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Author's profile photo Amanda Crittenden

Close the Candidate Experience Gap: Five Ways to Attract the Best Talent and Protect Your Brand

To beat your competitors to talented individuals looking to start afresh, you need to offer something different. And this has perhaps never been truer than in the current market.

We’re nearing the end of the year, and the “Great Resignation” of 2021 looks set to continue. Organizations such as SHRM predicted a year in which more than half of employees in North America would look for a new job, and there is no sign of the quitting quitting.

Employees are burnt out. Even leaders are leaving. The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst that exacerbated worker shortages in many industries for a variety of reasons. Some individuals reappraised their lifestyles during multiple lockdowns and decided daily commuting was no longer for them. For others, pandemic unemployment benefits made their jobs seem less attractive and raised salary expectations. Others are no longer willing to expose themselves to dangers such as COVID-19 at work or are now embarking on a job search put on hold during the height of the pandemic.

Whatever the reasons for this unprecedented employee turnover, organizations are scrambling to retain and attract the best talent. And here’s where, perhaps counterintuitively, an opportunity arises.

You can stand out by using your candidate experience to demonstrate a heightened sense of commitment to prospective employees and transparency about what it’s like to work at your organization, the opportunities provided, and the values and culture that drive your people.

Why does the candidate experience matter?

Given the high number of jobs the average candidate applies for and the steep drop-off rates during the application process – a staggering 76% of employers reported in one survey that they had been “ghosted” by candidates in the past year – a solid, standout hiring experience is essential, or your chances of building a rich talent pipeline will be slim.

You want candidates to come away from the hiring process feeling as if their expectations have been met – or exceeded – and viewing your organization as a good place to work. This can be a big ask when you consider most candidates will not make it, and many employers do not achieve it. Put bluntly, your candidate experience is largely rooted in rejection. So, you need to tell a candidate they are attractive while saying “no, thanks” without negatively affecting their perception of your brand or their purchasing habits.

And these effects can be significant: Career Builder research indicated that 65% of applicants would be less likely to buy from a company if they did not hear back following an interview, while IBM Smarter Workforce Institute research indicated unsuccessful job applicants were 80% more likely to apply again if they had a positive impression of the hiring organization.

Today, more than ever, your candidate experience is a differentiator – for the good or the bad. With most job seekers applying for several jobs, you are directly competing for a candidate’s mindshare. But this is about so much more than just an application or an interview. It’s the feeling people walk away with after every interaction and every touch point. And guess what? Though the candidate experience may be grounded in rejection, it’s still beneficial for people to have a positive experience, even when the answer is no.

But how do you know if they’ve had a positive experience?

Well, you have to ask.

The candidate experience, spanning the application, screening, interview, and offer stages, has traditionally been measured with a single survey toward the end of hiring – and for many organizations, only for those successfully hired. This means you are missing out on a mountain of data that can help you determine the efficacy of your candidate experience and optimize it to enable better, smarter, and faster decisions.

Think about your current recruitment process, which might involve 1,000 career site visits, leading to 80 applicants, 16 candidates, five finalists, and an offer survey – creating just a few opportunities for feedback and only at the end of the entire recruiting process. Now, think about a process involving 1,000 career site visits with 1,000 feedback opportunities, 80 opportunities for application process feedback, 16 opportunities for recruiter feedback, five opportunities for interview feedback, and two opportunities for offer process feedback – and the volume of data you could be tapping into becomes apparent.

What drives a positive candidate experience and how can I close gaps?

But, of course, more data does not necessarily mean more clarity. Having collected this wealth of information, how do you work out what really matters? How do you identify the actions needed to improve your process?

To help you make sense of this data, we’ve identified six key drivers that help create a positive experience:

  • Clarity: The candidate understands what is happening throughout the process and why. For example, are your job descriptions clear, and do candidates have clear expectations of what will come next?
  • Fairness: The candidate feels they are given a fair opportunity with their application. Are any candidates unsure of how the selection process will work?
  • Attractiveness: The candidate has good interactions with people at your organization. Are your interviewers well prepared, and do they conduct interviews in a consistent manner?
  • Timeliness: Follow-ups and updates happen promptly throughout the process. Are there lengthy delays between application and interview? Is there a lack of response when the answer is “no?”
  • Personalization: The candidate feels valued throughout the process. Are your communications personalized with the candidate’s name? Is it clear to the candidate whether the job is right for them?
  • Technology: The systems the candidate uses to apply, interview, and communicate with your organization are smooth and intuitive. For example, is your application form so long that it turns candidates off? Is it challenging for candidates to schedule interviews because of outdated communication channels?

With candidate listening technology, companies are measuring the above across every stage of the candidate journey and translating those touch point scores into an overall candidate experience score. Just this level of quantitative detail on its own is helpful – but when you add the next level of detail and qualitative feedback, it becomes clear which gaps are impacting your overall experience.

Here are a few examples of actions you can take to close candidate experience gaps and improve the overall experience.

  1. Invest in applicant tracking: A good, well-maintained application tracking system is critical. Having chosen a robust tool, you need to train recruiters on how to use it and carefully craft your templatized messages, so you can provide a scaled yet personalized experience. And once you set up the system, you need to keep it up to date.
  2. Empower recruiters: Recruiters need to build relationships while managing high volumes of candidates. Informing them about candidates’ experience will help them understand where they may need a new approach that will help at scale or where a preferred candidate with a poor experience needs a friendly phone intervention.
  3. Set clear expectations: Feeling prepared for the process and knowing what to expect helps candidates feel they had a positive experience even if they are not hired. Set expectations in advance about how long the process will likely take, how many people you will interview, and whom the organization will meet.
  4. Provide timely updates: Consistent and prompt communication can help create positive candidate experiences. Design your automated communications (such as your rejection templates) to make them feel personal. And always contact unsuccessful candidates as soon as possible.
  5. Understand your current candidate experience: To take data-driven action, you first need reliable data, gathered at scale, that identifies gaps in your candidate experience. Only with this data at hand can you take action to start closing these gaps.

Every stage of your candidate experience will leave an impression on the individual about how they were treated. And these experiences combined form the overall impression candidates walk away with. By segmenting your recruiting process and capturing data at each phase, you increase the opportunities for gaining feedback across the entire process – and your chances of creating the winning candidate experience in this competitive market.

Digging into the data to truly understand how candidates feel and how you can improve their experience involves listening at every moment that matters during the candidate journey – helping give HR and recruiters the feedback and precise actions they need to support a great candidate experience.

Discover more
Learn more about how the SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting and Qualtrics Candidate Experience solutions can help you close candidate experience gaps and protect your brand.

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