Your Candidate Experience Sucks, Fix It With These Changes

Guest: Ed Baldwin candidate experience, Ed Baldwin, Employment Branding and Culture, Recruiting, Recruitment Marketing

Yeah, that’s right. If you’re a recruiter and your company is part of the chorus of employers that sing the ‘our greatest asset is our people’ mantra, then you owe applicants who show interest in working for your company something – you owe them a great candidate experience. It amazes me how many recruiting shops out there suck at creating a positive candidate experience – and claim it’s not their fault.

I’m tired of recruiters skirting the issue of candidate experience. I continually hear “we are so busy”, “we have so many applicants”, “so many of our applicants are not minimally qualified”, “the technology we use (or don’t use) is terrible” and “it’s not our fault but rather the business who is not responsive”. All these responses show a lack of accountability, pure BS. As a recruiter you are accountable for the recruitment process and need to accept responsibility for improving candidate experience. Doing so will address many of the problems you are currently using as a thin disguise and excuse for why poor candidate experience exists.

Let me explain.

Problem #1: You have a shitty Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and subsequently the application process takes applicants hours to navigate and complete, not minutes or seconds. Well, fix it! Work with your technology vendor and ask them to create an application process that takes candidates less than 5 minutes to complete. One click is better (there are some companies that have accomplished this), but walk before you run. The recruiting technology space is hyper competitive right now. If your current vendor can’t help you get there (apply for any role in your company in 5 minutes or less) then find another vendor. I’m certain there are several other vendors that would happily partner with you to accomplish this. Problem #1 solved.

Problem #2: The deafening silence and no response to the application that applicants endure, even when they are well qualified and meet all the posted requirements for the role.

The only response to most applications being completed is an automated message confirming your application will not be looked at by an actual human being, followed weeks later by another automated message saying ‘thanks but no thanks’.

C’mon folks, is the human touch really that much more costly and time consuming? Why not state in your posting that applicants who do not meet the minimum qualifications will not receive a response, then respond in person to every qualified application that is received. Research suggests that applicants meeting minimum qualifications can be as little as 10% of the applicant pool. If you get 300 applicants for a posted position that’s still only 30 people who warrant a human response. And of the 30, how good are you at identifying the top five? Statistics would say not very good. Maybe you need to introduce assessments. But that would require time and money. Hiring the wrong person is always more expensive than investments to assure you make the right hire. There probably is a gem of an applicant you won’t even talk to, you won’t engage with, and yet you are complaining of a talent shortage? You can’t have both sides of the argument. And your talent community is just as impersonal as your application process. Another black hole. Probably better find a way to connect with those 30 applicants who are qualified, establish a relationship, and develop a talent bench that will prove fruitful in the future. Problem #2 solved.

Problem #3: Limited or no feedback following an initial interview, typically orchestrated by a recruiter who is screening applicants as a stand-in for the hiring manager and whose opinion really matters if you hope to be hired. As they say, recruiters can reject a candidate but can’t hire a candidate – that’s a decision made by someone outside of HR. If you take the time to screen a candidate for a role, you should commit to providing them feedback on how they did. Make a point of closing the loop (preferably with a phone call) to those who you interviewed but you are not putting through to the next step in the selection process. Give them real feedback. Were there embellishments in their resume that remained unexplained in the screening interview? Were they not able to provide concrete experience to back up their experience and capabilities? There must have been some reason you rejected them following this screening interview. Be honest and tell them, they’ll appreciate it. And no, it’s not enough to send them an email that states “there were more qualified candidates”. Problem #3 solved.

Problem #4: You’re a finalist for the role but didn’t get the offer, and so you’re left hanging. Best practice is the awkward phone call from the recruiter saying “we’ve offered the role to another candidate and they’ve accepted”. Oh, thanks. And because recruiters don’t want to turn off a finalist candidate, they won’t share any news about another candidate being offered the role until they receive an acceptance – further protracting the feedback to what are now finalist candidates. This common practice can leave your very best candidates (finalists, but those not receiving an offer) with the most dissatisfied with the process. They’ve invested the most time and effort, and have been courted all the way to the wedding, only to be left at the alter. Fixing this problem is trickier. I understand not wanting to disappoint a finalist by telling them that another candidate is receiving the offer and they aren’t the first choice, but I still think it’s the right thing to do. The Golden Rule applies here, and that’s what I would want. Will you lose finalist candidates if you adopt this practice? Maybe. But how many of your offers get rejected? If that percentage is small then I would suggest the price you pay for creating a great candidate experience is worth it. Problem #4 solved.

Creating great candidate experience is not rocket science. But adopting practices keenly focused on improving it can be. It takes discipline, focus and time. But the return is well worth the investment.

Recruiting teams suck at creating great candidate experience and need to accept accountability for getting better, much better. You can differentiate your company with great candidate experience by avoiding these problems and adopting these simple solutions. And in doing so live up to that employee-centric culture that you’re constantly touting and referring to as why someone should join your company.

Every employee was first an applicant – remember that the next time you leave a qualified candidate hanging somewhere in your recruitment process. And depending on your company, those applicants may also be customers! Is your company focused on client experience, I bet so!

As recruiters it’s time to quit apologizing for terrible candidate experience and fix it – for your company, your applicants, and you as a recruiting professional.