CX for HR: The Candidate Experience

You’ve been laid off, fired, or just plain quit. The first thing you do starts with your resume, clean it up, fix it up, maybe write two or three versions. Then the hard part — find jobs for which you are qualified. You spend hours trolling LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, Google, and whatever other job board you can think of. You reach out to your network to see if they may have something.

You find a few you like and start applying, and apply some more, and even more, until you have two pages of companies, positions, dates, and notes.

Let’s dive into the recruitment process from the candidate’s point of view. What is the candidate experience? It is one of the most important factors for attracting talent. That’s because the candidate experience definition is “how candidates feel about your company once they experience your hiring process.” And these candidate ‘feelings’, whether good or bad, influence candidates in their decision to apply to your company or accept your job offer.

What is the number one thing a candidate, like myself, absolutely hates about applying for a job? If you guessed the interview process, having to create or update their resume or the fact that they hardly ever get a response when they apply, you would be right about all of them. However, in this case, I’m referring to the application process itself. Why, because they wonder if anyone ever actually looks at their resume.

Candidates call the online application process a black hole, and yes, they are referring to your company, too, not just your competitors. While every candidate experiences the uncertainty of the job hunt, there is an added component underlying the job search of a candidate of color. Most non-white candidates have experienced discrimination in the hiring process. It’s unfortunate, but it does occur frequently.

As a recruiter and UX generalist, I like to think that like UX, everything is about the end-user and their overall experience. Recently, I had an interview with a company. The recruiter said they would get back to me that evening or early the next morning on the next steps. It’s now been 48 hours, and I have crickets.

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products. So why do companies or even recruiters feel the need to make candidates wait on pins and needles about status updates? As a recruiter, I can tell you, time is of the essence. I sort through hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes, profiles, and portfolios in any given week. I have tried to send out the “sorry, not a fit” email to most everyone, and I will tell you, I have still missed quite a few people.

Poor candidate experience negatively impacts your employment brand. Stats from Careerbuilder’s 2012 nationwide U.S. candidate
Poor candidate experience negatively impacts your employment brand. Stats from Careerbuilder’s 2012 nationwide U.S. candidate survey

Responding to every candidate’s application is the easiest way to solve this complaint. But crafting an excellent candidate experience in recruitment involves more than that. It consists of a mindset shift that focuses on respecting the candidates’ time and designing your candidate experience to be as painless as possible.

Let’s diver deeper yet into the application process. It’s flawed, no matter how we look at it. Candidates write resumes, submit them into the ATS, and while it may parse out some information, it gets jumbled in the process. Not only do candidates have to go in and fix the information, but they may have to type the same information over and over. Then onto the questions. What should be a smooth application, now turns into a 10–20-minute ordeal.

So, how can we, as Recruiters, improve the overall experience?
- Make sure we are hiring to fill a real need and not something you may or may not employ.
- Write clear job descriptions. Run a competitive analysis for job descriptions and write ones tailored to your needs and company culture.
- Make it easy for candidates to apply to your job
- Follow-up early and often. Send a confirmation email when candidates submit their application (I’m guilty of not following this one).
- Communicate with (and thank) candidates during each step of the process.
- Give candidates all pertinent information and expectations throughout the process.
- Be open to giving (and receiving) feedback.

To hire the very best people, a company needs to offer exceptional jobs and provide a meaningful candidate experience that emphasizes high touch over high tech. Make sure it’s designed and implemented based on how top candidates find jobs, how they expect to be interviewed, and what information they need to make the best long-term career decision. If done right, job satisfaction and performance will soar long after the person has been hired. This should be the gold standard of a successful candidate’s experience — and one every company should strive to achieve.

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Jen Battle

Jen Battle

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Talent Acquisition Specialist who enjoys behavioral psychology, employee branding, and a soft blanket.