Selling the Recruiting Process Isn’t a Gamble

“Wheel goes round, landing on a twist of faith
Taking your chances you’ll have the right answers
When the final judgment begins
Wheel goes round, landing on a leap of fate
Life redirected in ways unexpected
Sometimes the odd number wins
The way the big wheel spins…”

—Rush, The Big Wheel


Step right up and spin the HR technology Conference career wheel – a winner every time!

Well, not quite, but the nostalgia of the all my previous HR Technology & Exposition conferences overcame me at the latest one when I realized that all my best and worst career incarnations and near misses are collectively linked to this conference.

What’s fascinating about going to the HR Technology & Exposition (or any industry event that you’ve consistently gone to year after year for well over a decade), is what goes on in the sidebars. I’m not talking about the straight networking, or analyst or influencer briefings, or the marketing and PR agency pitching, or the investor pitching, or the parties or the shows or the gambling (when the HR Tech conference is in Las Vegas as it has been for the past three years). I’m talking about the targeted sourcing and recruiting that goes on and on and on.

First and foremost, it’s a personable recruitment marketing and sourcing gold mine for all happy or unhappy perpetual candidates (which we all are) in software sales, marketing, customer service, product management and even software development and engineering. It’s also a potentially diamond-studded referral pool for any and all HR and recruiting technology companies as well as all the attendee companies that are there shopping for HR tech and talking HR tech shop. I witnessed it all around me while I was at this year’s show.

But companies are only a winner only when these investments pay off. Unfortunately, beyond the rush of the front-end schmoozing and selling, companies can neglect to share enough information about the overall recruiting processes and pre- and post-hire expectations, leaving the candidates feeling like a loser.

My reminiscing morphed into the related recruiting and candidate experience data analyses we’re going through now at the Talent Board. Talent Board is a non-profit organization focused on the promotion and data benchmark research of a quality candidate experience. Tired of hearing the same old stories of poor candidate experience, the Talent Board co-founders set out to elevate the mission of a creating and sustaining a better recruiting process and business performance through research.

There were 200 companies and 130,000 candidates that participated in the 2015 North American Candidate Experience Awards, and we’ll round out all of this year’s research in our research report due out in January 2016.

What’s not a surprise from the research surveys over the past four years is the fact that one of the top ways companies engage with potential candidates who haven’t yet applied for any openings are employee referrals. This year, for both CandE winners and non-winners alike, nearly 55 percent of companies consider it a differentiator and another 35 percent consider them a part of their regular recruiting processes.

While I only anecdotally took in the what and how of personable recruitment marketing and sourcing delivered in the sidebars at the HR Technology Conference, we did discuss the bigger picture on the TalentCulture #TChat Show live from the conference.

According to this year’s CandE research candidates found these top five types of marketing content the most valuable prior to them applying for a job:

  1. Company Values – 41.81%
  2. Product/Services Information – 36.59%
  3. Employee Testimonials – 34.89%
  4. Answers to ‘Why’ People Want to Work Here – 30.78%
  5. Answers to ‘Why’ People Stay Here – 23.68%

This is all well and good to the current kinds of recruitment marketing that most companies engage in. But when there’s a misunderstanding (or no understanding) of the entire recruiting process, candidates end up in the “black hole” application process.

For example, according to this year’s CandE data, the types of job and employment content potential candidates found most important while learning about career opportunities included:

  1. Job Descriptions (duties, skills, requirements) – 74.08%
  2. Salary Ranges/ Compensation Structure – 38.97%
  3. Benefit Details – 33.48%
  4. Successful Candidate Profile for the Job – 24.61%
  5. Career Path Examples – 22.89%
  6. Overview of Recruiting Process – 17.53%

Now, when you compare this year’s non-winners and winners on the types of recruiting process content they make available prior to potential candidates applying, it’s clear why the winners win (based on this category):

CandE Non-Winners

  1. Employee Testimonials – 73.78%
  2. Details of Application and Next Steps – 67.68%
  3. Events – Career Related Listings, Dates and Locations – 62.80%
  4. Overview of Recruiting Process – 56.71%
  5. Frequently Asked Questions – 54.88%

CandE Winners

  1. Events – Career Related Listings, Dates and Locations – 76.74%
  2. Details of Application and Next Steps – 72.09%
  3. Employee Testimonials – 72.09%
  4. Overview of Recruiting Process – 72.09%
  5. Frequently Asked Questions – 60.47%

That’s a 15% difference between winners and non-winners, which is more than enough to have a competitive edge in today’s highly complex and competitive hiring economy. Companies shouldn’t worry about revealing their recruiting processes and exposing their hiring weaknesses. Candidates want to be valued and have an engaging and transparent experience and how companies treat them has a direct impact on whether they’ll invest their time or not – that’s the winning combination. In today’s digital age, where people share experiences online, a poor candidate experience can be bad for business and translate to millions in lost revenue annually.

Today’s savvy job seekers want career development opportunities, a great company culture, a positive candidate experience, and a complete understanding of their potential suitor’s recruiting process – before they ever apply. Transparent marketing and selling the recruiting process isn’t a gamble, it’s a prize investment that pays off every single time.

Why Winners Invest in the Internal Candidate Experience Today

For the longest time it’s always been about recruiting from the outside in. As if companies had never hired for many of their jobs before. As if the only way to fill them was to post the jobs and pray for new magical applicants they’d never identified previously, and hopefully some of those had just enough of a magical edge to get the final interviews and then get hired.

Of course, the reality is that most of those applicants aren’t magical and aren’t qualified 75-95 percent of the time. And out of those hired, we hope that they’ll stick and stay beyond their first 6-12 months. But that’s the way we’ve sourced and recruited for decades, and recruiting technology automation has only given us more of the same.

A lot more of the same – hundreds of applicants per open requisition on the average according to the latest Talent Board Candidate Experience survey results (a trend that’s increased over the past few years). The good news here is, at least for the companies that have participated in the Candidate Experience surveys (whether the employer won a CandE Award or not), is that:

  • 70% of participating candidates are likely and to apply again to the same employers.
  • 70% of participating candidates are likely or extremely likely to refer others.
  • 68% of the candidates rated the employers with 3 or more stars out of 5 stars on their overall candidate experience.

And nearly 80% of those candidates weren’t hired.

It’s even more refreshing to hear companies are investing strategy, resources and time into their internal candidate experience. Yes, those folks who are already employed. Your hopefully engaged critical talent. Your brand ambassadors. Your key referrers who help attract competitive people your way.

It’s really only been the past few years where I’ve heard larger organizations talk more about improving the internal candidate experience. Anyone who’s read my articles know how much I emphasize the fact that we’re all perpetual applicants/candidates all the time.

We’re all either being constantly re-recruited into their current organizations (engagement and opportunity) or recruited out of them (attrition and opportunity). It makes no never mind whether we’re happily employed (some of us) and unhappily disengaged (most of us), looking for our next gig, or not. We’re all perpetual candidates, regardless of generation or gender, skill set or experience.

So I was energized when CandE Award-winning companies like Humana, T-Mobile, SWIFT and many others shared at this year’s Candidate Experience Symposium that they are truly investing in and improving on how they treat internal candidates and re-recruit and retain them. We learned they’re making it much easier for current employees (including permanent and contingent) to be internally mobile, transforming cultures that used to discourage mobility to those that embrace it, in order to apply for and stay within the “mothership.” And many other companies are right behind them to keep their competitive edge and sharp as possible. Again, these folks are your employment brand ambassadors.

Now, even with these internal candidate experience improvements, it’s true that predicting new employee tenure is about as difficult as predicting the weather, even with various data inputs and powerful algorithms we have today. Most people these days stay in their jobs only about 3-5 years. It’s not just the millennials moving around for better opportunities — all generations do it.

But one thing is clear: referrals can and do have an impact on employee retention. If an employee is satisfied at work, feels like part of a team and the greater culture, and of course is rewarded fairly, then he or she is much more likely to suggest referrals. They become a brand advocate.

And if these referrals have a similar experience to those who referred them, they will in turn potentially last a little longer and make referrals themselves. In fact, even candidates that don’t get hired will make referrals if their experience is a good one as referenced in the Talent Board data above.

Long-time recruiting analyst John Sumser and HR thought leader Jessica Miller-Merrell concurred on the TalentCulture #TChat Show when you hire somebody you don’t know, and you bring them in, you have to figure out all sorts of attributes of trust, in order to get them to fit into your organization.

In fact, John said it best, “When you use a referral, the trust is implied by the person making the referral. Everybody knows that what makes organizations fun, flexible, agile, adaptive and productive is the degree to which everybody in the organization trusts everybody else. Trust is the variable that makes your organization great or makes it fail.”

This is why CandE Winners invest in the internal candidate experience today.  Re-recruiting from the inside out makes for one trustworthy and invaluable talent pool.

Go Long with Your Candidate Experience, Kids

“Moving without motion
Screaming without sound
Across an open ocean
Flying there on temporary ground…”

—Jack White, Temporary Ground


We huddled together while Brad barked out our last names and the next play.

“Grossman, you do a five-yard buttonhook. I’m hitting you, so be ready. Smith, you block, and if I have to dump to you, I will. And Day,” he paused stood up to look over at the other team, and then bent down again in the huddle. “Day, go long. All right, let’s go.”

My friend Robby dropped his head and shook it. Go long was code for please run downfield and draw away the defenders but I’m never going to throw you the ball.

“Brad, c’mon. Go long? I swear I can get open.”

“Okay, okay. Just go long, man. And be ready.”


We all laughed, but I felt bad for Robby. True, he wasn’t all that coordinated on the football field, but he was fast and in excellent shape from playing water polo. He could swim circles around us and could catch and throw the water polo ball with amazing precision.

It was a cold and foggy afternoon during holiday break. We were all high school juniors wearing grubby sweats and playing a little friendly four-on-four football at a local park.

We broke huddle, lined up and ran the play. Robby actually went long even against his own judgment, but then I was covered and Brad was about to get sacked. He had no choice but throw it to Robby, who of course was wide open.

Maybe it was risky throwing it to Robby, but what if he caught it and scored the winning touchdown?

What if indeed. Even with innovative blue ocean strategy and progressive risk-taking, businesses rise and fall on temporary ground as readily as political empires. There are simple too many economic factors in play these days, but the right workforce can and does make a difference.

However, imagine the go-long metaphor in the world of work and what it takes to be competitive with talent acquisition today. Many companies still can’t stomach throwing the long ball, especially when you add in a complex global talent market mired in employment law and regulatory mud.

It’s just easier to replicate the status quo of stale recruiting processes and run the same plays over and over again just to get some of the right butts in the right seats. Because sooner rather than later many of those talented butts will play musical chairs.

That’s why Talent Board launched the Candidate Experience Awards four years ago. Talent Board is a non-profit organization focused on the promotion and data benchmark research of a quality candidate experience. Tired of hearing the same old stories of poor candidate experience, the Talent Board co-founders set out elevate the mission of a better recruiting process and business performance – and found it they did.

Today the Candidate Experience (CandE) Awards is open to all global multinational and regional companies including North America employers, EMEA employers, APAC employers and will soon launch is Latin America – and is free for participating companies. The CandE Awards program consists of three survey rounds designed to evaluate and recognize organizations that produce outstanding candidate experiences.

Round One is comprised of a multi-dimensional survey designed to capture and evaluate the nominated company’s recruitment processes and practices impacting the candidate experience. All companies that complete the first round submission process receive Employer Benchmark data.

Those that meet the awards’ baseline for candidate experience were invited to participate in Round Two of the competition, which involves surveying a random sampling of the company’s 2015 candidates. Each firm had to commit to a statistically significant candidate response, as well as a set standard for the proportion of randomly selected respondents not hired. This year there were 130,000 candidates that participated in the survey and nearly 80 percent were not hired.

Companies that meet criteria for both rounds one and two are awarded a “CandE Award Winner” designation (and this year’s top 50 will be recognized at the 2nd Annual Candidate Experience Symposium September 30 – October 2 in Fort Worth, TX.).

Here’s some go-long recruiting strategy data for you: over 74% of winners and 65% of the nearly 200 participating companies (winners and non-winners) are systematically aligning candidate performance to recruiter performance. The latter represents a 10% increase from all participating companies in 2014. This means that candidate experience for both CandE winners and non-winners is:

  • Regularly measured & incorporated into the recruiter dashboard per their performance reviews and there are both non-monetary performance (gifts cards, trips, etc.) and monetary performance incentives (salary increase, bonus).
  • It is regularly discussed in formal recruiter reviews and it’s measured and incorporated into the recruiter dashboard. There are no performance incentives.
  • Regularly discussed in formal recruiter reviews but the measure is subjective and not formalized, and there are no performance incentives.

Winners with exceptional and innovative recruiting practices are advanced to a final “judged” Round Three, where their video interviews are reviewed by the CandE judging panel to determine whether or not they should receive a special “Story Teller” honor based on their positive candidate experience. This is in addition to the statistical analysis and algorithms applied above and the selection of the top 50 CandE winners.

Those that are getting the “Story Teller” honor this year are including the following three plays in their talent acquisition “passing” game:

  1. Map multiple candidate touch points and take the time to educate candidates on what each one means – and survey them for continuous feedback.
  2. Utilize technologies such as video interviewing and onboarding as a means of improving the recruiting process.
  3. Quantify the impact of poor candidate experience and potential customer loss (potentially hundreds of millions per year).

There’s plenty more where that came from. It’s no longer just about raising awareness around recruiting and candidate experience and avoiding the black hole. The Talent Board CandE survey participants and CandE winners have created a sweet new benchmark for talent acquisition and business performance around the world. And each year the multi-year and first-time winners raise the business bar even higher for us all.

So go long with your candidate experience, kids. I know you can get open.

Why I Have a Sweet Tooth for a Better Candidate Experience

“Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it in dew
Cover it in chocolate
and a miracle or two?” 

—Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, The Candy Man

Unfortunately, I can still taste his sour words. We’d been talking recruiting shop, him a talent acquisition director at a large technology company and me an HR industry analyst, when I asked him what role his team had in retention.

“None,” he answered. He went on to explain to me that his team managed hundreds of requisitions and with the volume of unqualified applicants they received, he stayed focused on putting smart butts in the right seats. What happened after that was on the hiring managers and leadership.

“Not my problem,” he said.

Then I asked him about dispositioning candidates that weren’t selected to move on in the hiring process and if they sent any communications, he replied that their applicant tracking system could probably have had auto-responder functionality, but they just hadn’t turned it on yet.

That was four years ago, nearly a lifetime in the upside-down world of recruiting and hiring economics. And while the former point about retention is an ongoing debate amount recruiting and HR professionals, the latter point about dispositioning is something thankfully more and more companies are taking action to improve.

My candidate experience soapbox is simple – companies of any size and in any industry should at the very minimum do two things when it comes to anyone applying for employment:

  1. Acknowledgement – simply that you’ve applied and we acknowledge that. Thank you very much.
  2. Closure – simply that you are or are not qualified for the position, that you are or are not getting the job, there are or are not other opportunities with us, and we acknowledge all these things in a consistent and timely manner. Thank you very much.

I write about this often, but we’re all perpetual candidates who are either being constantly re-recruited into their current organizations (engagement and opportunity) or recruited out of them (attrition and opportunity). It makes no never mind whether we’re happily employed (some of us) and unhappily disengaged (most of us), looking for our next gig, or not. We’re all perpetual candidates, regardless of generation or gender, skill set or experience. So any entity that meets my minimum candidate experience is a winner.

But for those that don’t meet the minimum and leave their job seeker “customers” with a crappy experience, what do you think will happen? Will the ex-candidates put their tails between their legs and slink away?

Well, according to the latest 2015 Talent Board data on candidate experience from 130,000 job seekers surveyed over the past few months (most of whom were not hired), they don’t. They end up sharing their recruiting stories everywhere, good and bad (which is why looking at the stories through the eyes of the job seeker is so critical for companies).

Eighty percent of candidates said they’re likely to share positive recruiting experiences with their inner circle, and 66 percent will share negative ones. And when it comes to sharing publicly, online, everywhere, 53 percent will share their positive stories, and 33 percent will share their negative ones.

The good news is that the percentage of candidates who had a negative response to their overall job seeking experience dropped slightly from 12 percent in 2014 to 10 percent in 2015. These are the people who replied that they will definitely take their alliance, product purchases, relationship somewhere else, but when you do the math, these are 13,000 people who won’t be “buying” employer branded bull or your stuff. I’ve certainly been there. This kind of candidate resentment can add up to millions of dollars of lost revenue. This is the negative ripple effect according to my friend and TalentCulture #TChat Show co-founder and co-host Meghan M. Biro.

However, it’s never too late to change. The nearly 200 companies who participated in the 2015 North American Talent Board candidate experience surveys have exceeded the above minimums and then some. In fact, the top 50 of them will receive a 2015 Candidate Experience Award (the CandEs) this year at the 2nd Annual Candidate Experience Symposium September 30 – October 2 in Fort Worth, TX.

That’s why I’ve been involved with the Talent Board for the past four years now and why I’m still abuzz about joining them. I will help lead and further their mission of benchmarking and elevating the candidate experience and recruiting performance, from the first job post to the final onboarding and beyond in North America and around the world.

Those employers exceeding the candidate experience minimum, whether a CandE winner or not, are reaping the benefits. Here are a few more early cuts from the 2015 survey data:

  • 70 percent of candidates surveyed are likely and to apply again to the same employers, slightly above last year.
  • 70 percent of candidates surveyed are likely or extremely likely to refer someone else to those employers they had applied for job at.
  • Plus, over 50 percent of all these candidates had no relationship prior to applying to the company. That’s huge.
  • 68 percent of the candidates surveyed rated the employers they applied to with 3 or more stars out of 5 stars on their overall candidate experience. That’s 3% higher than in 2014.

What’s more dramatic about all of this is that there are 27 percent more candidates in 2015 that completed the CandE candidate survey from a slightly bigger pool of participating companies. This is great news overall and a testament to more and more companies investing in improving their talent acquisition and candidate experience.

There’s so much more 2015 CandE data and analysis to come, so stay tuned. Thank goodness I have a sweet tooth for a better candidate experience and good business sense.