Why the Candidate Experience Matters More Than You Think

Nick Hutchinson

Head of Solution Consulting: Cornerstone

I like to say that the candidate experience matters – and it starts in everyday places like the grocery store or at the gym after work. The candidate experience can begin with a chance encounter between former colleagues when one of them asks the other about their new job at a new company. These casual conversations launch the candidate experience for many of us, and most employers will never know they happened.

The Candidate Experience is as Powerful as the Next Conversation

We tend to think that the candidate experience starts when a job seeker lands on a career site and decides to apply, but often it begins earlier than that. As I've pointed out, the candidate experience can begin with small talk, but it can also start with a social media post.

Brandon Hall Group research confirms that organizations that think about the candidate experience early in the hiring process see above-average growth in retention and offer acceptance. Thirty-nine percent of organizations in the study pointed to the pre-application and application stage as the "most powerful impact point."

Your Employer Brand Extends Beyond the Office Walls

In the world of work, we all start out as a candidate. Whether we realize it or not, we're taking in employers' brands continuously when we purchase products, interact with online content and chat with former colleagues at the supermarket.

How would you rate your organization's candidate experience? After all, the candidate experience is also the beginning of the employee experience. It's paramount that organizations get the candidate experience right in a time where the competition for talent is sky-high and candidates can swipe and click to make quick decisions about your employer brand.

According to Brandon Hall Group research, recent findings pointed to a mixed bag of candidate experience challenges, including providing realistic and engaging job descriptions (31 percent), online application process (30 percent) and lengthy time to hire (30 percent).

The Candidate Experience Begins Here

Listen in to my Q&A chat with Brandon Hall Group's Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst for Workforce Management and Talent Acquisition, as we dive into improving the candidate experience.

In Our Conversation, You'll Hear Insights About:

How the candidate experience impacts the employee experience

The impact word of mouth has on your employer brand

How to pay attention before someone engages with your organization

Note: This interview took place before Cornerstone acquired Saba (hence the Saba branding in the video).

Video of The CX Life: Candidate Experience Chats: Why the Candidate Experience Matters More Than You Think

Full Transcript

Cliff Stevenson: I am Cliff Stevenson. I'm the Principal Analyst for Workforce Management and Talent Acquisition here at Brandon Hall Group, and I am joined today by Nick Hutchinson, Head of Talent Acquisition at Saba.

Nick Hutchinson: Hi Cliff, pleasure to be here. How're you doing?

Cliff Stevenson: Pretty good. I know that you're about five hours ahead, so I guess it really isn't morning.

Nick Hutchinson: That's right, the sun's just gone down. It's winter's afternoon in the U.K. about quarter past four and it's dark already but never mind. I still feel nice and fresh like it is morning, that's the main thing.

Cliff Stevenson: That's right. Fair enough. We've got a few things we'll be talking about today. But I wanted to start out by just diving right into a topic that you and I discussed quite a bit, which is the concept of the candidate experience which has become a pretty, I think a pretty hot topic, it's something we're seeing a lot of out there. Specifically, as a sort of way it fits into the whole broader concept of the employee experience. I think it's very key, right? I mean, for very obvious reasons is what kind of starts the employee experience, right, it's how people first get involved in the culture of their company of where they're going. I think that there's a lot of different ways that it sort of fits in. I wanted to ask you, Nick, I mean, you've been involved in this, what are those sort of key inflection points? What are those early moments that happen in the employee experience that make it the candidate experience that make it so important to any person coming into the organization and how it affects their whole concept of how they view the organization they're going to?

Nick Hutchinson: Yeah, absolutely. We've got to remember that all of our employees start as candidates, right? Everyone that's an employee now or an employee in the future, and hopefully is going to be with your organization for many years to come, starts off as a candidate. I think what's absolutely vital is that candidate experience needs to begin from the moment someone starts engaging with your organization, or importantly, the moment they start engaging about your organization. We tend to think very much about the candidate experience starting when somebody lands on the career site, when they start to make an application, but often it starts a lot earlier than that. What I mean by that is it can start in a bar, in a conversation, when they're shopping in the retail store, and they bump into an old ex-colleague and it's like, "Hi Jim, how are you doing now? What are you up to? I haven't seen you in a couple of years when we were working back at such and such organization." Jim says, "Well, you know what, things have moved on quite a bit. I've joined this new company."

Straightaway, Jim is starting to really make an introduction to that person who hadn't thought about being a candidate yet. But he's started to tell them about the company that he's working for, they have similar experience and similar backgrounds. Let's face it, if the employees' experience isn't good, and they're not engaged with the organization, they're not having the right type of development, they're not going to start speaking highly about your company. That person in the shopping mall isn't going to go back and sit down and think, "Oh you know what, I might just check them out, I might start having to look into that organization. I've been just thinking about making a move now, perhaps it's time for me to move on." I think that's what's really important is when we start thinking about candidate experience and employee experience, actually, it can start even before that individual starts engaging with your career site and considers making an application.

Cliff Stevenson: Yeah. What you just described, right, is what we talk about when we say employer brand. I guess a much, much better way and much a better description of it, it sounds a little dry sometimes when we talk about branding and employer brands, but that's what you really need, right? We talk about how people feel about an organization.

Nick Hutchinson: Yeah, absolutely, and for that candidate, they might even be an existing customer of your organization as well. You need to start from day one making sure that experience they go for is the right one.

Cliff Stevenson: Yes, you're exactly right about that, Nick, and the research backs you up. We asked in our Candidate Experience Survey about what people thought the most impactful point in the candidate experience was, when I looked at those companies and I looked specifically at those with above average growth and retention and offer acceptance, and they said it was during the application experience. 39 percent of them, which is far and away the highest amount. I think that's a great sign off on this particular audio blog. I want you all to be sure to check out the other ones in this Candidate Experience series. Other topics we're going to be covering include the importance of looking at the internal candidate experience, retaining top talent that you've hired and developed, and the top priorities organizations are looking for in their recruiting technology. Thank you all for joining us on this audio blog, and Nick, thank you for joining us and talk to you all soon.

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