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Acing the Candidate Experience (CX)

Are you having a tough time filling open positions? Perhaps you should be looking at your recruiting and hiring process from the outside in. If you’re like most companies these days, hiring or even finding top notch candidates has been a major pain point not felt 10 years ago. This hiring ache is also felt by our recruiters at Dahl Consulting (DAHL) every day. At the height of the most recent recession, we had hundreds of candidates knocking at our doors and we essentially had our pick of the talent litter. In a seemingly short decade, the tables have turned, and companies are now trying to sell themselves and their employment opportunities or end up in active bidding wars for top candidates.

In a perfect storm of events, Millennials (the largest generation) has entered the entrepreneurial landscape, creating more businesses (and jobs) while the Baby Boomers (2nd largest generation) are hitting retirement age. In fact, an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every day (1). Unemployment has gone from a staggering 10% to 3.7%, the lowest in 50 years. Additionally, the fears of technology automation reducing jobs has instead created industries that have never existed, which has created more employment opportunities instead of diminishing them. As a result, there are now more open positions than unemployed people in our country today.

Businesses may think that bean bag chairs, ping pong tables, or open beer taps are what is going to win the “war on talent.” But in reality, you can’t even use those flashy perks to compete for candidates until you get individuals in the door. That’s why the interview and onboarding process is so critical to attracting the best people. The Candidate Experience (CX) begins the first time a candidate gets a glimpse of the inner-workings of your company, and first impressions are still everything!

Benefits of a Strong CX

Brand Awareness

Why should CX matter? Three words…word of mouth! Word spreads on both the good and bad parts of your company’s hiring process, which could sway future candidates from even applying in the first place. Odds are you aren’t as big as Google, but we’ve all heard about the rigorous interview process and some of the amazing perks offered to employees, once they get in the door. In a highly competitive landscape, Google consistently leads the nation in the top company people want to work for (2). Keep in mind, many of these perceptions are from people who are NOT even employees! It’s all about the perception and a poor CX can sometimes spread more quickly than a good one, even if you’re smaller than Google. At DAHL, we routinely run into examples where our recruiters disclose the hiring company’s name to a top candidate, only to have the opportunity turned down due to negative perceptions. That candidate could be coworkers with a person who interviewed with the company two years ago, but after enduring five long interviews and a two-hour skills assessment, they received an offer $10,000 less than what they asked for on the initial application. Be cognizant of your brand awareness and work to continually improve it.

The Best Talent

Not only will a better CX attract the best candidates, but your company will be less likely to lose top prospects who are interviewing for multiple open opportunities. This will help you land Gold Medal Talent instead of having to fall back on your Silver Medalist Candidates. In addition, your time to fill each role will decrease. People who are the best personality fits for workplace environments and teams often accept offers more quickly, which means better comradery between managers and subordinates. When morale is high, the work output usually follows. This, in tandem with the fact you acquired the most skilled candidates, means your business should run like a well-oiled machine!

Motivated Employees

With a strong CX, candidates walk in your door on Day 1 engaged, motivated, and excited to work for your company. Through a great reputation and consistent, streamlined recruitment method, you have made new employees feel valued and appreciated before they have even “punched in” … and it hasn’t cost you a thing!

Process Improvements

As you become more efficient with your enhanced CX, you’ll notice fewer offer declines, and build a more engaged talent acquisition team. In addition, you’ll notice a nice unexpected result; your overall hiring process has been elevated with efficiencies and acceptance! Soon, a great CX becomes second nature and just a part of your normal day to day recruiting efforts.

Top Candidate Complaints

At DAHL, our recruiters have run into countless situations where the hiring company and candidate have been a perfect fit for each other, but something in the hiring process derailed and the potential hire has run off the rails. When this happens, it is frustrating for all parties involved. Time and resource investments are wasted and it’s very tough, if not impossible, to fix the damage. We’ve outlined a few of the top candidate complaints our recruiters continue to hear.

Length of the Hiring Process

Time is precious for everyone, so it’s no wonder that one of the main reasons companies lose out on candidates is due to lengthy processes. We’ve found so many companies that start their process off with complex applications taking over an hour to fill out, bring candidates back for 5th or 6th interviews, and/or go weeks between the first contact and next steps. Appcast found that if you reduce the length of your application process to 5 minutes or less, you can boost your application conversion rates by up to 365% (3). You may never even see the strongest candidates if they drop out in the middle of your application process. Additionally, the Top Echelon Network found that 40 percent of candidates reject offers because another employer gave them an offer faster (4). If you are losing out on candidates, time could be the culprit

Poor Communication

A common analogy is that interviewing is like dating. If your new date never called you back or promised to give you an answer by Friday but that day has come and past, odds are you’d move on to the next one. That’s not a person you can trust or rely upon. Be conscious of your communication with candidates; follow up early and often! Also, don’t be afraid to make your interactions personal rather than strictly professional. Think about having your recruiters implement a “Feedback Friday’s” communication plan to touch base with candidates you currently have in play. This reassures your top prospects, so they aren’t hitting the panic button over the weekend, applying for other jobs they see online over their days off.

Unprepared Interviewers

Keep in mind that your top managers aren’t necessarily professional interviewers … and that’s okay. If you’re lucky, they don’t get enough practice to hone the art! So, make sure that everyone who is meeting the candidate has reviewed their resume and has questions prepared to ask them, along with an updated list of your employees’ favorite “work perks” or other top reasons people choose your company over others. Candidates speak of many experiences where managers haven’t even seen their resume until the interview, don’t know what questions to ask, or can’t answer questions about the company’s values/benefits/etc. These poorly planned “interviews” leave candidates unimpressed and underwhelmed with your company. Talk with your recruiting team, or even have a representative from Human Resources to sit in on interviews and empower them to take over if the meeting seems to stall.

Changing Job Specifications

Job expectations should be finalized before the position is approved and distributed externally. Job hunting is tough enough for candidates; don’t make it harder by deciding to add or eliminate requirements in the middle of the process that may disqualify them. The same goes for lowballing a top prospect during the offer period. Discuss early and often in the interview process what a candidate needs for compensation. If what they need is not a part of your budget, either end the interview process or explain what you can pay for the role. Taking up the candidate’s and several managers’ time only to extend an offer beneath their expectations doesn’t do anybody any favors.

Unrealistic Requirements

Similar to above, make sure your qualifications are realistic. One of our recruiter’s favorite stories is the IT Director who wanted 3 years of Ruby on Rails experience, even though that framework had only been launched 5 months prior. Another is the “entry-level” role that required 3-5 years of experience. It is extremely rare that you find the absolute perfect candidate. If someone has 80% of the skills on paper, the right attitude, and would be a good culture fit, then that will most likely be a successful hire for your company.

Glassdoor Reviews

Are you checking your Glassdoor reviews? Chances are most of your top candidates are! Our recruiters have had candidates excited about a position, but back out of interviews because they discovered poor reviews on Glassdoor. Take these very seriously! If your company’s Glassdoor score could use a boost, politely ask (do not demand) some of your most engaged employees to write you a review. This tactic will hopefully boost your Glassdoor score, but keep in mind that these reviews should also be looked at introspectively to see if changes within the company should be made. This has a duel benefit of increasing your CX, while also potentially lowering turnover.

What can companies do?

Don’t be afraid by the doom and gloom of the tight hiring market, multiple offer situations, and what can feel like internal hiring sabotage; you still have a lot you can control over your company’s CX! In addition to what we’ve outlined above, here are a few quick tips to improve it:

  • Try applying for your open position anonymously. Use a fictitious name and information, aside from phone and email details so you can be contacted by the recruiter. Experiencing exactly what a candidate encounters when applying with your company is eye opening!
  • Implement a quick-apply. Save lengthy applications and assessments for a later step (or not at all). Candidates should be able to apply for an open position quickly and easily, with a resume, name, and contact details.
  • Keep your interview process concise. A phone screen, face-to-face meeting with the manager, and final interview with the teammates and decision makers should be more than enough to make a hiring decision. A process consisting of 4+ interviews is overkill unless it’s an executive level role.
  • Sell your company, and the open position! Interviewing is a two-way street, yet many businesses grill applicants throughout the process, get wowed by their experience and skills, but are then surprised when the feeling isn’t mutual. Give candidates great reasons to work for you and your company.
  • At the same time, set realistic expectations. If your company doesn’t have flexible hours or you have key metrics to hit, establish that on the front end so candidates aren’t surprised when they arrive on their first day.
  • Personalize the recruiting process. This doesn’t need to be overly buttoned up and professional. At the end of the day, you are trying to see if you can work with them on a day-to-day basis for the foreseeable future, and they are trying to determine the same. There’s nothing wrong with emailing “Have a nice weekend” or including an emoji. A strong, positive connection with the hiring manager or recruiting team can not only sway a candidate to your company, it can also make the process less stressful for both parties.

At the end of the day, remember that everybody in the hiring process is human and should be treated with respect. It may have been awhile since your last job search, so don’t be afraid to look at your current CX and recruiting process. If you can, look at your main competitors to assess their CXs and learn what they may be doing differently to attract top candidate prospects. In today’s hiring world, the candidate is king! We hope these helpful tips with give your company new ways to think acing the CX and elevating your recruiting process.

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  1. https://www.seniorliving.org/guides/baby-boomers/

  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/most-popular-companies-of-2017-2017-5

  3. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/study-most-job-seekers-abandon-online-job-applications.aspx

  4. https://www.recruiting.com/blog/the-case-for-providing-a-positive-candidate-experience/