Improving candidate experience has become an important part of the job for recruiters and HR departments. Companies are doing more and more to ensure a pleasant experience for candidates in the hiring process. This is not only to attract the best people but also to keep good people in your talent pool. Also, candidates are more likely to become engaged employees if they had a smooth and engaging application procedure. This makes it important for recruiters and HR departments to rethink their application process to ensure a positive experience for your candidates.
What is the candidate experience?
Even though candidate experience has no official definition, it is often used to refer to how applicants perceive and react to the recruiting, screening, hiring and interviewing processes. It can be measured by candidate feedback (collected through questionnaires), employee retention rates, and employee referrals.
Most employers didn’t pay much attention to the overall experience of their hiring process in the past, as the cost of a poor experience was low. If applicants had a bad experience with an employer the only consequences were that:
- they probably wouldn’t apply again,
- they might not buy from the company (if they did to begin with),
- and/or they might tell close friends and family how they were treated.
But with the help of social media and the internet, candidates now have power to recount their experiences and express their feelings to a massive audience. Worse yet, a hyper-relevant audience: your future candidates. If a candidate is treated poorly, they can write bad reviews about the company on multiple websites. Also, due to the pervasive nature of social media, candidates’ social circles have grown significantly. Social platforms like Twitter or Facebook enable candidates to reach a great number of people close to them (and not so close too!) fairly easily. This has the potential to lead to far more damage to the brand than it did before the Internet era.
On the other hand, a good recruitment experience can lead to more and better applicants, resulting in better hires. Employees and candidates will also be more likely to refer qualified candidates (and potentially even customers). Improved recruitment experiences can help lower your hiring costs and time to fill when it comes to open vacancies.
Improving your candidate experience at each step in the process
Improving the overall experience in your hiring process requires you to start out by thoroughly evaluating every step in your hiring process. By doing this, you will be able to identify areas for improvement. Remember: your communication with the candidate in between hiring steps plays a role in the overall experience and should also be assessed. In this article, we will give you actionable tips on how you can improve your candidates’ experience at each step of the way.
Job description & promotion
Job descriptions and job ads are often the first touch points for the candidates in the hiring process. They play a primary role in the recruitment experience, as they give your candidates the first impression of your company. Writing good job descriptions (with SEO in mind) and posting engaging ads are essential skills for recruiters looking to attract the best people.
Job descriptions should be written in a fun but clear way. The job title and description should give the candidates an idea of what they can expect from the job, the company, and the application process. Most companies often forget to outline their application process in the job description. Telling candidates what they can expect from the very beginning has a positive impact on their experience and should therefore always be included in the job description.
Try to refrain from using job titles like “growth jedi” or “support guru”. These job titles do not accurately describe what you are looking for and are true buzzwords instead of keywords. While they might seem fun, they can be annoying and you might be turning off some very good candidates that just do not identify those buzzwords.
Instead of using overly trendy words in your job title and description to show how fun you are, try describing your company culture a bit more. The use of video can be very effective and can help get candidates excited about your company when checking out the job description. Videos can give candidates a good idea on what day-to-day life is like at your company, which can help manage their expectations of what it would be to work with you.
Candidate screening and interviews
The screening and interview steps have the potential to have the biggest impact on the candidate’s experience of your hiring process. This step involves the most direct personal contact in the application process for most companies. It is also where candidates will meet potential colleagues and stakeholders. Being able to ask the right questions in the right way contributes to the overall experience of a candidate.
You are the representative of the company the candidate is applying for. If candidates do not feel comfortable during the interview, they are likely to drop out of the application process.
First, it is important to let the candidate know what they can expect in the interview when inviting them. This small thing can go a long way. It helps them prepare a bit better, calm potential nerves and focus on getting to know you and your company during the interview.
Designing your interviews with the experience in mind is therefore crucial. This means that you have to do more than just ask the basic questions. You can go as far as Heineken did, however, doing just a little bit more than asking the same old questions already makes a big difference. Try turning the interview into an informal conversation and be personal. Tell about yourself and your company and try to ask what type of work environment the candidate prefers.
It is important that candidates leave with a positive feeling about the interview. Even when you know the candidate is not a right fit, make sure to stay positive and keep the candidate comfortable. Try the campsite rule: leave a place (in this case person) better than you found it. For candidates, that can mean leaving them more positive about a role, or having learned something about their skills or career.
Trial and assessment days
Trial and assessment days are not only a great way to get to know your candidates, but also an opportunity to give a better experience. On trial days, the candidates get to meet their potential team, get to know what it’s like to work at the company, and whether they can see themselves working there in the long run. While trial days are not implemented in all companies, they are becoming increasingly popular.
To maximize the hiring experience for your candidates, trial days have to be structured properly. Candidates should be assigned a task related to the job they’re applying for. Make sure you don’t give candidates the feeling that you are making them work for free without the intention of hiring them. Double check that the task is not a part of day-to-day work that needs to be done but rather something that tests their skills.
Since the trial day involves face-to-face contact, remember to sit down with the candidate at the end of the day. Use this opportunity to reflect on the trial day, the task, the team and anything else that you or they may want to discuss. Make sure to involve at least one other team member in this conversation. This gives the candidates a feeling that they are being taken seriously by the team and can be an opportunity to gather feedback.
Job offer and onboarding
The job offer is an exciting moment for both the candidate and the company. Telling someone that they are hired, should always be done on the phone rather than through email (only email to arrange a callback if they don’t answer). Tell the candidates what led you to the decision to offer the position to them and what the next steps are
Remember, making the move to a new role or company can be exciting and overwhelming. Let candidates take their time to make a decision, don’t push for one on the phone. Agree a mutually suitable time frame to catch up if candidates need more time to decide.
While some would argue that the hiring process ends when candidates sign their contract, think a little bit beyond this limited scope. Onboarding new hires should also be considered as part of the recruitment experience, as it plays a big role in whether new hires will stay after their probation period.
A good onboarding process is crucial in employee retention and performance. The last thing you want after a lengthy (and expensive) hiring process is a new hire dropping out. If onboarded poorly, candidates might have a hard time adjusting to the company culture and processes. This will eventually result in new hires not making it past the probation period.
Your onboarding processes should already be mapped out before you hire a new employee. If you can tell your new hire all about (in detail) what they can expect in their first day, month, and maybe even six months, your candidate’s recruitment experience will improve. It’s one of those final touches within a hiring process that truly make your new hires get excited about working with you!
Improving your candidate experience: general tips
Mapping out and improving every step in the application process for candidates takes time and resources but they are well worth the effort. Improving the hiring experience for your candidates is a never-ending process and involves a lot of testing to get it right. Here are some general tips to keep in mind when wanting to make improvements:
- Automate and personalize communication: Communicating properly with candidates is a must, especially considering the fact that over 70% of candidates never get a reply after submitting their application. This can easily be solved by automated messages based on the stage of the application process that candidates are in. Personalize the messages as much as possible and always let candidates know what to expect going forward or why they were rejected. Also, ensure that you communicate as quickly as possible. It is not okay to make candidates wait for two weeks or more without sending them a message. Communication is the most important factor impacting the recruitment experience and should be taken seriously.
- Involve the team: Hiring new people is not solely the job of recruiters or the HR department. The team should always be involved. At the end of the day, they are the ones that will work with the new hire every day. It is also important for candidates to get to know members of the team as early as possible. It helps them to assess whether they can see themselves working within the team and gives them a feeling of being taken seriously.
- Gather candidate feedback: Send candidates a survey two weeks after their application process ends. Giving candidates the possibility to provide feedback helps you to be a better interviewer and improve your hiring process. It also lets the candidates know that you take them and your hiring processes seriously, even if it was an unsuccessful match.
- Ask for permission to put candidates in your talent pool: When rejecting candidates ask them if they are okay with you putting them in your talent pool. This is mutually beneficial and will help you stay GDPR compliant. If they agree, you’ll have quick access to pre-qualified talent and the candidate has a potential future opportunity.
The recruitment experience will be different for every candidate and job opening. To ensure a consistent experience, it is essential to identify the different elements of it. These elements are:
- Expectations of the role and company: For a good experience, candidates want to know what they can expect from both the company and the job they are applying for. It is therefore important that you get this right in your job ads, job description and career page in general.
- Interactions and impressions of employees and managers at the company: This is the most important element in the experience. The way your employees and managers interact with candidates during the application process and outside the process plays a huge role in the candidates’ perception of the company. It is important that all interaction with candidates gives them a positive feeling.
- Understanding of company values, vision, and culture: Communicate your company values, culture and vision to your candidates. The recruitment experience is enhanced when they can relate to or support the culture and values of the company. Communicating this well will help candidates to assess whether their own values align with those of the company.
- Speed and quality of the hiring process: The quality of the hiring process plays a huge role in the candidate experience. It is of utmost importance to make sure that the entire process is streamlined and that you always reach out to candidates in between steps as quickly as possible.
Making sure that candidates have not only good but great experiences with you during the hiring process is more important than ever. Employers who treat their candidates poorly not only risk missing out on business opportunities, they are also less likely to attract top talent. Treat your candidates like your clients and you will see an improvement in both business and your hiring!