With our popular innovation in recruitment conference coming up this Thursday 22nd September, expert speaker Michael Lake from leading company L’Oréal’s HR department gives us his expert commentary on the recruitment experience.

In recruitment, candidate experience can be equally as important as client experience, especially when strong candidates are in short supply. Additionally, platforms like Glassdoor mean company reputations can be on the line too.

Gaps in the candidate experience are traditionally filled by a well-trained (and, admittedly, fee-motivated) agency recruiter. They pre-screen the candidate, edit their CV, coach them on interview technique and brief them on what the client is likely to want to hear. They assuage and smooth over the reservations of both sides, no matter how trivial in nature. They act as a mediator in prickly discussions around compensation, notice periods or even simply conflicting diaries. This is so that at no point does it seem that anyone is being difficult, greedy (or perhaps stingy in the case of the hirer). This is done in the background, as a sort of unwritten rule. They are, in many ways, to recruiting, what Ralph Fienne’s Gustave H. defined as a ‘Lobby Boy’ in the Grand Budapest.

In the rise of In-House recruitment teams, and the shift toward cost reduction based direct sourcing, candidate experience has in many cases suffered. Many candidates feel their applications fall into a black hole if they apply online, or they are ignored if they approach people directly. After interview, what might have felt like a great conversation is sometimes met with weeks of silence followed by a generic feedback email. Offers are sometimes made in a matter-of-fact, ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ kind of way and negotiating or discussing compensation is tantamount to throwing the offer in the employer’s face.

Repairing the experience: What is the formula?

L’Oréal is focused on creating candidate experience excellence as an ongoing priority in Talent Acquisition. Here is my take on how we, as recruiters, can continue to improve the candidate experience:

Surprise and delight them

Impress upon your candidate that yours is a company that will have pleasant surprises in store. At L’Oréal we created ‘The Interview of the Future, Today’. It is an app that reminds candidates of their interview and location, introduces them to their interviewer’s LinkedIn profile while they are waiting in reception and has some other surprises, too. We can use it to ask candidates questions and/or push them content at any point in the interview giving a truly interactive, digital and unique experience to each individual. We give candidates opportunities to experience our products so they can get hands-on with what we do and continue to think about us well after the interview has finished. We run events where candidates can meet our people informally and get an open account of life here.

What’s in it for them?

Although your candidate applied off their own back and they are super engaged with your company, don’t assume that you don’t need to tell them all of the great things you have to offer. Take the time to treat all strong candidates as if they are passive and you can’t go wrong.

Be transparent

Both in terms of the process and the decisions/deliberations. Be clear on projected timescales and if they will be long or changeable, say it up front. Your hiring manager may be deliberating over something that they didn’t see evidence of in the interview, but how can they see everything in a one-hour interview? Share your reservations and the candidate might surprise you with new information. (Or, they might agree with you, and appreciate the straightforward closure to the process!)

Make them a partner in the process

Much like transparency, if you are working with a candidate you think is strong, then set them up for success. Encourage them to do things that will benefit them in the process such as relevant research. This may sound like giving an unfair advantage, but if you give the same advice across the board, everyone is on an even playing field.

Be their champion, their guardian, their coach

It is a difficult balance to strike, fighting for your candidate and preparing them for the process, without inadvertently fixing the outcome. However, some of the biggest value recruiters add to a process, is ensuring candidates are able to give a good account of themselves in interview and have done some effective prep. They also often have a partnership position with the hirer that means they can question reasoning and give additional perspectives.

Tech is your friend

At L’Oréal we have “The Interview of the Future Today” which enhances candidate experience once they are confirmed for interview. We use our new ATS to arrange events with qualified candidates and track levels of attendance. We are surveying applicants online, asking for their open feedback on their experience and we’ll use this to further understand what constitutes candidate experience excellence. Next, we are exploring tech that can assess candidates via machine learning, for technical and personal qualities and then grade them. This eliminates the initial sift and screen out of the process. We are looking at technology that can synchronise with our diaries and allow candidates to self serve their entire process. They can track their progress and know what to expect next. Tech can free recruiters from the administrative tasks in their remit, without diminishing the experience, thus giving them more time to spend on delighting and exciting their candidates and delivering an amazing experience.

Personalised constructive feedback, fast processes, quick decisions, freebies, events and experiences should take up the lion’s share of our time dedicated to candidates. Perhaps we can look forward to a time where recruiters’ KPIs will be based around candidate experience too?

As well as time to hire, what about time to decision or time in process? In addition to cost per hire, what about cost per candidate taken to interview? Number of hires is important, but what about number of candidates willing to be reconsidered and keep in touch?

Perhaps it’s a bold statement, but I believe these ‘candidate KPIs’ would deliver the business recruitment objectives equally as well, if not better, than the ‘client-centric’ ones – in addition to all the benefits that happy candidates bring!