The Honeymoon Is Over, AKA “The Employee Experience”

John Whitaker candidate experience, John Whitaker

“Candidate experience.” Google that term and you get just over 11 million hits. I’m guessing a fair percentage of those can be traced back to the contributors on this site, myself included, as sharing the gospel of the candidate experience is a pretty cool thing to do, don’tcha know?

Here’s my concern about the avalanche of material you find about candidate experience: the majority of the advice/best practice/recommendations come from consultants, ancillary providers, job boards, bloggers, or other people outside of the corporate atmosphere – everybody’s selling something, and right now the hot product is candidate experience. But for those of you/us who are sitting in the communal world, there’s a bit of a risk when you’re truly beefing up your candidate experience. It may outpace something equally, if not more, important.

The employee experience.

It’s funny when you think about it – back in the day, the joke was always about the recruiter who could sell you a job in Hell (“don’t worry, it’s a dry heat”); our job was to get ’em in the door, then let the manager worry about keeping them.

But two things changed that attitude considerably:

  1. We realized “candidate” and “customer” are interchangeable terms.
  2. Unemployment rates continue to drop. With a 4% unemployment rate, the people you are hiring are already working for somebody else – we gotta sell the sizzle, not the steak.

So the candidate now has the clear advantage, and there’s a hell of a lot more of them than there are our own employees, which means a hell of a lot more potential customers. As a result, our focus has shifted to marketing to candidates, wooing them, engaging them, educating them, making a connection, and (hopefully) hiring them as a new employee. If done right, your recruiting team becomes an extension of your consumer marketing team.

Now, back to the employee experience – Google that term and you’ll come up with “only” 4 million hits. Might sound silly, but that’s not insignificant. Talent acquisition has upped their respective game – as an industry we fully embraced the need for new ways to market, new ways to apply, new ways to interview, and new ways to engage the candidate population as the competition for talent became increasingly combative. We’ve done so to the point of creating enough noise to dwarf the employee experience.

But are we selling the dry heat? Is the recruitment marketing and red-carpet process for candidates setting up a disconnect with the actual experience of being an employee? If your recruiting message is more of a sales pitch than an actual description of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, you’re setting yourself up for more than one complication (you may even read about it on Glassdoor.)

You can make the candidate experience a smooth ride; dazzle them with your EVP, enchant them with video messaging, get them to the front door on Day 1 – but then what?

Look at your turnover rates, especially in the first six months, and analyze each position individually. If you have an alarming percentage of employees leaving in a short time frame, you may very well have a disconnect between what you’re selling and what you’re providing.

And, as a recruiter, if you can’t change the latter, you need to adjust the former. “Candidate experience” should include a reality check about expectations, challenges, and the potential risks involved with actually walking a mile in those shoes.