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Why Candidate Experience is More Important Now Than Ever

Hiring used to be all about the employer. But now, candidates are running the show. In fact, a November 2015 survey of 600 worldwide offices by MRINetwork found that the market is 90 percent candidate-driven. Candidate experience is more important than ever. 

What exactly is candidate experience? It’s how job seekers perceive your hiring process, and it influences how they feel about you as an employer. Is the process easy and simple? Or is it difficult, complex, and frustrating? 

Having an awesome candidate experience is critical. Here’s what to keep in mind to make sure yours is stellar:

Speed up hiring time for a great first impression

Hiring new talent is a time-consuming and costly process. Research from Bersin by Deloitte found that companies spent close to $4,000 per hire in 2014. And that doesn’t cover the costs of lost time and productivity while the position sits open—an average of 26 working days, according to the most recent data from the DHI-DFH Mean Vacancy Duration Measure. 

And when you have a poor candidate experience, the process takes even longer. For starters, fewer job seekers apply to your jobs. If the application is lengthy, difficult to navigate, or requires candidates to jump through hoops, they’re more likely to abandon it and move on to the next company. And a smaller applicant pool means more time spent in search of the perfect professional for an open job. 

The hiring process truly is the first impression employees have of your employer brand, so make sure it’s a great one. Efficiency in all of the steps below—from maintaining an updated career page to responding promptly to emails—will help speed up 'time to fill' and reflect well on the whole company. 

Keep up a great reputation—even with those not hired

In the era of social media, candidate experience is especially crucial for the people you don’t end up hiring. And those people touch more facets of the business than you may think.

Although 82 percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2015 think there’s little to no negative impact on the company when a candidate has a less-than-stellar experience during the hiring process, 69 percent of candidates said they are less likely to buy from companies who provided a negative candidate experience. In addition, nine percent said they will tell others not to buy from companies they have had a bad experience with during the hiring process.

But when you have a great candidate experience, the opposite is true. Among those surveyed,  69 percent said they are more likely to buy from a company they applied to if they’re treated with respect throughout the application process.

Delivering an awesome experience to applicants takes some thought and extra energy, but it’s worth the effort. Otherwise, you could lose your best candidates and your best customers. 

Job descriptions set everyone up for success

The application process of course starts with a job seeker finding your open position and applying. It sounds simple, but there’s a lot going on there. Before job seekers actually apply, they have to be convinced to do so by your job description.

Online job postings reached close to 5.2 million people in April, according to The Conference Board’s monthly counts. That’s right—5.2 million job posts are out there competing for everyone’s attention. 

And the job description carries more weight with job seekers than you might think. A recent report conducted by the Talent Board found that job descriptions are the most important job-related content that candidates look for when researching a job. So what are they looking for? What makes job seekers want to apply? 

They want a clear and accurate explanation of the job and responsibilities, as well as a snapshot of the details—salary, benefits, company values, and perks. And they want all the information in an easy to read format. 

Review your job descriptions and make sure they accurately represent the job and include the most important details. Then, create a post appropriate for various mobile devices. Use bullet points, lists, and bold formatting to highlight information and make details easy to find for job seekers. 

Use technology to make the application process simple

Now that job seekers have read your engaging job post, of course they can’t wait to apply! But 40 percent of candidates surveyed in the same CareerBuilder report mentioned above feel the application process has become more difficult in the last five years. 

With more technology at your HR team’s fingertips, the process should be easier, not harder. So what do candidates look in the application stage? Simplicity. Among the top complaints about the application process in the CareerBuilder survey, 57 percent said it’s too automated and lacks personalization—and 50 percent said it has too many steps. 

Job seekers want to apply for positions in as few steps as possible and they want to know where they stand. Improve candidate experience with a simple and streamlined process. Allow candidates to apply with one click via LinkedIn profiles or a resume upload. Use a robust applicant tracking system—one that integrates with your HR software—so you don’t have to waste time re-entering the personal information of every new hire. After someone has applied, send them a personalized email so they know a real human has actually received their information.

Treat interviews like an open house

Now, you’ve gone through applications and selected the front runners. It’s time for them to show you what they’ve got in the interview. The thing is, candidates are still analyzing you and your company just as much as you are analyzing them. 

In fact, 47 percent of job seekers surveyed by Jobvite this year said the in-person interview has the biggest impact on their impression of an employer and a job. If candidates have a bad experience, they could change their minds about wanting the job and wanting to work for you.

To offer the best candidate experience possible in the interview, prepare applicants beforehand. Let them know what to expect, who they will be speaking with, and how long it will take. Although this information seems pretty basic, many candidates walk into an interview without it. 

In the Talent Board survey, 38 percent of candidates said the only preparation and communication they received prior to an interview was the name of the interviewer and their background information. What’s more, 41 percent of candidates said they received no communication or information before the interview at all. Instead, give candidates a full rundown of the interview process so they feel calm and comfortable on the day of. 

During the interview, give candidates what they want—a complete introduction to the company and culture. According to the CareerBuilder survey, getting a tour of the office is among the top three most important interactions during the application process that determine a good candidate experience. Show candidates around the office and introduce them to potential team members. 

Spending time with a potential future manager is most important of all. After all, the 2015 Talent Trends report from LinkedIn found that the most important thing in the interview for 53 percent of candidates was to talk to their future manager. Allow them to ask questions and get a sense of what working with the manager would be like. 

For the best experience, treat the interview like an open house to allow candidates to imagine themselves working for your company.

The one piece of candidate experience you may be forgetting

Just because it’s time for you to finally make a call on who to hire doesn't mean you should ease up on candidate experience. There are still some very important pieces involved in the wrap-up. 

When extending an offer, don’t just send an email. According to the LinkedIn survey, 77 percent said they prefer to receive good news over the phone. Make it personal and make the new hire feel like a part of your company culture from the get-go. 

Those are the fun calls to make. But still, turning certain candidates down is the other side of the equation. But many employers don’t consider improving this part of the candidate experience. In fact, only 17 percent of candidates surveyed by CareerBuilder said they were even notified when they were not selected for the position.

Respect candidates and their time by letting them know when they don’t get the job. While candidates want good news by phone, 65 percent said they’d rather get bad news by email. Take the extra time to send emails to candidates who don’t land the job. That way, they’ll still think highly of your brand and may apply for a more fitting position in the future. 

Keep good relationships with all candidates and offer a great candidate experience from start to finish, no matter the outcome. 

In today’s hiring environment, candidate experience is more important than ever. Think about the process from the perspective of the applicant to see if the process could be easier, simpler, or better in any way. What prevents candidates from applying? What prevents them from accepting an offer? What reflects poorly on your brand? Answer these questions and improve the candidate experience for more applicants, a better employer brand, and a faster hiring process. 

Topics: Talent, Employee Experience, Recruiting

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