Happier Candidates Already Have Relationship with Employers

Talent Board releases findings from its 2015 Candidate Experience Awards research

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer March 3, 2016

Engaging with active and passive candidates well before they apply for a job is key to building a successful candidate experience, according to research drawn from the 2015 Candidate Experience Awards.

Conducted by Talent Board, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization dedicated to measuring and improving the candidate experience, the CandE Awards—as they are popularly known—and the release of the underlying data that determines the winners are eagerly anticipated each year.

Nearly 200 companies completed a survey evaluating their recruiting process to be considered for the awards, before soliciting candidate feedback from 130,000 successful and unsuccessful applicants on how they viewed the process. 

According to the research, 55 percent of candidates have had a past relationship with a prospective employer, a slight increase from 53 percent in 2014. Moreover, an existing relationship makes a significant difference in the candidate’s experience: When asked to rate their candidate experience, 51 percent of 1-star (very negative) ratings came from candidates who didn’t have a prior relationship with the employer, while 60 percent of the 4- and 5–star (positive) ratings were from those that had a previous relationship.

How to Build That Relationship

The research findings support the strategy of consistently engaging with potential candidates through employer branding and recruitment marketing techniques, and through the cultivation of talent pools by sponsoring live events or reaching out through targeted social media campaigns.

“Candidate attraction has become one of the most critical components of a modern talent acquisition strategy and sets the tone for the overall candidate experience,” said Kevin W. Grossman, vice president at Talent Board, who is responsible for the Candidate Experience Awards for North America. “Attraction is now a priority for companies focused on long-term results. These organizations are building strategies and investing in technology in order to target the right audience, nurture talent early in the process and measure their efforts.”

Four-time CandE winner Capital One is one of those companies, garnering one of the top scores of the 2015 crop of participating employers.

“There’s been an evolution with how we’ve attracted candidates to come to Capital One,” said Christina McClung, senior director for recruitment marketing at the financial services firm. “Part of being a recruiter is building a network of candidates that are going to be right for the company either today or tomorrow, so when you find the people with the values you’re looking for, you keep them warm until a role that fits them exists.”

Capital One keeps its talent pipeline full through producing events and sponsoring others, recruitment marketing, and setting up online talent communities that update candidates with job alerts. The company also has programs for high school and college students interested in technology jobs to “experience what it’s like to work here, meet with some of the leaders and have opportunities to train on technology in a business environment,” McClung said.

In addition to its award-winning Tech Internship for rising college seniors, in 2014 Capital One introduced the Summit for Software Engineers. It’s a week-long experience for rising college sophomores and juniors where they gain exposure to many of the same experiences and concepts designed for the older students but in a compressed format.  

What Candidates Want to Know Before Applying

Before beginning the job application process, candidates “want a clear understanding of the company culture, employee experience and the job itself,” Grossman said.

Candidates are getting savvier in their job search, digging into careers sites, social media and websites like Glassdoor to get a clearer picture of an organization before making their interest known. About three-quarters of candidates surveyed said they conduct research on the company and the job before applying.

“Candidates want to be prepared … and they’re also using multiple channels more than ever before to make an educated decision prior to applying,” said Madeline Laurano, co-founder at Aptitude Research Partners, a Boston-based analyst and advisory firm. “Regular measurement of what channels are bringing the most return, such as measuring quality of candidate and hire, can inform companies on where to channel their investment strategy.”

Company careers sites are the most valuable source for research according to 64 percent of candidates, followed by job notifications (35 percent), LinkedIn career pages (30 percent) and employer review sites (24 percent).

“Candidates want to go directly to the source to discover information about the company and the job before visiting a third-party site,” Laurano said. “For this reason, it is important for employers to build trust and to be transparent on their careers sites. If this is the first stop, the information should be relevant and accurate.”

Aligning with candidates’ behavior, 71 percent of employers said that careers sites are where they are investing their resources to attract candidates, followed by 36 percent investing in job agents and 32 percent in microsites.

“Employers recognize that this is the first stop for candidates researching their organization so the content they provide must be compelling,” Grossman said.

Capital One has refreshed its careers page within the past 12-15 months. “We’re making sure that we have a clearly defined vision for our site, and easy search functionality for open roles,” McClung said. She added that images portraying “the reality of what it’s like to work here,” employee-generated content and a series of videos about working at Capital One help make the site engaging.

According to the Talent Board research, the most important marketing content directed toward candidates is information about the company’s values (42 percent), followed by products and services information (37 percent), and employee testimonials (35 percent).

Of all the elements to be found on careers pages, the job posting itself may be the most critical. About three-fourths of candidates said that the posting is the most valuable job-related content reviewed. Job postings should be specific about the experience, job skills and education desired, while at the same time provide potential applicants with an honest preview of the job.

Registration for the 2016 Candidate Experience Awards begins in March.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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