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Author: Liz Pavese-Kaplan, PhD

In today’s talent market, candidates hold all the cards. From increasing demands for very specific skill sets to new types of jobs emerging and a trend towards slower time to fill positions, today’s candidates can be incredibly selective about their next career moves compared to those just 10 years ago.

They wield significant power in recruitment and hiring, with more choices of companies, in almost any geography, and as such are choosing the employer, rather than the employer choosing them. For recruiting teams, this shift requires a change in mindset where they need to actively market the employer to prospective recruits, making employer branding an increasingly important part of any recruiting team.

With plenty of review sites and social media platform to share their experiences on, candidates, even unsuccessful ones, can give real-time feedback and have a huge impact on the employer brand.

Considering this, it is of utmost importance for companies to invest in measuring and managing the experiences of their candidates at every step of the hiring process. This intelligence not only helps companies improve their attraction, recruitment, and selection workflows but it provides great information on how to best retain great talent. In order to make the most of candidates’ experiences – both on the candidate and employer side – it’s important to take a few things into account.

Define the candidate experience

The candidate experience is often referred to as the perception job seekers form with respect to a company’s sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, and hiring. It extends well before a candidate applies for a role.

In fact, according to a 2017 study by IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute, 48% of job candidates said they had previous interactions or relationships with the hiring organization before they applied for a job. Their perceptions start to be influenced well before a serious consideration of employment. When looking to set parameters for what the candidate journey is in your company, consider all aspects of the hiring process.

Be holistic in measurement

Considering that candidates form their perceptions of companies well before they apply for a position, it’s important to cover a range of topics. These topics should align to how you’ve defined the candidate experience – where it starts and where it ends. Some examples include: employer brand, experiences with process (application, recruitment, etc), interactions with recruiters and interviewers, and experience of the offer process.

Measure at various intervals

If you want to be holistic in your measurement, you have to also be mindful of when you gather that feedback. A key finding in the Talent Board’s 2017 Candidate Research Study was that despite communication and feedback loops being differentiators of a more positive candidate experience, 26.6% of participating employers indicated that they ask for feedback only after the candidates are hired.

Key to understanding candidate experiences is asking the right questions at the right time, to gain the most relevant insight and more targeted improvement. Getting to this level of targeted assessment requires integrating your feedback platform with Application Tracking Systems in order to automate your requests for feedback at key milestones in the candidate journey.

Communicate and communicate often

We know that communication and feedback are essential for making a lasting impression with candidates – whether they are hired or not. IBM’s 2017 research showed that applicants who are satisfied with their candidate experience are more than twice as likely to recommend the organization to others. That study also showed that candidates who indicated having an overall positive experience with an organization are twice as likely to want to become a customer.

At every step of the process, close feedback loops to ensure that you’re presenting the most relevant information, in a timely manner. Even when no substantive update can be provided, it’s essential to bridge the gap. Don’t operate under the assumption that no news is good news for the candidate.

Be structured and consistent when interviewing

Too often the interviewing process can be where the candidate experience falls apart, despite all the great efforts to that point – from lengthy interview loops and too many onsite visits required, to lack of preparedness on the part of interviewers, and even outlandish “interview” questions. Practice structured interviewing that is behavioral and performance-based and train your interviewers on how to best conduct interviews, capture notes, and how to evaluate candidates. Being structured in approach ensures consistency in your process and does so in a legally defensible manner.

Partner across departments

Human Resources is not the sole owner and influencer of a candidate’s experience, it stretches across the company. For example, communications and Marketing are your best partners when it comes to employer brand. Work together to ensure alignment of messaging and positioning of your organization and share back what you learn from your candidate experience assessments.

Another great partner can be your Facilities Management department. They are the likely owners for security procedures for visitors, approval for room accommodations, etc. Working with facilities departments can help you work through ensuring adequate space is available to private interview rooms, that check-in for onsite visits is as smooth as possible, and help you with other considerations that are easy to mitigate from an operational standpoint.

Measuring multiple moments in the employment lifecycle is what ultimately leads to better decision making in how to improve the employee experience at specific points in time. The Candidate experience is no less important, even though fewer candidates will be hired than apply. Their experiences can propel your reputation or detract from it. Ensure that you can capitalize on their insights to safeguard the employer brand, and pinpoint both large and small areas for improvement in how you source, recruit, interview and hire great talent!

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