Why Your Candidate Experience is Scaring Off Talent

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Is your recruiting process working against you? Pushing away the very top talent you desperately need and want? If you’re like most employers, it could very well be the case.

How? Why? Well, lets take a look at two little stories to help find out:

Story #1: Cancelled

A candidate traveled from their home out of state to meet with the hiring manager. That morning they woke, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, got in their car, spent several hours on the freeway, found parking, got to the office, sat down in the lobby, and waited patiently for the meeting. Ten minutes before the scheduled time, the receptionist called the candidate up to her desk to receive a message. The manager had canceled. Something had come up. Would the candidate be willing to reschedule?

Story #2: Deserted

A candidate showed up at the date and time requested for their job interview. They were surprised to find out they had been scheduled for multiple back-to-back meetings. After each meeting, the managers in attendance got up and left the room without saying anything, and a new batch would replace them. At the end of several meetings, the candidate was left alone in the meeting room for twenty or thirty minutes before realizing the scheduled meetings had ended and they were free to leave.

Lousy candidate experience = losing out on top talent

Each of those stories is true. They happened, recently. And—let’s be honest with ourselves—stuff like this happens in the hiring process all the time.

By convention, the recruitment process takes an internal focus:

  • What we the company need – Comprehensive job ads so we don’t get unqualified applicants
  • What we the company want – A Word resume for hiring managers, and a detailed application so we can find them when we search our database
  • What works for us – Push the interview back by an hour because our team meeting is running long

Sound familiar?

But your recruitment process is likely talent’s first impression of the inside of your organization. You’re judging them based on first impression, so it goes without saying that they’re doing the same with you.

Think about how your recruitment process’ internal focus might look to a candidate:

  • What they need – 1,000 word, jargon-filled job ad that lists every teeny-tiny never-needs-to-be-done responsibility
  • What they want – Retyping what my resume already spells out into their clunky, unintuitive application form
  • What works for them – They’ve made me waste an hour and now I’m going to be late to pick up the kids

Is that really how candidates are experiencing your process? More often than not, the answer is yes.

From the mouths of job seekers

Back in July, we surveyed 70 job seekers—folks who had recently written and sent out a resume. They came from all across Canada and the USA, and they were looking for work in a wide variety of fields and industries.

One of the questions in the survey was about the one thing they would do to improve their resume writing experience. The question was explicitly meant to be about resume writing.

Here are three of the responses:

“ATS’s are terrible at making the candidate feel as though their resume has been reviewed by someone qualified to determine whether or not you have the skills to perform the work noted in the description.”

“job hunting would be awesome if employers would treat people like people, not another piece of paper”

“When I submit a resume, I would really like to get some kind of response. Even if it’s a no thanks at least I know my resume didn’t go into some black hole that was never reviewed.”

There were many, many more responses with similar themes. Clearly, the application and recruitment process was a sore point for job seekers.

Now, just think about how you’d feel in your candidate’s shoes, going through your process.

If the answer isn’t good, then yes, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Your candidate experience sucks. And you might be losing out on talent because of it.

Great candidate experience = tremendous opportunity

Don’t fret. Most employers haven’t given their candidate experience any thought—they’re making the same mistakes. And that leaves you with a tremendous opportunity.

A thoughtful, candidate-oriented, recruitment process will put you ahead in your recruiting efforts. It’ll:

  • Set you apart, build your employer brand and bolster your reputation in the job market
  • Secure talent faster—because if you treat your candidates well, they’ll reason you treat your employees well too
  • Better qualify candidates, and better prepare new hires for the workplace—because you’ll be communicating in response to their informational needs
  • Make your job easier, because people who appreciate how they’re being treated will go to greater lengths to treat you well and help you out too

How to start improving your candidate experience

It doesn’t need to be tough. Here are a few things you can do to start:

Walk in the candidate’s shoes. Take yourself through your recruitment process from their perspective. What’s it like to fill out an application? What does it look like to see and read that first email they get sent? What questions might they be asking that you’re not answering?

Get feedback from dropouts.  Send a quick email or survey to candidates who drop out or get hired midway through your process. Why did they chose what they did? What might have changed their minds?

Hear from recent hires. Ask one or two new employees in your organization to tell you about their experience being hired. What did they like? What could have been better? If you think getting an open and honest (i.e. useful) response will too challenging given your own role inside the organization, consider running an anonymous survey or hiring an outside consultant to conduct interviews.

Pick the low-hanging fruit. Assess what you’ve learned about your process. Are there simple changes that would improve the candidate experience, that require minimal time, resources, and inconvenience on your part? Do them.

It’ll be a start. And even small changes to your candidate experience can improve your outcomes, because you’ll be making the people you’re considering for hire feel good.

Maya Angelou said it best:

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

—by Christian De Pape, Communications Consultant


Like this article?

You might also be interested in this one:

Candidate Experience – What Exactly Is It?

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