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 the Aberdeen Group Group opines in their recent report, “Why the Candidate Experience Needs to be a Priority ASAP,” organizations still need to up their 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… The importance of the candidate experience is not lost on Best-in-Class organizations. These companies are 30% 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% vs. 46%).
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% of organizations (respondents from a recent talent acquisition survey) plan to increase their investment in talent communities over the next twelve months.
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% 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% 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).
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% 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% 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. Most organizations do not plan ahead when it comes to the candidate experience however, with Aberdeen citing 60% 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. 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, candidate friendly companies:
- Send a thank you note after an application is completed
- Ensure 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 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 are beginning to provide clear evidence that, to paraphrase Vineet Nayar, perhaps candidates come first, employees second and customers third….