Candidate Experience Is Not A Product

Matt Charney Always Be Closing, Audacious Ideas, Candidate Pool, FOT Reads, HR Tech, HR Technology, Matt Charney

Fun fact: I own the trademark on the “slogan” (their term) candidate experience in the United States. I’m pretty sure that it’s unenforceable, but I’ve got the paperwork to prove that I at least paid the filing fee and was issued an e-mail confirming my registration was a success. Why did I pay $159 for the rights to intellectual property that’s pretty clearly no one’s property? 

It’s simple. It’s because vendors, increasingly and ironically, have actually managed to pull off a rather dubious and extremely nefarious repositioning and positioning themselves as solutions for improving candidate experience. This is a joke, but I’ll get to that punch line in a minute.

Candidate experience has become as ubiquitous and inescapable a recruiting buzzword as “social recruiting” or “big data,” and the commoditization and cooption of this term is somewhat sad, since it has effectively trivialized and added unnecessary complexity to what’s really one of the fundamental competencies of any recruiter or employer.

In full disclosure, I’m on my second year on the Advisory Board for the Candidate Experience Awards in North America. That said, I don’t have any considerations involved in that other than a genuine desire to reward the companies getting it right and building increased industry awareness around the impact and influence candidate experience plays in recruiting, along with a canon of emerging best practices.

The Candidate Experience Awards are the collective efforts of a mix of industry pundits and practitioners, all volunteering their time and collective energy to solving one of the issues most endemic in our industry.

As a non-profit organization, the Talent Board (the organization driving the C&Es) does, in fact, collect and collate a tremendous amount of proprietary, recruiting-related data. In return, however, they provide any company with the cajones to open up the books with a pretty accurate barometer of how candidate experience stacks up at their company.

The reporting and analytics every participating company gets – for free – is worth the price of admission, even for those companies who don’t walk away as C&E winners. There’s no quid pro quo, only an even value exchange between an NPO and the talent acquisition organizations at some of the world’s biggest employers and some of the most familiar household name brands in business.

This, for me and every other volunteer, is a labor of love. None of us are making any money, and all of us devote a ton of time to the C&Es because we’re passionate about this pervasive black eye perpetually plaguing our profession. We suffer countless conference calls and sink hours into pro bono content creation because, well, we believe the cause to be worth it. And it absolutely is. 

Way back in 2009, while I was at Monster, I coincidentally partnered with RecruitingBlogs, my current employer, on the second edition of #RecruitFest, the world’s first ever streaming and socially-enabled recruiting conference. In short, it was really friggin’ ahead of its time, and really cool—particularly because that event featured my first ever exposure to this issue.

On the agenda, Gerry Crispin led a panel around what a “Candidate’s Bill of Rights” would look like and the ensuing conversation made the collective understanding that recruiters were screwing it up and could easily do well by doing good by candidates.

There’s never any dissention on candidate experience—I mean, who’s going to come out and call bull$h!t? It’s like hating on diversity hiring or questioning the wisdom of hiring veterans. Even if you fundamentally disagree or disavow these concepts, you still know better than to not say a damn word, lest you be looked at like a leper, a Koch brother or a Robert Half recruiter.

But as much as we’ve talked about candidate experience over the years, we really haven’t done anything more than raise awareness, which has not, to date, actually translated into any sort of industry wide improvement or innovation. Instead, what it’s done is created a category of “candidate experience” SaaS solutions created entirely to monetize and co-opt this trend.

I’m always increasingly frustrated to get pitched on how so and so a tool can fix candidate experience, or see a case study that’s more or less an infomercial for some $h!++y product or software vendor. Even more disturbing, startups are launching whose entire business model is predicated on positioning their platforms as a “candidate experience suite” or some crap like that.

So, I did a search one day to see what nefarious corporation actually owned the term “candidate experience.” I figured one of them must—and put my money on LinkedIn, given that it’s kind of an evil, but kind of a smart, strategy… which is how the Evil Empire rolls.

Much to my surprise, though, no one had thought to go down this route before, so I went ahead and bought it with the hopes that the concept of “candidate experience” can be an issue our industry solves instead of a problem that some SaaS solution can fix, because that’s tilting at windmills, really.

Besides, you’ve got to be an idiot if you really think that HR Technology vendors really want anything from selling and commoditizing the candidate experience other than a quick buck and an easier sale. After all, who do you think caused the actual problem in the first place (and you don’ t even need an Oracle for that obvious answer)?

Matt Charney is the Executive Editor for Recruiting Daily, whose flagship property, RecruitingBlogs, is the world’s largest social network and content sharing platform for recruiting and HR professionals. Matt oversees editorial strategy and content marketing for RecruitingDaily’s portfolio of online properties. Prior to joining RecruitingBlogs, Matt served in marketing leadership roles at leading HR technology companies like Talemetry, CornerstoneOnDemand & Monster. Matt began his career as a corporate recruiter for such companies as Walt Disney and Warner Bros.

Matt has been named as one of the top 25 influencers in recruiting by publications like the Huffington Post, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder and LinkedIn, and has been recognized as one of the 2015 HR Game Changers by HR Magazine adn SHRM, the 2015 HRO Superstar for Analyst Excellence and the 2014 Top Recruiting Blogger by Social Talent. His blog was also named one of the top 15 business blogs to follow by WordPress in 2014. Matt serves as a member of the advisory boards for the Candidate Experience Awards, Rolepoint, RecruitiFi, Take the Interview, HiringSolved, Universum and Textio.

Follow him @MattCharney or connect with him on LinkedIn (