Considering the candidate experience

A recent study by assessment specialist Talent Q has found that many graduates felt disappointed with their recruitment experiences. Of 500 graduates questioned who had applied for jobs while at university or shortly after graduating, only 45% were satisfied.

Sadly though, this low percentage came as little surprise. As the competition to recruit the best talent has become fiercer across most industries due to various skills shortages, contracting of budgets and the pressure to secure long-term hires, recruitment processes have become longer and more convoluted, with the candidate experience often overlooked as recruitment teams battle to process all the applicants in time.

Interestingly, the four main areas of dissatisfaction identified by the graduates also apply to other segments. A lot of these flaws are completely avoidable with the right systems and procedures in place, which makes them even more frustrating for candidates!

The four main problem areas identified were:

1) Lack of communication and feedback

When candidates do not hear back quickly, they feel stressed and wonder if they have missed any communication. You should make sure that the candidate always knows where they are in the process and what the next stage will be. With applicant tracking systems, recruiters can easily plan and schedule communications between themselves and candidates. While these are a great time-saving tool, sometimes automated messages can make candidates feel that they are seen as ‘faceless’ and not valued so it’s important to intersperse these with more personalised communication, especially when candidates are in the later stages of the process.

And we cannot overemphasise the importance of candidates being able to access feedback. It lets them know that their efforts are appreciated and the company is interested in their success. Even if there is not the time to call every candidate who has applied, we recommend providing a number or email on which they can contact you to obtain feedback.

Remember that most candidates spend a lot of time and effort preparing their applications. Being rejected for a job is never going to make somebody happy, but it need not be a totally negative experience. If candidates understand why they are not right for a particular role, they will be more understanding, whereas if they feel they have been tossed aside without a second thought, they are likely to voice their disgruntlement.

As Recruiter Box noted in one of their blogs, ‘A good rule of thumb is to treat a candidate like a customer. Just like customers will share a bad experience with others, so will candidates.”

2) Unnecessarily long selection processes

There are many valid reasons for long selection processes. However, if the recruitment process is very long because you do not know if the candidate fits the role, this would indicate that the initial assessment stages are not as effective as they should be and need refining. Every time candidates attend an interview or assessment centre, they are missing a day of university or work, which can be difficult for them, so make sure that you are making the most of their time. It also goes back to communication. The key word here is ‘unnecessarily’. Consider outlining the recruitment process and timescale on your website; if it is explained to candidates why there are so many stages, and they know that they are not just been made to ‘jump through hoops’ for the sake of it, the length of the process is less likely to be a source of discontentment. That said, do remember that the best candidates are highly in demand, and will not keeping turning down other offers.

3) Rude, condescending or unprepared interviewers

Remember the story about Currys asking their interviewees to robot dance? If you were in that situation, how would you feel? Humiliating candidates is no way to win friends, but it’s shocking how many recruiters focus on their own stress, and forget that they are representing the company when doing interviews. This may be the 100th person you have seen in the past week, but make them feel like they are the first person you have seen. There may be some time-wasters but do not make them feel like that – you never know, in a year’s time you might find them popping up in your talent bank as the perfect candidate for another role, and that won’t happen if they leave with a bad taste in their mouths.

4) Finding that the position for which they had applied was different to the role on offer

Keep in mind that the candidate experience starts from the moment the applicant looks at your website or job ad! Make sure all the details are correct and clear. If for some reason the parameters change during the process, keep candidates informed. Trust your candidates to judge their skillset against the role requirements. As mentioned earlier, the best candidates are constantly in demand and will be comparing different offers – if the role is not what they expected, or the working conditions, location or compensation have changed and they have not been made aware until the last minute, they will feel cheated.

In conclusion, the best advice is to put yourself in the candidate’s shoes when planning a recruitment process. And after each experience, assess the process and take feedback from applicants. It is always going to be difficult to achieve the ideal situation with limited time, but letting applicants know that you are striving to achieve this will at least put you in a much more favourable position!