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Feedback to and from Candidates Will Improve Your Hiring Process

A woman in a sequin dress posing for a photo.
​Danielle Weinblatt, founder and CEO of ConveyIQ

​Feedback—not just from candidates to HR about the company's hiring process, but also from recruiters to candidates—will help employers refine their candidate experience, and ultimately, polish up their employer brand.

Giving feedback to candidates, starting when they apply for a role all the way through a job offer or rejection letter, will be appreciated. These job seekers may reapply for future opportunities and will likely share their positive experience. 

In turn, eliciting feedback from candidates at crucial stages of the hiring process can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of that process, which is the first step toward improving it.

Danielle Weinblatt, the founder and CEO of New York City-based recruiting automation software company ConveyIQ, spoke with SHRM Online about being honest with applicants, the inherent bias in candidate experience polling and the importance of asking open-ended survey questions to get the best feedback.  

SHRM Online: What aspect of the hiring process are candidates most dissatisfied with and how can it be addressed?

Weinblatt: The biggest complaint is when candidates apply for a position and don't hear back, which most candidates refer to as the "black hole." This happens for several reasons. Often, it's because a keyword search in the ATS [applicant tracking system] eliminated them, or the position is for an evergreen role employers don't actually intend to fill, or recruiters are just too busy to follow up with all of the applicants that have applied for their positions.

Sometimes, jobs are advertised for pipelining purposes, but the company doesn't indicate to the candidates that they are just collecting leads with no intention of following up. This creates a tremendous amount of frustration. Sending a note letting candidates know that the role is not going to be filled anytime soon, but that they will be considered in the company's talent pool and will continue to receive communications, would be very helpful to candidates in those circumstances.

SHRM Online: Candidate pooling is OK as long as employers are up front about it?

Weinblatt: Absolutely. I believe in pipelining. Just as every company may not be hiring for a particular position right now, not every single candidate is on the market at that moment. Recruiting is very similar to dating. It's about relationship building. When you're dating, it's all about timing. That's first and foremost. In a similar fashion, when you're matching a candidate to a role, the employer needs to be open to the relationship, and the candidate needs to be open to the relationship. It's OK to have that initial attraction and say "Hey, if I wasn't dating someone right now—my current employer—I'd be interested in you." And on the flip side, if the employer would say "Listen, I'm not ready for a commitment right now, I'm just scanning the landscape. When I'm ready to explore a commitment, I'd like to reach out. Is that OK with you?" both sides would be on the same page.

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

SHRM Online: Are candidate surveys the best way to get feedback during the hiring process?

Weinblatt: Candidate feedback polling or surveys are standard, however there is a lot of bias in those polls because frequently companies are not conducting them across the right sample group or comparing them across the organization to see areas for improvement. For example, I know a lot of companies that are only surveying candidates who have received an offer or accepted a position.

The typical surveys ask candidates to rate on a 1-5 scale the overall application process, the quality of communication provided, and the interview experience. That information is very helpful when asked before being moved to the next stage in the hiring process or before being rejected. The ideal survey is one that captures as many qualities about the candidate [as possible], such as his or her status in the hiring process, source of application, and of course, position, without revealing the identity of the individual. All surveys need to be conducted in a way that preserves the anonymity of the candidate.

I also think there is a way to conduct more open-ended, qualitative surveying. Employers should ask more questions like "If we can improve anything about our hiring process, what would it be?" and "Describe your ideal hiring experience."

However, being able to capture that information and make it first digestible, and then actionable, is the difficult part. Luckily, there is technology that is emerging that will be able to help companies do this in the near future.

SHRM Online: How do hiring metrics fit in?

Weinblatt: Candidate feedback from surveys should be analyzed in conjunction with hiring metrics to best understand candidate experience. Take a cold, hard look at every stage of the hiring process and measure how candidates move through it. That's how you'll find the obstacles and ensure you're optimizing for candidate experience. The best organizations measure the drop-off rate from stage to stage. It's easy to correlate why candidates drop off at the apply stage if you have a 40-minute-long online application. If you see a massive drop-off when you ask people to complete an on-demand digital interview, you're probably using it too early in the process or you're not using it for the right roles. Measure how long it takes candidates to complete various online assessments. Your offer-to-acceptance ratio is a good indication about the overall state of your candidate experience in conjunction with the competitiveness of your industry or that specific role.

And don't forget to measure hiring manager performance at each stage of the process. The candidate feedback may show that the breakdown in communication lies with a certain hiring manager. If that's the case, it's time to work on hiring managers' focus on recruiting at the intake meeting and to make sure they will commit to an SLA [service level agreement] that outlines the expectations, responsibilities, timelines and deliverables of each party in advance. It's important to get the unwavering commitment of your hiring managers to the recruitment process and build a deep relationship with them at every phase of the process.

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