How to give the right candidate experience

When I was an in-house recruiter, getting the candidate experience right was the holy grail. For me, this tells a candidate everything they need to know about the business they are applying to, how it operates and what its values are. From the first acknowledgment email, to the interview process and then to the offer, the experience a candidate has at each step of the way will shape and determine their decision as to whether an organisation is one that they want to be a part of.

In my last position I had no applicant tracking system to help me monitor and coordinate job applications or manage recruitment needs. I had no way of searching, filtering, or routing applicants, which, to put it bluntly, made the tracking of applications Excel spreadsheet hell! Did every candidate have a fantastic experience? Hand on heart, the answer is probably no, for a variety of reasons.

However since starting my own business last year I have become even more obsessive about building strong relationships with my own candidates. It’s the coaching side of my business that has given me a fresh perspective of why every recruiter that cares about their candidates should strive to give excellent service.

Candidate examples

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of one to one outplacement and career coaching assignments. One of my clients is new to the market after being made redundant following 12 years within the same role. This is a daunting prospect for any candidate who finds themselves in this position, given all of the bad news stories that are around, but he was particularly apprehensive about finding a new role within the current market.

We found him a role that on paper suited his experience and went through the application process together. The application was of a standard type, that was until we got to the point where we were asked to add his LinkedIn URL and then his Twitter URL and if we didn’t do this we were unable to continue with the application.

We completed the application process and submitted it but then received nothing back: no thanks for your application, no acknowledgment and no idea of why his application was subsequently not progressed.

Thankfully he now has another role and one of his first tweets was to name and shame the business that failed to come back to him. Which in my view is the downside to getting social media wrong and could easily have been avoided if the company had a basic applicant tracking system in place. They are a big business so it is surprising that they haven’t.

Terrible interviews

Another candidate of mine went to an interview recently after applying directly to the company for a mid-level management role. The job description consisted of a one-page document with little structure, but having researched the company it seemed like an up and coming business and potentially an interesting one for my client. The interview was a strange one though, with another manager, who seemed to know little about the role, and it was over in half an hour.

A week had gone by and no feedback from the interview. My client rang the HR manager who had initially contacted him. He emailed, left messages and even contacted via LinkedIn (not my idea!). When he did finally get some feedback it was woolly at best and he was told that the process was still ongoing.

Now this is my main bugbear with recruitment. If you invite a candidate in for interview be honest in the feedback that you give, even if it’s painful, and tell the candidate the real reason why they did not get a role. Good feedback is a gift, so please give it to your candidate and don’t skirt around the real issues. You might even find, as a result, that a candidate you reject for one role is suitable for another role that you will recruit for in the future.

The final story is a simple one. Another of my candidates applied for a role. Within twenty-four hours they’d received a response inviting them to interview. They were then invited back for a second interview but unfortunately were unsuccessful, but the feedback was concise and constructive and the candidate left with a favourable impression of the business. The candidate has since got another role partly as a result of taking on board the feedback given to him at his previous interviews.

This is how the candidate experience should be, no matter how busy we are we should always remember that this is a people business first and foremost and we owe it to individuals to give them the very best that we can.

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