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.