As we head further into the new year, it’s a great time to think any adjustments you want to make to your talent management strategy in order to have a successful year. Human resources has typically measured their success as employee productivity, engagement, and retention rates, but there is a new concept that encapsulates all of these factors and then some that should be getting equal attention. In this new year, it’s all about the candidate experience.
What is candidate experience?
Candidate experience isn’t about impressing people by the way your corporate office is decorated, or by the efficient manner in which you get interviews done. It’s more to do with how the candidate takes in the overall culture and environment in which he or she may envision building a career.
Good candidate experience starts the moment the candidate encounters the organization and ends (hopefully) with a successful new hire. Everything that happens in between those two events makes a huge difference to candidates -- and to your business. An IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study shows that over 60 percent of candidates share their experience with others, and 38 percent were more likely to accept a job with a company that made an effort to provide a positive candidate experience. In a world where transparency rules, a company cannot afford to make a mistake with candidates.
Traditional candidate experiences that fail
In the past, HR has tried to make candidates feel welcomed as they learned more about the job and company. Online, this was a nicely written job advertisement followed by an automated email to welcome them. In person, it generally included a brief tour of the facility where candidates observed employees. However, these are examples of candidate experiences that fail to live up to the expectations of modern candidates.
Today, candidates expect a higher level of responsiveness. It’s a candidate market and therefore they are interviewing for several companies at once. What sets your company apart is how well you can provide a great experience from day one. What are candidates seeking? They want updates, delivered by a caring recruiter, and often. They want to know that their skills are appreciated and will be compensated well. They want to know that if they choose this company they will grow personally and professionally. And if those needs aren't met, they're not afraid to move on to the next competitor who might be better able to give them what they're looking for.
Improving the candidate experience
With old strategies becoming less effective, it’s time to think creatively and strategically about the candidate experience. Experts predict that marketing to candidates will soon become the most important aspect of recruitment, followed by taking them through a seamless experience. According to Rich Henson, who contributes to HR Morning, inbound recruiting is what organizations need to focus on. Much like companies attract customers, inbound recruiting uses tactics that appeal to candidates and reels them in to learn more. Henson recommends the use of social networking to build relationships with candidates. He adds that videos “tell a compelling visual story about your organization, and good storytelling is a great way to lure top candidates.” When it comes to attracting talent, treating candidates they way you would customers is actually a pretty good approach to take.
4 ways to create a better candidate experience program
1) First and foremost, make things easy for candidates to find out about your company and apply for openings. Leave out the complex, long application process and stick to the basics. Stop asking candidates solely for their resumes (past performance) and instead evaluate them based on their current skills and attitudes. Look for the signs that they are passionate about the industry in their social media posts or if they are blogging, for example. Get accurate references and learn more about their personality and suitability for the company culture. Once you have done this, you can align candidates with the right opportunities, which makes it much more pleasant for candidates. The way they needed to be.
2) Take the time to gather feedback from candidates and recent hires. Find out what’s going well in your recruitment and onboarding processes, while they are still somewhat objective. According to a candidate experience survey conducted by The Talent Board, 73 percent of candidates report that they have never been asked for feedback during the application process, and nearly 41 percent of North American employers never survey candidates about any aspect of their experience. By taking the time to find out what candidates have experienced, it’s possible to make changes and improvements for the next batch of candidates encountering your organization.
3) Transparency about the corporate culture, salary ranges, benefits, and opportunities for growth are important too. This is about your brand and it needs to be strong. Most candidates seek out information on companies through review websites like Glassdoor. Have a presence there and make sure to highlight the positives of your company. If a negative post pops up from time to time, don’t panic. Let candidates make their own decisions and be upfront about reviews if they come up during an interview.
4) Build communities of talent on social media sites like LinkedIn, where somewhere around one-third of the members are seeking new jobs. Look for people who are working, but actively participating in these groups because they may also be open to learning about a new opportunity. When candidates apply, ask them to share their LinkedIn profile so they can show you who they truly are and highlight their strengths and goals. This is a great way to foster positive relationships and bring people in who are looking for a good match for their future career.
Turning the candidate experience around
A classic example of a company turning it’s candidate experience around is Virgin Media, which at last count turns down 150,000 applicants annually. Back in 2015, this backfired as 7,500 of these applicants also happened to be customers who were upset enough to cancel their contracts with Virgin and move to a competitor. Richard Branson, CEO, was able to recover $7 million in lost revenues. How did he do it? He focused efforts on improving the candidate experience.
This was supported by answering the following recruitment questions, and then making steps to improve the experience for 100 percent of candidates. (1) How do your candidates feel? (2) What are your candidates thinking? (3) How easy is it to progress? (4) What is the current lasting memory? The recruitment team also dug deeper to understand the persona of every candidate, to understand their needs and address them throughout the process.
So this year when you go out to hire, keep the candidate experience in mind. If Virgin Media can take the time to care about their applicants, so can we.
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