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Why do you need to create a good candidate experience?

We all remember the old adage that when customers have a positive experience they tell one person but when they have a negative experience they share it (usually angrily) with ten or more people.  The same rings true for job applicants – be they university graduates or experienced hires – and with ease of access to social media and websites or apps such as Glassdoor and Medium that aggregate employee reviews – it is critically important to ensure that your organisation offers a good candidate experience.  What are the most common pitfalls that lead to a poor candidate experience and how can these be avoided?  In this article we will share insight on ways to measure and improve your organisation’s candidate experience – and the good news is that it is not difficult to enhance this aspect of your recruitment and selection process.

Compelling evidence to evaluate your candidate experience
The South African Graduate Employer’s Association (SAGEA) conducts an annual study which gathers feedback on a number of graduate job-seeking preferences and behaviours.  Our 2016 Candidate Insights study was completed by 2052 new or future employees from 108 organisations and revealed the following:

  • 32% made just one or two applications to potential employers with 24% making three to four applications, 14% making five to six applications and just over a fifth of respondents making ten or more applications. The average number of applications made was seven.  This means that applicants are experiencing and comparing the job application and selection processes of several employers simultaneously!
  • When it comes to employment offers 40% of respondents received only one offer with 34% receiving two offers and 17% receiving three offers.
  • Further evidence of the potential impact of a poor candidate experience is revealed through our respondents’ admission that up to 20% of candidates accepted an employment offer which they later declined or reneged on.
  • The most compelling evidence of the importance of your candidate experience is that 70% of respondents indicated that the efficiency they experience throughout an employer’s recruiting process is a “very important factor” when deciding which employer to join.

Filling vacancies is an expensive and time-consuming process and you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot or lose out on valuable talent simply because of a poor candidate experience.  But how do you measure the effectiveness of your recruitment and selection processes and how your applicants feel about them?

Measuring the effectiveness of your candidate experience

  • Your offer/acceptance ratio will provide you with some indication as to the effectiveness of your recruitment process – a low acceptance rate tells you that something is not working.
  • Measure the drop-off rate at each stage in your recruitment and selection process – this may reveal problems such as too many candidates being shortlisted or an assessment process that is too time consuming.
  • Evaluate your time lines – how long does it take an applicant from applying to being interviewed? From first interview to assessment?  From assessment to final interview?  From final interview to offer?  Where are the bottle necks and how can these be reduced?
  • An easy and inexpensive way to get quick feedback on the experience encountered by applicants to your organisation is to ask a few colleagues or friends to complete a “ghost” application and give you constructive feedback on their experience.
  • Put together a focus group with your graduate intake (if you have one) or your last 10-15 experienced hires and ask them targeted questions about their hiring experience – not only will you get feedback on how they experienced your process but many of them will be in a position to give comparative feedback on competitors they may have applied to.
  • Run regular candidate satisfaction surveys (you can include both successful and unsuccessful applicants) and get simple, quick and effective feedback on your processes.

Common pitfalls that lead to a poor Candidate Experience
There are a number of common mistakes that lead to a poor candidate experience and these are as follows:

  • Unacknowledged applications
  • Overly automated processes
  • Complex input/data capture requirements
  • Poor or no communication between employer and applicant
  • Long or slow recruitment and selection processes

Three key phrases encapsulate an effective candidate experience and they are:

  • Create a connection
  • Keep it simple
  • Communicate – accurately and often

How to enhance or improve the candidate experience for your organisation
As suggested early on in this article it is not difficult to create a good candidate experience – the damage to your organisation’s reputation as well as the potential loss of future talent and high costs of securing talent make fixing or improving on your candidate experience imperative.  Here are some easy steps you can take:

  • Honesty counts: avoid sugar-coating the company or the position to which an applicant is applying. It is normal to have good and bad days at work and it is normal for jobs to have a combination of exciting, stimulating tasks together with some mundane, grudge tasks.  If a job entails being sent to less desirable locations or working long hours at peak times – say so.  Being open and honest about what to expect will enhance the authenticity of a candidate’s experience.
  • Close the gap: keep candidates informed about timings and what will happen next in your recruitment process. Great recruiters go the extra mile by keeping in contact with applicants – even those who have been unsuccessful.  Some recruiters go out of their way to recommend other positions to unsuccessful applicants or give constructive feedback for a candidate’s next interview experience.  Although time consuming this leaves candidates with a very positive impression of the organisation.
  • Give a tour and introduce the applicant to potential colleagues: make this a standard part of the interview experience – the benefits are that the candidate gets a good feel for the culture of the organisation, how the office environment feels and whilst on the tour you will gain insight into how the candidate is reacting to what they are seeing and experiencing. Again – this is time consuming – but will add incredible value to the candidate experience.
  • Be honest about timelines: job applicants often feel vulnerable when seeking employment opportunities and we know from the statistics shared earlier that they are often simultaneously engaged in more than one selection process.  Being up front about how long your process is going to take makes it easier for the candidate to manage their own expectations – if there are unforeseen delays make contact with the applicant and chat to them about it.
  • One size doesn’t fit all: adopting a “one size fits all approach” to selection makes the experience impersonal – although your process does need to be standardised look for ways in which you can introduce some flexibility based on a candidate’s needs e.g. do you need to schedule interviews very early in the morning or after hours in some cases? Can you leverage technology and do some interviews remotely using Skype?  Has an applicant already completed a similar assessment to yours at another company and can you make a plan to get the results from a common service provider instead of getting them to re-do the assessment?
  • Keep your application process user-friendly: think about who does all the work – is it the recruiter or the applicant?  It certainly should not be the applicant!  Can you make use of mobile technology to make filling in the application form easy?  Can applicants text a keyword to a short code that enables you to contact them and have the application form filled out telephonically?  Who drives the interview scheduling and is it easy and user-friendly?
  • Don’t overdo the automation: whilst automated processes have an important role to play in making a recruitment and selection process efficient an overly automated process will be experienced by candidates as impersonal and they may be left feeling that their interest in your organisation has gone unnoticed. Balance automation by creating regular contact opportunities with applicants – use emails and social media to facilitate this and ensure that your recruitment team have enough time to make personal contact and build connections with applicants.

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