Talent

Start EX Early: Humanize the Candidate Experience

It’s easy to forget that every employee hired into your organization was once a candidate applying for a new job opportunity. These applicants chose your company over hundreds of others in the hopes of starting a new career journey. And it’s a jobseeker’s market today.

Source: ESB Professional / shutterstock

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits has dropped to its lowest level since 1969. The economy has now produced more than 21 million new jobs since the labor market collapsed in 2010. Today’s jobseekers can be more selective, so the pressure is on when it comes to planning for a solid hiring process and attracting the best talent.

Researchers often find that the true test of a positive candidate experience is whether a candidate would reapply. In 2018, only about 34% of candidates stated that they would reapply to an organization after going through its recruitment process.

With the right plan in place, you can uncover the best talent, enhance your organization’s brand, and provide a uniquely engaging recruitment experience. If companies are truly committed to the employee experience (EX), they will need to humanize the candidate experience. Here are tips for doing just that.

Always Respond to Applicants

Respond to all applicants, even if they won’t be given a first interview. An automated “thank-you” response is fine, as long as it’s prompt and respectful and doesn’t make your applicant feel that he or she wasted time. While spending any time on rejected candidates may seem unnecessary, you never know when that same jobseeker might be a fit for your next open position.

As many HR leaders know, your candidate experience can directly affect your business. In a recent study, more than half of respondents (54%) said the candidate experience directly influences their choices to buy or pass up a company’s products or services. While there’s debate over whether a company should treat its candidates like customers, it’s understandable that applicants who never hear back from recruiters are more likely to avoid that company in the future.

Create Unique Experiences for Different Types of Applicants

When you take the time to personalize the recruiting process, you save your potential new hires from application fatigue caused by unnecessary or redundant steps. Certain positions may require rigorous technical screening, while others might rely more on personality or values alignment, so don’t make everyone jump through the same hoops. Make your candidates feel special by creating an application process that’s unique to the role, its location, and the required level of expertise. Give each candidate the chance to share what special attributes he or she brings to the position by asking questions about his or her professional goals, and, of course, take a little time to get to know the candidate as a person.

By investing in an advanced recruiting platform with artificial intelligence (AI)-augmented candidate-screening technologies, you enable your talent acquisition teams to spend more time with the right résumés and candidates. When hiring managers are confident that they’re talking to the right prospects, they can focus resources on alternative interviews, such as mock presentations, group assignments, or code-a-thons, with prospective employees. This will provide a way to test for both hard and soft skills while exposing the candidates to more typical work experiences.

Embrace Two-Way Feedback

The best way to identify and improve any recruitment kinks is to ask those who are directly affected by them—your applicants. Once you’ve made an offer, speak with candidates directly to find out where the process lags and which interviews were unessential. Did the position actually match the online job description? During the interview, did candidates meet with their new team members? Net Promoter Scores (NPS) aren’t just a good indicator for your customers. If you have the time and technical capabilities, directly ask candidates things like how likely they would be to recommend the application process to a friend. Gathering this vital information will make for much richer dialogue with potential hires.

Candidates want feedback, too. Recent data show that candidates who are interviewed and then given job-related feedback by the end of that same day are 52% more likely to apply again, refer others, or make purchases of your product (if and when applicable). If feedback isn’t given, candidates are more than twice as likely to sever the relationship. By embracing two-way feedback, you can correct mistakes and implement an improved process when activating your team for the next candidate search.

Use Your Own Experiences

Think back to your own job search. Did potential employers respond to you promptly? Did you feel valued while being interviewed? The experience you had as a candidate likely colored your feelings toward those companies permanently. Even if a candidate does accept a position at an organization, his or her experience does not reset as a new employee—rather, his or her time as a candidate influences his or her opinion of HR and the company overall.

Reflect on your positive experiences as a candidate: when interviewers respected your time, considered your preferences, asked for feedback, and updated you along the way. Let those experiences guide you. Treating candidates with respect, as well as providing them with the support and communication they deserve, can have a wide variety of benefits in the short and long term. Incorporate these strategies, and start your journey to achieving a successful hire-to-retire EX.

Laura Lee Gentry is the VP of Talent and Learning at Ultimate Software.