It’s no secret: competition for the best talent is heating up. Skilled professionals have choices and they know it. In today’s market, you risk losing out on the best talent if you don’t make the candidate experience a top priority.
By candidate experience, we mean all of the interactions a job applicant has with you during the recruiting process, from the first contact all the way through to onboarding—or rejection. The HR nonprofit The Talent Board estimates that companies that provide a great candidate experience will see over $3M in added revenue each year.
Every time you list a new job opening, you’re putting your company’s reputation on the line. Candidates can and will talk with peers and friends about their experiences with your company. In fact, research shows that an overwhelming 35% of candidates go online and share negative experiences, meanwhile, 60% are likely to gripe to friends and family. Bad reviews on sites like Glassdoor or gossip among industry peers will damage your brand and make it harder for you to attract quality applicants.
And don’t forget that candidates are often customers as well as job seekers. If they feel slighted, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere. A recent survey found that 42% of those who had a negative candidate experience would no longer buy from that company or use its services.
On the flipside, a positive experience can make a big impact. The same survey found that a whopping 88% of happy candidates would encourage others to apply. And 71% would be more likely to purchase a company’s products or services, even if they didn’t get hired.
Put together, creating a great experience for your applicants translates into tangible business benefit for you.
With that in mind, here are seven ways to improve your company’s candidate experience:
1. Put a process in place to respond to applicants each step of the way
Studies show companies that get the highest positive ratings are those that provide consistent feedback throughout the application and interview process. Feedback to rejected candidates is just as important—you never know when or how you’ll encounter them again.
That feedback should start as soon as a candidate visits the job listing or talks to a recruiter. This can mean a chatbot on the page or some other interactive approach. Once someone fills out the application, don’t waste the opportunity by sending a generic email. Send a survey instead.
Asking for feedback at this stage engages applicants, making them feel valued. You also gain insights into how to improve the application process.
2. Approach candidates the way you would potential business partners
The way most companies create jobs is by dreaming up the perfect candidate and then waiting for him or her to show up. However, most often the best employees are those who above all value what your company is doing and want to make a contribution.
As HR expert and author Liz Ryan writes in Forbes, “Recruiting is a process of looking for a great match between a meaty assignment to solve a real business problem and a person who understands the need and is qualified and excited about solving it.”
If you take this approach, you’ll write more compelling job descriptions. You’ll also have better interviews that get to the real issues at hand.
3. Structure interviews with the candidate’s needs in mind
Prepare for interviews by reading up on the candidate in advance. Look at their resume of course, but don’t forget other materials such as portfolios or relevant work samples.
Another piece of the interview prep phase is planning what each conversation will be about. Think about who will be conducting the interview and why. Spend time meeting to discuss the questions you plan to ask. Make sure you’ve divided the questions up. Nothing says ill prepared like a series of interviews where the candidate is forced to answer the same questions over and over again.
4. Meet candidates where they are
Today over 90% of job seekers use their phones to find a new role. That means they need an experience that’s easy to navigate on mobile devices. Forget those multipage applications in outdated formats. Instead, candidates should be able to complete the entire application on their mobile phone. It should be easy to upload documents and connect their LinkedIn profile in one click. And don’t hesitate to use text to communicate with applicants.
In addition, keep in mind that 79% of job seekers do their searching on social channels. This goes beyond LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Gen Y and Z job seekers in particular are on Snapchat, Instagram and new options like women-led networking app Bumble Bizz.
Think in terms of mobile when it comes to your background check process as well. You’ll want to partner with a vendor who offers a mobile-optimized applicant portal, so candidates can fill in their information, get real-time notifications about their status, and contact a dedicated applicant support team—all on their mobile phones.
5. Be flexible
Millennials and Gen Z make up a large and growing portion of the workforce. They want and expect a flexible workplace. Deloitte found that 50% of millennials and 44% of Generation Z employees say flexibility is very important to them when choosing where to work. This means the candidate experience needs to reflect your company’s commitment to this way of doing business.
Bake flexibility into every step the candidate takes. Make your commitment to work/life balance loud and clear in job descriptions. Talk about remote work and work from home options, flexible schedules, and any other benefits you offer.
You’ll also want to be flexible about setting interview times, and let candidates know you’re willing to work with their schedule rather than making them stick to yours. And ask the candidates what kinds of flexibility they’ll need if they take the job. This gives you a chance to demonstrate how willing you are to accommodate them.
6. Set expectations from start to finish
As the candidate progresses, give them concrete information about next steps. Don’t hold back on information that could facilitate an understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes. Talk about how many other serious contenders you’re looking at, what you’re looking for most in a candidate, or what you see as dealbreakers.
Some experts suggest that you follow a “two day rule.” In other words, never wait more than two days to respond to an applicant. A report by Top Echelon Network, a recruiter network, found that not making an offer fast enough was the third most common reason candidates turn down jobs. Continue to communicate to the candidate what you’re going to do next and when throughout the process.
7. Make the candidate feel welcome
Do the little things that let candidates know you appreciate them. Offer them something to drink. Don’t keep them waiting. Ask them if the room and seating is comfortable. In short, treat the candidate like you do your best customers.
Candidate experience is worth the effort
Following these simple suggestions will transform the candidate experience at your company. It may take some time, effort, and resources to set up the right systems and processes.
Once you do, you’ll reap the benefits. Greater satisfaction among candidates, who will remain loyal to you even if they don’t get the job. Positive reviews. Referrals. And, most of all, a higher acceptance rate among qualified candidates.