Q&A: Why You Should Sign Up For The Candidate Experience Awards

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The Candidate Experience Awards aren’t just about winning. Talent Board member Howard Weintraub explains how employers can benefit from the CandE’s survey process.

The Candidate Experience Awards

Howard Weintraub leads the CandEs Canada Council, a group that champions and promotes the Talent Board’s North American Candidate Experience Award and Benchmarking Program to Canadian employers. We got on the phone to talk about why employers should participate in the CandEs – even if they’re only just starting to work on their candidate experience.

“The CandEs are a way for your organization to benchmark itself against other organizations.”

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Why should a company sign up to participate in in the CandEs?

Candidate experience is important, and every year we’re getting deeper and deeper into the data and letting organizations know why it’s important. The CandEs are a way for your organization to benchmark itself against other organizations. You’re able to say, “we measured here, and winners are measuring there, so this is an area that we need to step up our effort.” Or, “…we are getting high marks in the following areas, so let’s continue doing that.”

You’re identifying areas of strengths and weakness in your candidate experience based on the people who are participating in your talent acquisition process.

What kind of process can employers expect?

There are three parts:

First, there’s registration. You go through a very short survey to identify who you are and the type of CandE participant you would like to be. Then, there’s an additional employer survey process where you’re asked about your organization, your talent acquisition process, what your tools are, your objectives, and so on.

Once that’s done, and assuming you qualify AND that you’ve signed up to be considered for an award (as opposed to only having access to the data), the next step is the candidate survey. Your organization is given a survey link that is unique to you and will collect data that will be associated with your data pool. It’s up to you to email it to your candidates; we give suggestions as to how to write the email and do the reach out, but the survey invitation comes from you. The survey itself measures everything from how you attract candidates, to the information and materials that you provide, to what the application processes look like, to how you let candidates know about their status in the application process.

Once the survey results are in, the Talent Board compiles the data. Conclusions are made and winners determined. It’s worth noting that the data remains confidential; only winners are identified to the public. In fact, not even me or anyone on the council knows who has registered to be considered for an award. Only a small group of people who are sworn to secrecy have access to registered employers. If you register and your scores don’t qualify for an award, only you and this small judging panel will know.

Employer registration opened on March 1, candidate surveys will run through the spring and summer, and winners will be notified in late August/early September. We present the awards at our annual symposium and awards gala in November – last year it was held in Fort Worth, TX – this year it’s taking place in Austin.

What types of employers sign up? Do you need to be a certain size to benefit?

Any organization can enter. The process is scalable. So if you’re a small organization that’s doing fewer hires, the line that you need to cross in terms of amount of survey responses is significantly lower than companies that are doing thousands of hires. If you’re only making one to two hires a year, you’re probably not going to get a lot out of it. But if you’re up to 50 hires a year or more, then it makes sense, because if you add up your candidate responses to every job posting, which can average 100 application or more per posting, that’s a pretty big candidate pool you’re touching. You can get great insights from a sample of the 5000+ people who receive the candidate survey from you, and you can learn a lot about how you’re engaging with them.

“If you register and your scores don’t qualify for an award, only you will know.”

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Can you give some examples of companies who have seen a measurable benefit from participating in the CandEs?

The 2015 North American Candidate Experience Research Report contains a summary of the data compiled last year, along with some great stories from companies including AT&T, Hydro Québec, Enterprise Holdings, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Sonos and others. You can download the report to learn about their experience.

Does the data collected over the last couple years reveal any trends in how recruitment is changing?

One big area of focus is how companies are simplifying the application process – making it not as difficult for people to apply. Organizations are starting to drop the requirement to fill out 15 fields of information before you can submit your qualifications.

ATS vendors are starting to acknowledge this trend, too. Organizations like icims and Jobvite have either designed their product around a better candidate experience, or are making changes to their application process to reflect this fast moving trend. Some newer vendors – SmartRecruiters is an example – have also focused on making the application process simpler.

Many of the newer recruitment marketing suites that have entered the market, like SmashFly and Phenom People, are built on the premise that front-ending all the information collection can be onerous and creates too many incomplete applications – where a candidate starts but doesn’t finish their submission. Rather, it’s not as much about the immediate need for a single vacancy, and more about building a longer-term relationship with candidates by collecting the information in bits and bites throughout the journey.

Another hugely important trend is mobile apply – making it easier for people to apply using their phone. Adoption is not nearly where it needs to be, but it’s happening pretty quickly.

Any surprises from data about the current state of candidate experience?

Communication with candidates is still weak. It’s starting to get better, but we’ve had to move mountains to get to this point.

Employers will send the immediate “thank you for applying,” from an impersonal, do-not-reply email address, and then there’s nothing after that. This is an area that’s near and dear to my heart; if you have to tell someone they’re out of the running, that’s okay, but tell them! And why not provide an e-mail address or actual name of someone the applicant can get in touch with if they have questions? Transparency and access scores big points in the candidate experience.

Are there any common misperceptions of what “candidate experience” actually means?

Many employers who are new to the concept of candidate experience think it’s all about making the candidates smile. It’s not.

Candidate experience is about understanding your touchpoints and knowing how to adapt and enhance each one to improve the experience and get better results. Gone are the days when recruiting was simply about filling the funnel and filtering through it – way too opportunistic for today’s breed of candidate. Quite honestly, they expect more, and will voice their happiness or displeasure on social media if they have a positive or negative candidate experience.

You have to think about it like a marketer, because marketers understand customer experience, which has a lot of similarities to the candidate experience. For example, there are financial risks to not having a good candidate experience and there are financial rewards for a positive candidate experience. We’ve learned through the data we’ve collected, for example, that candidate experience has an impact on volume and quality of referrals, on attitudes about employer brand…it can even trickle down even to bottom line sales of an organization! The organizations participating in the CandEs get this.

“You have to think about [candidate experience] like a marketer, because marketers understand customer experience.”

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

Step up and get measured. Take part in the CandE survey process to understand how you compare to other companies in North America. Once you have this rich data showing how your candidate experience score compares to CandE winners, you can embrace where you’re doing well and focus on improving the right things to make your talent acquisition process work better.

Registration for the 2016 North American Candidate Experience Award and Benchmark Program is open until April 1. Learn how to apply.

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

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content

About the author

Christian De Pape is Head of Marketing and Content at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Banner and feature images: CandEs Celebration in Dallas, Texas in October 2015. Courtesy: Talent Board.

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