Candidates Are King


In today’s social world, how organizations treat job seekers is more important than ever. Kevin W. Grossman It is well-documented in business today that poor customer service impacts customer retention, referrals, and potential new business. Social media has given consumers an open forum to share both good and bad product and service experiences with all who will listen. The same has been true for job seekers, and for too long, employers were resistant to treating the candidate as the primary customer of recruiting. However, according to Talent Board Candidate Experience (CandE) Awards and benchmark research conducted over the past five years, employers are finally making candidates a high priority.

The majority of organizations are investing in better strategies, providing greater opportunities for candidate engagement from pre-application to onboarding, and leveraging leading-edge technology to support these strategies. Unfortunately, many others are still falling short, and in some cases, ignoring the most basic strategy for engaging talent: consistent communication. In fact, according to 2015 North American CandE Awards and Research Report (U.S. and Canada), which was released in February 2016, only 40 percent of recruiters are required to respond to candidates at all. The 2015 CandE Research Report not only provides companies with the data and insights they need to understand the candidate experience, but also provides the action items they need to make it better.

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As organizations create more mature talent acquisition strategies, they must provide more opportunities to communicate with candidates and offer transparency through every stage of the candidate journey. What has become clear over the past five years is that there are major differences between CandE Award winners (the top ranked benchmark companies according to candidates) and all other participating companies. It’s proven that CandE Award winners

• Listen more

• Set higher expectations for candidates in the recruiting process

• Stay accountable for candidate experience and talent acquisition performance while measuring it regularly and consistently

• Project a “fairer” process according to candidates, who believe they’ve been able to share their knowledge, skills, and experience for consideration

The 2015 North American CandE Research Report offers several insights into today’s hiring process:

• Most employers are not making a first impression on candidates. More than 50 percent of candidates have some past relationship with an employer before applying. Companies should be thinking about ways to re-engage talent and brand the organization in an authentic way

• Candidates are becoming more sophisticated. They are taking control of their own journeys. In fact, 76 percent of candidates conduct job search research across multiple channels prior to applying. • Job boards are not dead. Even though candidates are relying less on job boards, organizations have increased their investment in this sourcing tool from 37 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2015.

• Mobile apply is still lagging. Although many organizations have improved or enhanced their mobile capabilities, only 8 to 10 percent of candidates apply through a mobile device when Offered the option.

• Communication with candidates is very weak. Although most companies send an immediate thank you response, nearly half of candidates never received any update on the status of the application.

No matter the details or technologies in place, the recruiting and hiring process is extremely personal. Communication and feedback continue to be elements that employers struggle with when it comes to enhancing candidate experience. It can be quite a messy exchange—much like an awkward dating conversation when the relationship isn’t going anywhere. Candidate experience is also the weight that sinks the business bottom line. How much exactly and the subsequent impact vary, but the chances it will impact revenue and the bottom line are increasing.

Consider that of the over 200 employers that participated in the 2015 CandE Awards and Research in North America alone, 1 million hires were made. Given that the average number of applicants per open job hovers around 200, while at the same time accounting for the fact that candidates apply for multiple positions as well, there are tens of millions of applicants that receive rejections regularly. Tens of millions of opportunities that could go bad, or that employers could leave some goodwill with in the place of not getting the job. When the candidate experience goes bad, negative resentment can compel candidates to share their experience with their inner circle and publicly online as well, often stating definitively that they will never again apply for a job with that organization. Both positive and negative social sharing has more than doubled since 2012.

Forty-one percent of candidates surveyed who reported having a horrible candidate experience stated that they will definitely take their alliance, product purchases, and relationships elsewhere. That’s a lot of potential lost revenue to any organization and the true business impact of millions of unhappy recruiting “customers.” Conversely, 67 percent of those who had an excellent, five-star candidate experience—over 80 percent of whom did not get the job, by the way—said that they will definitely increase their relationship through brand alliance, product purchases, or networking.

While Talent Board research continues to look for causation between a poor candidate experience and revenue loss, a recent Freakonomics podcast on whether or not literal boycotts work did emphasize that while there were mixed results overall, damage to brand reputation can lead to revenue loss and losing key talent to competitors. The negative outcries online and beyond aren’t boycotts per se, but word of mouth does get around. How many times have we heard people say, “I will never buy a thing from that company again” after a bad experience?

Although major changes take time and resources, the CandE research shows what talent acquisition teams could do to improve candidate communication throughout the recruiting cycle and it’s recommended they do a combination of these four simple things regularly:

• Always thank the candidates for their time

• Follow up with recommendations on what can be improved or what missed the mark

• End with positive comments about the situation, no matter what

• Not only give positive feedback, but ask for it as well

It’s not easy to scale direct touches with high-churn positions (high-volume hiring), but a combination of relevant and targeted automated communications combined with low-volume high-touch communication and feedback will help. Employers will always have to deal with candidate resentment, but thinking of candidates as the primary customers of recruiting can impact the bottom line for the better.

The 2015 CandE Research Report shows that strategic talent acquisition is now defined by the candidate experience more than ever before. Organizations are better able to deliver higher quality talent, improve recruitment efficiencies, and align more closely with business objectives when the candidate comes first. – S

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