Why is Candidate Experience Essential?
Today, the firms are being evaluated by the candidates as per the suitability of their corporate cultures while they evaluate the candidates for the open positions. At this point, creating a positive candidate experience is an important opportunity in both attracting the right candidates to your firm both today and in the future, and for improving the employer brand and reputation of your firm.
Just consider the corporate scenes, especially the hiring moments from 1900’s in the movies! What differences do you figure out compared to today? For me, the most striking difference is the dynamics between the employer and the employees. In white collar employment process where the employers used to have the upper hand, the power balance has completely shifted in favor of the professionals. The reason can either be the leader needs in the VUCA world or the value of having the constantly changing competencies needed… At the end of the day, everybody agrees that recruitment is an experienced focussed process. As the firm evaluates the candidate as per his or her suitability to itself, the candidate also evaluates the firm to see if its corporate culture is suitable or desirable for himself / herself.
This shift of balance brought together a new definition into our lives: “candidate experience”. The definition is quite simple; the candidate’s perception of the firm at the end of the recruitment process. How do you think the candidate - whom you’ve kept waiting for 30 minutes because your previous meeting is not finished on time - would talk about your firm? Perhaps s/he would mention his or her lousy experience only to close friends - who have a good chance of being in your talent pool by the way - or perhaps s/he posts numerous messages in social media regarding how your firm respects people. So, you might easily find yourself on trial at the social media.
The recruitment process is one of the first points of contact between the firm and the candidate and, unless your firm is Google or Facebook, most of the people would come to the interview without any prior perception or prejudice. Thus, if your team involved in the recruitment process is light-minded or sloppy, the candidate will most likely consider your firm the same. According to a LinkedIn survey, 65% of senior executive position candidates revealed to lose interest in the position after a poor interview experience. On the other hand, if the candidate forms positive perceptions regarding the process, your employer brand value would improve and you would more easily attract highly competent and high-potential candidates.
A candidate with a negative interview experience may reject the job offer, may never apply for your firm again and may even negatively affect other candidates in the sector regarding a potential employment with you. A negative experience in the process may even lead to a boycott of your products or services. The most known example is Virgin Media. A new recruitment manager goes through the feedback surveys regarding the interviews and realises that a candidate cancels her subscription simply due to the receptionist’s and interviewer’s behaviours towards her. After a detailed investigation, he figures out that most of the rejected candidates cancel their subscriptions and ⅔ of them never suggest VM services to anyone else. The cancelled subscriptions amount to approximately USD 5.4 mio. The CFO adds the impact of negative word-of-mouth to this and realises the loss as being much higher. After this discovery, the company reassesses the whole process, trains all the involved parties and at the end reaches to a point where even the rejected candidates get subscribed.
The recruitment process is the first touchpoint of the firm to the new employees. When you look in detail, you realise the abundance of touchpoints: the job ad, headhunter’s contact to the candidate, the application process, the first interview, all the tests applied to the candidate, giving the offer and finally the orientation process. The information provided by the headhunter to the candidate regarding the firm and the way s/he communicates thoroughly impacts the candidate’s perception. In fact, many candidates start to obtain information regarding the firm even before agreeing to be considered for the position. This information sometimes is obtained from the acquaintances who have been or are still working for the firm, from social media or from its reputation in the society. In other words, the firm’s current brand awareness and reputation directly impact its employing of its future leaders. So, how can the firms motivate the candidates who can add value to the firm and carry it into the future to join the team?
Establishing a firm’s reputation is a time and effort consuming process. Yet, the employer brand is the first point that attracts high competent and high potential candidates to the firm. According to LinkedIn, 81% of the candidates look for the firm online and on social media before joining the recruitment process. The importance and the effects of employer brand can easily fill a book, let alone a blog! So, let’s focus on what can a firm with a valuable employer brand gain by providing positive candidate experiences, how it can improve the candidate experiences and thus enhance its brand brand value further.
What does the firm gain from positive candidate experience?
The recruitment process is - in marketing terms - a touchpoint for firms. They contact the candidates and affect them. So, what can the firms gain from this interaction?
- They can reach a wider talent pool willing to work for them. The firm’s high reputation and valuable employer brand attracts most of the high potential candidates.
- The more the highly competent candidates join the team, the more the existing team members’ competencies increase and the better the firms’ outputs become.
- The candidates with positive experiences - even if they get rejected for the position - possess positive impressions about the firm and become its customers and advocates in social life.
How can the firms improve the candidate experience?
A couple of innocent or unconscious errors might easily weaken the employer brand. So, how can the firms have their candidates go through a good experience - whether they are employed or not at the end of the process - that these people become their advocates in the society? The solution is in fact quite easy!
- Communication: Regardless of the stage in the recruitment process, all communication with the candidates should be clear, concise and honest. As long as the upcoming steps, approximate time frame, the expectations from the candidate or any other type of information are clearly communicated, the candidates would feel they are treated and assessed fairly even if they are not recruited at the end. Communication in fact starts with the job description given to the candidates. The more the description is made precisely and aiming to get rid of the questions that the candidates might come up with, the more suitable candidates for the job would be introduced to the recruitment process. Similarly, quick delivery of any feedback - especially the negative ones - to the candidates is a very obvious sign of the firms’ respect to people. The biggest cost for the candidates in a recruitment process is time. They take time from their current jobs or personal lives to make an interview or any other assessment. Thus, the flexibility of the firms while arranging the interviews and assessments or their consideration of social distancing rules in today’s pandemic would make the candidate feel valued. At the end, the value given to the candidate is in fact a representation of the firm’s value given to its employees.
- Surprising and Satisfying the Candidate: The executive position candidates are not solely moved by the financial packages offered, they evaluate the firm by its culture, social opportunities to its employees and its team members. Details like timely welcoming the candidates coming for interviews, making them feel expected, accompanying them from the entrance to the meeting room inspire professionalism in the eyes of the candidates.
- Challenging Interviews: The leader position candidates generally get content with overcoming challenges and succeeding. Thus, a fair but tough assessment would ensure the candidates that the firms are putting high emphasis on the roles.
- The training of the team: The interviewees represent your firm. So, their being knowledgeable regarding interviewing and communication techniques and regarding answers for the common questions that may come from the candidates ensure your firm is represented rightfully. In addition, if the interviewees full attention is on the candidate, the candidate feels happy and appreciated. I had an interview back in the day where 2 of the 3 interviewees continuously checked their mails via phone and did not even listen to answers to their questions. Without a doubt, one of the biggest reasons why I rejected the offer at the end of the process was the fact that I could not imagine working with these people.
- Standardization of Interviews: Make sure the same set of questions are posed and same assessments are performed to all candidates evaluated for the same position. All steps taken related to the candidate should be precise. Do not test a competency just for the sake of it! These steps both ensure the objectivity and speed of the evaluation process and the candidates experience an efficient process.
- Feedback: After the candidates exit the process, send them a survey asking their feedback regarding the process. Yes, ask for feedback from the candidates you have rejected! A candidate may not provide honest responses if s/he is still in the process. You may also need to give some time to the rejected candidates to internalize the situation, therefore asking feedback after 1 month or so would provide you a treasure in improving your processes. It does not have to be a long and tedious work, you better keep the questions less and concise: What were your experiences regarding the process? What are your views on the interviewers? Did the interviewing team understand you, your strengths and development needs? Would s/he recommend the firm to a friend as an employer? Would s/he apply for another position in the future?
- Interviewing Team: Having a team of 2 for the interviews would help observe the candidates’ body language and assess the candidate as a whole. Also, the team can provide post-interview feedback within themselves and improve the process.
- Orientation: Let us say the process is completed, the most suitable candidate accepted the offer and started working for the firm. This does not end the candidate experience. Yes, the professional moved from candidate to employee status but until s/he feels part of the corporate culture, the candidate experience continues. The faster and the more successful the orientation process - in order words his/her adaptation to the corporate culture - of the new hire is, the faster s/he can create value for the firm.
In managing and improving candidate experience, the firms have a very important tool: the executive search and selection consultants. As Intersearch Turkey team, our specialty is candidate experience. We continuously develop ourselves with the support of our international cooperations. Thus, we represent the firms’ employer brands in executive hire processes as the first point of contact while supporting the firms in improving their processes. In addition, we facilitate the orientation processes of new hires with our professional coaches and support them in their fast adaptation to their new firms.