Are we there yet?

JobTalk Podcast on the Candidate Experience discusses how employers can pave the road for a smooth ride on the job seeker’s journey.

This week I spoke with Matt Peal, President of iMPact Business Group, about the importance of giving candidates a positive experience during the recruiting process. It’s ironic that with all we’ve learned from a vast wealth of information and knowledge, creating a win-win candidate experience can still be challenging for employers.

To listen to the podcast, click here. Here are a few highlights of our conversation:

What is the candidate’s experience?

Job seekers interact with prospective employers in ways similar to online customers, only they’re shopping for a job instead of goods and services. Candidates want the same three basic things that customers want: Respect, Responsiveness, and Resolution.

Any company that can handle a high volume of online shoppers should be able to manage a high volume of job applicants and provide a similar level of communication and interaction.

Why is it important for employers to give candidates a positive experience?

Creating an easy, responsive candidate experience will attract the best people for available jobs and make it more likely for employees to refer their friends and family members.

Candidates have the ability to review an employer or prospective employer on sites like Glassdoor about their experience, just like customer reviews. Good reviews help build the company’s brand, serve as a testament that the organization “walks the walk,” and position the company as an employer of choice.

A positive hiring and onboarding experience is also where talent retention starts.

What are some of the consequences of candidates having a negative experience with an employer, recruiter, or staffing agency during the hiring process?

Top talent will quickly bail out on a poor online application process, or during the screening and interview process if the recruiting experience is perceived as unfair, unresponsive, or disorganized. Bad reviews from a disgruntled or frustrated job seekers can add up and tarnish the company’s reputation.

Staffing agencies in particular need to do a better job of setting expectations. Many job seekers think a recruiter works for them, when in truth an agency works for the employer. If job seekers believe they are not being treated fairly, a staffing firm can quickly get a bad rep through word of mouth and social media.

What can recruiters and staffing agencies do to improve the candidate experience?

Everything I know about the Candidate Experience, I’ve learned from The Talent Board, a non-profit organization established in 2011 by human resources thought-leaders. The Talent Board advocates development of quality experiences for job seekers with an emphasis on accountability and fairness. Visit Talent Board’s web site to download benchmark research reports and learn how your organization compares to other employers by participating in the community, research, and Candidate Experience (CandE) Awards.

Talent Board’s CandE Benchmark Research has analyzed over one million candidate experiences in the last 10 years. The best experiences have a handful of things in common, the top two being ease of applying for the job and frequent communication.

The research also shows a positive experience consists of four key areas: Setting Expectations, Accountability, Fairness, Feedback. Recruiters that focus time and efforts in these areas will create an experience that makes candidates feel they’re being treated respectfully and fairly, even when they’ve been rejected.

In fact, the rejected candidates’ experience is more important than ever as a record number of job seekers are being turned away during the pandemic, and we’re in a time of heightened sensitivity to systemic racism and perceived bias.

I also recommend following Talent Board experts Cynthia Trivella, and Kevin W. Grossman. Look for their blog posts, social media commentary on work trends, and be sure to follow Gerry Crispin, the GOAT champion of the Candidate Experience.

On the back end, what are some ways that software tools can help recruiters give candidates a better experience?

Technology and software tools can help automate tasks to improve the online application process. The right “technology stack” can create more transparency about the recruiting process, enhance the perception of fairness, and serve as a window for job seekers to learn about career opportunities and company culture.

Candidates primarily want to know what will occur during each phase of the hiring process. Job searches are stressful, frequent communication is reassuring, and candidates see this as common courtesy and respect. Outline what the steps are on your career center; automate email or text messaging communication to the candidates at each step.

Be respectful of job seekers’ time and keep your promises. If you say you’ll get back to a candidate in a week, do so. Make sure your Hiring Managers are properly coached about the process, responsive and accountable for commitments as well.

Give and ask for feedback. Job seekers appreciate honest feedback about their resume, qualifications for the job, and interview skills – especially if they don’t get hired, they want to know why and how they may have done better. And they want to give their opinions about your employment process; use their feedback to drive process improvement. An open, two-way dialog during the screening and interview process creates a more positive impression of your organization.

How can artificial intelligence improve the hiring process and candidate experience?

Employers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to anticipate and predict candidate actions and “fit” for the job, as well as the likelihood of success in a specific position and company culture. Recruiters are using AI sourcing tools to help find the “purple squirrel” candidates faster than ever before.

AI sourcing tools are not focused on finding resumes, they follow digital footprints and look for people. This focus on people, personal and professional attributes, and likelihood of success changes the dynamic of the relationship between recruiters and talent engagement by fostering more mutual respect.

How can recruiters and staffing agencies leverage a platform such as SmartSearch to give candidates a better experience?

We’ve always used technology to automate repetitive tasks and things that we either don’t like doing, or don’t do well. Recruiting automation tools like an applicant tracking system can help personalize & contextualize the candidate experience at all stages of the recruitment process to set expectations and improve communication.

A well-configured applicant tracking system (ATS) like SmartSearch, supports a positive candidate experience in the recruiting and onboarding process by automating what can be automated, tracking what needs to be tracked, and triggering reminders to keep everyone informed and on top of activities. Like all good ATS, SmartSearch is a tool, and like all tools it’s only as effective as the person using it. The important thing is to have an ATS that helps you define, manage and automate the process to create and manage an efficient and satisfying experience for job seekers.