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
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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Twitter Talk: One Small Work Change To Improve Talent Experience
What's a small thing that your employer or manager has implemented or changed that has made the experience of work easier/better/less sh**ty/less of an exhausting nightmare slog? That’s the question BuzzFeed senior culture writer (and author of the widely shared article "How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation") Anne Helen Petersen posed to her Twitter followers late last week. And, boy, did they have some thoughts to share. From flexible work schedules to managers that helped them with development plans to bosses that were excellent communicators, thankful employees called out the practices that have made their work—and often, personal—lives significantly better. We’ve included some of the most poignant responses below! 1) Implementing a Flexible WFH Policy Number three on Jay’s list below was one of the most commonly praised decisions among participants. And it makes sense for businesses as well—a Gallup State of the American Workplace report found that employees who spend just 20 percent of their time working remotely are more engaged than in-office employees. 2) Reconsidering an Open Office Set-Up Not everyone craves a cubicle-free existence. Despite the design format’s recent popularity, several studies show that ambient noise can increase stress level and a lack of privacy can negatively affect employees. If it’s not possible to change the set-up, it’s worth figuring out helpful solutions for workers who need more of a quiet space. 3) Creating a Development Plan Employees want to know their bosses are invested in their future, and helping them to craft a development plan does just that (while simultaneously ensuring that the right employees are in place to fill key company roles down the road). By implementing a continuous review process, managers allow workers to take charge of their own goal setting and increase their autonomy at work, which Gallup research notes as one of the key ways to increase employee happiness. 4) Simply Saying Thank You Yes, employees want great pay and benefits. But it’s easy to overlook one of the smallest motivational tools at a manager’s disposal: simply saying thank you. Workers genuinely appreciate the acknowledgment of their hard work and it’s likely something their managers were already thinking. 5) Cutting Out Mindless Meetings There’s nothing worse than a pointless meeting. Employees have plenty to get done during their workday, so managers should be sure every meeting on the books is necessary and as efficient as possible. Find out three helpful ways to do that here. Header image: Creative Commons
4 Ways to Prevent a Poor Candidate Experience
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.
How to Create a Consistent Candidate and Employee Experience
It's been clear for some time now that to attract top talent, companies have to make candidate experiences better. Yet less than half of organizations actually report making regular improvements to the recruitment processes. With a national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, we are currently operating in a candidate-driven market. People have more freedom to be selective about employers, and if the candidate experience is negative, they will go somewhere else. "Today's candidates expect a positive experience from an organization from the time they begin exploring opportunities, all the way through the application, interviewing and hiring," Ed Newman, founding member and chairman of the Talent Board, a non-profit organization responsible for creating the Candidate Experience Awards, told me in an interview. And when candidates do make the cut and join the company, it's important to keep them engaged by creating an employee-centric work environment as well. Otherwise, your employees may become part of the 70 percent of U.S. workers who report that they are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. If there's a disconnect between your candidate and employee experience, you won't hold onto talent for long. Here are the key components of creating a positive employee experience. Encourage Real-Time Employee Feedback Real-time and continuous feedback are crucial for several reasons. For example, nothing hurts more than working a full year before hearing that your work performance needs to be improved. On the flip side employees also shouldn't have to wait until their annual review to discuss questions and concerns with their managers. Millennials are gradually taking over the workforce, and they want feedback 50 percent more than any other generation. To meet the expectations of this generation, organizations need to forget about annual reviews, and instead encourage real-time employee communication and continuous feedback systems. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Internal Mobility Most employees want to work for a company that not only acknowledges that employee growth and success is important, but also provides ample development opportunities. This is why it's becoming critical for organizations to focus on creating and implementing an internal mobility strategy that encourages upward or lateral movement and provides learning and development resources. With more room for mobility, employees will feel valued, and will know that their company is invested in their growth. Create a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion During the interview process, company culture is always presented in a positive light, but if the culture turns out to be different once employees actually start working, they're going to feel duped. Diversity is more than just hiring people of different sexes, religions, ethnicities and ages—true diversity means differences in thought, personality and life experience. Your organization should embrace employee differences not only on paper but also in practice, and encourage diverse ideas to circulate and drive innovation. Drive Inspiration and Passion Through Leadership People don't just work for organizations—they work for people. That's why your leadership team should bring passion to the table, stand behind the brand, invest in employees and be transparent. A leader's passion and inspiration will trickle down to management teams and beyond. If leadership is steering the company in the right direction, this is going to impact the way your employees feel about being a part of the organization. Photo: Creative Commons