Four Ways to Improve the Candidate Experience

By Sharlyn Lauby April 11, 2018
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This article is excerpted from Chapter 4 of the newly published The Recruiter's Handbook: A Complete Guide for Sourcing, Selecting, and Engaging the Best Talent (SHRM, 2018).

Organizations with a candidate experience strategy in place realize the work isn't over. You'll want to regularly audit your process to ensure it's working the way you intended. And look for trends that you might want to incorporate. There will always be a reason to improve the candidate experience. 

The most obvious way to improve the candidate experience is by treating candidates with respect, so I'm not going to include that in the list. Every organization needs to understand that candidates are interviewing it and making decisions about the quality of the company. The hiring process is a two-way street. That said, there are a few other tactics that organizations might want to consider: 

1. Market the company. The Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report noted that most candidates continue to take control of their job search, with 75 percent of candidates conducting their own job search research across multiple channels before applying. Company values and employee testimonials are two of the most valuable types of marketing content for candidates at 42 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

Organizations can include their employee values on their company website and career webpages. They can also add information about their values to the company pages on social sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. 

In addition, organizations can use employee testimonials as soundbites in job advertisements

or compile them as a video to be housed on the company website or shown at job fairs. The Cheesecake Factory once put together a testimonial video asking employees to finish the sentence, "The Cheesecake Factory is a great place to _____________." Employees talked about having "cheesecake in their veins," and "I have a family here," and "The company cares about me." 

Recruiters cannot take for granted that everyone knows about the company or that, if the company builds a new career website, people will automatically visit. Recruiters need to make sure that the company message is reaching the places where candidates are. And if employees love working for the company, find a way to share that with candidates. 

2. Educate candidates. At a recent TAtech conference, I had the opportunity to hear Lindsay Stanton from Digi-Me and Katie Roth of Aureon talk about engaging candidates and enhancing the experience through educational videos. Aureon is an Iowa-based company that provides business services including temporary and direct-hire staffing solutions. It partnered with Digi-Me to create candidate videos that would not only help promote job openings but demystify the hiring process. 

It might be tempting to think that video is expensive and difficult to create. And that used to be true. However, candidates today want the truth. They want authenticity, not a slick production. Don't get me wrong; there are still times when high-quality production value is important. The point here is not to discount video. 

Consider adding some video to the candidate experience. It could be about the company, the department, the job, the work environment, and the benefits of working there. Take it one step further and create a video about the recruiting process. It shouldn't be a secret to candidates. 

Want to really kick it up a notch? Consider filming a couple of videos about how to interview well and about the best ways to follow up after the interview. That's information a candidate can use in any job search. The videos can reside on your careers web page. It could be a way to keep job seekers engaged with your company. 

One last thing: Don't assume that these suggestions about adding video to the candidate experience are only for executive positions. According to Roth, Aureon achieves a high response rate from skilled trade positions using video. The digital age is changing the experience, and video can create a competitive advantage. 

3. Respond to candidates. I've always worked in industries in which candidates could be customers. It made me realize that I didn't want to be responsible for losing a candidate and a customer at the same time. One of the ways we were able to improve the candidate experience at my previous employers was by closing the loop with every person who applied. Please note: I didn't say that every person got the answer he or she wanted to hear or received a personal phone call. But everyone received some sort of acknowledgment. 

Forty-seven percent of candidates were still waiting to hear back from employers more than two months after they applied, according to the 2016 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report. Plus, only 20 percent of candidates received an e-mail from a recruiter or hiring manager notifying them they were not being considered, and only 8 percent received a phone call from a recruiter or hiring manager notifying them they were not being considered. 

The good news for employers is that today's technology solutions allow companies to create standardized responses with personalization options, so candidates aren't left wondering. While they may not receive the response that they were hoping for, they will remember the fact that the company provided closure in a respectful way. 

4. Make the company "shareable." Speaking of sharing, it's important for organizations to connect with potential candidates where they are, and that means using social media on mobile devices. Just as it's vitally important to have a pulse on what's being said about the company brand on social media, it is equally important to use social media as a way to make the candidate experience easier and more like the consumer experience. 

But effectively using social media also means having a mobile strategy. According to Pew Research Center, approximately 77 percent of Americans have a smartphone, and that number increases to 92 percent for younger Americans. In addition, half of the public now owns a tablet computer. 

I asked Craig Fisher, employer branding leader at CA Technologies, why having a mobile recruiting strategy helps the company brand and candidate experience. "More and more, younger workers will only see your website or brand on a mobile device. If your career site isn't mobile-ready you signal to them that you are not a progressive company! Today's workers want access to the tech they are used to. And it is mostly mobile." 

 But don't fall into the trap of thinking that mobile recruitment is important only at large organizations. Fisher pointed out that many companies don't even realize that a high number of their job applications either start or are completed from a mobile device. "If a company's career site isn't mobile-friendly or designed with a flexible framework, they are losing valuable prospects. Most currently-employed job seekers search for jobs on breaks or lunch at some point. They are reluctant to use company devices to search, so they use their mobile device. Common sense says to make it easy for them." 

The good news is that making your company mobile friendly isn't as expensive as it used to be. Fisher said that most modern web templates use a responsive design that will adjust to the device on which it is viewed: 

Adding a mobile responsive design does not have to be an expensive proposition. Career sites do need to be careful about keeping an applicant's personal information secure. The secure information piece is generally handled by an applicant tracking system. So, the mobile-friendly website is there for a good user experience. Ask your applicant tracking software provider if their application is mobile friendly. 

Usually, it is. One of the greatest trends today is a multistep application where a candidate can start the application process with very little information given and finish it at a later time or step. 

And for those companies thinking that once their career site is mobile friendly, they're done—think again. Fisher suggested that artificial intelligence (AI) is the "next big thing" recruiters need to be watching: "Artificial intelligence systems can now chat with job candidates to answer questions during their application process online and on mobile devices. These chatbots are intuitive and can streamline the process for both candidates and employers. The next evolution is interview preparation and eventually even job offers. Don't worry; we'll still need real people to make empathetic decisions. Also, someone has to wind the clocks." 

Please visit the SHRMStore to order your member-discounted copy of The Recruiter's Handbook: A Complete Guide for Sourcing, Selecting, and Engaging the Best Talent (SHRM, 2018) by Sharlyn Lauby. 

Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP, is the author of the HR Bartender blog and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida-based training and human resource consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. The author of two SHRM titles, The Recruiter's Handbook and Manager Onboarding: 5 Steps for Setting New Leaders Up for Success (SHRM, 2016)her personal goal in life is to find the best cheeseburger on the planet.

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