Is Your Candidate Experience Also Driving Great Candidates Away?

John Hollon candidate experience, John Hollon

We all know that job candidates are getting fed up with how they’re treated when they apply for jobs. That’s why the “candidate experience” — how job seekers perceive and react to employers’ sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding — gets so much attention.

The complaints about the terrible state of the candidate experience in many companies seem to come, largely, from people who don’t get the job or feel they are treated so dismissively that they don’t even get a fair shot at it.

As someone who has personally seen the worst of the candidate experience over the last two years, I get that. Applicants know first-hand how poorly so many organizations treat those who apply to work for them.

But what if the very best candidates, including the ones who are sourced and targeted by your recruiting staff, ALSO hate your candidate experience?

A bad candidate experience for a great candidate

I was struck by this thought while reading a LinkedIn post by Oleg Vishnepolsky, the Global CTO at the DailyMail Online. His spot-on insights are pretty popular among the LinkedIn crowd, and this one that caught my attention tells you why.

Here’s what he wrote about when he was recruited by a company that really wanted him:

“Offer declined – I am staying where I am.

The recruiter called me — why? This is one of the top companies. What’s the counter offer?

Me: No counter offer.

  1. I had six (6) rounds of interviews.
  2. I was grilled with questions but nobody took the time to explain what the job is like, did not even ask if I have any questions.
  3. Lots of questions did not make sense — like, “why I am leaving my employer?” I was not; your recruiter approached me and convinced me to come for your interview. “Where I see myself in five (5) years.” They could not tell me where they see their company in six (6) months.
  4. The hiring process is too long, too disorganized.
  5. The offer took too long.
  6. The interviewers did not compare notes because during the six (6) rounds of interviews they were asking the same questions. This should not look like an interrogation. They also looked tired and stressed.

If you want to hire talent, fix your basics. Treat candidates as people, not as applicants.

Fast forward — that company is not in the top tier anymore.

Take hiring seriously. Those who you hire will determine your future. — Ideal interview: read here.”

A bad experience can transcend the quality of the candidate

Wow … that puts an entirely different spin on the candidate experience, doesn’t it?

It also reminds me of a passage that really jumped out from the recent 2017 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research report. It’s this:

Hiring managers have little use for the distraction of candidates who lack the competencies or willingness to tackle their jobs. What they are learning, however, is that the best candidates and a growing number who are customers have a newfound disdain for employers who “don’t know what they want until they see it,” fail to set or deliver on expectations, listen without hearing, and do not hold themselves accountable for respecting all those interested in their firm.”

This new research from the Talent Board is an in-depth and up-close look at how job candidates, and the organizations trying to hire them, view the candidate experience.

The Talent Board’s North American Candidate Experience 2017 research reportis based on 180,000 surveys of people like me — candidates who applied to positions at 200 companies and, for the most part, “did not get the job.”

They also noted that 85 percent of those they surveyed “were rejected, hadn’t heard back on next steps wherever they were in the recruiting process or did not know of any offer at the time they completed (the) survey. Talent Board has found that these candidates have a greater aggregate impact on the business and the brand than those who are hired.”

That’s what makes Oleg Vishnepolsky’s commentary so valuable because it speaks to an issue that should be terrifying to all companies and their recruiting staffs — that a poor candidate experience is not just a byproduct of handling the tsunami of job applicants that you have to deal with.

No, what Mr. Vishnepolsky’s experience hints at is far worse. It suggests that organizations that treat the great mass of candidates poorly probably can’t treat the very best ones that they want to hire very well either. Plus, as the Talent Board clearly notes, candidates that don’t get the job, for whatever reason, have a bigger “impact on the business and the brand than those” who actually come on board.

What the best organizations do differently

There’s a way to fix this, of course, and it is front and center in the 2017 Candidate Experience report: the things that companies with the very best candidate experience do that sets them apart from everyone else.

Here are the four (4) things that those organizations get right that seems to matter the most to candidates:

  1. They listen better and communicate more frequently with candidates.
  2. They do a better job of setting better expectations about their recruiting process, from pre-application to onboarding.
  3. They work to hold themselves more accountable for both their candidate experience AND talent acquisition performance. In addition, they measure both regularly and consistently.
  4. Candidates notice the efforts these organizations are making, and as a result, they perceive that these organizations have a “fairer” hiring process. Candidates feel they have been able to share why their knowledge, skills, and experience deserves consideration for the jobs they have applied for.

Here’s my take: As someone who has been a candidate myself, I know that what most candidates want is pretty simple — regular and ongoing communication, a good sense where they stand in the process and how long it will take, and a quick resolution with a little courtesy when they’re rejected.

They also would love to know “why” their application was dismissed, but not a lot of organizations want to get into that, for obvious reasons.

Not surprisingly, great candidates like Oleg Vishnepolsky get turned off by many of the same core issues that turn off those who aren’t as highly valued — rudeness, irregular communications, lack of a timely resolution, and a poor recruiting process overall.

If you are recruiting and hiring people and have a less-than-stellar candidate experience, Mr. Vishnepolsky’s commentary should be a little frightening because his perspective seems to indicate that organizations can’t suddenly improve their candidate experience based on the quality of the applicant or recruitee.

No, it’s pretty clear to me that a bad candidate experience is felt by just about all of your candidates — including those you actively recruit and REALLY want to hire.

Fixing the candidate experience seems like a no-brainer, but somehow, for many, it never really gets done. The 2017 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research report seems to make that clear.

If the talent shortage is truly a concern, fixing a bad candidate experience would seem to be something you need to get a good grip on  — pronto.

John Hollon
John Hollon is an award-winning journalist and nationally recognized expert on leadership, talent management, and smart workforce practices. He currently is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media. He also was founding Editor of the popular talent management website TLNT.com, and before that, Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com. John also held editing positions at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Orange County Register, and was top editor for Gannett at two statewide papers —Montana’s Great Falls Tribune and The Honolulu Advertiser. He also has deep experience in magazine and online publishing as editorial director at Fancy Publications, VP of Editorial at Pets.com, and Editor of the San Diego Business Journal. In addition, John is an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, and a board member at the Kronos Workforce Institute. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business & Management, and lives in Southern California.