Improving a job candidate's experience—especially at the preapplication stage—is the top talent acquisition goal employers plan to focus on in 2019, according to research from the Talent Board.
The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based nonprofit organization produces the annual Candidate Experience Awards (or the CandEs, as they are popularly known) and releases the data that determine the winners each year. The 2019 report is a comprehensive look at 200 companies' 2018 talent acquisition practices related to candidate experience. It includes survey feedback from the organizations, job candidates and 130,000 additional job seekers.
One finding from the research is that "candidate experience and employer branding are by far the top recruiting initiatives or activities employers plan on focusing on in 2019," said Kevin Grossman, Talent Board president, who is responsible for the global CandEs program.
"The candidate experience begins during talent attraction and sourcing, even before a potential candidate applies for a job," he said. "Attracting candidates is one area of talent acquisition that has been given more and more attention and investment due to such a strong job market throughout 2018, with many more employers big and small across industries understanding just how competitive attracting and sourcing quality candidates truly is."
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Careers Sites Are a Top Research Source
More than 70 percent of candidates conducted research on a job before applying, a trend that's held steady for the past few years. And employers' careers sites have consistently been the most valuable research channel according to job seekers and employers. Sixty percent of candidates chose careers sites as their top research source, followed by job alerts (32 percent) and LinkedIn's careers pages (31 percent). Employers also chose careers sites—for the fifth consecutive year—as being the most important way to engage candidates online before they apply for a job. Seventy-seven percent of companies consider careers sites to be critical to recruiting success, followed by LinkedIn pages (62 percent) and job boards (52 percent).
"Surveys show that, unfortunately, most candidates don't actually interact much with a company's employer brand and recruitment marketing materials before they apply," said Craig Fisher, an industry thought leader and head of marketing and employer branding at Allegis Global Solutions, a firm specializing in talent acquisition and workforce management based in Hanover, Md. "A lot of candidates just apply, apply, apply and don't really get into the employer brand materials you work so hard at creating until they get further into the process. They'll begin to scout around when they're brought onto the company's careers site to start an application."
Only 30 percent of candidates cited employee referrals as a valuable preapplication channel, and just 22 percent—down from 24 percent in 2017—said employer review sites were helpful during the job search.
"That's because sites like LinkedIn and Indeed have been pushing more and more jobs, and employers are getting more savvy in the way they target jobs, spending their money on the right media to get in front of the right candidates," Fisher said. "Employee referrals start to get less attention, because the automation available now is better at finding people to push jobs to. And it's easier to apply to jobs. You might not know until after you've applied that you know someone at the company and can ask for a referral."
Contrary to what is often said, Fisher said candidates don't rely as much on review sites to judge whether to apply for a job, but instead they will apply first and then go back and browse reviews for the jobs they think are the most engaging or interesting.
The value of job descriptions continues to tank, according to the Talent Board. When conducting research, 50 percent of candidates find the job description to be valuable, down from 55 percent of candidates in 2017 and 77 percent in 2014.
"The value of job descriptions has been questioned by both candidates and employers as an effective recruitment tool for years," Grossman said. "Job descriptions are often lifeless, text-heavy recruiting tools that prevent candidates from focusing on more critical content, such as career paths and the overall recruitment process."
The biggest year-to-year jump regarding job description content was in users' preference for more career-path examples, which increased 27 percent from 2017. "This is in line with candidates wanting to better understand their greater opportunities at companies today," Grossman said.
Candidates' preference for video job descriptions as a resource was also down, from 8 percent in 2017 to 6 percent. "But employers said they'd make video job descriptions the top technology investment in 2019, so we'll see if they increase their value," Grossman said.
Social Not Among the Best Ways to Reach Potential Candidates
Employers continue to increase their engagement with traditional college and internship programs and career fairs, but employee referral programs and cold-calling decreased in importance. And the disparity between employers and candidates using Facebook and Twitter for job searching is huge: About 80 percent of organizations use both social media channels for recruiting, but only 15 percent of job seekers turn to Facebook for new opportunities, and about 4 percent consider Twitter a valuable job-search source.
"As seen in previous years, companies are all in with social media to attract candidates, despite candidates leveraging social channels like Twitter and Facebook with much less frequency," Grossman said.
Texting and chatbots are two forms of candidate communications that are rapidly gaining use. In 2017, only 28 percent of employers were using text-messaging campaigns, but in 2018, it jumped to 48 percent. Careers site chatbots grew by 69 percent in 2018. Chatbots are being used to answer general employment questions, freeing recruiters to have more hands-on time with candidates.
"Job candidates like to be communicated with via their personal e-mail address, their personal phone—whether it's by voice message or text—and via a company's careers site, which could be with a chatbot," Fisher said. "From the surveys that I've done, the overwhelming majority of candidates say they have no problem interacting with chatbots at the start of the application process. They find them to be helpful with completing administrative tasks. They are also a nice shortcut toward talking with a recruiter or being matched to other jobs that are similar to the ones being applied for."