The recruitment world has spilled a good deal of ink on candidate experience; a quick Google search reveals about 550 million results at present. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, here's a quick primer: it refers to how you treat job applicants before they become employees, i.e. when they are still candidates. It has numerous touch points, from your careers page / job ads (where they often initially find you) to interview scheduling to offer negotiation and much more. In the last 2-3 years, there’s been a lot of talk in the recruiting world about “ghosting” (candidates not showing up for interviews or even worse, not showing up on Day 1 of a new job). One of the reasons “ghosting” got to this scale as a topic is because companies had generally not been providing good candidate experience -- in fact, in some research, 60% of candidates were saying they had gone through negative candidate experience! That's a lot of candidates. So if the mission is to provide the best experience possible to job seekers, where do you start and what factors should you try to be aware of?
What are the 5 factors of meaningful work?
Before we dive directly into candidate experience, let's talk about what the core of it is about. You're trying to convey meaning to your potential new hires and to show them that the work you do is meaningful. If we look at the research from MIT on “What makes work meaningful -- or meaningless?” they list five factors that provide for meaningful work, and seven factors that point towards meaningless work.
The positive five factors are when the work is:
Is there anything we can take from that list -- which would point towards a good employee experience as well, FYI -- and work it back towards candidate experience? The words “personal” and “poignant” matter here. Think about it this way:
Factor 1: Design a poignant experience in your job ad and on your careers page. Explain the origins of the employer brand, what the brand is seeking to do for the world, and how this role contributes to that. Make candidates feel like they absolutely need to apply to this job and become part of the work you're doing.
Factor 2: Have a personal touch during the hiring process. You cannot do this for every candidate because of time, but as candidates advance or for very important hires, learn about them -- their interests, their educational background, their hometown, spouse/kids, etc. Reach out to them with personalized greetings around what you know. If their high school mascot was a lion, send them a stuffed lion. It seems cheesy, but these personal touches underscore a lot of how we think about work. Involve them in how candidates feel too.
What are the 7 factors of meaningless work?
Now let’s go back to that MIT research. Those seven negative factors -- meaningless jobs being created -- happens when work:
- Disconnects people from values
- Takes employees for granted
- Assigns people pointless work
- Provides unfair treatment
- Overrides people’s better judgement
- Disconnects people from potentially supportive relationships
- Condones physical or emotional harm
If you work backwards from this list, you come to some additional factors of great candidate experience:
Factor 3: Don’t take candidates for granted. Even if you cannot personalize communication to every single candidate, you should at least be sending status updates from an automated platform in a timely manner, if possible. People want to know where they stand. If they’re unemployed or between gigs, your job opening can represent a huge next step in their life. They don’t want the communication to drop -- so don’t let it. Don’t take them for granted.
Factor 4: Use as streamlined an ATS as you can. This is about “assigning people pointless work.” No one wants that as an employee, and no one wants it as a candidate. Candidates don’t like filling out 20 screens of data for a job application after they uploaded their resume, when all the data they’re adding was on the resume. Don’t make people do pointless work. Streamline the front-end process for them as much as you can.
What are candidates looking for?
Now we’re going to shift research to some Hubspot work on “job expectations around the world.” In most regions of the globe, look at what the No. 1 desire in a new employer is: opportunities for growth. That gives you our last candidate experience factor:
Factor 5: Write job descriptions so that a candidate can see immediate responsibilities (what you are hiring for), but also mention where the job might evolve to in 1, 3, 5, and 7 years. Show these candidates that there is a career arc within your company, and there are, in fact, opportunities for growth.
Make your candidate experience more meaningful
If we work backwards from factors that employees want, we can begin to design experiences that candidates love. After all, what is a candidate but a potential future employee? Focus on clear communication, a defined career arc, and not wasting people’s time. Starting with defining meaningful work first is a bit counter intuitive at one level in terms of how we normally think about designing and approaching candidate experience, but give it a try. Next time you step into the role of hiring manager, work backwards from what your employees love about working for you, and bake those elements into how you work with new candidates. Then bring them up again and again through this application and interview process. You can even add details to your career site or LinkedIn page to continue the narrative of what your company has to offer. Providing a positive candidate experience can go a long way towards improving your overall talent acquisition process and in this competitive talent market, isn't staying a step ahead of the competition worth the extra effort?