Candidate experience: What job seekers really want

As all of us will know, labor markets and workforces have witnessed significant transformation in recent years.

Despite all the displacement and financial stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate has fallen rapidly and competition for talent has become increasingly intense. While some of this competition has eased in sectors like tech, hiring managers will continue to face a difficult labor market for the foreseeable future. Norms and expectations among employees have undergone a permanent shift. Company leaders and HR professionals have never been under more pressure to develop effective strategies for attracting talent and maintaining a healthy workforce.

But beyond these well-know generalizations, what are the specifics of the labor market now that HRDs need to understand?

Criteria’s just published 2022 Candidate Experience Report (which questioned 2,000 job seekers globally), examined the demands and concerns of today’s job seekers, from how they view their roles in the post-Covid economy to what they expect from employers.

So let’s take a closer look at the key findings and consider how they should inform what HR teams do next:

1) New employee demands have become ‘non-negotiable’

While the overnight transition to remote work was a shock for many company leaders and employees, both groups report that it was largely successful. But as employees have grown accustomed to the flexibility of remote work, they expect companies to continue offering this flexibility as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.

Our survey found one-third of candidates have turned down a job because it didn’t offer acceptable flexible or remote options. Candidates ranked work-life balance as more important than compensation, work culture, and benefits.

Beyond flexibility, candidates are in search of the following attributes (in order of importance): more opportunities for career advancement; increased compensation; better managers, teams, and company cultures; a greater sense of purpose at work; and improved benefits.

Although it’s no surprise to see salary and benefits on this list, it’s important for HRDs to recognize that employees are looking for much more than compensation at work.

HR leaders should never forget that candidates are in a strong position to pursue the jobs they actually want and wait until the right opportunities materialize. More than two-thirds of respondents to our survey said they’re “very confident” that they’ll be able to find a satisfying new job – yet another reminder that companies have to work hard to set themselves apart.

2) Companies lose countless promising candidates to bad hiring processes

Although 54% of respondents said they’ve abandoned a recruitment process because the salary didn’t meet their expectations, almost the same proportion (53%) revealed they’d done so because of poor communication from an employer or recruiter.

In addition to this, almost a third of employees say they’ve dropped out of the hiring process because it was taking too long, while 36% report that negative reviews of a company’s culture are enough to drive them to the exits.

It’s clear also that job-seekers value transparency in the hiring process. More than half (57%) say they “strongly agree” that job descriptions should list salary information, while another quarter “somewhat agree.” Legislators have taken note of this sentiment, by the way. Laws requiring salary information in job postings are becoming more common.

Salary is also an area where HR teams need to recognize that candidates are becoming increasingly assertive and confident: 79% of job-seekers either “strongly” (48%) or “somewhat” (31%) agree they’ll be paid enough in their new roles. Hiring managers may think there’s little they can do about a mismatch in salary expectations, but they should be upfront about what the job will pay. This will show candidates that the company respects their time and it can open up a path to productive negotiation.

Recruiters should also have open discussions with candidates about career advancement opportunities, benefits, and other relevant issues. Companies should clearly define what they’re looking for and use robust and objective methods (such as pre-employment assessments), to determine which candidates are right for the job. This won’t just help them find employees who will perform well in their new roles – it will also inspire confidence in their hiring process.

3) Over a quarter of candidates say they’re disadvantaged by the hiring process

One theme of the Candidate Experience Report is that job-seekers are confident in their ability to find the right jobs, secure the salaries they want, and outperform their competitors. Seventy-one percent say they “strongly” (40%) or “somewhat” (31%) feel that the hiring process is fair. Meanwhile, 94% think their assessment scores demonstrate their potential “very well” (52%) or “somewhat well” (42%).

These responses provide all the more reason for HR teams to build their hiring processes around rigorous and objective evaluative tools like pre-employment assessments. At a time when 35% of candidates believe their job experience (or lack thereof) prevents them from finding opportunities, almost three-quarters of candidates say assessments help them showcase their potential beyond their experience.

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But hiring managers should also recognize that confidence isn’t universal among candidates – 28% still say they feel disadvantaged by the traditional hiring process.

Companies need to move beyond traditional hiring methods, and they should use tools like pre-employment assessments in ways that appeal to candidates. Over half of candidates say they prefer game-based assessments over question-and-answer tests, while a majority also believes AI-based hiring can represent them accurately.

A difficult hiring environment

It’s clear from the research that hiring managers face one of the most difficult environments for candidate acquisition and retention in many years.

But the Candidate Experience Report demonstrates that this environment presents a wide range of opportunities to distinguish your company from the competition.

Here are the best ways HR teams can seize these opportunities:

* Recognize that flexibility is the top priority for candidates

At a time when a third of candidates have turned down a job because it didn’t offer flexible or remote work options, whenever possible companies have to provide these options and communicate this fact to job-seekers.

* Give all employees a fair shot

Our survey found most employees are confident in their abilities and eager to showcase what they can do. Companies should use objective hiring methods to identify the best candidates for the job and demonstrate that they’re committed to reducing bias in the hiring process.

* Be transparent with candidates

A majority of candidates say they’ve dropped out of the hiring process due to poor communication from a potential employer. This is one of many examples of how companies miss out on potential hires because they’re not engaging with candidates in the right ways. As talent markets remain tight and the need for skilled workers continues to increase, companies can’t afford to keep making this mistake.

Josh Millet is the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based, Criteria, a talent success company that helps organizations make more objective, evidence-based talent decisions that both reduce bias and drive outcomes. 

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