In our mobile-first, on-demand digital economy, our consumer experience expectations have never been higher. We're now able to access products and services where and when we like, with a seamless experience from start to finish. And our expectations of our experiences in the workplace are no different. Organisations are increasingly realising that to create a seamless employee experience from start to finish means beginning with a top candidate experience. The good news? There's never been a better time to start transforming the candidate experience at your organisation.
Talent acquisition is a critical component of the overall talent journey. Organisations need to create a recruitment experience that attracts, engages and nurtures talent, which means that employers must work hard to identify and optimise all the potential touchpoints. Finding the rock stars in today's employee market has never been more competitive – and it's never been more important for organisations to create an experience that engages candidates in the process, from brand awareness to hiring to onboarding and beyond.
Transforming 4 key candidate experience touchpoints
Saba recently collaborated with HR technology experts Matt Alder and Mervyn Dinnen to develop the eBook, Driving Better Recruitment Through Exceptional Experiences, which drew on the findings from our survey of more than 100 talent acquisition professionals across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The survey explored the realities of the current state of the recruiting experience – and the key touchpoints recruiters are focused on improving.
Here are four key candidate experience touchpoints that make all the difference as to whether your candidates will continue to engage in the hiring process, enjoy a positive overall candidate experience and become set up for early success in their new career at your organisation:
1. Marketing and branding
In this highly competitive talent environment, first impressions count in a big way. An employer needs to execute a marketing and branding strategy targeted specifically to candidates, both active and passive. It's the first touchpoint in the candidate experience, where the potential new employee first becomes aware of the organisation and forms an opinion about whether or not they might like to work for them.
There are plenty of opportunities for potential new hires to get familiar with an organisation. There's also a plethora of sources (online and offline) where they can conduct research before choosing to engage further. However, many employers are struggling to make a positive first impression. Our research showed that 38 percent of organisations rank their own employer brand experience as "poor," or "very poor."
Social media and third-party review sites contribute to an organisation's employer brand; companies now have less control over how their employer brand is portrayed. Candidates have also become increasingly sceptical of the legitimacy of an organisation's employer value proposition. Therefore, to promote an authentic, positive employer brand, it's important that organisations utilise their employee and alumni communities for advocacy. Crowdsourcing authentic employer brand content through career sites, social platforms and communities (including content generated by site users) is a key part of lifting the lid on what your organisation is really like and not just how you'd like it to be portrayed.
2. Engagement and application
Once a potential candidate has decided that they like your employer brand and could see themselves working at your organisation, they move into the next step of the journey, which is active engagement with the employer and the application process itself.
This second touchpoint in the candidate experience involves active job searching, job adverts, visiting career sites and, ultimately, initiating the application process. It's therefore crucial that organisations ensure a smooth transition between career sites and their Application Tracking System (ATS), as well as a frictionless application process.
McDonald's France chose Saba TalentLink to transform its candidate experience, efficiently streamlining the application process for 1 million candidates applying to fill 40,000 available positions every year.
A big part of the candidate experience is how employers engage with passive candidates who show interest but are not yet ready to commit to making a job application. One of our survey respondents reported that they have 2.5 million visits to their career sites annually, but less than one-third of those visitors apply for a job. These kinds of ratios are not uncommon, leading many employers to implement Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) technology to help capture candidate data and actively nurture these potential candidates.
3. Selection and feedback
The third touchpoint of the candidate experience journey gets to the very heart of the recruitment process. By this stage in the hiring journey, candidates have spoken to, or have interviewed with, the recruiter, the hiring manager and potentially any other key stakeholders who have some say in whether the candidate is ultimately hired.
This stage has a big impact on the candidate's perception of the employer, regardless of whether they are hired or not. This is where organisations begin to make their candidate assessments, selection decisions and give feedback to their applicants. But regardless of the hiring decision, creating a real relationship with your candidates makes all the difference in their perception of their candidate experience.
Most of our survey respondents (84 percent) felt they offered a good experience at the interview stage but were struggling to give feedback, particularly to unsuccessful candidates. This is a real issue from a talent experience perspective, as candidates regularly say a lack of feedback creates a negative experience. In fact, recent research from candidate experience non-profit Talent Board revealed that candidates who felt they had a "negative" overall experience said they wouldn't consider doing business with that organisation, wouldn't refer others to work there and wouldn't apply again. Alternatively, candidates who said they had a "great" overall experience would refer others and would consider doing business with that organisation, even if they weren't hired.
The employers we spoke to are implementing solutions to improve the experience they offer at this stage. The role of technology is critical here. Greater automation at the filtering stage may seem counterintuitive when looking to improve candidate experience as it's essentially removing some of the human touch in the process. However, done correctly, it enables recruiters to make informed, fast and fair decisions. Automation and personalisation aren't binary. One of our respondents spoke about how they use gamification with a behavioural survey, which allows them to filter a high volume of applications with personalised results from the survey. This is one way to provide transparent personalised feedback to candidates at scale.
4. Onboarding and beyond
Traditional thinking often still sees onboarding as an administration-driven process, but that thinking means onboarding is a huge missed opportunity to increase employee engagement and reduce early attrition. This fourth stage of the candidate experience includes being extended an offer of employment, the pre-joining period and onboarding activities. But this stage is so much more than filling out new hire paperwork like health benefits and payroll information, and reading the employee handbook.
While onboarding administration is a necessary task, managers need to be well-equipped with an onboarding toolbox so that they can effectively help their new direct report get up to speed quickly, introducing them to teammates and colleagues, and setting performance and development goals. This stage is where the candidate experience begins to blend into the employee experience.
A personalised and engaging onboarding experience should start as early as possible in the hiring process. But it shouldn't stop there. Onboarding activities should start one or two weeks prior to a new hire's start date and can even extend beyond the new hire's first year at the organisation, depending on their role. As an employee moves through the full spectrum of the employee experience at your organisation, it's also important to consider how your offboarding process and employee alumni advocacy contribute to your overall recruitment experience.
As the gig economy grows, there is the increasing possibility of rehiring leavers as freelancers, part-time workers or even full-time "boomerang" employees. They may gain valuable skills and experience in their next roles and are more likely to consider returning if they are treated well upon exit. Online reviews and word-of-mouth all affect how future hires will view your employer brand. The recruitment process is a never-ending cycle of advocacy, marketing and branding, engagement and relationship-building, feedback and onboarding.
The rise of talent experience: Driving better recruitment
Driving better recruitment means meeting or exceeding your candidates' expectations, creating a talent experience that will engage them in the process and make them proud to call themselves an employee at your organisation. Matt Alder and I actually dove deeper into these principles when he interviewed me in an episode of his renowned podcast, The Recruiting Future.
Get a more comprehensive overview of these four transformational candidate experience touchpoints, plus an outline of how you can ensure a quality experience for all key recruiting stakeholders. Download the full report here and start transforming your candidate experience today!