Simple Ways to Fix Your Candidate Experience

With everything that’s broken in the world right now, HR and talent acquisition (TA) professionals must focus on creating experiences that can deliver speed, convenience, and help, says Tracey Parsons, President of Parsons Strategic Consulting, in a recent HR Now session.

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In the session, “Building Now: Candidate Experience When It Seems Moot,” Parsons discussed how important the candidate experience (CX) is, especially right now during the coronavirus pandemic. Parsons says that so much uncertainty has caused people to stop quitting their jobs.

While unemployment has increased available talent, fear of contracting the virus, economic uncertainty, and more, all play a role in why jobseekers aren’t going back to the workforce. And if your company has said it’s on a hiring freeze, but is still recruiting for vital roles, candidates will not listen past the word “freeze,” Parsons adds.

When it comes to recruiting talent and winning the CX, Parsons says, “We must go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to understand jobseekers and help them overcome their fears and concerns.”

Build Experiences from Your Brand

Over the last few years TA teams have been focusing on branding, marketing, and recruitment and have been escalating up the Hierarchy chain to help draw talent, with “belonging” becoming one of the most important “needs” before the pandemic.

However, because of COVID, we’re now progressing back down this chain because people don’t feel safe. Recruiters must now go back to one of the most basic “needs” on Hierarchy chain: safety. “We have to understand, listen, and craft everything to accommodate what jobseekers need from us,” says Parsons.

CX may seem like a moot point if nobody is applying for your jobs, but have you considered the fact that maybe the job descriptions themselves are turning off candidates and creating the poor CX from the start? Are your job descriptions listing the safety measures your organization is taking? Do you communicate this to candidates once they apply? Do you communicate this again before the candidate goes into an interview?

By showing candidates that you’re focused on their concerns, you’re proving to them what it’s like to work for your company. You’re also preparing candidates for an exceptional experience by setting their expectations from the start.

Bad CX Is Bad for the Bottom Line

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: A bad CX will cost your company in some way, shape or form. Candidate experience is a roller coaster, says Parsons. But why? What does it cost the business? What happens to the brand if there are terrible experiences?

She points to research that says 41% of candidates who had an unpleasant experience will take their spending dollars elsewhere. Compared to 64% of candidates who had a pleasant experience and said they would spend more money with the company.

By not investing in a good CX, you’re only hurting the bottom line, says Parsons. She points to an example from cable provider, Virgin Atlantic. The company crunched the numbers and discovered that out of 123,000 rejected candidates, 6% ended up cancelling their subscriptions. Virgin Atlantic ultimately lost 7,500 customers as a direct result of a poor candidate experience, which equated to $5.4 million in lost revenue.

If you want to see how negatively CX can affect your bottom line, do the math yourself, Parsons suggests. She offers the following formula:

(# of Applications X .06) X Average Customer Spend = Lost Revenue

Seeing actual dollar signs attached to a poor CX will be all you’ll need to convince your executive team that a good CX matters in the hiring process. However, there’s always going to be one part of the hiring process that is almost virtually impossible to get right.

Jobseekers Hate Applying for Jobs, Even Before the Pandemic

“If I were to punish people in the most dehumanizing, humiliating way, I’d make them apply to jobs—and never hear anything—over and over again.” This was a quote Parsons pulled from an actual candidate. Parsons says that the application process is the most despised part about applying for jobs.

The reasons? It’s cumbersome, time-consuming, and as the example above points out, often candidates never hear back after they’ve sent their applications in. How can we fix this problem and get candidates to fall in love with the hiring process? Parsons shares her easy fixes, below.

Making the Fix, Even During This Weird Time!

Here are some fixes for creating a great candidate experience during COVID-19:

1. Be honest. “Stop painting sunshine and roses,” says Parsons. “Show candidates the reality of work.” If the job requires workers to stand out in the sweltering heat and frigid cold, then make sure that info is in the job description. Make sure you’re telling candidates the entire story about working in that role.

“This is where branding comes in,” says Parsons. We’re over-promising to candidates and under-delivering. “Be honest in your job descriptions,” she adds. “Especially in the context of the COVID-era.”

Besides the job description, you must be honest about the culture candidates can expect to work in, says Parsons. She shares the nine common core values across the top Fortune 50 companies: innovation, teamwork, customer-focused, integrity, quality, passion, respect, accountability, and fun.

Parsons says, “These don’t mean anything to the candidate. Show candidates what your values mean.” If your culture focuses on teamwork, show candidates what teamwork looks like at your company. Show them examples of teambuilding activities and what your workers value from these teams. Actions speak louder than words, and with corporate culture, action will go long a way.

2. Calls to action. Calls to action (CTA) are simple phrases like, “Click here to apply,” but the way your career site displays CTA will make all the difference.  Parsons says to apply the principles of consumer marketing to recruitment marketing.

For example, changing the colors on CTA buttons will drive more applicants. According to Parsons, the word “Send” gets 35% more clicks compared to using the word “Submit.” Brightly colored, branded buttons also showed an increase of 30% more clicks. Bigger buttons or larger text got 10% more clicks, personalized buttons received 90% more clicks, and adding “my” also helps increase clicks.

Additionally, when using “apply now,” as CTA language, make sure applicants only have to click that button once or twice at the most. When jobseekers see “apply now,” but have to click that on four different pages, it defeats the purpose and jobseekers will back out before they’ve even started the application.  

3. Stay on brand. Going back to consumer marketing, also stay on brand in your recruitment practices. If you’re spending money to market the job at the pre-apply phase, you’re selling a promise, says Parsons. But if you offer a terrible CX, you’re just wasting your money from the start.

Especially in the rejection stage, Parsons adds. “Keep your rejection on brand to keep the CX on brand,” she adds. If you engaged with jobseekers through every step of the process, but left them high and dry during the rejection phase, you’re hurting the CX. If you sent out notes thanking jobseekers for applying, these same style notes should also go out informing candidates about where they stand with the job.

4. Don’t make people log in. If you’re using a career portal, don’t make candidates sign in/log in, using a username and some obscure, hard to remember password. “The more intense the password requirements, the more likely jobseekers will abandon the application,” Parsons says. “Skip username and password if you can.”

Parsons points to Cox’s career portal. The site asks for your e-mail address, your first and last name, and that’s it. The site will create a password for you and then e-mail it to you so you can hang on to it for later use. This solution allows Cox to securely retain jobseeker information, while offering a seamless CX.

5. Keep candidates updated. As a recruiter, you know how long the hiring process should take, but for candidates, these likely contenders don’t have this same information, meaning they don’t have expert insight into how long the hiring process should take.

Parsons says, if candidates don’t hear from you, they’ll never know what the status is, waiting around in limbo, which is the worst experience for jobseekers. Parsons says that there are no good ways to tell the candidate that the process is slow, but you can get ahead of a bad CX because of a slow process by informing candidates where they stand at every stage.

6. Feedback. Finally, to improve CX, you should be seeking feedback from candidates. Parsons says this is the hardest part, but if you reject people nicely, they’re less likely to have a poor CX and more inclined to give you the feedback you need to improve the process.

Parsons says that if you offer enough information at the “education” phase—the step where candidates research your company—you can set their expectations ahead of time and you’ll improve their overall experience.

Parsons ended the session with this final tip: Be who you needed when you were a candidate. She explained this by having attendees think back to a time when they were applying for a job and had a terrible experience. What could have changed this experience to make it better? Learn from your past jobseeker experiences to help overcome your hiring challenges today.