Companies spend a significant amount of time and money on developing a strong employer branding strategy. The present day shortages of talent have made it ever more important that employers are sending the right message to candidates. This includes how they treat candidates during every phase of recruitment.
Employer brand is like gold to recruiters
One cannot forgot that we live in a transparent world where everyone is sharing nearly every aspect of their lives on review websites and social networks. This includes their job search challenges. A recruitment snafu can result in a permanent black mark on any organization, no matter how sparkling the brand appears. It only takes seconds for a rejected candidate to post a negative review about a company’s recruitment practices, while it takes many months of hard work to make recruitment a more positive experience. The effort is worth it, however, in the way that the company’s employer brand stays preserved and future candidates learn about the company.
Virgin Media, a well-respected brand worldwide, has had a (very expensive) taste of a bad candidate experience. Graeme Johnson, former Head of Resourcing, spent some time examining the recruitment practices of the multimedia producer. Specifically, Johnson wanted to find out how past candidate rejections and their overall experiences had impacted their opinion of the brand.
Upon further research, Johnson found a significant number of candidates who had less than the expected experience with Virgin during the interview process. He also found that 18% of the rejected candidates were also Virgin Media customers. Many of those who had a negative experience went on to cancel their services, costing the company $5 million annually. This sparked an overhaul of the way the company treats candidates, and while it’s better today, it highlights how important the overall candidate experience is to preserving the positive company brand.
How does a positive or negative candidate experience affect the way organizations find job applicants?
The average job seeker may spend weeks or even months filling out online applications, attending job fairs, heading to staffing agencies, taking assessments, and brushing up on job interviewing skills before getting called in for an interview. They often view this time as a huge emotional and time commitment. Searching for a job has been compared to a full-time job in itself, therefore all they want is some kind of acknowledgement for their efforts.
On the other side, recruiters and hiring managers assume that job seekers have developed thick skins by the time they get called for an interview. They aren’t focused on the difficulties that individuals have experienced prior to this moment. Their goal is to match each job up to the best candidate in a brief period of time. But recruiters can easily improve candidate experience by simply showing a little more empathy. This effort can enhance how they find the best candidates.
What role does employer brand have in sourcing external candidates?
An employer branding strategy can be the key to developing a better talent pipeline. A survey conducted by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry showed some interesting correlations between the candidate experience and the employer brand. 48% of the 422 people surveyed told Korn Ferry that they would encourage friends and family to avoid a certain brand if they had been treated poorly during the recruitment process. Around 25% said they’d share this on their social media channel. Behaviours like rudeness and not following up with candidates turned them off to the company for the foreseeable future.
In sourcing external candidates, your organizational brand can make or break your efforts. Recruiters must be mindful of how they treat candidates. One study shows that with a positive employer brand, a company will get twice as many applications as a company with an unknown or poor employer brand. So too, poor employer brands wind up costing companies nearly 10% more in recruitment costs. It’s worth the effort to create a candidate-focused experience that promotes the employer brand more effectively.
What about people who previously applied to open positions?
While a candidate might not be perfect for the job they applied for, that doesn't mean there won't be something great for them later on. Job seekers realize this when they apply, knowing they may be rejected, although they are hopeful that they have enough of the right skills and qualities to be considered for employment at some point in the near future. The experience that these candidates have can impact your future sourcing results.
If a candidate has been through a difficult or negative experience, anything from an unstructured application and interviewing process to the bad behaviour of some hiring manager, you can bet this candidate will never consider having anything to do with your company again. Even if the candidate is offered a job, it’s likely that the candidate will have already had a better experience with a competing firm and may hold out for a job there. Your employer brand is a reflection of how candidates are treated. No one would want to work for a company that treats people bad from day one.
But sourcing candidates from previous applications is an effective way to find potential matches for newly opened positions. Think of how quickly you could start sourcing quality candidates if previous applicants encounter a positive candidate experience. If your company has made an effort to provide an easy application process (from multiple devices), ample communication to each candidate, a pre-screening interview request shortly after application, and a quality in-person interview experience – well, you can probably see that this will impress candidates. This can make it easier to call previous applicants back for future opportunities or gain direct employee references for additional talent. If things go really well, applicants might even recommend your positions to other qualified candidates that they know.
How can your organization avoid bad candidate experiences and preserve the employer brand?
Long story short, implement candidate experience best practices now and start building up your employer brand. A change in the way your recruitment team handles candidates, putting the focus back on talent, can improve the way people view your brand as an employer. Here are a few ideas for accomplishing this goal:
Use a quick-apply system: Every time a candidate encounters an application that takes less than five minutes to complete, it’s a good day. There are a number of great applicant tracking systems out there – make sure you choose one that is friendly for all browsers and mobile systems.
Get management prepared: Managers should have a briefing before every candidate meets with them in person. Share the candidate's resume a few days in advance. Mark where the candidate’s skills and background align with the objectives of the job. Give management a few questions to ask, along with some follow-up questions in case more information is needed after the candidate’s initial answer.
Revamp your routine: Hiring managers and recruiters can get into bad habits. One is having a personal agenda that doesn’t allow much time to connect with candidates. Don’t be so focused on the same clichéd interview questions. Stop trying to beat your own record of how many candidates you can process in eight-hours. Smile and actually mean it.
Understand communication styles: In a more global business world, recruitment needs to be thinking about the different ways that candidates communicate. Cultural norms may require having another member of the same gender in the room while interviewing. The candidate may be strong verbally, but not in writing. The candidate may not make frequent eye contact or shake hands when greeted. A difference in communication style doesn’t mean the candidate isn’t the right fit.
Stay in contact with candidates: There is nothing more frustrating for a candidate than to apply and have an interview, only to not hear back from anyone for weeks at a time. Build in reminders to follow up with candidates at more frequent intervals and send job offer or rejection letters out promptly if a decision has been made.
Where can you improve your company's candidate experience? Use the McQuaig Candidate Experience Grader to find out!
Remember that candidate experience starts the moment someone decides to apply for a job with your company. In fact, most candidates will say that their experience with the company began from the time they read the job advertisement and visited the company website. The application, interview, and onboarding process comes later; candidates will think back to those earlier candidate experience touchpoints, re-evaluating them for authenticity. Take the time to go through the end-to-end recruitment experience with an objective mind, to see if it’s consistent to your employer brand.
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