In today’s tight labour market, candidates hold much of the power to accept or reject employment offers, especially for jobs in the mid-to-senior level range. That means employers must work hard to attract and secure quality applicants, and one of the key ways to do this is to improve your candidate experience.
What is the candidate experience? It encompasses every interaction an applicant experiences throughout the hiring process, from their first contact through a job post or email, until after you’ve hired or rejected them. This process is made of up dozens of contact points, some minor like a quick email update, and some as involved as a panel interview. Throughout the candidate experience, you have dozens of opportunities to convince your applicants that they want to work for you – or to leave a bad impression.
A strong candidate experience is key to securing top talent, but it’s not only important for successful applicants. These days, even rejected candidates can become brand advocates or brand assassins, posting reviews on sites like Glassdoor or Yelp, or simply sharing their experience by word of mouth.
In short, your candidate experience is part of job branding and employer branding, which means it’s vital to the success of your organization.
Write a great job description. The job post will be your first point of contact for most candidates, and their main research tool as they prepare their application. It’s the first place where you can impress the candidate with the quality of your organization and the benefits of the role.
‘Benefits of the role’ is key. Rather than excluding candidates with a long list of requirements or daily tasks, focus on attracting great applicants by sharing the major objectives of the role, what they will accomplish, and what they will become. Describe your organization’s culture and the exciting mission that drives your team. In other words, focus on the value your job will bring to the employee, not on what they will do for you.
Perfect your website’s career section. After reading the job description, most candidates will take a look at your website to learn more about your organization. A well-designed and up-to-date website will impress them, and your About/Team page and careers section are useful tools to sell your organization. They may also look you up on LinkedIn or other social channels, so make sure that you have a positive social presence and good reviews.
You can also produce content specifically targeting candidates, including employee testimonials, videos about your organization, or an active industry blog that will appeal to the kinds of people who might work for you.
Make it easy to apply. In order to attract top talent, and passive job seekers in particular, you need to make sure the initial application is as easy as possible. This means asking for the minimum number of necessary documents (you can always ask for more later), and ensuring that if they apply online, sign up is quick and easy. Test your own application process and see how simple it is to apply, how long it takes, and if each step is clear and intuitive.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The biggest complaint from most candidates is poor communication. Offer transparency from the start – let them know what your process will look like, how long each step should take, and the best way to contact your organization if they have questions. Contact candidates in a timely manner, and if you reject a candidate who has passed the first stage, let them know by email. It’s a small courtesy that makes a big difference in how candidates see your organization.
Improve your assessment process. The interview is likely to be the candidate’s biggest opportunity to assess your organization. Make sure your interviewers are well-organized, prepared and trained in how to answer common candidate questions. Use a structured interview, with an identical and fair evaluation for each candidates. Ask substantive questions based on performance, and avoid gimmicky questions that have nothing to do with the role or candidate. Top candidates will appreciate a challenging interview, since it proves that you set the bar high – but always be friendly and fair.
Show off your workplace and culture. Office tours, open houses or lunch/coffee meetings can be useful steps to add to your hiring process. They provide a glimpse into your work culture, and give other team members a chance to meet the candidate and provide their opinion.
Demonstrate your hospitality whenever the candidate is at your office. Put them at ease with friendly conversation, offer them water, have someone pick them up by car or escort them to the interview room. These are all small touches that will leave a good impression.
Invest in your pipeline. You worked hard to attract quality candidates, so don’t abandon them the moment you reject them. They, or someone they know, might be perfect for another opening down the line. Let the candidate know that you were impressed by their application, that they were close to being accepted, and that you want to keep in touch. Since you’ve already invested time and energy into your candidates, adding them to your talent pool just makes sense.
Get feedback. Finally, to improve your candidate experience, ask applicants for feedback, whether they were rejected or accepted. You will gain valuable information to improve your process, and an opportunity to respond to any complaints. With each round of hiring, your candidate experience should continue to evolve and improve.