Should It Be Candidates First, Employees Second and Customers Third?

The candidate experience is a growing priority.

Between 2013 and 2014, organizations increased their amount of focus on building strong relationships with candidates by more than five times. But as the Aberdeen Group observes in their recent report, Why the Candidate Experience Needs to be a Priority ASAP, organizations still need to up the ante.

No matter the industry, a candidate’s application experience should be a top priority simply because their perceptions of the process (whether they get the job or not) can have a serious impact on an organization’s brand, customers, and success. In this hyper-connected age of social media, it can take only one voice to significantly damage a big brand.

A priority for Best-in-Class companies

The importance of the candidate experience is not lost on Best-in-Class organizations. These companies are 30 percent more likely to invest in new technologies such as social, mobile and video to make recruiting engaging for candidates, in comparison with all other organizations (60 percent vs. 46 percent).

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It’s also more likely that Best-in-Class organizations (compared with all other organizations) will focus on the development of a talent community to reach candidates and improve the candidate experience.

Talent Communities, groups of active potential candidates that can regularly engage with the organization through technology (online portals, email, mobile etc.) are one of the fastest growing areas of talent acquisition. Aberdeen reports that 40 percent of organizations (respondents from a recent talent acquisition survey) plan to increase their investment in talent communities over the next 12 months.

THE most critical talent acquisition issue

Aberdeen’s research finds that besides overcoming the skills gap in today’s talent pool, improving the candidate experience is ranked by businesses, overall, as the most critical talent acquisition issue. How this knowledge is reflected within organizations, however, is a different story.

Just 21 percent of companies in Aberdeen’s report indicated that the candidate experience/building strong relationships with candidates were a top priority for 2014, although this was a significant jump from 2013 where only 4 percent of organizations reported this.

Besides the perception of an organization, having a great candidate experience process can also mean improved cost-per-hire.

Aberdeen’s study found that organizations prioritizing the candidate experience are twice as likely to improve their cost-per-hire and are expected to have a larger budget for talent acquisition efforts in the coming year (compared to organizations who do not prioritize the candidate experience).

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Treating candidates like consumers

Candidates expect much of the same things as consumers, for example, in ease of use and clear user-interfaces.

In a 2013 study by Aberdeen, 62 percent of Best-in-Class organizations reported giving candidates visibility into their application status through resources like automated emails and online platforms like candidate career portals (although just 33 percent of organizations feel they have an engaging career portal). According to another 2013 study from Aberdeen, candidates who start as customers of the companies they apply to are 3.2 times more likely to describe their relationship as an applicant as positive rather than negative.

A good way to think about whether or not your organization is prioritizing the candidate experience may be to ask if candidates are treated with a comparable amount of respect and attention as customers. If they are, it likely means that the candidate experience it something that’s planned ahead for, as an organization would plan for potential customers.

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Most organizations do not plan ahead when it comes to the candidate experience however, with Aberdeen finding that 60 percent of organizations only recruit talent when there is an opening, instead of having a talent community of active candidates that can be tapped into as needed. Organizations should take heart that creating a focused and engaging candidate experience does not need to be a difficult process.

Contemporizing the process with technology (building a talent community and active pipeline) is an important step, but organizations can start also to prioritize the experience by changing the system they have in place now.

What the most candidate-friendly companies do

This could mean catering to the highly connected, tech savvy candidates of today by not only reaching out to them post-application and interview, but also soliciting feedback from them during the application process (helping organizations better understand holes in their candidate experience). Sometimes it’s the simplest aspects of an application process that have the most impact.

Respondents of a recent candidate experience survey by Aberdeen reported that the best, most candidate-friendly companies:

  • Send a thank you note after an application is completed;
  • Ensure that candidates can effectively exhibit their qualifications;
  • Share next steps (whether that’s moving forward or a courteous decline);
  • Allow candidates to provide feedback about the overall experience.

The work that Gerry Crispin, Elaine Orler and Ed Newman have done notwithstanding, does your organization really care about “the candidate experience?”

Does it make a difference?

Does creating a talent community really matter when you need to fill positions? Will treating job applicants like customers really make a difference in your ability to attract, hire and deploy the talent you need to meet your organizations strategic objectives?

The data is beginning to provide clear evidence that, to paraphrase Vineet Nayar, perhaps candidates come first, employees second and customers third …

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

Well known for her tenure as CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, China works with HCM organizations all over the world to enhance their brands and their go-to-market strategies. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Jobs for America’s Graduates as well as the Advisory Boards of Elevated Careers, the Workforce Institute at Kronos, and WorldBlu. Addtionally, she chairs the Globoforce WorkHuman Advisory Board and the Universum North America Board. China is the author of the popular blog Data Point Tuesday, and is published and frequently quoted in media properties like Fortune, TLNT, Huffington Post, Inc., Fast Company, U.S. News & World Report and many others.

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