What is Candidate Experience And How To Improve It

What is Candidate Experience?

Candidate Experience is a not-so-new word in the recruitment industry, but one which is continually evolving in terms of context and content. However, there is no official definition which is acceptable to all. In a nutshell, it is the overall experience of a candidate during the entire span of his/her interaction with a potential employer, right from the first contact to the decision stage. Candidate Experience is as much a consequence of Employer Branding, as it is about creating a better interaction experience for potential employees.

Candidate Experience can be defined as “The perception and feelings of a job seeker about an employer and their job application process, based on their interaction during the hiring process. This includes all points of contact during recruitment – job search, the application process, interview process, and sometimes even onboarding.”[1]

This piece dwells with Candidate Experience and its various facets. We shall also discuss real-life case studies and how it impacted the relevant organizations. It also provides some pointers as to how an organization can implement a few strategies that can lead to substantial improvement in Candidate Experience.

What Constitutes Candidate Experience?

One unique thing about Candidate Experience is it is a qualitative aspect reflecting the recruiting ethos of a company or a team, while also being a tool in the hands of the HR and Marketing teams to help measure the success of a company’s recruitment program through the use of metrics. On the other hand, it is also a grid representing the different stages of a recruitment program. The following is a round-up of what constitutes Candidate Experience and its key enablers:

  • A company’s Career Page
  • Job Adverts (includes both Social Media sites like LinkedIn and jobsites such as Monster & Dice)
  • Application Process
  • Candidate Communication with the ATS
  • Interview experience with the HR/Recruiter team and/or LOB
  • Post-interview Communication
  • Candidate hiring decision (rejection email/job offer)

Significance of Candidate Experience

As pointed out above, Candidate Experience can be leveraged as a tool to sharpen existing processes, improve key recruitment ratios, create differentiation as an employer, and improve hiring efficiency. Naturally, the question that follows is “What are the benefits of robust/strong Candidate Experience?” and “How is it going to help build a powerful brand?”

Benefits of Candidate Experience

1. Attracting better candidates

Attracting the right candidates requires certain tools and techniques that an employer can put to use to fill a vacancy or to build a candidate pipeline. Before applying for a job, candidates do their research on different channels such as social media, company review sites, company websites, and most importantly, connect with the current and former employees to understand its culture.

One such tool is communication. Companies must manage their communication channels to send out the right messaging, information, advice etc. From the information provided through these channels, candidates get an idea of whether they fit into the role and whether they can be a part of the organization. Candidates are always looking for precise information and/or information that can guide them properly starting with the first touch-point. An unpleasant experience at this stage can be detrimental to the ability of a company to attract and motivate the right candidates, which may result in profile mismatch, delays and also a higher attrition rate due to wrong hires. Recruiters must strive to put their best foot forward to manage candidate interactions which when done well can result in achieving the desired levels of Candidate Experience.

2. Achieving better conversion rates

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the recruitment industry as never before and has quickly become one of the key tools to increase conversion rates and help in on boarding the right candidates. Companies that have automated their email response processes, or opted for AI-powered resume screening, or employed chatbots to quicken candidate communication have been able to increase conversion rates by 15% on their career sites. One out of three (33%) candidates is likely to accept a job offer if the candidate’s experience is positive, thus increasing the overall conversion rate.

3. Reduce time-to-hire and cost-of-hire

Cost-of-hire is the average amount of money spent to hire a candidate to close an open position. As per the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) Human Capital Benchmarking Report, the average cost-per-hire in the United States is $4,129. Time-to-hire measures the days between the candidate applying and accepting the job offer. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports an average time-to-fill of 36 days.  A positive candidate experience developed through constant interactions enabled by the latest technologies can speed up the recruitment process. When the experience is positive and is institutionalised across the organization, cost-of-hiring, and time-to-hire will gradually come down over time.

4. Improving employer brand/recall

Candidate Experience during the recruitment process will directly impact the employer brand. A positive experience will enhance the brand, as the candidate would mostly like to join the organization, refer it to other co-workers or friends. On the other hand, a negative candidate experience will impact its revenue, reputation, and bad publicity over social media channels. Below is an example how a telecommunication company lost millions of dollars due to bad candidate experience.

Case Study 1: Virgin Media

In 2014, Virgin Media wanted to analyze the data of rejected candidates who were also their services’ subscribers. The rejected candidates had a bad interview experience, and they shifted their services to competitors such as Sky Communications. The results showed a drastic decrease of over US$5million in revenue within the year.

Virgin Media had undertaken the study after their former HR Manager Graeme Johnson wanted to probe how the rejected candidates view their brand. About 18% of the rejected candidates were customers of Virgin Media. It meant that they were unlikely to recommend their brand to others. At this juncture, Virgin Media understood that bad candidate experience had a negative fallout that resulted in revenue loss.

Further probing, Johnson has found that around 124,000 rejected candidates cancelled their subscriptions. If each subscription’s value is US$60 per month ($720 a year), the overall revenue loss was close to US$5.4 million.

In the next stage, Johnson consulted the CFO and CMO of Virgin Media and provided the numbers. The Group undertook various initiatives to improve Candidate Experience. Some of them included providing training programs to the sales team nicknamed “Les the Butcher,” which was considered one of the best sales teams but worst while taking an interview. They would take an interview in the dining hall and ask candidates to sell anything. After the successful training program, the NPS score of the team increased from -57 to +11.

Negative Candidate Experience

While better Candidate Experience can benefit an organization in ways more than one, including impacting revenues and brand value positively, on the other hand negative Candidate Experience can also affect the brand. Let’s discuss in-depth what causes negative Candidate Experience.

1. Lack of Communication from HR teams

According to a research done by Career Builder, the number one reason for negative candidate experience is the lack of communication from the HR teams during the job search process. According to the survey, three out of four candidates will never hear from the HR teams or the company after completing the interview process.

Companies looking to better candidate experience can start with improving its candidate communication by designing pre-defined email templates and sending regular automated emails after every interview. With the help of chatbots and SMS, HR teams can send timely information on the job status and the interview timings, premepting the need for candidates to grope in the dark about their job application status. We shall see how Digital Ocean started work on improving candidate experience.

Case Study 2: Digital Ocean – Improving Communication with the Candidate

Digital Ocean is a cloud infrastructure-based company in the US and has an employee strength of over 600. The company boasts itself as a “people-first organization.” To make sure that every candidate who applies for the job, gets timely information on the job process, they defined pre-set email/communication templates which they share with every candidate who applies for the job.

Digital Ocean – Improving Communication with the Candidate

Furthermore, the company had replaced traditional phone calls with a video chat over Google Hangout. This helped create rapport with the candidate and led to a better candidate experience during the interview process. The company was able to hire 120 employees within a year.

1. Complex job application process

The job application process must be simple and easy for the candidates to understand so that they can fill in the details quickly. Lengthy job applications are likely to be rejected by the candidates. According to the Career Builder survey, about 60% of candidates will quit the application in the middle as it is lengthy, time-consuming, and confusing.

To overcome this challenge, companies are using modern technology to make the process easy and quick. This includes resume parsing which allows the system to scan and grab the requisite details from the resume and auto-fill the information fields. This allows a candidate to just submit only their resume as it contains all the necessary information. Resume parsing can be made handy using an ATS software. Another way is to provide a fairly strong search option on the careers page search bar which is useful to search for a specific job.

One of the essential aspects of an easy application process is to get rid of account creation requirement to apply for a job. The account creation involves multiple steps, such as creating the account, confirming the email id and phone number, and then uploading the resume. Most of the candidates will not show interest in creating an account and uploading their resume. Hence recruiters need to provide options for ‘easy apply”. In other words, shorter and easier the application process, higher will be the Candidate Experience quotient.

2. Bad interview experience

Bad interview experience will surely put Candidate Experience in the danger zone. According to LinkedIn, 83% of candidates say a negative interview experience will change their minds about a role or company they once liked. More than 50% of the candidates say that the most critical interview is with the prospective Manager as this can make or break the whole interview process.

To overcome this challenge, companies need to have regular communication with the candidates, which can be done using the latest ATS software. The type of questions asked must be related to the profile and the interview needs to be setup at the right time. Lastly, HR teams must train prospective managers to deliver a professional and pleasant interview, leading to a positive Candidate Experience.

How to Improve Candidate Experience

In the talent war in the corporate world, only the best will grab a high skilled talent. Gone are the days when companies used to choose the candidates, in the current job environment candidates are the one who chooses the companies. This is one of the primary reasons why companies need to be aware of the candidate’s experience and strive to improve. Below we have mentioned some of the ways where the company can improve its candidate experience.

1. Provide a clear job description

A proper and precisely written job description is the prerequisite to attract the right candidates. A clear job description has the ability to attract top-quality candidates as it provides all the required information a candidate may need to do a preliminary self-assessment of the job role and his/her own fitment. While framing the job description the HR team and hiring manager should discuss the requirements, qualifications needed, experience and skills, including other critical information such as the job title, job location, salary etc. This information must be written in simple language and without the use of jargons as far as possible. According to Stack Overflow, a job description that provides salary information is likely to get 75% more clicks.

2. Company career pages

The Career Page is one of the most significant assets with the company, and almost 9 out to 10 job seekers feel that it is the first stop for them when they are researching for roles/positions within a particular company. Once candidates visit the career page through links in the job description on job boards or social media sites, there is a high chance that they will visit the company website. The Career Page must cater to the requirements of the candidates and should provide all the vital details about the job, company culture, and values.

3. Simplified application process

A lengthy application process which requires candidates to fill all the details despite providing the same information in the resume can lead candidates to leave the application process midway. According to Career Arc, candidates typically spend between 3-4 hours preparing their resumes and complete the application process. But the one thing that makes most of them quit in the middle is the lengthy job application process. Companies can overcome this issue by automating the job application process by adopting ATS software, simplifying the job application process, and save time for the candidate and recruiter (win-win situation on all sides).

Conclusion

Candidate Experience is the job seeker’s prescription about the interview process, and it starts right from the job description and goes on beyond accepting the job offer. Companies must always find ways to improve candidate experience as this will help them find the best talent available in the job market.

Positive Candidate Experience is a win-win situation both for the candidate and employer as this will enhance employer branding, and the candidates get their preferred jobs. However, companies must make sure that their recruitment process is robust. HR teams and hiring managers need to be given adequate training on how to handle the candidates and provide timely communication, or this might lead to a negative candidate experience.

A candidate disappointed with the interview process can also be unhappy customers. However, there are ways to improve Candidate Experience, which includes providing a clear job description. The company’s career page must be updated with all the required information for the candidates that acts as the employer brand. Finally, the application process must be simple and avoid asking all the candidates’ details (most of the information already available in the resume). Most candidates will skip the application process in the middle if there is too much information to provide from their end.

Companies need to remember that providing a positive candidate experience will decrease the cost and time-to-hire. The candidates themselves will be brand ambassadors and spread the good word about the company and help attract highly skilled professionals in the future.

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