What Your Candidate Experience is Missing

By Maren Hogan

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Candidate experience is a multi-faceted thing. And, a lot of companies are struggling to give job applicants positive experiences. Just consider the stats: 

Those stats can and DO shock recruiters and HR professionals into creating a better candidate experience. And, while most of us know the basics (respond quickly, be polite, source and vet appropriately, and invest in employer branding) there's one thing many companies' candidate experience is missing:

Consistency.

Why consistency is important and how to build it into your candidate experience

for candidate experience, consistency means the steady drip, drip, drip of communication that makes candidates feel valued, answers their questions, gets them to complete applications and generally gives them the inclination that behind every video interview or psychometric assessment, every skills test and arduous ATS, there is a person who actually cares whether or not they come to work there.

And, consistency means so much more than you think! Take a look at the stats up there again. Applying for a job is hard, but it’s not Herculean. In fact, how much more likely would those 3 candidates who are leaving their applications unfinished be to complete their application if they received a note from a hiring manager (even if automated) or a quick “Need help?” IM from an online chatbot. Or, if you want to be really low-tech, just invite them to email a specific person (and make sure that person is there to help and give answers).

To make sure your candidate experience is consistent, here are four things you need to do:

1. Make sure there are commonalities in your job ads

Your job ads shouldn't be all over the map - they should have a few similarities between them, regardless of the position. In fact, while teams and departments can vary wildly, most companies have a legitimately easy to spot culture, which is good considering 66% of job seekers want details about a company’s culture. The advertisement you create should reflect that culture and environment. 

Hayneedle, a company here in Omaha, does a great job of starting off many of their job ads the same way by describing who they are, why they’re different and the kinds of people that are successful there. You always know you’re looking at a job ad because it’s written well and professionally, and it’s exciting (like a job ad should be).

Keep this tone going throughout your career site, anywhere you can inject personality in the ATS and in your email communications to be consistent. Say it with me: There is absolutely nothing wrong with templates.

2. Make the application process candidate friendly

Consistency in tone is just as important to your business as consistency in process. In fact, your application process should speak to how you approach employment, which in turn should come directly from your employer brand promise.

For all those who complain that they don’t have the budget to improve candidate experience, I say BAH. It costs nothing to check on abandoned applications and reach out, create a Gmail or MixMax template, or build a Zapier automation that sends a hello note to new applications. Or you could use one of the ideas I mentioned before. Heck, you can even pick up the phone and ask how you can make your apply process better.

Applicants can spend a long time (3-4 hours to be exact) applying for a job. The least you can do is make it a little bit pleasant. As my mom used to say, “It doesn’t hurt to be nice to a person and it costs you nothing.”

3. Set expectations right off the bat

It’s recommended that you set expectations within the first 5 minutes of an interview and we follow that idea here at Red Branch Media. Because we’re small and get a lot of applications, I have to set the expectation up front that people may not receive the kind of response they want (namely, a job) and I do that on the site, in the phone interview, in the first email, in the job ad and the in-person interview. 

At every stage of the interview process, they know they are required to take the next step and that messaging doesn’t change, even after employment begins. It’s a great precursor to working here, where we rely heavily on quick thinking and accountability. If our candidates cannot follow along with our application process, then we probably won’t be a match when the real challenge of a career at Red Branch begins.

4. Create a structured interview process

I never really believed in structured interviews. I thought I could sit back, feet up on the desk, twirling a pen and just “shoot the breeze.” What a disaster. I’ve hired some of the worst candidates ever that way.

Instead, a formalized interview structure allows me to get the general gist of each candidate on their own merits, not just because they wowed me in a pizza joint. Plus, when I’m in the midst of a hiring spree (aka when I’m bringing in our next round of seasonal interns) I can accurately compare candidates based on their level of engagement in the conversation and the thought behind their responses. I’m able to see it in a more objective light instead of how I felt at the time of their interview.

According to a study, structured interviews are 81% more accurate than unstructured ones. Don’t worry, after enough interviews, you realize you have to have a general flow. Ours goes like this:

It’s not a perfect system but it works and (both the structure and the behavioral questions are) backed by research. Talent expert Laszlo Bock had this to say in his book:

In 1998, Frank Schmidt and John Hunter looked at 19 different assessment techniques and found that unstructured job interviews were pretty bad at predicting how someone would perform once hired.

Unstructured interviews have an r2 of 0.14, meaning that they can explain only 14% of an employee’s performance. This is somewhat ahead of reference checks (explaining 7% of performance), ahead of the number of years of work experience (3%). The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29%).

If your candidate experience is lacking and you’ve already tried all the obvious methods, consider adding a little consistency. After all, it doesn’t cost anything.

This article originally featured on the LinkedIn Talent Blog.

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