If you’ve applied for a job online in the last few years, there’s a good chance you’ve come across an application form so bad it made you question whether or not the job was even worth it!
But in the current candidate-driven market, businesses need to change the way they approach recruitment in order to attract top talent.
One seemingly-simple way businesses can stand out is through their candidate experience.
What is Candidate Experience?
In its simplest form, candidate experience refers to the way an applicant feels about your brand after being involved in the job application process.
During each step of the process an applicant will have interactions with people within your business, in a similar way to how a potential customer will interact with your brand, which will influence their perception of your business as a whole.
A negative experience during a candidate’s application is more likely to lead to a negative opinion of the business, while a positive candidate experience is much more likely to leave a positive impression.
Why is Candidate Experience Important?
With the employment rate currently at its highest level since 1974, there is a real shortage of talent for businesses looking to hire new employees.
A poor candidate experience can often be enough to stop a potential employee from moving further along in the application process, which can make all the difference in this hyper-competitive market.
A bad candidate experience doesn’t just impact your ability to hire new members of staff, though.
In 2018, Virgin Media discovered that their poor candidate experience was costing the company £4.4 million per year in cancelled subscriptions; so improving candidate experience can have a direct impact on your business, too!
How Can We Improve Our Candidate Experience?
There are several ways a company can improve its candidate experience:
1. Perfect Your Job Descriptions
It’s likely that one of the first interactions a candidate will have with your business during their job search is reading a job description, so it’s important your business is making a good first impression.
First and foremost, make sure your job descriptions are easy to read, and easy to understand.
It’s ok to use a few industry specific terms, but it shouldn’t be an essay that candidates have to spend hours deciphering to find out whether or not it’s the type of job they’re actually looking for.
You should also include salary and benefits information for the role whenever it’s possible.
Although people are looking for a role that will give them more than just money, it’s foolish to think it isn’t an important part of the equation. Having the salary information available stops people who need more than you can offer from applying, reducing the likelihood of a negative experience.
2. Make Applying Simple
As a job hunter, there’s arguably nothing worse than finding the perfect job, only to have to fill out an application form that requires you to re-write each section of your CV.
Seriously, it sucks!
And I’m not the only one who thinks so - 60% of candidates admit that they have quit an application process because it was too long.
Applying to your roles should be simple, so test the process yourself by following the application process for a live role to see how long it takes, and think about the questions or information your asking applicants to provide.
Of course, candidates expect to give you their contact details and attach their CV and cover letter, but do you really need to ask them to submit their salaries for the last 5 positions they had?
There are plenty of tools, such as LinkedIn’s Easy Apply feature, which can speed up your application process. From there, you are able to see if a candidate is a broad match for the position, before asking them to send across more information if you’d like to move them along the process.
It's also worth taking into account the fact that many people will be job-hunting during lunch breaks and in the evenings, so your application process will need to be mobile friendly to avoid driving candidates away.
Try to keep the process to one page, and make it obvious which documents a candidate will need to apply. Don’t let them get half-way through an application before you tell them you’ll need proof of their right to work in the UK – that’s likely to cause people to drop out of the application process and is something that can be done later in the process.
3. Communicate Often
As a job seeker, it can be incredibly demoralising when you send out tens, or sometimes hundreds, of applications for different roles and hear nothing back.
Sometimes candidates don’t even know they’re being considered for a role until someone calls them to find out more information.
But with the technology we have these days, it’s simple to set up auto-responses to let candidates know their application has gone to the right place.
Businesses should lean more towards over-communicating with their candidates in order to create a good experience. Letting them know as soon as possible if they’ve been unsuccessful, or if the position has been put on hold, will ensure they have the best experience possible.
Small touches like sending applicants emails as a person, rather than from a “careers@” email address, can also help to humanize the business and make the experience feel more personal.
4. Help Candidates Shine
The interview process is already stressful for candidates, so make sure you’re not asking too much of them when the time comes.
If it’s possible, involve their line managers in the process so they can start to build a relationship with the person they’ll be working most closely with, but try to avoid large panel interviews as these can be intimidating.
When confirming the interview with a candidate, give them information about what the process will involve, to help them better prepare for the day.
If a candidate lives far away, be flexible with your time to accommodate their schedule, or consider conducting a video interview rather than multiple in-person interviews that would require them to travel unnecessarily.
5. Act Fast
Highly skilled, in-demand workers are going to be snapped up quickly in the current job market, so businesses need to act fast if they find someone who fits their needs.
Acting fast doesn’t just help to improve the candidate experience, but it also gives businesses the best chance of hiring top talent.
Sometimes projects are put on hold, or priorities change, and hiring a new employee is pushed back for a few months – these things happen – but businesses shouldn’t expect job-seekers to wait around.
If you’ve built a strong brand, and a candidate is really keen to work in your business, be up-front about the hold up and they might be happy to wait out the delay.
6. Give and Get Feedback
The candidate experience will vary from company to company, so it’s important to get continuous feedback from candidates to identify the areas your business needs to improve.
Follow up with both successful and unsuccessful candidates to find out which aspects of their experience they thought could be improved, and make changes to improve the efficiency of the whole process.
While improving your candidate experience might seem like something trivial, there’s no doubt it can have a real impact on your business.
Taking the time to understand how candidates navigate the process, and which areas need improvement, can increase not only the number of applicants you receive for a role, but also the quality of the candidates.
Start by getting feedback from employees who have recently joined the company, as they have first-hand experience of the entire process, and can help you pin-point the areas to start with.
If they remember the process as being smooth and efficient, you’re on the right track!