The Data Speaks: How To Ace Your Candidate Experience, with Gerry Crispin

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The Talent Board collects hundreds of thousands of responses from its candidate experience surveys. Co-founder Gerry Crispin reveals what they’ve learned. Tweet it

Talent Board co-founder Gerry Crispin

“This year we have 130,000 completed surveys from North America, and we expect 100,000 from Europe and 20,000 from Australia and New Zealand.”

That’s Gerry Crispin, recruiting industry veteran and co-founder of The Talent Board, the non-profit organization that organizes the annual Candidate Experience Awards (CandEs). He’s talking about the volume of data collected as part of the awards program’s judging process.

“Each of those 60+ question responses comes from either a successful or unsuccessful job candidate who applied to work at one of the roughly 200 companies enrolled in this year’s CandEs.”

That is a lot of data. And it’s all about what candidates say makes a good – or bad – hiring process experience. What can it teach us as talent acquisition teams, looking to treat our candidates better? How about as employers, looking to win over the talent we want and differentiate ourselves from the competition? Or as companies, looking to improve the bottom line?

Gerry kindly agreed to a little Q&A

“Those [candidates] who had a great experience? 60% will go out of their way to encourage others to apply.”

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Why collect data on candidate experience in the first place?

About five years ago, one of my friends in recruiting called me up and said, “We’ve been bitching about how badly companies treat candidates, but we’ve been in this space a long time and there has not been a hell of a lot of change. Maybe we should be finding the companies that are, in fact, making that change, celebrate them, and help them better measure the impact of their practices. If we share that information, about what they’re doing right, we might be able to make a difference in how other companies recruit.”

I thought, “Wow, what a fascinating idea. Right out of Psych 101: reward good behavior.” So we formed The Talent Board and began planning our very first Candidate Experience Awards.

We now have more than one-hundred volunteers. We have some of the best survey design PhDs, best analysts, best consultants, and now we have 30 multiple-year winners — talent acquisition leaders who represent the employers making the choice to do something different. They’re helping share their success stories with the companies still struggling to figure out how they need to hire people differently in the 21st century.

What are the repeat CandE winners doing right?

Capital One is a repeat winner. Their declined candidates are the most positive of any company we’ve measured. They turn down thousands of candidates a month but still get an 80% response rate to their candidate feedback survey. They analyze that feedback data and stack rank every recruiter; every recruiter’s candidate and hiring manager satisfaction rating appears on their dashboard. Everyone’s rating is shared internally, and they encourage everyone to share practices and brainstorm together how to improve even further. That Candidate Net Promoter Score is also factored into their annual review.

Why does a company choose to participate in the CandEs?

Confirmation and recognition that they are at the top of their game when competing for talent. Or, to help them understand what they are missing. To help align how they treat candidates and employees with how they make a profit. To have the numbers to prove that profits are better when you treat candidates and employees better.

We’re in a position now to show what the cost of treating candidates poorly is, and the added value of treating them well. For example, a quarter of candidates who say they had a bad experience also say they will go out of their way to dissuade others from applying. And those who had a great experience? 60% will go out of their way to encourage others to apply. So we can infer a cost difference there: give a good experience, get more candidates. Give a bad experience, and you’re losing candidates before they even apply.

“Give a good experience, get more candidates. Give a bad experience, and you’re losing candidates before they even apply.”

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What most affects the candidate experience? Does the data you’ve collected single out any particular practices?

There are four messages that an employer wants to send candidates that impact the experience, their attitude towards you and subsequent behaviours:

1/ Show that you’re listening. Sounds simple – but how do you do it? Do you ask the candidate, “How did we treat you?” Or do you send a survey three days after you’ve declined them and say, “I’m sorry we had to tell you that you didn’t get the job, but would you be open to answering eight questions about how we treated you through the process?” Companies that demonstrate to candidates that they are listening – and only 5% to 15% of companies do that – are rated better.

2/ Set expectations. Companies that set expectations for each step of the hiring process – how long it takes to apply, what happens when you come in for an interview, how long it takes to select a hire, when you can expect to be informed about that decision – are rated higher by all candidates, whether they’re hired or not.

3/ Be accountable. Companies who make their recruiters accountable for the candidate experience are rated higher.

4/ Make sure they feel the process is fair. The single strongest factor in a company’s candidate experience rating is the extent to which a candidate leaves the recruiting process perceiving, feeling and knowing they were given a fair chance. If you ask a candidate, “Were you able to fully share your background, your knowledge, your competency, your skills, your experience with us so that you believe we got what we needed to fairly judge you?” The candidates who say yes will absolutely rate their experience higher.

And let me tell you what simple thing you can do to accomplish that. Make the last question on your application: “What didn’t we ask you?”

That’s a great question.

It is a great question. Because, though your application no doubt gives you all the data you need to make a selection, from the point of view of the candidate there may be a piece of their skills or abilities or experience that wasn’t covered but that they think makes them a strong candidate. You never asked about it, unless you ask that one question.

The question is valuable at the end of your application, at the end of a phone-screen, or at the end of an interview. It implicitly impacts the perception of the candidate about whether or not the recruiting process is fair.

The first PhD using our data was defended last month on that very theory of perceived fairness. The correlation was very strong. So companies should think deeply about the set of practices and touch-points that they have, and the extent to which every candidate, whether they are hired or not, perceived that they fairly got up to bat.

“Make the last question on your application: ‘What didn’t we ask you?’”

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Can lessons from customer experience management be applied to candidate experience? We recently interviewed an expert from that field who believed they could be.

Without a doubt, yes. For the last decade customer relationship management issues have focused on metrics. And the most visible measurement has been the Net Promoter Score, which asks you to rate, on scale from zero to ten, “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?”

So you would think that if marketing people can be doing this with customers, recruiting people ought to be doing it with candidates. Right?

I spent a great deal of time researching this. Using input from mathematicians and analysts, we’ve created a slightly modified version, a Candidate Net Promoter Score question for candidate experience purposes:

On a scale of 1 to 4, would you refer others to apply to work for this company?
1 = “I would go out of my way to discourage others from applying to this company.”
4 = “I would go out of my way to encourage others to apply to this company”

Responses of 2 or 3 don’t get counted. The percentage of 1’s, the negative responses, gets subtracted from the percentage 4’s, the positive responses. You get a number from –100 to +100. Over the last four years, the dispersion of all of the companies who participate in the CandEs ranges from –30, which is pretty bad, to +60, which is really, really good.

I encourage companies to ask every candidate who applies this one question. And I suggest you do it after you told them that they are not going to get the job.

The Candidate Net Promoter Score question, promoted by Gerry Crispin and The Talent Board, used to get feedback on the candidate experience in recruiting.

What is the very first thing leaders in corporate HR and recruitment should do to start improving their company’s candidate experience?

The first thing you should do is listen to your audience. Stop reading articles about millennials and go talk to the real ones you are trying to hire! Ask questions. Study them. Get that data first. Don’t do anything before you do.

Once you have done that listening, then you can start to assess the needs of different stakeholders – candidates, hiring managers, recruiters, other members of the talent acquisition team, business leaders – to see what changes might need to be made to your recruiting process.

Want to dive into The Talent Board’s candidate experience data yourself? Download the 2014 CandE Results Report. Curious about enrolling your company for the Candidate Experience Awards? Learn how to apply.

From an interview with @ChristianDePape.

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