We’ve found in our nearly thirty years of executive search that the most successful hiring organizations invest in their employer brand and focus on delivering a candidate experience that’s consistent with that brand. Despite candidate experience being critical, survey data from CareerArc.com suggests that many organizations are failing to meet expectations—nearly 60% have had a poor experience with a prospective employer. Here are a few essential candidate experience strategy best practices your organization should employ:
Candidate Experience Strategy #1: Make it easy to apply
Keep the application as simple as possible and ensure you’re using all the information collected—if you’re not using it, don’t ask for it. Application best practices:
• Let candidates know upfront what information they’ll need to complete your application
• Ensure your application is mobile friendly
• Use LinkedIn or resume parsing to reduce the amount of information the candidate has to manually enter
• Send a confirmation email confirming receipt of the application
Candidate Experience Strategy #2: Streamline your process
We’ve seen countless organizations lose top candidates because they’ve taken too long to make a decision and the candidate gets hired elsewhere. Extending the time between interview phases due to lack of search committee alignment or schedule challenges frustrates candidates. The ideal process is well-orchestrated and efficient with minimal time in between interview phases. Candidates resent when their time is wasted and are unlikely to apply again or accept an offer with an organization the feel wasn’t respectful.
Candidate Experience Strategy #3: Compel candidates to join your organization
Clearly communicate why the work you’re doing is important throughout the hiring process.
Candidate Experience Strategy #4: Give a realistic portrayal of the position
Identify the need you’re hiring to fill and craft a clear, easy-to-read job description. Be honest and upfront about your expectations for the role and challenges the new hire will face.
Candidate Experience Strategy #5: Determine how you’ll “sell” the position
Generate a list of three or four “sizzle” points that will be used to market the position and organization to prospective candidates. For example, is the position a great opportunity to build a team from the ground up? Develop strategy for an innovative project? Improve customer satisfaction? Understand what will appeal to candidates and make sure you’re highlighting what is great about the position throughout the process.
Candidate Experience Strategy #6: Make candidates feel welcome and accepted
Ensure you have a plan in place to get to know candidates and make them feel valued. Small things like having an employee take them to lunch or giving them a facility tour can make a huge difference in the candidate’s level of engagement and enthusiasm. Understand what motivates them, what’s important to them, and to the extent possible treat candidates as valued individuals rather than employing a one size fits all approach to engaging them.
Respond to candidate thank you and follow-up notes, and when you’re ready to extend an offer, have the candidates’ prospective manager contact the candidate to extend the offer or immediately following the offer. (In our experience this leads to faster acceptance.)
For the candidate who accepts the position, their first few weeks at work are comparable to the honeymoon phase of a marriage, so consider ways to make their initial days special, such as leaving them a small “welcome” gift, arranging team member meet and greets, or providing a mentor.
Candidate Experience Strategy #7: Treat candidates respectfully and accommodate their needs
It’s critical that candidates feel that their time is respected and that their schedules are accommodated to the extent possible. Leading organizations are willing to work with candidates to find interview times that will have minimal impact on their current responsibilities. If you’re asking a candidate to travel overnight to your location, make sure the visit is worth their while and they gather as much information as possible to inform their decision.
Candidate Experience Strategy #8: Provide candidates the information needed to evaluate the opportunity
Deciding to accept a job offer is a big decision—leading organizations do everything they can to ensure candidates have the information they need to make an informed decision. From making sure the candidate has adequate time to explore the area when potentially relocating, to ensuring the candidate has the opportunity to spend adequate time with their new boss and key team members, consider ways to make sure candidates have their questions answered.
Candidate Experience Strategy #9: Update candidates frequently
Not surprisingly to anyone who has ever conducted a job search, the biggest opportunity area for most organizations is better and more frequent communication during and after the application process. Create and share a communications plan detailing how and when candidates will receive updates—if you need to deviate from the plan, let candidates know. Even if your update is that “there is no update,” candidates appreciate the transparency and being kept in the loop. As the interview process draws to a close, set clear expectations about your timeline for filling the open position and next steps in the process. Notify candidates of the hiring decision as soon as possible. For candidates that don’t receive an offer, consider providing feedback or coaching to the extent possible
Some of these strategies should probably go without saying, but we’ve seen organizations neglect them enough to know that they’re worth mentioning. When we work with our executive search clients, we employ these strategies (and more) on behalf of the organization to help them reach and attract exceptional candidates.
Note: This piece is part of our new series entitled “Blueprint for Delivering An Exceptional Candidate Experience” which focuses on delivering a positive candidate experience for executive job seekers. The full e-book can be accessed here.
By Judy Kirby, President and Executive Recruiter with Kirby Partners, a leading executive search firm specializing in cyber security and healthcare IT recruiting.