Winning Candidate Experience

The hiring process is stressful for both sides. The job seeker is putting their talents and career future on the line, which is a vulnerable place to be. The organization is investing considerable resources in hopes of finding a star in the making. This is important stuff.

And yet far too many organizations make a mess out of the candidate experience in the recruiting process. This is astonishing, and just plain self-destructive; In the field of hyper-selective organizations the pool of candidates is ever so small and bad word to mouth can be…it.

Get this: The Talent Board, which runs the Candidate Experience Awards surveyed over 45,000 job applicants about their experience. Of those who had a positive experience, 61 percent would actively encourage colleagues to apply to the organization; 27 percent of those who had a negative experience would actively discourage colleagues from applying. In addition, almost 40 percent of the positives would buy more of the goods or services the company sells, even if they weren’t ultimately hired; 30 percent of the negatives would buy less goods or services. Finally 50 percent of positives share their positive experience; 32 percent of negatives broadcast their bad news.

In other words, a good candidate experience is brilliant marketing for an organization; a bad one is a continuous stain in the reputation of your brand for people that could be interested to join your organization. Devastating as that is, this fact is even worse: a bad hiring experience may cause the right applicant to turn down the job. Top talent has no desire to work in a disrespectful organization with leaders who simply don’t care about the recruiting process. Today people want to feel WANTED, APPRECIATED; it is sort of like dating.

Savvy organizations turn HR into a powerhouse marketing and recruiting tool. I guess as a continuation of my post “User in the middle… He is King Bunny” Here are 5 steps you can take to follow their lead:

1)     Walk in the job seeker’s shoes. We’ve all been job seekers at some point in our careers. As you design or improve your hiring process, keep the candidate experience on your eyesight at all times. Yes, this is about fulfilling your organization’s needs, but the more you understand and design the process from the applicant’s point of view, the more successful you will be. Role playing can be invaluable here. Have a team member play an applicant as you design each step of your process. My current employer, DP DHL Inhouse Consulting, is absolutely brilliant at this one.

2)    Communicate. Remember that disgraceful statistic: over 70 percent of online applicants never even get a form reply. It violates the rules of common human courtesy and smart communication.

You must explain every step of the hiring process to an applicant. Always meet the deadlines and markers you have established. If for some unforeseeable reason, you’re unable to, communicate that swiftly and directly to the applicant. Stay transparent and honest all the way through. My manager, Allison Watson, at the time I worked for Google sets the bar high on this one. She was swift and uncompromising, therefore successful in an organization that will sample a good portion of applicants every quarter to measure their recruiters’ success.

3)   Bring employees in the process. Jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. You want to hire people who are going to mesh with your culture. The best way to ensure this is to seek employee input in designing and implementing your hiring. A fresh pair of eyes can sometimes provide just the insight you’re seeking. And consider having promising candidates meet with their possible future teammates to gauge workplace culture fit. Too many HR departments want to guard their culture from the world. That’s a mistake. Moliere once said: “I take my good where I find it.” He’s one smart guy. I guess the best case I have seen in this regard are ThoughtWorks and their use of pair interviewing throughout their complete set of applied interviews, with the added bonus of reduction of interviewer bias.

4)    Personalize the recruiting process. You’ve heard me say it again and again: when it comes organiyations and their people, one size fits no one. You want a hiring process that has built-in flexibility, not rigid rules. Some of the best talent is idiosyncratic, eccentric and maybe even a bit weird (exhibit A: Steve Jobs). The last thing you want is a process that eliminates stellar talent for bureaucratic reasons. Yes, a college degree from an elite is nice, but is it really the key determinant of an applicant’s future performance? I don’t think so. And in this parameter I have to give the thumbs up to ThoughtWorks again.

5)     Seek honest feedback. Your hiring process should be ever-evolving. Social media has handed HR powerful new tools that impact every step of the process. Actively seek feedback from candidates, both those you hire and those you don’t. Listen and respond, just keep tweaking. A static hiring process will soon turn stale. Think of feedback as a dialogue, a lesson, and an inspiration. For this one I don’t know any organization that has learned to do this swiftly rather than individuals and I have seen no one as fierce in combining the power of social media and physical events as Ms. Amy Lynch (who I am very sure is to become a recruiting guru one of these days and single handedly made herself a local celebrity in Manchester, UK in a few months).

Hiring lies at the very heart of HR and Leadership. When candidates are hired after a positive experience, they hit the ground running, their commitment to your organization having been nurtured and strengthened during every step of the process. When candidates aren’t hired, they walk away feeling respected and appreciated, and are far more likely to recommend other talent look into your organization. This is world-class HR. And you can make it happen!


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