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Stay in Touch,' Job Seekers Say

Talent Board releases findings from its 2016 Candidate Experience Awards research

A group of people shaking hands at a table.

Communication is a clear differentiator between companies rated highly for their candidate experience and those that aren't, according to data drawn from the 2016 North American Candidate Experience Awards.

The research shows that organizations rated as providing the best experience stay in contact with candidates and ask for feedback throughout the hiring process, even before a candidate applies for a particular job, while the worst candidate experience is typified by applicants not hearing anything from the employers.

The CandE Awards—as they are popularly known—and the release of the underlying data that determines the winners are eagerly anticipated each year. The awards are given by Talent Board, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that measures and aims to improve the candidate experience.

More than 240 North American companies put their recruiting practices under the microscope in 2016, and over 183,000 job seekers shared their experiences with the hiring process.

A candidate's perception of the recruiting and hiring process—from first attraction to onboarding—has a definitive impact on the business, said Kevin Grossman, Talent Board president, who is responsible for the global Candidate Experience Awards program.

Sixty-four percent of job seekers agree that a poor candidate experience would make them less likely to purchase goods and services from the employer, according to a survey report released April 4 by research firm Future Workplace and CareerArc, a social recruiting and outplacement services company.

"Candidates share their positive and negative recruiting experiences with their inner circles and online via social media," Grossman said. "Those negative experiences not only potentially impact the employment brand and direct revenue for consumer-based businesses, but also diminish their ability to attract sought-after talent and the referral networks that come with them."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

Connect with Candidates Before They Apply

The candidate experience begins pre-application, when potential applicants are identified and engaged before being sourced for any specific role. Candidates build relationships with potential employers similar to the way consumers identify with product brands. During their job search, they leverage careers sites, social media, employer review sites like Glassdoor and their connections at the company, which incentivizes employers to improve their brand and candidate experience.

"Attracting candidates is one area of talent acquisition that has been overlooked in the past, yet it is arguably the most important since it prepares organizations for current talent needs as well as future talent needs," Grossman said. "It also gives candidates that first impression of an employer."

Investing in talent attraction technology is one of the hottest trends in recruiting today, though organizations struggle to create a consistent and meaningful experience for candidates, according to the Talent Board findings.

Only 15 percent of candidates were engaged before applying for a job, meaning many employers are missing the opportunity to connect with candidates and bring them into a talent pipeline.

"The challenge for recruiters is that information about employers is already out there on employer review sites and social media," said Kevin Regan, vice president of digital strategy for TMP Worldwide, a global recruitment advertising company based in New York City. "Candidates want to hear from employers, too," he added. "But they want more than the 'About us' and 'The awards we have won' and the job description. They want to understand what it's really going to be like to work there and what will make them successful and who they will be working with."

Seventy-five percent of job seekers said they conduct research across multiple channels during the job search. Company careers sites were chosen by the most respondents (57 percent) as the most valuable resource to research career opportunities.

"The careers site is the core destination where candidates and employers interact," Regan said. "The information on those sites and how it is presented is important. It can't be five boring paragraphs but rather [should be the kind of] snackable information people are accustomed to consuming online—short stories and videos. The careers site is the hub, but the content is now spidering out, delivering soundbites and stories onto social, showing up on mobile, and driving traffic back to the careers site."

For this reason, it is important for employers to build trust and to be transparent on their careers sites, Grossman said. "If this is the first stop for candidates, the information should be relevant and accurate."

Financial services firm Capital One has spent the last few years improving its candidate experience, and the work has paid off with multiple CandE Awards. The company is currently developing a way to create and house realistic job previews within a new job description format. "We created a real dynamic and interactive career experience," said Chris Hester, director of talent operations for Capital One. "Candidates can go and look at realistic job simulations. We know that candidates have a lot of choices today, and giving them the ability to truly understand what a job entails is critical to them applying for that job."

When researching a job, the majority of respondents (63 percent) selected job descriptions as the most important job-related content; the majority of respondents cited company values as the most important marketing content (47 percent); surprisingly, 23 percent said they use review sites in their job and career research.

"We started viewing the main Delta page on Glassdoor as Delta's resume," said Wendy Schmid, a talent acquisition professional at the global air carrier headquartered in Atlanta. Glassdoor is another way for Delta to show off its brand to passive viewers while offering specific job opportunities to active job seekers. "We devised a plan to start responding to the anonymous reviews to ensure Delta's branding remains true to our culture and our core values. We're also able to monitor the interview reviews for any inconsistencies across our system."

Stay in Contact, from Application …

The job application process is still a challenge for many candidates and employers, according to the Talent Board research. "The true test of a positive candidate experience in the apply stage is whether or not a candidate would reapply," Grossman said. "Only 31 percent of candidates stated that they would reapply, a decrease from 37 percent in 2015."

Communication is the key for a positive candidate experience during the application process, but 47 percent of 100,000 candidate respondents said they never received status updates, even two months after applying. Additionally, only 20 percent of candidates received an e-mail from a recruiter or hiring manager and only 8 percent received a phone call notifying them they were not being considered.

Overall, 47 percent rated the application process between 1 and 3, with 1 representing a very negative experience and 3 being neutral.

About 80 percent of organizations said they offer mobile application capabilities, up 18 percent from the previous year, but only 12 percent of candidates said they applied through a mobile device. While more candidates may be using mobile devices to research jobs, applying via mobile is still low overall, Grossman said.

"We simplified the digital engagement for candidate exploration by rolling out both a mobile application and mobile referrals," Hester said. "Over the last six months we've seen 25 percent of our applicants come through the mobile channel, and 40 percent of our referrals come through mobile applications. We're definitely seeing some progress there."

… Through Job Offer

Even after a candidate is chosen to join the team, organizations must continue to provide a positive experience during the final stage of recruitment—the offer process.

Candidates still want responsiveness during this crucial stage, specifically about if and when they will receive a job offer.

"When thinking of the candidate experience and a quality hiring process, we evaluate a 'candidate throughput' metric that doesn't end until the person starts their job, so the interview-to-offer window and acceptance-to-start-date are areas that should be measured and optimized just like the front end of the recruiting process," said Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, a boutique digital recruitment advertising agency in the Boston area.

Forty-nine percent of 33,000 candidate respondents said that less than one week elapsed between their last interview and their receipt of an offer letter, a decrease from 53 percent of companies in 2015. Five percent of respondents said it took four weeks to receive an offer, and 8 percent said the wait was more than four weeks.

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