Why we are all about the Candidate Experience

Candidates will tolerate all kinds of crap when it comes to recruitment processes. Admittedly, they are now more likely than ever before to bail out of a hiring process when their determination to make a successful application is tested, but for the most part they will accept these bumps in the road as simply the price they have to pay. You simply won’t hear from those who don’t apply.

In decades past, virtually no company paid any heed to the “candidate experience”. It speaks volumes that this phrase has only become common in recent years. Attractive and unattractive companies alike would build such huge barriers to entry that irrevocably altered the type of employees they hired, and therefore make up of their company culture. In many industries you would have firms that were so homogeneous in their culture that anyone who had ever worked there would carry that stamp wherever they then went. IBM could be described as such an organisation in the 1970s.

And so, with no real regard for the consequences, organisations would set hurdles that they believed would result in the “best” candidates ultimately being hired. They might for example specify that only graduates from Oxford or Cambridge could be considered, a 2:1 degree was a minimum qualification. They may have expressed a strong preference for those with a minimum of 10 years post-graduation experience, be willing to relocate or travel anywhere, or even in some cases have a maximum handicap score in golf.

How would you like to be an intern at our prestigious law firm, marketing agency, glossy magazine to start your career off on the right foot. No salary offered, but tons of experience, and make great career connections!

Each of these measures are designed specifically to thin out the number of applications, and to make it impossible for some candidates to even consider applying. Thus dissuaded by the language or conditions set, the only candidates remaining greatly resemble those you have already hired.

Even setting aside all of this, some processes are so arduous that only the most determined jobseeker will make it through. Is your intention to hire the best being compromised by targeting only the most determined. Cemeteries are full to the brim with unsuccessful people who tried hard their entire lives. Determination does not equal talent.

And how about those really talented individuals you call passive candidates? Would you subject them to the same rigour? Or might you choose to woo them a little, to charm them even and entice them to consider joining your organisation. If you think deliberately making your hiring process difficult will produce better hires, then you are woefully misguided.

As I said at the top, you simply won’t hear from individuals who do not apply. But you will wonder how your competitor finds such great talent, and why those people never seem to be available when you are hiring. You might also notice that the great talent working for your competitors then, in turn, attract more top talent to those firms. If you are clever, you might then decide to do something about it.

You should absolutely consider implementing some or all of the following.

  1. Discard your existing hiring requirements for each role, and rewrite them focusing specifically on the skills needed to do the job, and the potential needed to grow within the company.
  2. Change the channels through which you normally promote your vacancies. At the very least, widen your net.
  3. Create a path through which potential passive or vaguely curious candidates can find out more about your organisation, and express an interest in knowing more, without making the big commitment to making a formal application.
  4. Deploy simple engagement technology on your website, like a chatbot, which can be interacting with potential candidates 24 hours of every day, and not limited to office hours, and whenever a staff member can be bothered to accept a phone call.
  5. Target potentials sympathetically, and in a manner that they will be receptive to. Blind advertising in a job board is all well and good, but directly approaching people via LinkedIn, Facebook, and a whole raft of messaging platforms, can produce amazing results when done sensitively.
  6. Get back in the business of speaking (yes aloud) or emailing directly and personally with candidates as much as possible. Yes, it takes a long time, but you will be amazed at the market intelligence you will gather, even from unsuitable candidates. And every interaction is a brand marketing opportunity.

This is not even remotely a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. Aside from these, the very best way of making an immediate improvement to your recruiting is to train your hiring managers how to interview properly – but that’s another topic altogether.

Most of the topics touched on here were also discussed in depth by our speakers at our recent RECex event. See professional videos of the talks here.

Stephen O’Donnell is the Chairman of the National Online Recruitment Academy, having founded the NORAs in 2001, and recently RECex, a TED Talk format event for recruiters.

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