How many times have you had a bad experience with an airline and sworn never to fly with them again? How many times have you read about the terrible service or bad food at a restaurant on Yelp and decided to eat somewhere else? Did you ever use RateMyProfessors back in university to decide whether or not you would take a specific class or avoid certain lecturers?
I use these analogies a lot when I talk about the hiring process and how it relates to the Candidate Experience. It may seem over-simplified, but when you really think about it, it all boils down to the same thing – bad brand experiences can have a detrimental effect on companies’ reputations, and ultimately their bottom lines.
While candidate pools may seem big, the Internet actually makes them really small. It’s important to remember that throughout the hiring process, candidates are evaluating employers just as much, if not more, than employers are evaluating them. They’re about to commit a significant amount of their time to their next company and need to make sure that they’re going to be spending it in the right place. Google Reviews, and even websites like Glassdoor, have made it possible for candidates to start this evaluation before they even submit an application. While I can agree that online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, we need to consider that these negative experiences had enough of an impact on candidates that they felt compelled to tell others about it.
When you search ‘Candidate Experience’ online, one thing that will come up time and time again is that the Candidate Experience is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle in the hiring process. In addition to the disruptive product you’re building, or the critical problem you’re solving, a positive Candidate Experience is what will set you apart in what has become an incredibly competitive talent landscape.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what makes me a Candidate Experience expert. Truth is, I’m not an expert. I am, however, someone who’s been on both sides of the hiring process, both as a candidate and as a recruiter, which has given me a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and what can be done to fill some of the gaps in what I consider to be a key part of hiring.
Here are three lessons that have stuck with me, and that I think are useful when engaging with potential hires to deliver a stellar candidate experience:
Listen. Something I’ve heard from almost every candidate I’ve worked with, is that they’ve “never worked with a recruiter like me,” because I take the time to listen to their stories, and what is important to them. In my career, I’ve come to appreciate the power of active listening. I’ve worked on training myself to listen to understand, rather than to reply. When I get a response from a candidate saying, “I’d like to learn more,” I know that they’re booking that call with me for a reason that goes beyond my snappy InMail message. By actively listening and truly understanding what they are currently experiencing at work or in life, what’s missing for them in their current position and empathizing with their situation, I’m able to create better candidate-centric relationships by building trust and accountability. Part of this is tuning into what candidates are saying and making sure that I leverage this to provide a richer Candidate Experience. What do I mean by that? Say you have a candidate who loves interacting with people and solving problems, but is intimidated by cold-calling. Would you put him/her in front of a hiring manager for a Business Development role where they have to be a hunter who generates and qualifies new leads? Probably not if you were really listening to what they had to say!
Relate and Connect. I think it’s fair to say that we have all had a job that wasn’t right for us, or that did not fulfill us in some way. Personally, I’ve had professional experiences in which I was unhappy. I’ve done the crazy long commute. I’ve worked the lousy hours. I’ve even walked away from job opportunities that I’m sure could have been incredible for my professional development. Why? Because my candidate experience was terrible. In one particular case, I felt that the interview was almost hostile, and I thought to myself, “If this is just the interview, what is the actual environment like here? How do they treat one another on a daily basis?” But relating to people can go beyond just the negative experiences. Did you notice something on their profile that stood out to you? Did they ever live abroad? Did they talk about their love for dogs? Did they say that they are outdoorsy? For me, finding some way to connect with candidates beyond just their resume is critical; it puts us on the same wavelength and humanizes the process and ultimately enriches the Candidate Experience.
Communicate and Follow Up. You’re busy? Got it. Things are shifting around internally? That’s cool. It’s a “Thanks, but no thanks” situation? All good. Trust me, we get it. Life happens. But part of creating positive candidate relationships is taking the time to be honest and effectively communicate these changes, because nothing puts a damper on the candidate experience quite like ghosting them (it’s not a cool thing to do when you’re dating, and it’s just as uncool when you’re hiring). When I’m working on a candidate search, I will go so far as to write a candidate back and to say, “Hey, I wanted to update you that I have no update,” and every single candidate that has received this message from me has appreciated it. Why? Because it shows that I value their time, and I value them as people.
Beyond all of this, it’s important to remember that the Candidate Experience matters because candidates matter. More so, the relationship with a candidate does not stop at the contract signature. It extends right through to that person’s start date and entire tenure at the company. Put yourself in their shoes – would you have gone to work for a company that put you through a less-than-pleasant interview process? What if you successfully completed four rounds of technical testing and then didn’t hire you and provided no feedback? Would you recommend this company to a friend? How about if you had an incredible three rounds of interviews, but within the first few weeks of being on the job, you noticed that everything about the company and their interview process was inauthentic? Would you stay? Share your experiences in the comments below.
– Ashley Shoul
Recruitment Assistant at Linkus Group.
Connect with me on LinkedIn here.