Carol Hondonga: The candidate experience

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Carol Hondonga
Principal Adviser Talent Acquisition in Talent and Learning Global Pratice at Rio Tinto

The candidate experience is the emotional impression created in an individual from the moment they consider employment in an organisation, the subsequent application and how this is handled at every touch point throughout the recruitment process. The candidate retains a lasting memory of this total experience.
Attracting quality talent is vital to meeting any organisations future business needs. The recruitment process is where you create your ‘first impression’ of the organisation and persuade or discourage applicants to pursue an opportunity with you. Employee engagement also begins in the recruiting process. How well someone is treated as a candidate is a strong indicator of what they can expect as an employee. All candidates are guaranteed an experience – whether they actively apply for a position or are approached by a third party, and regardless of whether or not they are offered and accept the job. So what is the rationale for caring to improve the candidate experience? The more you understand candidate perceptions, behaviour and their experience of your recruitment process, the more you are able to access key data and insights to refine your recruitment process and strengthen your brand reputation.
The candidate experience has evolved from a past based on paper resumes and applications and manually managing the recruitment process. If lucky, the candidate would receive a standard “thank you, but no thank you” reply in the post a couple of weeks later. Today traffic is driven to the career site to complete the online application process. If lucky the candidate receives a standard automated response when rejected. Candidates only receive a call if they are to be interviewed or are being offered the job.

The most common candidate experience pain points are around overall communication, job description/advert, the experience of the website and ATS, the interview experience, the offer, onboarding and the human side of the organisation. Recent surveys have shown that a large majority of candidates share their experiences with their friends and family and use social media such as Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or their blog to spread the word about their experience. Candidates who have a positive experience become de facto “brand ambassadors” for your organisation and willingly refer family and friends to consider a career with you. A positive experience leads to better quality hires, strengthens your brand, reduces cost per hire, increases referrals, return candidates and engagement. Sadly the reverse is also a reality and it is that much harder to work to rebuild a tarnished image. A negative experience results in declined offers, a decrease in the quantity and quality of applicants/referrals and a negative company image in the talent market. These scenarios illustrate the “Multiplier Effect” whose potential impact is exacerbated by the ever growing social connectedness of people.

The future – It is now an imperative to re-define the candidate experience and design an impactful candidate journey and influence the moments of truth. These moments of truth are points of interaction within the candidate journey at which you have the opportunity to strongly trigger value-driving emotions that will boost the entire experience. Done repeatedly they create emotional engagement.

The imminent future scenario requires leveraging and taking control of your brand in collaborative technologies to drive engagement across multiple platforms e.g. web, text, mobile etc. Candidates should be able to blog, call, email or text Recruiters directly to enquire on the role or application status.
Organisations still want to attract the best talent to them and should allow candidates to easily assess whether they possess the relevant skills and then self-select out of the recruitment process. This way there will be fewer rejected candidates and this allows recruiters and hiring managers to dedicate more time to achieving quicker, better and more cost effective recruitment outcomes. Continuous capability enhancement in effective interviewing and assessment will be required. Review and optimise your end to end recruitment process. Consider more flexible interviewing for time pressured and mobile candidates and allow submission of applications on mobile phones. Manage expectations throughout the process. Stating the obvious, respond to all applications promptly, no one likes to be ignored. Think more about your future talent requirements and create a candidate talent pool.
Candidates are also not exonerated from all this, as they also have their little irritants that include using slang, abbreviations and applying for positions they are not qualified for. Recruiters must be careful not to be unconsciously biased throughout the process.
The candidate experience is now a critical element for differentiating your employer brand and employers must aspire to create a “WOW!” experience.
As Maya Angelou, an American author and Poet, says: “People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

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