Searching beyond the candidate experience

It’s time candidates set boundaries and demand the best human experience beyond the search

The candidate experience is one of those buzzwords we all keep hearing about throughout the job search process. It has more to do with how employers are treating YOU as the candidate. As human beings, our time and energy are valuable so it’s important that employers understand and prioritize candidates. The ones that do will show this in obvious ways such as offering easier ways to apply online to make the application process shorter, communicating the number of interview rounds and time frame, follow-up, limited assessment tests, etc.

When I was talking to a candidate this week, he explained that if only employers would treat candidates like they treat their clients, the whole experience would be a lot more fair and smoother overall. And he has a really good point – you never know the doors and opportunities that a prospective candidate may offer a company.

From a job seeker’s perspective, the entire recruitment process can be long, stressful, and even cause anxiety. It is in the company’s best interest to do its part to create a positive atmosphere for all prospective candidates and future employees. The overall experience is what we like to refer to as the candidate experience – starting from the moment they see a job posting, through the application process, potential interviews, and onboarding.

Based on a recent study, only as few as 32% of candidates state that their most recent job search, the experience was very good. In other words, the remaining 68% of dissatisfied candidates might be a potential threat to your employer's branding, regardless of whether they get hired or not.

Candidate experiences affect the business

Many of us like to think that when we are finished saying our goodbyes, we may never see them again, but in reality, that is far from the truth. Every single interaction we have with candidates will likely affect our reputation somehow. As far as businesses are concerned, it’s up to them and their employees as to whether the outcome of the interaction will be positive or negative. 

Every candidate that comes across a company will potentially add to how the employer brand is perceived. As a result, it’s likely that those who end up not being hired are the ones that have the most influence on the number and quality of talent the company will employ in the future. When job seekers had an unpleasant candidate experience, they are 37% more likely to leave a negative review online while 55% of people won't even pursue a job at companies with negative online reviews. This means a company may end up losing the war for talent on the basis of how they handle (or don’t handle) the candidate's experience. As a result, employer branding is going to deter many valuable talents from deciding to be part of a company’s team – something no business can afford.

As the candidate, it's helpful for you to understand how employers should be enhancing the experience so you understand the types of organizations that prioritize their people first.

Great employers communicate at all stages: Communication is absolutely the most critical aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for recruiters to completely ignore the importance of keeping their candidates in the loop. It's challenging sometimes because there may be hundreds of applications and then they have to update those who have been working their way through the interview process. It is helpful for candidates to also take responsibility and touch base with the recruiter each week to ensure they are aligned. Career Builder reports that 47% of applicants never receive any form of communication from the company they apply to, even past 60-days. 

Great employers will communicate  – even if the answer is “no:” It may not always be a pleasant task, but its important that employers inform you as the applicant that you were not selected, and it’s even worse if they don’t provide any feedback. You have taken your time to submit to the job posting, so it should be a standard rule of courtesy to thank the applicant for their time and let them focus their energy on proceeding with the search. I’m sure you would appreciate even a standardized automated response versus radio silence.

Ask for feedback, too. This step is absolutely critical to the success of your job search. It’s helpful to receive different perspectives from recruiters, hiring managers, and stakeholders. Many people will provide blanket statements because they don’t want to get too in the weeds with their feedback but I find the BEST leaders will provide personalized feedback that will be helpful on your job search – whether it was about the communication style, interview experience, or your experience/skillset.

By submitting a candidate survey can also be helpful for employers to learn ways to enhance the candidate experience. Typically, those organizations that value your time will be interested in hearing your feedback.

The application process: The application process takes time, energy, and focus – it’s one of those tasks that are less than exciting to do but we know it’s part of the process. Six out of ten job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications. That’s huge! Many people simply decide it’s not worth their valuable time to continue, due to an excessive number of questions or simply the user experience making it hard to navigate the application.

The job description is the employer's marketing pitch. The job description is the employer's first impression. Many employers need to rethink how they are communicating with candidates to make a lasting and positive experience.

The best employers will look at the application process from the candidate’s perspective. Are they making it easy for you to navigate the website? Are they asking necessary or random questions?

Employers that appeal to the trends: We no longer hand deliver our printed resume, we will out online application forms, and as many of you in the Gen Z group want to make sure you can manage job applications right from your phone.

According to Pew Research Center, more than half of 18 to 29-year-olds (43% of all users) use smartphones to do the job search. Those employers who cater to the younger generation with mobile-friendly applications are likely to be more successful in attracting fresh talent than those with outdated systems. Employers should be including this as a strategy to implement in 2022 and beyond.

The best employers eliminate the candidate's black hole with conversational AI (chatbots). More companies are starting to integrate conversational AI chatbots into the hiring process on the career site, and as a result, receive higher candidate satisfaction as an increased flow of applicants. Candidates are more likely to connect and engage with the employer’s brand. Candidates expect a prompt response when they apply online and dread having to wait for days or weeks to get even the most basic information. AI chatbots are available 24/7 to engage with candidates whenever they show interest in using an advanced natural language process (NLP) system.

Simple, efficient, and transparent

The best employers are finding innovative solutions to the challenges of interviewing. Some have started having candidates complete work sample tests versus a structured interview. Simply by changing the application format from CVs to solving work cases, it may be a little more time-consuming but sounds a lot more fun! It’s helpful for you to remember to make your submission unique and different. It’s about trying to gain their attention to helping make your profile stand out.

 Think long-term when considering an employer

The world is changing and candidates have the opportunity to select the RIGHT company that lines up with their priorities and values. It’s helpful to write down the top priorities you are looking for when attracting your next employer. It’s also just as important to think about the types of role(s) that align with your passions and purpose. Doing this exercise, it helps to hash out the ideal atmosphere and opportunity that will motivate you long-term.

A staggering 80-90% of job seekers state that their experience can change their minds about accepting a job. In times of talent shortage, it can be the difference between winning the best candidate over and seeing the competition do so.

The best employers build empathy and flexibility into the hiring process.

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend index report, 73% of employees want flexible work options. 94% of employees (especially Gen Z and millennials) want employers to invest in learning and development. Remote work has opened up access to a diverse talent pool that craves inclusion, authenticity, and connection.

The future talent pool

It’s helpful to remember that not every recruitment process ends with a hire. Depending on the type of experience may even shrink the employer’s talent pool in the future or enlarge it. 67% of applicants said they would still re-apply to a company in the future if the candidate experience was positive. 

The best employers look to improve the recruitment process at all stages

We live in times where information spreads quickly through word of mouth on social media. People talk, write, and most importantly – they don’t hold back expressing their opinions. It’s for that very reason that employers need not work in a way that builds and preserves the brand's reputation on the market. It encourages people to join, stay, and even come back – sometimes as a customer if not as an employee.

Employers that take a close look at their recruitment process in all its stages to identify where they can improve, typically have a better outcome in the war for talent and as a result, will help to become a better brand. Feedback from candidates is what helps to enhance and improve the overall experience. 

Best, after all, your voice matters and should be heard.

What has been your BEST and WORST candidate experience to date?

Follow me across social media platforms for more insights and inspiration: @drjenavargas






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