Improving the Candidate Experience from Start to Finish

Improving Candidate Experience
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In an age where people have more power than ever to sound-off about positive and negative experiences, brands need to focus on making their candidate experience a positive one. Everything from how a candidate discovers a job, through the interview and hiring (or rejection) process affects how a candidate will view your company.

Candidate perception can have far reaching impacts. Studies have demonstrated the power of a positive candidate experience — 95% of candidates who had a positive experience with a company would apply again, and 97% would refer someone. Furthermore, 88% would do more business with the company. And 55% would even share their experience on social media.

There are so many components to the hiring process that you might miss opportunities for improvement. Even if you think your hiring process facilitates a positive experience, you might be missing out on a few important details. This comprehensive guide will give you a start to finish view on how to make your candidates some of the happiest in the industry.

How to Make the Most of First Impressions

Before a candidate ever speaks to a recruiter, they’ve already formed their first impressions of your company. To make the most of these first impressions, focus on improving your public facing content and any automated messages. The goal is to present your company’s culture in the best light possible.

Improve your Job Postings

Job postings should read as professional, yet human and relatable. Focus on writing a charming description and do not be afraid to include some humor. A job post should give the candidate a feel for the employee experience. Be sure to use words and phrases that people actually use while speaking. Make sure to understand the difference between a job post and a job description. A job post aims to sell the position—and company—to potential candidates.

Update your Career Website

A company’s career website is the best place to present their employer brand. A career site ought to give potential candidates a sense of the company culture and the opportunities available. 

Here are 3 ways to create a knock-out career website:

  1. Use images of real employees. Avoid using stock images!
  2. Find a way to tell prospective candidates what “A Day in the Life” is like. You could use a video or expert copywriting. Be REAL.
  3. Talk about what your company brings to the table: What combination of benefits and career advancement sets you apart?

If you are not sure how to achieve this, start with the question: “How do you tell an acquaintance how much you love your job?”

Assess your Application Process

There is nothing more frustrating than filling out an endless job application. If your application process is difficult, it will unintentionally make your company seem difficult to work with. l. Aim to keep your application process under 10 minutes. Be sure to avoid capturing redundant information. If you cannot streamline the process, consider which information you may be able to capture after the candidate expresses initial interest. If the candidate is using a platform which already has a resume in its system like LinkedIn, enable “Easy Apply.” The time you take to make applying to your job easier is a direct and immediate sign you care about the candidate’s experience.

Customize ATS Messaging

If your organization utilizes an applicant tracking system (ATS), it likely includes default or canned messaging. A good practice is to edit these messages so the communication seems to come from a real person. Aim to be disarming and charming. Be sure to provide links to your career site or educational videos. Additionally, use your ATS to increase the contact you have with a candidate. More touches means more opportunity to show the candidate your company is a great place to work.

Own your Glassdoor Reviews

Many companies have a healthy wariness of Glassdoor and the reviews there. It is easy to assume potential candidates will focus exclusively on the negatives. However, the reality is that candidates will be suspicious of exclusively good reviews, and less suspicious of companies that respond correctly to negative ones. If a company responds to an angry review with a level-headed and thoughtful reply, it helps the company preserve their image. 

As a note, if you as a company are comfortable with your imperfections, candidates will be too. It’s a sign the company is working to improve and is a more accurate representation of reality. Remember, nobody is perfect, and if they are, they’re lying.

Initial Outreach Drives Positive Candidate Experience

Moving on from first impressions to initial outreach, the recruiter’s role becomes more active. Understanding the attitudes and effective communication methods that engage candidates will give your company a better chance at providing the best candidate experience possible.

Bring the Energy

Everything up until this point has convinced the candidate to apply to your open position. Now, you need to bring the energy that keeps the candidate moving down the hiring pipeline. As a recruiter, you have all the power to shape a candidate’s experience and make it a positive one. Use excitement and personal touches to make candidates feel special. An impersonal and boring experience can feel like a transaction, which is a big turn off.

Here are 3 key traits that you must have as a recruiter:

  1. Passion for your company/organization
  2. Passion for finding the perfect fit for the role
  3. Passion to connect candidates with their future career!

Genuine passion is one of the easiest ways to get a candidate excited about working with your organization. When you have genuine energy and passion, candidates will believe what they hear and read about your company!

Audience of One

First and foremost, make the candidate experience about the candidate. The recruitment process goes two ways. While it is true the candidate has to persuade you that they are the right person to hire, you have to sell the job to the candidate. As a recruiter, you must show the candidate that you understand and value the connection between them and the position. Little things, like indicating what about their resume made them stand out, are crucial. Any candidate experience is improved by the feeling that they, in particular, are important. Showing that you value them now reinforces that you will value them later as an employee.

Personalize Everything

As we said above, avoid the transactional feel. While it is ideal to personalize every message for every candidate, it simply is impossible for any sizeable organization. However, there is a solution. Normally when personalizing, you are looking for something to say about the other person. Rather, flip the script and explain why you in particular are the person reaching out based on what you do, who you help, and what your position is. This allows you to send bulk, uncustomized messages while appearing as if you are beginning a conversation with a specific individual. The candidate will feel like you are speaking directly to them, rather than a group.

Be Easy to Access

For candidate facing employees, such as recruiters, your goal is to positively frame a candidate’s judgment of you as both a recruiter and the company. Link to your social profiles whenever possible. Be sure to keep your social profiles – particularly LinkedIn – up to date and professional. By staying active and promoting your company, you look like an agent for great candidates to get connected with your company.

Succeeding With Different Communication Methods

Beyond in-person meetings, it’s likely that your hiring process will involve emails, texts, and phone calls. Each form of communication has its own best practices to keep in mind. Texts are pretty simple: Keep it short and provide a link to the job. Emails are a bit more varied, and often where the bulk of communication takes place. A general rule is to keep emails below 200 words and spread the information out with line breaks.

When speaking on the phone, start with a clear opening to get the conversation going. Whether you’re pitching a cold candidate or advising an interviewee, try to give information in threes; it’s a good balance between memorable and thorough. Finally, bring up money so the candidate doesn’t have to. They will appreciate it. Give a range and ask if that works for the candidate. The underlying goal of all of this is to show personality. If you can stand out with limited time in a competitive space, that helps your recruitment process and the company brand.

Arm Hiring Managers to Enhance the Candidate Experience

Hiring managers are an important variable in creating a positive candidate experience. Their priority is deciding who the right candidate is, not necessarily making the sell. This also, unfortunately, means that some hiring managers don’t prioritize candidate experience.

Selling 101 for Hiring Managers

Prepare hiring managers for some salesmanship. They should spend a certain amount of time– say, 5-10 minutes per hour– to explain what makes the position and company great. 

Here are 3 templates for hiring managers to be better salespeople:

  1. “Let me tell you about this role and how its connected to our team’s and company’s success.”
  2. “Let me tell you how people in this role have gone on to do bigger and better things.”
  3. (Personalize it) “Let me tell you what I like about you as a candidate.”

Remind hiring managers that compliments are welcome and not a promise to hire. And as much as possible, make sure interview questions are genuinely valuable to both parties.

Don’t Let a Hiring Manager Ruin the Candidate Experience

If the hiring manager isn’t great at, or interested in, the sell, don’t make them the center of attention. Increase the presence of solid teammates and people who have worked in the role during the interview process. In these cases, more interviews are better than less, because they allow the candidate to notice the good rather than the imperfect.

Finally, be honest with the candidate: Let them know the good and bad of the hiring manager. A good practice is to tell the candidate two things teammates love and one thing they may not love about the hiring manager. Do the same for the company and its culture. Building this trust goes a lot further than trying to cover truths the candidate will eventually see for themselves.

Logistics Rule the In-Person Candidate Experience

Logistics rule when you bring a candidate in live. Being on top of scheduling and communication will lead to positive experiences for both parties.

In-Person Interview Invitation

When you decide to bring a candidate in for an interview, begin your invitation by congratulating them. Cover where they’ve come from (“There was a lot of interest for this position”) and where they’re going (“We’re excited to have you come in”). Let them know you’re on their side, as an agent in their hiring.

Schedule Strictly

Scheduling has to be down to a science. Manage as much of the process as possible. Take care of the business’ needs early on, so that only the candidate’s needs are a variable in scheduling. For example, make sure you know when those involved in the interview are free, so you don’t have to reschedule AFTER setting a time with a candidate. This avoids future issues, of course, but also makes the candidate feel catered to.

Coach Consciously

Some of the candidate experience should involve coaching. Give a couple tips about the hiring manager, like what does or doesn’t work with them. Communicate the team’s personality, and perhaps relatable hobbies or preferences. Give general tips about how to succeed, like interview structure, but don’t give away questions or other specifics. You need to let the candidate succeed on their own just as they’ll have to know how to do the job on their own. Given about 80% of candidates receive little to no coaching, this will make them feel more prepared– and grateful toward you.

You are the Host

If you are part of the interview process or you’re on-site, meet the candidate before and after the interview. Coordinate between interviewers and candidate– behind the scenes, of course. Act like a host, with a friendly face and plenty going on in the background to keep things moving smoothly. The candidate experience certainly benefits from detailed logistics.

Follow Up Like an Agent

Follow up ASAP. If you’re on-site, meet with the candidate as they’re leaving. If not, call as soon as possible. Start with the hiring manager, then the candidate. Look for concrete yes/no answers, and what went right or wrong for future reference. Explain the next steps or give a no as soon as you can. As much as possible, let the candidate feel like they’re in the loop and somewhat in control. When only 34% of candidates feel adequately informed after an interview, this will go a long way.

Candidate Experience Never Ends

Whether or not you choose to hire someone, their candidate experience should remain important at all times. It is crucial not to let the end of the hiring process become the end of your focus on candidate experience. If they’re hired, this sets the tone for their start to the job. If they’re not, you can let them down gently and leave a good impression of your working relationship.

Receive a Verbal “Yes”

If you’ve selected a candidate for hire, a hiring manager should call the candidate before sending an offer letter. If the hiring manager does not excel at this, the recruiter can do it themselves. Feel free to offer hiring managers an outline or script for this. Stick to verbal communications until you’ve received a definite, verbal yes. Immediately after getting the “yes”, celebrate, then talk money and benefits. Stick within the offered range and negotiate from there, if necessary. Close this call with excitement. Remind the candidate about what the company can and will do for them. Once they’re confirmed and excited, then you send along job offers and other paperwork.

Rejection with a Focus on Candidate Experience

When declining a job candidate, put the focus on the company’s needs, rather than the candidate’s specifics. In simpler terms: tell the candidate it’s not them, it’s the position. Rejection letters without a call are acceptable only if there hasn’t been verbal communication with the company. If an interview has taken place, a phone call with feedback is respectful, particularly explaining what skills set the selected candidate apart. This exercise shows your genuine involvement in the process and interest in the candidate’s future success.

Key Takeaways

It’s important for recruiters to remember that candidate experience involves everyone. Get hiring managers involved, or potentially minimized in the process if necessary. Employer branding via early communications and ease of application are critical. Coaching and open communication can let candidates make a personal connection and will give them a chance to shine.

Ultimately, the recruiter has significant responsibility when it comes to candidate experience. Great recruiters keep on top of changing situations and needs by checking in and setting timelines and expectations. They also keep communication open even if a candidate is declined. Finally, they care enough to maintain quality contact with every candidate so that no one falls through the cracks. It’s a lot to manage, but with a good process in line, it becomes a lot easier. A great candidate experience yields benefits for your company both now, and in the long term. It’s a worthwhile investment.

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