What can I do to improve candidate experiences when I am not the only person involved in the hiring process?

A lot! In this blog post and the complementary podcast-episode I give you 7 tips how to improve candidate experiences just through better communication!

Why candidate experiences matter?

I recently heard a few talents in my network avoiding certain, well known recruitment consultancy firms here in Finland because of really bad candidate experiences.

I started to think, what if the biggest obstacle in a successful hiring is your reputation among job seekers?

Or what if the recruitment consultancy you chose to help you with your hiring has a bad reputation and your ideal candidates refuse to apply to your vacancy because of them?

This can happen. The contacts I spoke with told me so. They no longer apply for any vacancies handled via these specific, very reputable nationwide recruitment firms because of how they have treated candidates in the past.

I even found out that one of these former job seekers had actually contacted the managing director of the recruitment firm to discuss their bad experience. The applicant ended up being belittled by the MD as well.. a nationwide recruitment firm..

Candidate experiences are like a wall wide and tall window to a company’s value base. When you outsource your reputation as an employer to a recruitment firm, you better make sure they treat your reputation with respect. Apparently it isn’t something we can take for granted.

What is a candidate experience?

Candidate experience is the same to a talent applying for your vacancies as customer experience is to a new or still prospective customer in a sales process.

Candidate experiences refer to the all experiences job candidates experience from the minute they see the call to action for a vacancy all the way until the process ends on their part.

Every single encounter between an employer or anyone representing the company as an employer – such as head hunters and recruitment consultants – creates experiences of some sort. Every experience is a potential reason to talk good or talk bad about the company.

And we should not fall into the trap of “well it’s good if they say neutral things about us”, because that is almost as bad to a growth company as sharing bad experiences.

Applicants have many encounters with the hiring company and they all produce experiences

The applicant journey by Employee Experience Agency Emine

Often times it seems recruiters and employers mistakenly believe it is only the interview where the good, bad to ugly experiences are produced.

I drew up this image to shed some light into how many encounters people have at the minimum with you as an employer. And if you use a recruitment firm to help you, add the encounters taking place with the recruiting company.

The good news is, even if one of the people meeting candidates during the hiring process failed with the good experience department, it is the overall experience that most often counts. Unless you have real jerks participating in the process. Nothing helps with a jerk other than removing them instantly from meeting people!

Let’s look at the points in the applicant’s journey

  • What comes up when people google your company?
    • Is it your own content or is it discussion forums?
    • How easy is it to figure out what you represent as a potential place of work?
  • How do people talk about your business on social media?
    • Are you ever mentioned?
    • Are you mentioned on negative terms or are you mentioned often in a positive note?
  • How helpful are you on your website?
    • Can a potential applicant get answers to their open questions?
    • How pleasant is it to send an application to your company or to a vacancy?
  • When people come in contact with your employees, your management, how are they treated?
    • Do you still do the good cop – bad cop totally outdated game during the interview process?
  • How long is the actual selection process?
    • Are you being swift or is it taking time?
    • And are you being swift with each person or are you keeping them waited until it is convenient for you?
    • The more competition there is about specific talents, the less they will wait for your convenience.
  • How does your communication during the entire process make a candidate feel?
    • Would you be praising this company if you were the applicant or not?
  • How do you treat those applicants that aren’t of interest to you?
    • They are often even a larger audience than those selected? They talk, they know people.. people you might want to hire next..

Why a neutral candidate experience is almost as bad as a negative?

Imagine if you were to ask your friends for recommendations about hotels in a holiday island you plan to visit.

They speak highly of some hotels. They let you know of any hotels to avoid with specific details as to why. And then there are those hotels that left them without any experiences:

  • “Well, I don’t know. I’ve not heard anything good nor bad about this. Cannot really say much..” 
  • “I’ve never heard anyone mention this hotel. I wonder if it’s still in business?”

Are you going to place a hotel with neutral, “I don’t know” -experiences on your list of hotels? Of course not!

You are looking for a holiday with great experiences and fantastic times. You don’t want to risk that vision. If you have several options that are actually recommended by people you trust, you are not going to give that neutral a second thought.

People actually care about the company they work at. Unless they are totally desperate for a job, they will prefer companies they hear good about.

A company that hires a lot can benefit a lot from great candidate experiences

A company that hires a lot will always breed more candidate experiences – good or bad – than employee experiences! When you hire a lot, you go through many more applications, meet many more candidates than you end up hiring.

When we help customers to develop their employer brand, we always address how critical it is to also make sure their recruitment processes are optimized for great candidate experiences. It’s hard to build and maintain great reputation as an employer if your brand is nothing more than pretty words on your career site.

Experiences are the real deal. Make yours great and your audiences will start speaking good on behalf of you!

7 tips for how to improve candidate experiences through recruitment communication

#1 Make your job post much more informative than it is now.

  • Ask someone outside your company to read it though and ask questions that spontaneously come up when reading it through. Your job post should answer all those questions.
  • Balance your expectations with what the applicant can expect in return. If the entire job post is about what your business needs and expects, it’s not really appealing, is it?

#2 Help applicants to succeed in your recruitment process.

  • The greatest tip is to let them know what information you look for when you scan the application through. This also helps you.
  • And trust me, if the candidates are not taking your advice, you can question how interested they are about this role and your business.
  • Help also applicants you invite for an interview! I always send them a list of questions or topics I want to speak in the interview. It helps them to prepare and takes the edge away. A highly motivated candidate will prepare and take up on your advice. This is also a great way to recognize who are not that interested in your role and company. I’ve used this trick for nearly 20 years and it really helps me to separate the motivated and unmotivated candidates from each other.

#3 Make your automated messages personal, kind and empathic.

Automated messages tend to be cold, short and impersonal. Unless your business and company culture are cold and impersonal, why would you allow your messages to be. This doesn’t mean you tailor every message. You can tailor that one message you send to everyone.

#4 Inform what happens next within a week from the arrival of the application

When you respond fast, it looks like this is an important recruitment process and that you appreciate your applicants. If you cannot make the process feel important, you can hardly expect the candidate to prioritize your process and your company, can you?

When I had a recruitment agency after the automated message from the system, we sent a more personalized email the same or next day to inform about the process time table and steps to expect:

“We will be processing your application during the next 3 days and you will hear from us then. If you are invited to the selection round, it will begin week 42 with a video interview. Should this be a new format to you, please check out these tips (link) how to prep yourself to ace a video interview…”

#5 Make it a habit to communicate a weekly update to all applicants.

One of the single most irritating habits of hiring companies is that once they receive your application, it can take weeks or even months before you hear anything. You have absolutely no idea if you are still being considered or not.

This makes an applicant available for other options. It’s not that unusual for a recruiting company to lose excellent applicants because of this reason.

A status update can be short, even to update nothing happened this week. I tend to add a link to a new podcast or blog post, especially if relevant content for the role in question.

These kinds of status updates can also be done on social media, for example on your Facebook page. Just divert your applicants there if they wish to be kept updated weekly.

#6 Help an applicant if they missed an important information you asked for.

Sometimes applicants forget to answer a specific question you need them to, or add their salary wish or link to a portfolio you asked for. Give them an opportunity to update their application by a specific date. If they miss it or decline, you can then decide whether you want to proceed with them or not.

#7 Always reject in an elegant manner.

It’s amazing how bad most companies, even recruiting firms are in the elegant rejection -department. Every single rejection is an opportunity to build brand awareness, gain a customer, gain an advocate – or look like an a**hole.

Growth companies specifically should pay attention to this. The number of hires a growth company makes puts elegant rejection at the forefront of their hiring strategy as well as their employer brand strategy. After all, the rejection message is likely to be your most common outbound message. And if it isn’t.. oh boy.

#23 Improving candidate experiences with recruitment communications - Building a Modern Employer Brand Podcast with Susanna Rantanen 1

In this episode of Building a Modern Employer Brand -podcast I talk about how a recruiter can influence better candidate experiences through the use of recruitment communication.

The episode content:

?What is the candidate experience?
?How candidate experiences are built during the recruitment process?
?Communication in the recruitment process
?7 tips to take over candidate experiences with better communication

This episode on Soundcloud >>

Find the podcast and all the episodes on Spotify >>

This podcast with all available episodes on Apple >>

Episode-length: 30:13 min

About Building a Modern Employer Brand -podcast

Building a Modern Employer Brand-podcast is a weekly podcast bringing you a modern breath of air into HR marketing and employer branding. 

This podcast is dedicated to all modern growth companies and modern employer branding practitioners who want to really influence their talent audiences and add measurable value to growing and scaling modern businesses with HR marketing and employer branding.

The Building a Modern Employer Brand -podcast is sponsored by Employee Experience Agency Emine and scripted & hosted by Susanna Rantanen.

Find this podcast currently on Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple.

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