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Why are we still talking about candidate experience as we head into 2020? Because it’s still broken! Despite all the recruitment and media attention focused on the jobseeker these days, the state of the candidate experience in many organizations can be summed up by four letters: FCDD.

FCDD is a four-letter mnemonic created by CX and UX strategist Debbie Levitt to represent what she calls the Four Horsemen of Bad CX: frustration, confusion, disappointment and distraction. These four horsemen represent candidate exasperation: four emotions that candidates emit when they attempt to interact with your company website and application. These four horsemen almost single-handedly crush the engagement of up to 9 out of 10 candidates who want to work for you, but quit before applying.

Before offering common examples of the Four Horsemen of Bad CX™, let me define candidate experience. Too often companies believe that the candidate experience (CX) journey starts after a candidate applies for a role at your company. But it actually begins long before that and includes every interaction, passive or active, between you and the candidate.

Often ignored but critical touch points include your career site’s mobile-friendliness, page speed, responsiveness, the colors you use, your navigation, the feel and mood of your brand, your applicant workflow, buttons, menus, errors, voice commands, and even employee and customer reviews. It encompasses your job listings, your applicant tracking system and job application, your response to candidates, and the speed of that response. It also includes the interview, the preparation of your hiring managers and on-boarding. Each of these touchpoints are vulnerable to the Four Horsemen of Bad CX and therefore present an opportunity to beat your competition—or risk disengaging candidates.

Fortunately, many of the fixes for bad CX are low-hanging fruit, requiring little or no budget and minimal expertise or resources. Here are some of the most blatant examples of bad CX I’ve seen over the past year—and how to fix them.

1) Frustration:

Imagine that a candidate Googling your company is met with the following message: “Your connection to this site is not secure.” What are the chances he or she would proceed to apply for a job? Likely, very small. And yet one out of five of the world’s top 100,000 websites still aren’t using secure encryption or HTTPS, which prevents that connection warning from appearing.

An even more common cause of frustration is the length of the application. Application rates drop by 365% if it takes more than 15 minutes to complete. What’s more, applications with more than 20 questions lose 40% of applicants. More than 45 questions? A whopping 88.7% of applicants are gone.

Another pet peeve for candidates is the failure of many sites to save the application information they provided if they are interrupted and need to finish it later.

Solution: Make sure your career pages, job listings and application meet the minimal encryption standard (SSL). Create a short and simple screening application. Then, if the applicant is qualified, invite to complete your longer application. Provide progress bars and “save for later” functions so that candidates can take breaks during the process and return right where they left off.

2) Confusion:

In a review of 100 random company websites, I discovered that only 13 had a clear pathway from the home page to their career site. Because over 61% of job seekers visit your website before applying to a job at your company, it’s critical that you make it easy and convenient to jump from the home page to the career site. On most sites a “careers” link was buried at the bottom of a long page in the footer. Others included it in a drop-down menu under “About Us” and “Resources.” Finding a career shouldn’t be a game of Where’s Waldo.

In addition to having trouble finding the careers page, many applicants suffer from bad UX and technological difficulties during the application process. More than half of respondents to a recent study said they have encountered a technical issue, error or have been unable to complete the search and application process, which ultimately led them to abandon the application.

Solution: If you’re having trouble hiring qualified workers, stop playing hide-and-seek with your career site.  At minimum, “careers” or “jobs” should have its own button on the navigation.  Add it to your header, especially if you have a rotating carousel of images. And make sure all your career pages, links, registration forms and apps work.

3) Disappointment:

One of the biggest jobseeker pet peeves is the “HR black hole.” 52% of candidates were still waiting for a response three months after applying, while 63% of job seekers say they are dissatisfied with the communication from most potential employers. As a result, nearly 7 out of 10 candidates would rarely or never reapply to a company that doesn’t communicate well, and 69% of them would discuss the poor candidate experience with a friend of colleague, which may deter others from applying to roles at your company as well.

UX and web/mobile design can also impact the candidate experience. 70% of job seekers use a mobile device to search and apply for a job, but fewer than 40% of career sites and applications are mobile ready. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re missing out on promising candidates.

Solution: Responding to candidates is easy. With chatbots, text messaging and auto-responders, there is no longer an excuse for delayed responses or failure to keep candidates informed about their application or interview status. Companies need to enter the 21st century and make their career pages and applications mobile-friendly. This has become increasingly important, especially since Google instituted the mobile-first update in 2018, which now indexes mobile sites and in some cases, grants them preference in search results.

4) Distraction:

A career page is your home base for all things talent acquisition. Once a candidate lands on this page, don’t distract them with widgets and banners to sign up for sales, newsletters and non-job relevant activities. Keep the candidate focused on learning about the job opportunity.

For anyone who has followed me, they know I’m a huge proponent of using video and images to attract candidates. But these items can easily slow down your page speed, especially on mobile devices. Now that Google plans to add the “badge of shame” to pages that take too long to load, it’s more important than ever to keep your career pages, job listings and applications fast and responsive.

Solution: Engage candidates, but don’t over-entertain them. The goal is to advance him or her from visitor to applicant. Keep your job listings tight and focused on what’s relevant. Avoid long applications with non-relevant or redundant questions which can be distractions, too. Use video and images but compress them or host them on sites like Vimeo and YouTube.

Making these small changes could do wonders for your candidate experience in 2020—and they’re not hard to implement. Start with the easiest tweaks first and make it your New Year’s Resolution to resolve the bigger issues as soon as possible.

Header photo: Creative Commons