Four Ways To Make Candidate Experience A Recruiting Brand Win

We are all job seekers. You can bet that at some point you’ll get contacted by a recruiter, whether or not you are: actively looking, entrenched in the C-suite (especially then), a hungry upstart in new clothes, even wanting to notice — chances are, you will. There’s a moment when we, even more a moment, shift to the mindset of a candidate — we remember there are jobs to be had, new firms to work in, new things to do. In that sense, we’re all just waiting to be, well, activated. Weird and awesome all at the same time, huh?

My friend Kevin W. Grossman was recently reminded of this when he was contacted by a recruiter himself. As he points out, recruiting predates human resources by thousands of years — Julius Caesar practiced employee referral incentives back in ye ole days of 55 B.C. And wars or not, there have always been talent shortages — which means the better experience you can provide job seekers, the more competitive advantage you can gain.

Let’s look at four key parts to the candidate experience we can all do better at from a brand, leadership and recruiting angle:

  1. It’s a small world

Not to be cavalier, but candidates expect to be treated well. To ignore that is to possibly lose not only them, but their possible employee referrals down the line (remember Caesar). The Talent Board, responsible for the annual Candidate Experience Awards (CandEs), recently looked at data gleaned from some 250,000 completed surveys on the candidate experience (from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand). A quarter of the candidates who say they had a bad experience said they would go out of their way to discourage others from applying. And 60 percent of those who had a positive candidate experience said they would go out of their way to encourage others to apply.

  1. Get social

After that Come to Jesus moment staring into the workplace bathroom mirror, when we realize our supervisor is a psychopath, our workplace culture will never fit our values, or that “advancement” means getting an software upgrade and incentives include logo post-its, where’s the first place most of us go? We reach for our mobile phones, Google searches and social media. But most organizations still do not yet understand the importance of mobile and social for job seekers. A recent social recruiting DICE webinar offered this unsettling (to me) fact: that while 93 percent of recruiters plan on using social in the coming year, only 18 percent of them say they feel confident in their social skills. Big skills gap comin’ at you.

  1. Talk to me

An essential part of the candidate experience continues to be the interview — in the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” category of candidate experience that, too often, someone seems trying to replace with a lesser process. The CandEs 2014 awards showed that the interview is crucial for candidate as well as employer; among its other purposes, it’s the essential drill-down to potential fit. It’s also expensive, requiring travel, time and resources. But in terms of ROI, there’s no replacing it.

Some interesting takeaways here:

  • For candidates who did not have a good interview experience, 16.4 percent said they felt the interviewer did a bad job determining if they had the skills and abilities to perform the job they’d applied for.
  • Follow-up has some weaknesses: while only 15.4 percent stated they had not received any information for follow-up or next steps after an interview, this small percentage is reflects a far too major oversight, and could be a make or break on whether or not they actually went through with the hire.
  • Finally, nearly 61 percent said there was no feedback after the interview, a woefully missed opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t.
  1. Flip the Script

Which brings me to the most essential step we need to take:  a serious shift in perspective. As my friend pointed out, we have yet to put a larger frame around recruitment as a profession, not just an occupation. Over at Jibe they created two fictional job seekers to remind all of us of just what candidate experience is really like. I think they are on the right track with the idea of “walking a mile in another’s shoes” approach to this leadership and culture mindset. Thinking like a job seeker also dovetails with the fact that job candidates are, in essence, consumers, and that they factor in the issue of employer brand. A LinkedIn survey in the UK found that more than half (53 percent) of job seekers polled would not accept a job offer from an organization with a lame employee brand — which includes poor job security, dysfunctional teams, bad leadership, current or ex employees who have bad things to say, or a shabby reputation in the industry.

We’ve got our work cut out for us.  While a good candidate experience may not have the most profound effect on your hiring success “yet”, a bad one certainly will — and there’s a proven ripple effect. There’s a lot of rumblings in this direction: a great chat coming up on this very subject, and, coming up at the end of this month, the next CandEs conference in Fort Worth. The more data we gather, the more surveys, the most we actually discuss this, the better it’s going to be.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.