John’s flight arrives on-time at Regan National Airport in Washington, D.C. The only problem is, his luggage doesn’t. Ordinarily, this would be a hassle, yes, but today this could be a life-changing concern since John has a job interview tomorrow at Capital One’s headquarters and he can’t very well show up in his ripped jeans and T-shirt from yesterday.
He calls up Tanya, his recruiter at Capital One, and explains the situation. Tanya empathizes with him and wants to help, so she decides – on the spot and without an arduous approval process – to take John shopping to find a new suit that afternoon. Luckily, John finds an off-the-shelf suit that fits, and ultimately, gets the career of his dreams the next day at Capital One – in large part due to his recruiter’s kindness and above-and-beyond efforts.
Now, this is an adaptation of a real candidate experience as shared by the Talent Board. And, according to their study, “Candidates share their positive recruiting experiences with their inner circles over 81 percent of the time, and their negative experiences 66 percent of the time.” Can you imagine the positive brand traction Capital One received from this authentic candidate experience with John (whose real name is not John, by the way)?
We know the candidate experience matters. It’s impactful to your organization, your employer brand and your candidates.
So, how can you improve it and provide that positive experience that people talk about? Now you’re asking the right question.
- Walk a mile in their shoes: The first, and best tip, is to ensure you have a thorough understanding of who your candidates are, and to go through the candidate process and test it out yourself. Do two additional things here: 1) Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes from start to finish; 2) Jot down the number of “clicks” it takes you. Then do it all again on a mobile device and notice the discrepancy.
- Communicate – often: If you fix nothing else, then fix this as it’s generally the top candidate complaint. Let your candidates know where they are in the process, and what comes next. Even if it means there’s no update right now, tell people that.
- “Just the FAQs, ma’am”: Document your most common questions and give your candidates an idea of your process and what comes next through a series of FAQs.
- Do a ‘blind’ application: Set up an actual interview with a recruiter who doesn’t know you (or if that’s not possible, ask one of your co-workers to do it and give them one of those cool James Bond hidden cameras). The goal here is to look at your interview experience with fresh eyes, so make it as real as possible (think Undercover Boss or a secret shopper). Take notes on your impressions along the way.
- Survey applicants for honest feedback
- Survey new hires for honest feedback
- Survey your recruiters and teammates for honest feedback (and ideas)
- Focus on the rejection: One study showed that only the top 2% of applicants get through to an interview, so in reality, most of your candidate interactions happen with those you’re declining. Make sure they don’t hate you after that stage.
- Create smiles: Find ways to make your candidates smile throughout the experience. Even the most serious brands have an opportunity here. Like sending a video of a silly turtle or cute kids laughing. Find a way to work some humor into what can be a very serious process.
- Kill the “Black Hole”: Don’t let your ATS application become a black hole of communication. See point # 2 above.
- Don’t make your Talent Network become the Black Hole 2.0: Many companies are utilizing a Talent Network, but many are also allowing it to become “the new black hole.” Candidates sign up because they want to stay in touch with you. Give them what they’re asking for.
- Hire recruiters who care: Test for this in your own recruiter interviews and ensure that they care about their candidates (like the recruiter in our Capital One example above).
- Give recruiters the time to care: It’s one thing to care; it’s another to put forth the effort. Keep a close eye on your team’s workload to make sure they have the time to go that extra mile.
- Listen: A simple skill that’s often overlooked. Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers to get a better sense of what’s important to your candidate. Provide the right information and experience to align to that (this helps you, too, of course).
- Be on time: What does it tell you about a candidate who is 15 minutes late? They’re thinking the same of you when you make them wait. Use technology (calendar reminders, phone alerts, etc.) to help you stay on task.
- Stay in touch: Leverage your talent network to send branded communications (i.e., newsletters), but also to nurture candidates, stay in touch with alumni, etc.
- Share stories & a behind-the-scenes look: Sharing real employee stories is a great way to bolster your employer brand and match the right candidate to your open role and company.
- Personalize: Personalize the candidate experience where you can by incorporating what you know into your emails and interactions.
- Make it mobile friendly: Every aspect.
- Speed matters: From the moment the job is open, you should have a ticking clock in your head. The time to beat is whatever your time to fill is. Your best candidates aren’t going to wait around long (nor should they).
- Give stuff away – unexpectedly: Along the same lines as the “smiling” note above, giving something away generates a positive response and goodwill. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item to bring joy (think candy, a branded T-shirt, a stress ball, a gift card, etc.). The timing of these gifts is just as important as the item itself, so remember that too.
- Provide a tour of the office: During an interview, take some time to give your candidate a tour, meet potential new co-workers and get a feel for their future workplace.
- Progress correlates to effort: The further along a candidate gets in the journey, the more out of the way you should go for them. If your runner-up for a position gets declined after the third interview, please don’t send them an automated email from the ATS for that notification.
- Offer a drink: Talking extensively plus nervous butterflies can leave people pretty thirsty. During the interview, offer them something to drink.
- Change the setting: Do all interviews have to take place at the corporate office or store location? Consider a more relaxed setting like a coffee shop or outdoor café for key roles, where your candidate can relax and you can really spend some time with them.
- Make it fun: Hosting an in-person recruiting event? Play some music, offer food, a raffle giveaway, dance parties, etc. Conducting a pre-screen phone call? Ask an offbeat question to kick it off (“what’s your favorite food?”) just to lighten the mood. Where can you inject some fun into your process?
- Train EVERYONE: The candidate experience is not just in the hands of your recruiters. Everyone plays a role – your executives, your greeters, your front desk staff, your hiring managers, your average employee who smiles at a candidate in the hallway. Make sure the company is on the same page here.
- Make your candidates feel at ease: Interviewing is stressful. Help them relax and shine (see item # 35).
- Share your EVP: Find ways to infuse your Employer Brand and EVP into the interview process. Are interviewees waiting in the lobby? That’s a great time to play a video with employee testimonials or a day-in-the-life series. Where else can you offer handouts, videos, interesting tidbit cards, etc.?
- Pull out the white gloves: Have a highly competitive, executive-level candidate you want to impress? Go all white glove on it and think of yourself as a concierge at a fine hotel. Book all the arrangements (like a car pickup) and have branded materials in the car for your guest (note the word “guest” here). Text him when he arrives at the hotel to ensure he has everything he needs. Include a nice little surprise in the hotel room (a fruit basket or something related to your brand, perhaps). Provide directions and traffic updates the morning of the interview. Call her after the interview to thank her for her time and provide initial feedback. Clearing your calendar ahead of time can allow for this type of hands-on approach. It’s worth it for your top-level positions.
- Measure it: Think about how a poor experience translates to lost revenue or lost employee referral opportunities. Tie your survey results/satisfaction scores to KPIs where possible.
- Don’t forget about the on boarding experience: This can be laborious, but don’t think the candidate experience ends at the point of offer.
- Don’t forget about the new hire experience: Transfer your knowledge of the candidate to their new manager, and help arrange for a warm Day 1 welcome from the team.
- Be honest. Sometimes we’re so busy we didn’t have time to read the candidate’s resume just yet. Sometimes he’s just not the right fit. Sometimes, just sometimes, we’re having a bad day. Candidates can understand these things if you just explain them in a respectful, honest way (see the next point, too).
- Be human. Remember how important this job is to your candidate. It’s how they pay their bills and support their families, but it’s also how many people derive purpose in their day-to-day lives, too. It’s meaningful, so respect that – always.
Hopefully this has given you some spark of an idea on ways to improve your candidate experience. What other ways have been effective for you? What else can we add to this list?