Rising inflation, industry-specific layoffs and early signs of a cooling job market have made this hiring market one of the most challenging to date. However, even amid a looming recession, candidates are still very much in control over hiring especially as competition for talent remains tight. For organizations looking to “recession-proof” their hiring strategies in the short- and long-term, improving the candidate experience should be a top priority.
At its core, the candidate experience is all about how job seekers perceive and react to a company’s recruitment cycle including attracting, sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding. This is accomplished by helping applicants feel welcomed and valued during the application process, providing helpful feedback or communication throughout the recruitment process and treating them with professionalism and respect after their candidacy has ended. The way a candidate experiences an organization encompasses every interaction they have with an employer.
The recruiting process is made up of many moving parts and can carry a lot of weight in terms of your employer brand and reputation. The candidate experience not only reflects the recruiting team but also the company they represent. Unfortunately, as new Employ research reveals, only 36% of recruiters consider improving the candidate experience a top priority.
Why it’s critical to prioritize the candidate experience
Every industry is similar to a small town, and people talk. If a job candidate has a bad experience during the interview process, it may leave them with a negative impression of the business overall, and furthermore, they may pass that information along to other industry colleagues, making it more difficult for the business to attract talent in the future.
If the candidate experience falls apart before you get to the acceptance or rejection phase, many candidates may abandon the process altogether. It’s possible that down the line, there may be a role that’s a perfect fit for a candidate whose process didn’t work out during the initial recruiting session. What if you dropped the ball and neglected to send a polite rejection letter? Chances are, they probably won’t be getting back in touch.
For instance, a candidate with a strong resume that isn’t necessarily a fit for the role has a negative candidate experience and feels neglected. But down the line, a new requisition gets posted, and the neglected candidate is perfect for the new role. But, because of their negative experience and lack of communication with the recruiting team, they will ignore any future opportunities, leaving recruiters back to spending time and resources sourcing new prospects. With a positive candidate experience, recruiters have more time to spend on activities that strengthen the organization, such as process improvements, increased conversion rates and enhancing the employer brand.
The candidate experience matters both for the candidate, and for maintaining an organization’s reputation with the individual, industry and the public. It also creates a competitive advantage that helps secure candidates before competitors do. Yet, recruiters still engage in hiring practices that are most frustrating to job seekers.
Here are four strategies that, when they work in conjunction with each other, will improve the candidate experience during the hiring process.
1. Simplify the application process
Job seekers don’t want long, drawn-out hiring processes. However, Jobvite’s 2021 Fortune 500 Candidate Conversion Audit found that nearly 85% of Fortune 500 companies lack optimized job application processes, and only 30% of applicants who start the application process complete it. Creating a quick and easy application is the first step in winning over top talent in today’s competitive markets and recruiters can potentially boost conversion rates by 365%.
According to Employ’s 2022 Job Seeker Nation Report, 51% of job seekers said an easy application process was the top reason for having a positive candidate experience. Over half noted that being able to schedule an interview with ease was the most important factor. Working with urgency also gives organizations a leg up on the competition, since Top Echelon Network reports that 40% of candidates reject offers because another company made an offer faster.
2. Keep candidates informed
Communication is crucial to creating a positive candidate experience. Like most people, candidates don’t like to be kept in the dark and prefer to stay informed and updated on where they stand in the hiring process. In fact, 40% of workers say the most frustrating part about the job search is unresponsive hiring managers. Unfortunately, many recruiters and employers today treat the hiring process like a one-way street and expect quick answers and updates from candidates but don’t offer the same courtesy in return.
Intelligent Messaging tools can help simplify the communication process when providing candidates with real-time feedback. Leveraging these tools can be useful when sending candidates scheduled messages about next steps, when applications were received and are under review, and more.
3. Communicate expectations
Letting candidates know what to expect if they are hired is equally as important as effectively communicating these expectations during the hiring process. Employers must offer a clear and detailed description of the role’s responsibilities or risk them leaving. According to Employ’s latest data, 63% of recruiters have had new hires leave in the first 90 days after starting a new job, and 36% said it was because the job description did not align with the actual day-to-day role.
Today’s job candidates also desire a strong company culture. Eighty-eight percent of surveyed job seekers said they believe that a solid company culture is critical to business success, and 55% said they would leave a new job if the culture was not aligned with their expectations or values. That’s why it’s essential to demonstrate what makes your company culture standout through various employer branding initiatives and during the hiring process.
4. Maintain relationships with candidates
Deciding a candidate isn’t right for a position does not necessarily mean they won’t be fit for another role in the future. And providing them with a positive candidate experience can initiate a relationship with a high-quality prospect, which in turn helps build a company’s talent pipeline and competitive advantage.
With a looming recession, fewer workers will leave a job without securing another, creating an even smaller talent pool. That’s why building a pipeline of high-quality talent is essential. Once the economy begins to bounce back, organizations need to be ready to start hiring to save time and money on sourcing, an activity that requires one-third of recruiters’ time, per Employ Inc. benchmark data.
When building a talent pipeline, the candidate experience is critical to start the relationship on the right foot, and recruiters can do more to maintain these relationships in the long term. This can include keeping tabs on the status of the conversation with potential candidates and investing in technologies to help source candidates faster, which can help organizations compete on speed.
Offering a simple application process with timely, transparent feedback and communication, a clear explanation of responsibilities and company culture, your organization can invest in multiple areas to ensure positive candidate experiences. Forward thinking companies are investing in their candidate experience with process improvements as well as innovative recruiting tech tools with 45% of recruiters planning to increase spending on recruiting technology to improve candidate relationship management. Using smart and integrated recruiting and talent acquisition solutions to nurture relationships will ultimately show candidates that they are valued and appreciated and create a pipeline of talent for current and future hiring needs.
Pete Lamson is the CEO of Employ Inc., and has more than 30 years of experience in leadership roles with high growth and B2B technology companies. Before joining Employ, Pete served as CEO of JazzHR, where he led the company through a strategic turnaround to become the category leader in SMB hiring technology and a successful exit.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.