What makes a great candidate experience and 5 ways to achieve it

What makes a great candidate experience and 5 ways to achieve it

The vast majority of job seekers - 88% - are more likely to buy from a company that gave them a positive candidate experience when they apply for a role, irrespective of whether they are successful, whilst half would tell their social connections about a positive experience. These are two findings from the 2014 CandE report, which gathers together research and insight from the recent Candidate Experience Award competition, of which Monster are a global sponsor.

The survey of 3,000 candidates also showed other positives from a good experience :

•    97% would refer others to the organisation if they had a positive experience

•    95% of unsuccessful candidates would re-apply if another suitable role came up

•    54% rated their most recent candidate experience as 'very good'

The benefits of providing a giving a great experience to people applying for roles have long been discussed, with many companies now finding an impact to their bottom line, but it's not always easy. Whether through sheer volume of applications, time stretched recruitment teams or a lack of buy-in from the hiring manager, it can  be hard to make the business case for investing in candidate experience. But there are definite benefits to be gained, and sometimes the most effective experience can be achieved easily.

The report found four steps to a great experience:

During the attraction stage communication is key. By far the most popular source of information for job seekers is a company career site, although social channels are increasingly being used. Whatever interaction the candidate has needs to be timely and accurate, not misleading or vague. Any application process should be simple to follow and easy to complete - great candidates don't like lengthy application forms and are more likely to click away!

Candidates clearly favour companies that are able to give a clear indication of culture and values. The survey found they spend up to two hours researching a role and company prior to applying, and the key information they look for is:

•    Company values

•    An indication of why you would want to work there

•    Product information

•    An indication of why people stay there

Expectation management
The number of applications is increasing - up to 204 per role in 2013 - which inevitably leads to a more transactional relationship with the job seeker, particularly before selection or screening. It's vital to set clear expectations from the start, and to keep some form of communication going through the process. The four interactions that those having a good experience were most positive about were:

•    Receiving immediate 'Thank You'

•    Advise on length of the application process

•    Information on next steps in the process

•    Data privacy information

If something is going to go wrong in a new role then the chances are it will happen in the first few months, and crucial to that will be on-boardding. Those firms who scored highest in the Candidate Experience Awards got an 87% positive rating on the on-boarding experience, although there is great variation between how companies manage the process. A personal, high touch approach works best yet only 40% of respondents had received a call from their hiring manager during on-boarding, and less than 60% from HR or their recruiter. And only 31% received a detailed schedule covering their first few weeks.

Knowing what makes a great experience and creating it are two different things, so here are five things that can help:

1. Attract fewer applicants - Our attraction methods are often aimed at gaining the attention of the widest pool of potential job seekers so when we talk of candidate experience what we are really talking about is the applicant experience. More specific targeting, better job advertising and sourcing from our wider networks may help to reduce the volume.

2. Hiring manager involvement - The CandE results shows that the further the hiring manager from the process the worse the experience. Those moving from applicant to candidate want time with the hiring manger, so their participation in the process is vital. If a candidate spends most of their time interacting with the recruiter then the bond with company and role may be weakened.

3. Treat candidates as customers - Why not involve customer service in helping with the process? There will be people within the business whose role it is to ensure the people interacting with you feel special, so their input could be crucial. The overall results showed a clear link between job applicant and consumer behaviour.

4. Time to hire - A further finding was that the longer the process the less likely it would be seen as a positive experience. The value of expectation management is at its greatest here, as is buy-in from the hiring manager to oversee a timely process. There is little to be gained from creating extra rounds of interviews, or leaving long gaps between communication.

5. Be prepared to give feedback - Every unsuccessful candidate needs feedback. It's important not to focus all efforts on the person who gets the role as it will be those who don't get it who could become your loudest detractors. You need them to be ambassadors and the one thing that they will appreciate most will be feedback on how they performed and where they didn't quite match requirements.

We spend a lot of time training managers to become better interviewers but much less time on training them to give honest, helpful feedback - which can be key to giving a better candidate experience. Every candidate making the final shortlist is a potential candidate for a future role - whether it is to match different requirements or once they have gained some necessary further experience - so it is important to keep them as ambassadors and promoters of your brand. A rejection shouldn't be seen as the end of your relationship with that person but the start of a new relationship. 

With many companies reporting increasing difficulties in finding the talent they need, the candidate experience is becoming a key differentiator. It's the thing that most rejected candidates focus on and it could be a deal breaker for the one you want.

Monster are global sponsors of The Candidate Experience Awards, the annual competition whose research gives much needed insight in to best practices for successful recruitment. It gives employers an opportunity to benchmark their candidate experience against others, whilst the results from surveying 3,000 candidates give much needed intelligence of what job seekers think of their experiences.


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