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Treat Them Like Customers

Kevin Grossman, who oversees The Talent Board's Candidate Experience Awards program, explains what it takes to give candidates a positive impression of your company.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
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What sort of experience do candidates for positions at your company go through? Is it positive, negative -- or have you even bothered to find out? These days, companies are under scrutiny like never before when it comes to candidate experience. With today's unemployment rate at record lows and the labor market hardening like quick-dry cement, recruiters and talent-acquisition leaders need to be careful stewards of their employment brand to ensure it doesn't end up permanently tarnished in the forums of Glassdoor and Indeed, and this includes ensuring that job candidates are treated well so they have a positive impression of the organization regardless of whether they end up getting the job.

At this year's Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech Conference, attendees will get to hear firsthand from recruitment leaders at companies like Intel Corp. and Superior Group what it takes to create a positive candidate experience. These companies and the others presenting in the Candidate Experience track of breakout sessions are all winners of the Candidate Experience Awards (the CandEs), presented annually by The Talent Board, a nonprofit organization. This year's conference will also feature a main-stage session moderated by recruitment thought leader Gerry Crispin titled "The ROI Realities of Improving Candidate Experience," featuring panelists from CandE-award-winning companies discussing what they do to ensure candidates are treated as recruiting's top customers.

As The Talent Board's president of global programs, Kevin Grossman oversees all aspects of the organization's CandE Awards program. He'll be co-presenting a breakout session at the conference along with Adela Schoolderman, talent acquisition manager at West Monroe Partners, titled "Ensure a Greater Return on Talent With Candidate Interview Prep and Communication." We recently caught up with Kevin, who has more than 20 years of experience in the recruitment and HR space, to find out what he's learned while overseeing the CandEs and the role recruiters can play in creating a good candidate experience.

Do you recall a really poor candidate experience from your own career? What was it like, and how did it leave you feeling?

Yes, and it was within our own industry. Of course, I won't name the organization, but I was in the running for a position I was very excited about. For the most part the process seemed fair, and my expectations were well-managed throughout, until the final interview stage. It was me and another candidate, and after the final interviews, I was told I'd hear back within a week. 

One week went by, and then another, and even after I called and emailed, nothing. Weeks later I was finally notified they had hired the other candidate. I was given no other context or any feedback, nor was I asked for feedback on the process.

I've never forgotten that, even though the CEO did call me well after the fact to apologize. Too little too late. And, the other candidate they hired lasted less than six months.

What would you say are the absolute necessary ingredients for creating a positive candidate experience?

 At a minimum, acknowledgement and closure. Acknowledge that I'm interested in your company and your jobs, and give me closure regardless of how far I made it in your hiring process. Sadly, according to 2017 North American Talent Board CandE data, 52 percent of candidates never hear back from employers from the time they apply application up to 2 to 3 or more months later. Nothing. Nada. 

After seven years of Talent Board candidate experience research, the positive differentiators continue to be over-communication throughout the process and feedback loops – that is, providing feedback and asking the candidates for feedback. This is on top of acknowledgement and closure. 

What role can a recruiter play in transforming the candidate experience at his or her organization from mediocre (or worse) to great?

First, recruiting professionals need to measure what's working and what's not in their processes by asking their candidates directly -- from pre-application to onboarding. That could include participating in the Talent Board benchmark research program and/or sending their own feedback surveys out to their candidates. 

Once they understand where there are deficits, then they need to rally around incremental changes they can make today -- i.e., better communication throughout, ensuring closure, etc.

Changing the hearts and minds of even a small percentage of rejected candidates, which accounts for 99 out of every 100 people they're looking at, can improve the impact on their business and brand by increasing the number of positive referrals instead of losing them.

What are some of the common obstacles one might encounter in trying to create a great candidate experience?

There are so many factors that impact a business, big and small, that it may seem daunting to recruiting teams to even start measuring their candidate experience. Many companies are resistant to "looking in the mirror" because they don't want to know or don't have time, or they have an institutional misperception of their own candidate experience -- they think they're doing just fine, when in fact, their Glassdoor reviews stink. 

Then there's the issue of budget and people resources; they feel that any change will require a major change management initiative, something that brings a sense of foreboding. The reality is that first getting a benchmark of what's working and what's not, and then doing things like improving the personableness of their automated communications, ensuring that finalists get more human touch -- emails and phone calls from the recruiters and hiring managers, and making sure that everyone gets definitive closure are key.

We can't change what we don't measure. 

You've helped oversee the CandE awards for some time now -- what would you say are the common themes at the companies that are consistently named to the list?

As mentioned earlier, the consistency of over-communicating and feedback loops are a competitive differentiator. Taking a more customer-centric approach to employment branding and candidate marketing are another area where CandE winners -- those companies that receive the highest positive candidate ratings in our survey research -- are differentiating. Collapsing the barrier to entry -- making the application process -- is another differentiator for CandE winning companies. 

We've found that most companies taking a look at their recruitment processes, whether they won a CandE award or not, have some level of understanding that there's a potential greater aggregate impact on their business and their brand via those they reject, even more so than those they hire. By participating in our benchmark research, the data they receive underscores that the experience candidates have will inform the decisions they make going forward -- applying again or not, referring others or not, and buying products and services or not if they're a consumer-based business.

This year's Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech Conference will take place Nov. 28-30 in beautiful and sunny West Palm Beach, Fla.




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