The competition for talent is heating up as organizations look to become the employer of choice for job seekers. For many of these organizations, the candidate experience has a defined beginning and end. According to a recent study by Brandon Hall Group, organizations often focus on recruiting and onboarding separately rather than holistically looking at the candidate experience. The candidate experience should operate as an ongoing process that strives for continuous improvement, while simultaneously offering a competitive advantage.
Looking for a job is a lot like buying an expensive pair of shoes or booking a dream vacation
It may seem like a stretch but looking for a job has a lot of similarities to online shopping or booking a vacation. Candidates browse available options, talk to their peers to gather feedback or gain insight, and read reviews on Glassdoor or check out the chatter on social media before applying (or finally clicking "Continue to checkout" to buy those coveted shoes!).
An authentic candidate experience = results
Once you have intrigued a candidate enough to apply, it's important to ensure that you offer a candidate experience that is authentic to your employer brand. Authenticity will not only enable you to attract and retain top talent, but your existing employees will become ambassadors for your organization, and in turn, do some of the recruiting for you. Referrals drive the best results and oftentimes have the highest ROI, reduced time and cost of hire, and improved quality of hire.
So, how do you measure the candidate experience?
There are obstacles and challenges that prevent organizations from accurately measuring their candidate experience. Most candidates won't provide feedback in fear of jeopardizing a job offer. Alternatively, organizations can look to measure metrics like application completion rates, offers and hiring, short-term retention rate, referral rate, hiring manager feedback and applicant survey results to provide insight on the candidate experience. With this data, organizations can continuously improve their candidate experience to remain top of mind for candidates.
With the right technology, organizations can analyze conversion rates and job advertisements, and review the most successful hires to determine trends. But don't stop using technology after the candidate has accepted the job offer! Use your technology to attract and recruit, but then expand it to support pre-boarding and onboarding initiatives and continue throughout the lifecycle of the role by using pulse surveys, check-in with hiring managers, and use the data to inform your strategy moving forward. And remember, communication is vital!
Who owns the candidate experience?
While it needs to come from the top, there is an opportunity to work cross-departmentally. Insight from across the business ensures that each facet of the candidate experience is indicative of your organization. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the candidate experience is as powerful as the next conversation.
Ready for more on the candidate experience?
Listen to this episode of HCMx Radio podcast with Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Management and Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer at Brandon Hall Group as we discuss the link between the candidate experience, employer brand, and the impact of a positive candidate experience.
Over the course of our audio blog series, we've discussed the four essential components that make for an exceptional candidate experience. Read on!
Why the candidate experience matters more than you think
2. The power behind hiring internal talent
3. The candidate experience doesn't stop at an offer letter
4. How to use technology to elevate the candidate experience
Does the candidate experience matter and how does it connect to the employer brand?
Cliff: I've been focused on this topic lately since it's some of the more recent research we've done. My background prior to writing about HR is that I was the Head of HR for an RPO, a recruitment process outsourcing company in the Boston area. There was already some real interest in having your recruiters initiate the branding experience. I don't think the term "candidate experience" had come into play yet, but organizations already realized how important it is to connect to people because, by the nature of recruiting, most of the people you connect with are not going to get the job. There's a lot of potential for how candidates will view your organization based on their experience of applying for the job and everything that goes with it. Of course, there are implications as well for those who do get the job because that is the early stage of their employee experience and their entire journey so that part of it is a key issue.
Nick: Absolutely. What I learned from my RPO experience is, even when you've got an absolutely fantastic candidate, if they receive a negative candidate experience through the recruitment process that is going to lead them to be a lot less likely to accept the job offer. You can relate this to negative experiences when you're buying something.
You're far less likely to engage if it's been a negative experience. It's the same in recruitment. If you're going through a recruitment process and the experience is negative from a technology experience but also negative in terms of the interview, in terms of the recruiter that you're speaking to, in terms of the hiring manager and who you're engaging with, that can lead to those really good candidates not accepting that job offer when you come to make it.
Candidates can also read reviews about the experience or the brand through Glassdoor and other social sites before they even go into the interview. How do you ensure that recruiters or hiring managers make the candidate experience better and more authentic?
Nick: There are a number of different ways. You need to look at the overall approach of the organization.
Companies should first look at hiring internally. You need to understand the behaviors defining your high performers and make the right opportunities available to them within your organization.
If your candidate experience is authentic, they should really be your ambassadors and doing a lot of recruitment for you. If those internal hires don't happen, look at your referrals because your referrals drive, by far, the best results both socially and face-to-face.
We know that employee referrals have the highest return on investment. They reduce time to hire, cost to hire and they really improve the quality of your hires. Of course, if you're getting good referrals, it helps reduce your overall turnover rate for the organization and improve the offer acceptance rate. It's very important to make sure that your hiring managers take pride in their recruitment process, the overall EVP and your brand as a recruiter. It's your responsibility to make sure you're getting feedback from those hiring managers and really caring about those candidates.
People are the voice of your company and it's really important how they represent the company brand. What do high performing companies do to improve the candidate experience?
Cliff: Our research shows companies with larger-than-average revenue growth, profitability and market share - the one thing that stood out is that they started by surveying and interviewing candidates who had come through the process, finding out what they have to say because they knew it better than anyone, and using that as a starting point rather than immediately jumping in with some process or technology change.
Nick: Another really important thing to remember is that most of the strong performers in the candidates that you're looking for are probably not actively looking, not actively visiting your career site, not actively pursuing. Most are passive but from my experience as a recruiter, once you engage and speak with candidates, you drive regular communication, you're probably reaching out on social media and making sure you're approaching candidates in the right way via their social media channels, they can be enticed. For most people, once you get talking to them and your EVP is correct, you can entice them into your organization and make them quite open to making a move.
Brandon Hall Group's Candidate Experience Survey reported that 73% of organizations said the candidate experience is essential but less than half believe their practices are effective. What are some of the obstacles that you see companies experiencing?
Cliff: We heard Nick mention the most important one: offer acceptance. You can also look at people who drop out during the process. With the aid of technology, you can determine exactly when and where they dropped out and get a sense of what might be holding you back. It's hard to get data from candidates who didn't go through the process successfully, so you must look at other measures such as drop rate and offer-acceptance to get a sense of whether you are delivering the candidate experience you want to.
Nick: That's a really great point, Cliff, because candidates who might have been rejected, even if it was a positive rejection, rarely provide that information. I think there's a lot of different metrics that you can use. Technology is our biggest savior. If you're using a good ATS system, it should really be able to look at your job-advert conversion rate. How many of those individuals have gone on to make an application? How many individuals perhaps looked at that job, went elsewhere then returned? What we find more and more is most first-time career site visitors don't actually go on to apply. You can have the best career site in the world but they're going to want to check you out first, just like when you book a holiday. You might find the holiday of your dreams but then you're going to go and research it a bit more to see what people are saying about that hotel and location in real life. That is the same with candidates. They're going to jump to the review boards, check you out on Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, and if your existing hires and internal workforce are saying negative things about the organization, that's going stop them from applying.
There are a number of metrics available to us. It can be very useful to monitor social media channels, find out what individuals are saying about your company to help work on the EVP as well. Look at your most successful hires in the organization, track it back and review their resumes and communicate with your hiring managers. Say, "What was it about this individual that made you think they would be a really great hire?" People think candidate experience is purely about the application process, which is of course very important, but it's actually a lot bigger piece than that, so we need to gather that information and analyze it the right way.
Cliff: I think you also have an opportunity at this stage, and this pretty much can only happen if you have technology in place, to look at D&I statistics and numbers coming through. We tend to have what would be considered successful numbers but until you look deeper and realize you might be seeing women aren't coming through the process, they're applying in the right numbers but the percentages drop, and that could tell you something is stopping you from getting all the right candidates you need or creating some sort of discord. If you're just saying, "Good, we've got a 50% offer acceptance rate," you're not really getting the whole picture.
Who should have ownership of the strategy?
Cliff: It needs to come from the top, but there's an opportunity to work cross-departmentally because we're talking about your employer brand, which may be different than your external brands, especially if you're a well-known company. For instance, I worked with a very well-known budget airline and they were really struggling because every candidate assumed they didn't pay well. When you're only charging thirty dollars a ticket, candidates assume they're not going to get paid much as an employee. I think it's important to understand your brand both internally - what you have to offer and the EVP - but also what you look like from the outside. Make sure you're addressing both messages appropriately.
Nick: It's very important to measure the candidate experience both from an attraction, recruitment stage, then through to your pre-boarding phase, onto your onboarding and also continuing to measure that information throughout the lifecycle of their roles. So, regular poll surveys, regular check-ins with the hiring managers. It's really tracking it through from the attraction, recruitment, onboarding stages but also continuing that to help you evaluate that data as a whole and to work out who are the best performers in your company, as well. Cliff and I mentioned that the difficult thing with candidate experience surveys is sometimes it's difficult to get genuine results but I think they're very much still a key part of your recruitment process and should always be there at the end of the recruitment stage, but also once you're into onboarding as well. It's also very important to reach out and do those surveys internally. When I was at Capita, we always used to survey our hiring managers as well because hiring managers often found out information from the candidate that they might not give you in those questions. For example, if they've had two or three interviews, the candidate might have given away a lot more information to the hiring manager about how they found the experience but also, we need to make sure that the hiring manager is being well looked after and if the candidate experience isn't right, then they're not going to be as well. Within those surveys especially to candidates, we need to keep it simple. Find out if the job descriptions are helping them to understand the roles. What did they like/dislike about the interview process? How is communication? A lot of the communication is automated now with technology, so let's make sure we personalize that communication, let's make sure it's being effective. If we're using a chatbot, let's make sure the chatbot is communicating in the right way and guiding the experience. Then, really leading questions to find out if they will encourage friends to apply to work at the company, will they give a good survey around their experience on Glassdoor?
Technology can also help you to track those reviews as well to get a good view of the candidates' impressions. I'd also recommend social media software that will listen for people commenting on your organization and their experience around the EVP. Once we gather that information and we understand how the candidate experience was, it's very important from a recruitment perspective to understand what our high performers look like, to continue engaging them throughout the whole lifecycle of their employment to really give them the right development opportunities, the right training opportunities, to carry out regular poll surveys with those individuals because the last thing we want is to have a high rate of attrition once we have identified good candidates. We want to keep them in the organization, we want to keep recruiting from them internally first and we want them to keep referring out as well. It's very important to consider the technology that you're using, to measure all the way through the process.
Any final thoughts?
Cliff: I want to follow up on what Nick said because I think he made an excellent point: candidate experience is not something that has a start and an end. It's part of a larger whole. When it's done right, it plays a vital role in employee experience, engagement, and productivity. It's about first impressions and we all know how important that is.
Nick: One final point: one of the biggest reasons candidate experience matters is there's a world of talent out there. The demand is definitely higher than the supply and if you want to find and recruit that talent, your EVP and candidate experience is absolutely key. If it isn't right and candidates aren't having a good experience, that will quickly spread and it's going to become very difficult for you to attract those individuals you're looking for.