Let’s face it. Looking for a job is almost universally a lousy experience.
The process is a nightmare for an active job seeker. You spend countless hours searching for the right opportunity, put in lots of work getting introductions, writing cover letters and essays and customizing your resume, then wait week-after-week for a response.
You don’t even hear back from most opportunities, let alone get useful feedback on how you could improve. Even passive job seekers know from experience not to apply for any opportunities unless they have a significant advantage in the form of a warm introduction.
A smart hiring team should realize, first, candidates don't expect they will be treated very well in your hiring process and, second, that is an opportunity to stand out from other organizations by delighting candidates. Candidates crave to be delighted.
Candidates care so much about how they are treated in the hiring process that a study conducted by Career Builder found "68% of job candidates said they would accept a lower salary if the employer created a great impression through the hiring process."
Here are the key points to focus on for an outstanding candidate experience.
Ease. Eliminate as much friction as you can from the application process. This is especially important for top-tier passive candidates, who typically already have a job they’re satisfied with and very quickly lose their patience with a cumbersome application process.
Make the first steps of a process light-touch with just an email or a brief form submission, and a quick call. Make it simple and fast for them to signal their interest and give you their contact information. You can follow up to get the rest of the information later.
Making your job application mobile friendly is becoming a must-have. The previously mentioned study found that "at least half of job seekers with mobile devices spend three hours or more looking for jobs via those devices every week (49 percent on smart phones and 59 percent on tablets)."
Many job seekers find out about opportunities through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email. If they can't easily navigate the application from their phone, chances are high that they'll never come back.
Making the application process seamless for the candidate is more work but can mean the difference between getting a few more star candidates in the door and letting them slip through the cracks.
The information exchange needs to be balanced. Candidates need to learn about your organization, as well. Don’t ask too much of them in terms of time, attention, or effort, until you’ve given them commensurate value by revealing more about your organization and the role.
Communication. Responsive communication is very time-consuming to provide, so most companies don’t. They also feel like they don’t have to, which is a dangerous mistake.
The way you treat candidates speaks volumes about how much you value your employees, how seriously you take recruiting and how organized you are in general. Top-performers who seek meaning and values alignment in their work will be quickly turned off by artificial or poorly timed communication.
Update candidates on where they stand every few weeks, even if the only news is no news because things are taking longer than expected. Just hearing from you will make a world of difference to someone who is nervously checking their inbox every morning to see if they’ve been accepted or not.
Honesty. If you know right away that someone isn’t a good fit, say so. People deserve to be respected and treated like professionals. They can handle the truth.
Downplaying or holding back uncomfortable truths about your organization, their role, salary or what they can expect in working with you may lead to conflict and turnover later. If you’re afraid revealing something will scare a candidate away, it will only be worse if they find out after they’ve accepted the job.
There are legal risks in saying certain things to candidates, so make sure you check with an HR professional before you establish your policies about what to say.
Feedback, if at all possible. Telling people why they weren’t advanced will aid their job-seeking and be immensely appreciated by those who request it but feedback can be tricky. Tread lightly.
The reason might be not having the right mix of skills and experience, their answers during an interview or lacking the desired competency with a technical skill. Be careful citing cultural fit. In extreme cases, that can be interpreted as ageism or similar prejudices that open you to legal issues.
On the flip side, help candidates be more aware of their strengths. What parts of their application impressed you? Are their certain traits or experiences they could have emphasized more? Realistically, you may be unable to provide useful feedback to early-stage candidates but go the extra mile for interviewees and, especially, final candidates.
Giving a candidate that’s been let down actionable and encouraging feedback can turn them into an advocate for your brand.