Good candidate experience has two main objectives:
1. Turning candidates into employees
2. Turning candidates into advocates
The interview process and following feedback are make-or-break moments in determining whether candidates will be persuaded to join your organization or hopefully go out the door with a positive impression of what you embody as an organization.
According to research by LinkedIn 83% of professionals say that a bad interview experience can lead to them changing their mind about accepting a position.
In fact, not knowing what it will be like to work for an organization is listed as the #1 obstacle for job applicants.
In short, the candidate experience becomes a distillation of the company culture for candidates to base their decision and impression on. Whether it is in fact a good representation or not.
Moving the recruitment process online has not made these pivotal encounters less important - or easier to master.
That’s why we recently hosted a webinar with Marisa Bryan, Head of Client Operations at Scede, and Dreamcraft Head of People and Culture Nico Blier-Silvestri where they shared their best insights on how to create candidate experiences that support your employer brand and communicates your culture.
“You should be spending as much time talking to people about what it’s going to be like as what they're going to do. Because that's probably going to be the thing that gets them to stay in the end.” - Marisa Bryan
This is a recap of their best advice.
Where to start? According to both Marisa Bryan and Nico Blier-Silvestri, the foundation of any good candidate experience lies in making it personal and empathetic.
This implies moving beyond the bare minimum of having seamless UX in the application process or getting back to candidates within 24H after the interview and focusing on what it takes for each candidate to get their questions answered and feel safe. Creating processes that start with building relationships.
“Good candidate experience is about personalization. It's about building rapport with the person that you're talking to. And to build rapport you need to understand them, and you need to understand what's critical to them.” - Nico Blier-Silvestri
Not every candidate needs the same types of conversations, number of updates, or style of briefing.
But they all need to be met as persons and feel that whoever is on the other side of the table cares about getting to know them and have an interest in finding out whether they will be right for the organization and vice versa.
“I think it's an authentic process and an authentic experience that is gonna engage the right people for your organization.” - Marisa Bryan
The right people for your organization are the ones that will in fact thrive with the reality of the job and the culture. Being honest, genuine, and personal all serve the purpose of establishing trust so that you can learn whether or not you are right for each other.
“The perfect candidate experience is for somebody to go through the whole process to the final interview without getting the job, and who would still recommend that company to somebody else.” - Nico Blier-Silvestri
The yardstick for success shouldn’t be complete satisfaction on the candidate side. You can’t bend the fact that most candidates will be rejected and likely disappointed.
But you can strive to make sure that you build rapport with every candidate that goes through your process respect their need to be treated empathetically.
“I had a goal for my team when I was leading the TA function at Criteo: That the rejected candidates had a higher satisfaction rate than the accepted candidates. I think anyone can apply that regardless of how popular your company is.” - Marisa Bryan
There is a lot of sense in prioritizing the experience of all candidates that go through your recruitment process considering that 80% of people that have an unsatisfactory candidate experience are likely to share this within their network. These people are critical brand ambassadors or the opposite.
One of the things that have gotten decidedly harder during the last year is giving candidates an informal impression of company culture – or even just adding informal elements to the interview experience.
The once normal practice of being met at the reception, making small-talk on the way to the meeting room, or casually meeting potential co-workers by the restrooms have been replaced by the condensed experience of Zoom-calls.
A lot of the practices that made meetings and interviews personal in on-site interviewing risk getting lost in translation. Allowing candidates room to think, for example.
“So there's one thing that happens when you're in a room with somebody and you're having a conversation that is entirely normal that just feels really weird on a video call, and that’s when someone pauses to reflect on something in front of me. It’s an entirely normal thing to do. Only it feels really weird in this kind of hyper-pressurized environment of the video calls.” - Marisa Bryan
Be deliberate about making room for the basic kindnesses that we would automatically think of when being together in person: Make people comfortable about taking their time to think, have a drink of water, or needing a break.
There is an added psychological strain of video calls and this tied together with the very different social rules of online meetings creates a need for interviewers to take the responsibility for allowing those breaks that are still very human and very needed.
“And it's such a simple thing that if you were sitting in a room with someone, you would obviously give them a drink. But because we're in this scenario here, perhaps we don't think about some of those basic human kindnesses that we would normally express when we were together in person.” - Marisa Bryan
Candidates are 3 times more likely to trust employees over the company when it comes to giving credible information about what the work environment is like.
One simple, but vital piece of advice for recreating informal encounters is to set up calls between candidates and employees.
Yes, it might not be elegant in the current environment, but these days the bar needs to be lowered.
“You need to, perhaps artificially, perhaps a little bit clumsily, create opportunities for those moments to happen so that people can understand what it feels like to work here.” - Marisa Bryan
Also, mix things up when it comes to different types of communication. People perform differently in person or on video calls. Using different techniques gives you a more varied sample rather than relying on video calls as a one-size-fits-all performance metric.
“Back in the day when you did on-site interviews, you might do phone calls as part of the process. Or you might do a phone call, a video call, and then meet somebody in person. There's no reason why you can't still have a variety of ways of connecting with and assessing people.” - Marisa Bryan
An interesting discovery among the companies that Scede partners with, is a 25% decrease in time-to-hire since moving the hiring process online. This more or less comes down to not waiting for meeting rooms for interviews that can now be done seamlessly online.
A downside of this streamlining is a quickened pace that can be out of touch with what people need right now.
“I think you need to give people time to make the decision and jamming people through the machine at all costs to try and get your time-to-hire below 20 days because it's a metric is not ideal. You still need to make sure that the individuals that you're meeting with, they've got the time to make the decision as well.” - Marisa Bryan
You might be able to book meetings back-to-back because there are no longer the same logistical limitations, but putting empathy and personalization front and center in your recruitment process also entails leaving room for people to reflect.
There were benefits to the wait between interviews or the time spent on the train on the way to an interview.
Also, the anxiety that everybody – and especially active job seekers – have been experiencing over the last year has simply changed what candidates expect from recruiters and hiring managers.
“They need more guidance. They need more, perhaps even more structure. So whereas before a prep call with a candidate might have lasted 10 or 15 minutes, a prep call with a candidate now might last half an hour, 40 minutes. And you need to make time for that because otherwise they'll drop out and somebody else will give them that time.” - Marisa Bryan
You can’t expect TA to be standard-bearers for good candidate experience. The responsibility ultimately lies with leadership. A culture of empathy has to come from the top for it to have an effect also on the way candidates are treated.
“It is a company imperative. It's a commercial imperative to make sure that you treat your candidates well. So number one, it's gotta come from the top. ” - Marisa Bryan
An important step in establishing this culture is to measure the satisfaction of candidates at all levels. If you want to improve candidates’ experience in the interviews you should make sure to collect data on this: How they were treated, how they felt, and what they learn.
“In the same way that we measure the funnel because we expect solid conversion through the funnel and we measure time to hire because we expect it to be at a certain level. Equally, in my last two companies, we measured hiring manager experience as well.” - Marisa Bryan