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4 Ways to Prevent a Poor Candidate Experience

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

Despite all the talk about HR technology and artificial intelligence improving candidate experience, the numbers say otherwise. In fact, candidate resentment has increased by 40% since 2016. But what, exactly, is the cause? A few of the top reasons cited in the just-released 2019 North American Candidate Experience Research Report include: poor communication, discrepancies between the job description and interview experience and disrespect for candidates’ time.

It’s clear that the impact a bad candidate experience can have on one’s business is more than a little troubling. Imagine receiving 100 applications for a single job posting, for which only 1 person is going to be hired. Quick math: Ninety-nine candidates are at risk for disappointment!

And what will these not-hired candidates do if they had a less than positive experience? Seventy-one percent will share it with their inner circle of friends, relatives and co-workers. Fortunately, only 35 percent share it publicly online—probably because they don’t want to announce they didn’t get the job. But that’s still an incredibly large number of people speaking ill of your company. (And trash talk is the last thing you want going around when trying to entice top talent to cut ties with current employers and join your ranks.)

But it’s not just hard feelings companies need to worry about. The impact can extend well into the future. Sixty-eight percent of candidates who’ve had a negative experience won’t reapply to that company. Worse, 54 percent said it would impact their decision to buy from said company.

The Talent Board created an online candidate resentment calculator to help translate these results into real dollars. It’s based on the assumption that 100% of job applicants are potential customers or influencers. (Some might argue with this idea, but even a fraction of the whole results in pretty significant damage.) Here’s just one example: With 1,000 annual hires, the lost revenue due to candidate resentment exceeds $2.7 million, and the number of lost customers is more than 27,700. Numbers like these are nightmarish—and more common than you might think.

So what can you do to prevent a bad candidate experience?

1) Be Proactive

Applying for jobs at your own company to understand an applicant’s journey is likely the simplest low-cost solution you’ll ever find. Do it on several different devices—desktops, tablets and smartphones—and assess the experience using different operating systems: Apple, Google, Samsung, Windows. Remember that the candidate experience starts long before someone clicks to apply. "Google" your company career site on each device. How does it look? Is it easy to find? How long does it take the page to load? Is it easy to read, navigate and complete an application? If not, invest in fixing it!

Remember to also be proactive when it comes to communicating why someone may not be the right fit for a position or company. Resentment rates decrease by 29% when employers give rejected candidates general and specific feedback on qualifications and job fit. A bit of honesty and clarity goes a long way.

2) Be Predictive

No business function collects more data and takes less advantage of it than human resources. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to customers these days, and candidates are no different. It’s time to become comfortable with data. Google Analytics and most applicant tracking software, for that matter, provide deep insights into candidate behavior and the corresponding behavior of your systems and processes—data you can use to make much-needed adjustments and inform hiring decisions.

In addition, ask for feedback from every candidate (whether they’re ultimately hired or not) and use that data to improve your process. Talentegy reports that 68.5% of candidates are very likely or likely to provide it, but 75% of companies never or rarely ask for it.

3) Be Pragmatic

It’s just not practical for any recruiter, HR professional or hiring manager to keep up with today’s job demands without technology. Automate every task that requires manual entry and/or is routine. But remember that tech solutions can’t solve all of your problems. Chatbots won’t negate bad reviews on Glassdoor or Kununu. Automated emails won’t make up for delays in scheduling interviews and making decisions. A new video on your career website can’t hide a toxic culture. Identify each candidate touchpoint, assess its efficiency, then prioritize the risk of it creating a negative experience—regardless of whether it’s an automated or human-driven interaction.

4) Be a Problem-Solver

Be vigilant. Be curious. Creating an awesome candidate experience is a journey. It has no finish line. The rules keep changing. The ecosystems keep evolving. The only true inevitability is that as soon as you improve the experience in one area, another issue is likely to pop up. It might be a new glitch in the software or the need to hire a new recruiter or hiring manager. In every case, delivering the most optimal candidate experience today requires a team of troubleshooters to fix the unexpected and problem-solvers to prevent recurrences.

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