In the current economic climate, overall hiring is holding up reasonably well considering key skill shortages continuing. This might offer some relief for internal TA (Talent Acquisition) leaders to focus on strategic priorities instead of dealing with crises. However, candidate experience seems to have drifted down the priority ranking. Our exclusive TA Benchmark report shows a polarisation between a smaller number of organisations improving candidate experience and a larger number going backwards.
Technology has advanced at a rate of knots, and automation is transforming applicant tracking systems and back-office systems in such way that a recruiter’s time is freed up to do what counts: forge relationships with clients and candidates.
But it seems that game-changing technological advancements and streamlined office processes have left one thing unchanged over the last 30 years and that is the candidate experience. In a talent scarce market where recruiters and employers are struggling to find the best people to work in their organisations, you’d think that the candidate experience would take centre stage, so why isn’t it?
We reached out to talent leaders in our talent ecosystem and asked some pertinent questions to determine whether they agree, or if we’ve just got it wrong… Does an improved candidate experience enable a better employee experience?
The respondents unanimously agreed that a positive candidate experience can lead to a better, more inclusive employee experience. To achieve this, organisations need to focus on developing a consistent, scalable candidate experience that meets candidates where they are, tailors messaging, and ensures clear communication throughout the process.
A positive candidate experience can attract a more diverse candidate pool, foster a culture of inclusion and respect, enhance engagement, and ultimately lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Improving the candidate experience can also improve an organisation’s reputation and lead to referrals – reiterating the importance of the employer brand. To build inclusive teams, organisations need to provide positive and flexible candidate experiences from attraction through to hire, and improving the candidate experience will lead to more diverse applications that can help teams perform better.
It seems that the experience of candidates echoes our sentiments. We spoke to several candidates who said after applying for literally hundreds of roles, the received personal responses from a mere 30% of recruiters! One candidate said that finding a new role after being made redundant was ‘soul crushing’ and ‘exhausting’.
Another candidate said that it was a full-time role trying to find one because of the unfriendly user experience on a company ATS. She said, ‘I clicked on the “apply now” button, was taken to a page to upload my CV and then on the next page, I had to enter my CV manually to apply! It takes hours to apply for one role!’
The candidate went on to say she then received an automated response to say that if she doesn’t hear back after two weeks, to consider her application unsuccessful. If the candidate invested hours applying for a role, they should be entitled to a personal response – even if it is just informing them that they didn’t get the job.
Charles Handler, President of Sova US said that there are ATSs (Applicant Tracking Systems) out there that facilitate an easy application process. ‘Tech has a significant impact on the candidate experience in many ways. For example, there are a variety of candidate engagement platforms that allow applicants to apply for jobs more quickly while also providing a branded experience. Tech also supports automation of administrative tasks and makes it easier for recruiters to communicate with applicants. Communication is essential for the candidate experience but has proven difficult until the age of automation and increased communication channels.’
‘Technology can make a significant difference to the candidate experience, as it can streamline the recruitment process, increase efficiency and provide a more personalised experience for candidates,’ agreed Mark Baker, Director of Claremont Consulting. Technology supports internal teams but doesn’t seem to be helping the candidate as its designed or expected to do.
Felix Dealtry, Senior Account Director at Inploi believes there is room for improvement. ‘We can do better. Clunky careers sites, application forms that are not optimised for mobile with unnecessary registrations are affecting your conversion rates and hurting your employer brand. If good is good enough, you will lose great people to other businesses.’ So, if efficient processes are in place, which elements of the candidate experience can recruiters improve to add more value as partners?
Neil Griffiths, Managing Director at Ceriph said: For many years there has been an ongoing debate around the role of the recruiter. A true ‘candidate partner’ should ‘dissuade’ a candidate as much as attract the right candidate. Sharing content that is relevant, considered and covers each of the differentiators that an employer has, shows the candidate that a journey has not only been created, but tailored towards their needs. So, from the language used in an initial message or conversation, through to the delivery of an interview decision – the key is for the recruiter to think about how they have left the candidate feeling as a human being.’
Recruiters and TA teams are a candidate’s first and only point of contact and should be an extension of the employer brand they’re hiring for. They play a crucial role in creating a positive candidate experience and should be focussed on building good relationships by simply communicating throughout the hiring process – even if unsuccessful.
‘Recruiters need to be responsive if candidates reach out and support them through the process, answering questions and ensuring they have all the information they need.
Recruiters can also provide guidance too. This personal touch will make organisations stand out and ensure engagement and trust are built with candidates during the recruitment process, allowing Recruiters to become a true value adding partner,’ said Lyndsay Chapman, Head of People at Talos360.
‘As organisations work on improving the candidate experience, they need focus on developing a consistent process that applies to all candidates. Many candidate experiences lack consistency across different groups, which creates inequity. Developing a consistent, scalable candidate experience allows organisations to monitor each step to identify where and why different applicants are self-selecting out or who are removed from the selection process,’ commented Miranda Hanes, Global Client Partner, Sova Assessment.
It’s also often forgotten that word of mouth is a powerful endorsement of an employer brand. If a candidate has an enjoyable candidate experience – whether they’re successful or not – they’re likely to share this with others. An organisation’s reputation attracts all the right people and automatically widens the talent pool. Let’s be honest, when TA teams and recruiters are having to work harder to find talent, treating a candidate like a human being can’t hurt. Every single candidate is a customer of your business and customers who are treated well refer friends and are loyal and both of those form part of a winning formula in a talent scarce market.