Recruiters need to think about candidate experience

Be nice to job applicants: they're also potential customers, says James Bull.

by James Bull
Last Updated: 17 Jan 2019

Most people at one point or another in their career will have had a bad recruitment experience. This one might sound familiar: you spend hours filling out an overly complex application form and then you’re made to wait weeks before hearing back, or you never hear back at all. Experiences like this are surprisingly common. According to research, nearly 60 percent of jobseekers have had a poor candidate experience.

There was a time when companies could get away with it. That time has long passed. Peak social media and the growing influence of employee review sites like Glassdoor, mean companies can be just one review away from a tarnished employer brand. Seventy-two percent of job seekers who have had a bad experience have shared this online or directly with another person.

The impact of a bad candidate experience goes beyond damaging a company’s employer brand though. It can hit the bottom line as well. Research from TalentBoard found that 41 percent of applicants choose to take their loyalty and their money elsewhere following a bad experience. Virgin Media looked into the impact this was having on sales. It turned out it was pushing many existing customers away, costing £4.4m a year.

Companies will continue to throw millions away unless they recognise that the traditional approach to recruitment isn’t working and a new, more candidate-focused one is required. The progress that’s been made in customer services in the last decade points to how things need to change. The key touchpoints in the customer journey are now meticulously mapped out and the experience constantly measured and optimised through data and other consumer insights. Nothing is taken for granted in the hunt for new customers. Automation is allowing companies to do all of it at scale.

The same approach needs to be adopted for the complex candidate journey if organisations are to compete for the best talent. The entire process and experience should be measured and systematically improved to keep candidates engaged - from the moment they spot the job ad on a jobs board or visit the company’s website, to filling out the application form and coming in for the interview.

Many of the technologies that allow employers to take this more sophisticated, insight-driven approach are already available, but not enough companies are embracing them. As a result, candidates are continuing to fall off the radar.

Creating a better candidate experience and strengthening the employer brand will inevitably require more investment. This is one of the internal challenges HR departments face. However, there are plenty of ROI proof points that HR teams can highlight in order to convince reluctant finance departments.

According to research from LinkedIn, companies with strong employer brands have 28 percent lower turnover rates than those with weaker ones. That means, in the long run, a better candidate experience can save money on having to regularly recruit new people. And, for businesses that offer an excellent candidate experience, 64 percent of applicants say they are willing to increase their relationship with the company, even if they didn’t get the job.

If finance heads are still reluctant, just point to the millions Virgin Media was losing every year and the fact that, once they turned things around, they discovered it’s 10 times cheaper to gain business from the recruiting process than traditional marketing. The question isn’t so much can we afford to invest in our candidate experience, but can we afford not to?

It’s time for all companies to follow Virgin Media’s example and take a look into the black box of recruitment. It might just be critical for the future of your business.

James Bull is country manager at Starred.

Image credit: jarmoluk/Pixabay

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