How to Deliver a Remarkable Candidate Experience?

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So, when was the last time you got just the perfect candidate for the job you posted?
The hiring ecosphere has seen a wave of transformation in the past decade and a half, with job-seekers and recruiters looking for innovative ways to fulfill their goals.

The hiring process is no longer a one-way street, where you post a job and applicants come running to you. Today, the latter has a say, too, and this group is challenging organizations to work harder for acquiring the best of the best. As we’ve mentioned in our eBook titled ‘7 Tips for Reducing Candidate Dropout Rate’, ‘there’s nothing more frustrating than losing a great candidate after a long and involved hiring process and offer.’

In such a scenario, the term ‘candidate experience’ holds a lot of weightage for both parties and it is essential that we dig deeper into the subject.

In our eBook, we established the key reasons why candidates possibly back out from an offer. Here they are:

  • The interview process isn’t engaging enough
  • The candidate isn’t excited about the company
  • The current organization is promoting them or making a massive counter offer
  • The change scares the candidate
  • The candidate is influenced by his/her peers who had a bad experience with you

Whatever the reason, a high candidate dropout rate means bad news for you. I’ll try to build upon that foundation and help you assess the need to deliver an outstanding candidate experience from some real-world situations.

The need

Since candidate experience is directly tied to recruiting performance, it becomes a vital element to take into consideration. Moreover, social media and employer review sites have radically augmented the size (and dynamics) of our social and professional circles. My research suggests that the news of a bad candidate experience can reach faster and farther than we thought.

Candidates today are highly likely to take the digital loudspeaker and tell others about their travails and bitter trysts with companies or recruiters. And thanks to Glassdoor and similar websites, negative reviews can really hit your standing as an employer. While it is essential that you address bad reviews as quickly as you can, there are several other things you can do to make sure you deliver an outstanding candidate experience.

The solution

The solution – and there’s always a solution – does not equate to pulling off gimmicks and deceptions. It lies in making a well thought out and executed strategic effort as an employer or recruiter.

1. Develop ideal candidate personas

No matter how useless this exercise sounds to you, it is highly effective. Take my word for it. A little bit of introspection and self-awareness never hurts, does it? Developing a character to understand what your ideal candidate looks like (not literally!) is a great way to begin. Build your ideal candidates’ personas – their educational and professional backgrounds, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, fears, challenges, proficiencies, attitudes, and possible complaints about your company or the job profiles in question.

2. Create irresistible ‘employer branding’ – and live up to it

Presenting an all-round brand experience is the key to attracting top talent in India. From the very first point of contact leading up to the interview, the applicant must have a very good picture of your organization culture and an understanding of (and liking towards) who you are as an employer. Branding videos, employee testimonials, and advertisements on social media and job listings is sure to get that message across.

And yes, don’t forget the website! Make sure your company website paints the true picture, is easy to navigate, and most importantly, has a great ‘Careers’ section. Include pictures of the team and the workplace and show ‘em how cool it is to work there. And when the inquiries and applications start pouring in, make sure you live up to the promises you’ve made as a brand.

3. Keep it real – avoid going overboard

Beware! You may tend to take point #2 (above) a little too seriously and end up getting yourself into a total mess, trying to come off as the best company in the universe. The thumb rule is to keep it real. Being honest about who you are, what you do, and how you do it will help you avoid misrepresenting yourself.

Pitching yourself as a beer-drinking, tee-donning team when you have a 9 to 5, formal environment is a strict no-no. Present yourself in the best light and tell your audience what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

4. Set clear expectations and exemplify fair-mindedness

  • What can a prospective employee expect to learn?
  • What kinds of projects will he/she get to work on?
  • How do you fare on the work-life balance scale?
  • What is the scope of growth within the organization?

It is important to answer these questions and explain the same to the candidate. Nobody is naïve enough to expect a company that allows employees to take multiple leaves every month, lets the cricket team come in for work after lunch every day, or sanctions work-from-home applications at the drop of a hat. But they do want to know what they are getting into.

Read our recently published article that lists the top 10 things applicants look for in a prospective employer.

Get it? So be very clear and just about expectations and show them how fairly you can compensate for them.

5. Communicate more, communicate better

A lot of recruiters assume that they have a person on board (once the interview process is completed successfully) and treat them like total strangers till the day they actually join. This is where they falter. You must not only maintain a smooth flow of communication with the candidate throughout this period, but also ensure that their excitement level and enthusiasm for the new job is maintained during the onboarding process.

Establishing checkpoints to make certain that the candidate is in touch with your team and paying special attention to their needs and desires (the reasonable ones, of course) is of paramount importance. Remember, offer acceptance does not mean that candidate is on board. The time between the acceptance of offer and the actual joining date is crucial and you need to pay special attention to the communication process and experience you provide during that period.

6. Provide feedback and clearly communicate the next steps

After every stage of the interview process, it is essential to keep the applicant in the loop about what is going on and what the next step will be. Even if a candidate fails to meet your requirements, send out an email conveying your honest feedback about how he/she can improve and perform better at future interviews. And ensure your communication is personalized rather than something as clichéd and dry as ‘Sorry, since you haven’t met our requirements, we cannot move forward with you at this time’.

A humanized and candid feedback can make sure your reputation as an employer is maintained, and the chances of unnecessary negative reviews are reduced (apart from well and truly engaging the applicant).

7. Address bad reviews proactively

Your standing as an employer or recruiter can really take a massive hit because of negative reviews on Glassdoor and other websites. Keeping a track of such reviews, informing candidates that you are aware of such criticisms, and taking proactive steps to address the issue is the best way to address this issue.

8. Deliver an exceptional experience even after you make an offer

How can you ensure the candidate is excited about coming to work for you? Well, there are several creative ways in which you can help create and maintain that excitement and establish a strong emotional connect with your candidates.

  • Invite them to socialize with team members over lunch
  • Ask them to participate in team meetings, brainstorming sessions and other events
  • Send them cool pictures of their work area/desk
  • Give them more details about their position and responsibilities
  • Add them to your company’s email subscriber list so they know what’s going on at the company
  • Send flowers or candy baskets to their home, welcoming the candidate’s entire family to the company family
  • Plant a sapling in the office area on their behalf and send them a picture of it

9. Let the candidate interview you

Consider adding an ‘Interview Us’ segment to your existing interview process where once a candidate successfully clears all the preset rounds, he/she gets to interview the hiring manager and other team members. Even though a candidate usually makes mental notes about you and the company during the regular interview procedure, making it a scheduled process can make a huge difference.

10. Listen and get feedback

Always listen carefully to what candidates have to say. A lot of recruiters falter here. If you’ve been doing it wrong all these years, it’s about time you took some corrective measures. Taking feedback is as important as any other element in the hiring process. It will help you understand yourself and the applicants better, and also let the candidates know that you truly care about what they think. You can take feedback about things like:

  • The interview process
  • Wait times
  • Hiring manager
  • Overall experience

How they react to your sourcing, recruitment, interview, and onboarding process can enable you to do a SWOT analysis and act upon it. Some organizations conduct candidate experience audits to understand what the real thing feels like while other prefer techniques like measuring the NPS (Net Promoter Score) to know the likelihood of candidates directing their peers towards you based on their personal experiences. It’s a great tool, since it can go a long way in ensuring more (and better) referrals and quality hires.

Remember, the better the candidate experience, the higher the prospects of landing and retaining great hires. Automating the onboarding processes, using Candidate Resource Management methods, and optimizing Application Tracking Systems are some of the other techniques hiring managers and HR heads of organizations are undertaking in India. The key is to make the hiring process (and the way you function) highly enlightening, collaborative, and personalized.

Tell us (in the comments section below) what you do in order to deliver an unforgettable candidate experience.

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