The candidate experience impacts your business
“Looking for a job IS a full time job” is a reality that most job seekers are aware of.
As employers and recruiters, we expect the best candidate applications to stand out, establish the candidate as a contender and show off their skills and experience with a CV tailored to the role. ‘Prove yourself’ is the message we send to candidates, and they frequently invest their time and energy into doing so.
Of course there are also many challenges facing employers when shortlisting the best candidates. One common issue is quite simply a high volume of applications. It takes a lot of time to thoroughly review applications and make sure only the very best candidates are progressing to screening or interview. However compared to the time a candidate has invested in their application, an employer is likely to spend a fraction of that time assessing it.
Looking for a job is tough. It’s hard work, and the imbalance of time and effort between candidates and employers is a simple reality.
At the end of the recruitment process, each candidate will have experienced an extended interaction with your business and brand. You can be sure that the interaction will affect how they perceive your brand, how they talk about your business, whether they recommend you (or not) and the decisions they may take about your products or service.
The candidate as customer
Any marketer looking at a net promoter score will tell you that it’s a tough job pushing customers into the promoter zone. A neutral experience doesn’t cut it. The customer experience has to be very, very good to count. The same marketer will also tell you that achieving that outcome requires lots of time, budget and expertise to get it right. I believe that we should be thinking about candidates applying for jobs in the same way.
Just after Christmas I interviewed an experienced project manager who had kept a simple tally on her phone: number of jobs applied for, applications acknowledged, interviews, offers and those companies that didn’t respond at all. Of 31 applications, she received 22 acknowledgements and 9 didn’t respond at all. Following 3 interviews, 1 company didn’t communicate again.
This candidate is now a project manager with one of the companies that interviewed her. She is also now a customer of one of the companies she applied to that didn’t acknowledge her application, and a key supplier to the company that interviewed her and didn’t follow up. In her new role, she also has interactions with a couple of the other companies she had applied to. It’s important to remember that it can be a small world sometimes.
You might ask, what are the odds of a candidate becoming a customer? Well, forget the odds for a moment, put your marketing hat on and consider whether your business can afford negative, or even neutral interactions with anyone. Probably not. Customer, potential customer, supplier— everyone forms opinions, everyone shares their views. In short, everyone counts.
Good communication equals good experiences
Simple and timely communication with a candidate about their application can be the difference between a negative and positive experience with your brand and is easy to achieve. Automatic reply emails are absolutely fine when acknowledging applications, and candidates don’t expect personalised replies at the first stage. Likewise, candidates who aren’t screened or invited for interview are unlikely to report a negative experience if they receive an automated email which politely informs them they are not progressing.
However, once you’ve engaged with a candidate directly, whether by email, phone, Skype or face-to-face you set the expectation that the rest of your communications will be at the same level. Candidates are likely to feel let down if you interview face-to-face, and then tell them they have been unsuccessful with an automatic email. A good rule of thumb is to maintain direct, personal communication with a candidate once that connection has been made.
The candidate as advocate
The emotional stress of changing jobs is on a par with moving house. It’s a big event for most candidates, even at junior levels. The application process is part of the cycle of stress, expectation, elation and disappointment as interviews are secured, rejections received and offers accepted. At every stage, the way you communicate with the candidate has a direct impact on the candidate’s reaction to the news you are sharing.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that a particular candidate is likely to interact with your business in the future, I believe it’s crucial to aim for the goal that every candidate could become an advocate for your business. A candidate who ends up being your customer may be making decisions on price, product or service details offered by your business. To turn a candidate into a genuine advocate, the experience at a personal level needs to be respectful, positive and encourage a preference for your brand.
It’s tough being a candidate. It’s also tough recruiting the best candidates from a high number of applications. Somewhere in the middle is a happy place where the best candidate gets the job and the rest have a genuinely good experience with your business and become your advocates in the market.