Candidate Experience – it’s not all about the ones you hire!

Candidate experience is a BIG buzz phrase in the recruitment world at the moment. We are all talking about how to attract talent, improve our Glassdoor ratings and build on our branding. We know we can demonstrate our culture and values through social media, telling all who visit our pages about our baking days, staff nights out and the charity fundraiser our boss did (cue here a picture of sweaty MD in Lycra or similar).

And some of you may even already know how important it is to welcome our new team members on board, showering them with gifts of branded mugs and their favourite tipple (especially if you have been to one of Adrian’s Candidate Experience Workshops or heard him on the HR Uprising Podcast).

All of these things are brilliant (and I really recommend you check out Adrian’s podcast if you haven’t already) because we small businesses need to do all we can to compete with big blue-chip companies. We might not be able to advertise on TV, but when prospective candidates Google our company name, we want them to find out all about how great we are to work for. Showcasing the small touches we can offer that the likes of Barclaycard can’t or just don’t need to.

But I don’t want to talk about that today, I want to talk about the importance of Candidate Experience in the Interview Process.

I have worked in recruitment for 6 years, give or take. In that time, I worked for Reed (you may have heard of them – they love Mondays), Verticality (the parent company of EasyWeb Group) and EasyWeb Group.

But before that, I had my own catering business and spent approximately 12 years being terrified that my customer service had to be second to none or my business would fail and my family would starve. Then I had a complete career change at the age of 30; jacking it all in and joining a healthcare delivery company, where my job was to call Oncology patients and book the home delivery of their Chemotherapy drugs. Here I learnt that exceptional customer service was not only an expectation, it was also an entitlement.  

So imagine my horror when I moved into the world of recruitment!! These poor candidates! To me they were my customers, but to my fellow Rec Cons and our clients they were a commodity, an annoyance, something to be used and discarded as the roles came and went…

And then I moved to Verticality. Here I was taught recruitment proper; working on a permanent desk and with candidates that were in high demand and short supply. But to my amazement, and despite that fact that IT & Software is such a candidate driven market – the candidate experience was much the same.

Delays on CV feedback (if any at all) made keeping candidates engaged and “warm” a daily battle. Even with the perfect CVs and the exceptional candidates… how many times I could have wept in frustration as we lost out to a company that was quicker off the mark! The feedback from interviews was often no better.

I was frustrated by the fact that my clients did not recognise the effort that candidates go to when they went to meet them; booking precious time away from work, buying a new outfit, telling their families all about this amazing job with a fab company… and then nothing. Not even a generic “more experienced candidates” rejection email.

Some candidates were spending hours on technical tests; coding calculators and building Web APIs from scratch to demonstrate their skill and approach… and the feedback, if any at all was often a “the calculator did not work” or “the code was not of a high enough standard”.

Sadly, those who invested the most time were often the least successful, and would have really benefited from someone taking a fraction of the time that they did to give them some advice or pointers.

So what? The candidates aren’t any good for the role. Their code is below par. They don’t have the experience we need, why do we care if we alienate them?

Here’s why:

  1. Candidates do have a tongue in their head and will tell their friends and colleagues about the way they were treated
  2. It is a digital world… they might leave a crappy Glassdoor review
  3. The candidate might be no good now, but another 2 years experience and they could be perfect for your business
  4. They could be perfect for another position in the business either now or in the future

& don’t lose good candidates because:

  1. They may have accepted an offer elsewhere while you were delaying
  2. You’ve put them off by being slow and uncommunicative
  3. They don’t feel valued. Everyone likes to be valued – so show it

My top tips for great candidate interview experience:

  1. Set out an interview plan, process & timeframe
  2. Communicate this with the candidate
  3. STICK TO IT
  4. If you can’t stick to it, keep the candidate informed
  5. Give constructive feedback – there are ways to give negative feedback in a positive way
  6. Ask to stay in touch for the future (connect on LinkedIn etc.)
  7. If you’re using agencies choose wisely; they are representing you & your values

All the above costs nothing but a bit of time and organisation. I know that Internal Recruiters and HR professionals have very little of this but it is achievable.

It will go a long way to improving your employer reputation and candidate attraction; saving you money and helping you to recruit the best people out there for your business.  

By Sadie Kellard, Head of Recruitment