The candidate experience evolves to generate more emotional engagement

At a time of continued skills and talent shortages across most sectors of the economy, the idea of ​​enticing potential employees with a compelling candidate experience is gaining increased attention.

While it was once considered a ‘nice to have’ that was being explored after other elements of the recruitment process were dealt with, ‘intense competition has led to renewed interest’ here over the past year or so, says Jamie Kohn, research director at Gartner’s HR firm.

This is partly because “when people get multiple job offers, they don’t have the patience to go through long, drawn-out application processes, which takes a lot of effort to create an effortless experience,” adds she.

Additionally, more and more hiring managers and business leaders are beginning to understand that recruiting is a two-way process, which involves understanding what candidates need, what engages them, and what information they need. need to help them make the right decision.

As for what an effortless candidate experience looks like in practice, Kohn thinks it consists of three key elements. The first revolves around process-based activities, such as making it easier to apply for jobs and providing candidates with frequent updates and information about the different stages of the hiring process. A key goal here is to streamline these processes to speed them up.

The second element is to understand the candidate’s journey and the information and support needed at different important times. These include the application process, interviews, and offer stages.

These two elements are what Kohn describes as the “low hanging fruits” of candidate experience and are what the majority of employers are currently focusing on – though “they don’t always do very well in this area.” “, she adds.

A work in progress

However, the third area is “still a work in progress” and is where organizations still struggle the most. This involves “engaging candidates on a more emotional level to connect with the organization and see if it’s a good fit for them,” says Kohn.

It is this bond, based on the fact that candidates can identify with the company’s values ​​and are likely to find the work they will do meaningful, that differentiates one employer from another.

But to build it, consider the candidate experience as part of the organization’s broader employer branding activities. It also means understanding that everything that happens during the hiring process affects the brand reputation of the company.

Kohn explains, “So, for example, if you’re trying to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your branding, candidates need to feel that and see those values ​​throughout the experience. Everything needs to be cohesive and have a strong connection to who you are, so it’s about rethinking the way you provide vision for the organization.

One way to do this is to connect candidates with existing employees and managers early in the hiring process to provide them with a more trusted “voice of experience” than recruiters. Another is to be upfront and transparent about issues ranging from compensation to flexible working.

Candidate relationship management systems

As for the technology side of things, it has an important role to play here, especially in the process and journey elements of the triangle candidates. In recent years, for example, vendors have cited double-digit growth in candidate relationship management systems, says Betsy Summers, principal analyst for Forrester Research’s Future of Work team. Major vendors in this space include Beamery, iCIMS, and Phenom People.

The software, which has been around for about a decade but is not yet widely adopted, is a point solution that integrates or ships with applicant tracking systems, which are now commodity products.

The first wave of candidate relationship management technology performs a similar function to “marketing engines,” Summers says. They allow recruiters to “nurture talent pools, create campaigns and nurture them through scalable workflows so, for example, that every rejected application receives a personalized and empathetic email response.”

These systems can also be used for sentiment analysis on social media channels and to understand where candidates drop out of the process so action can be taken.

“It’s very similar to marketing,” says Summers. “Imagine how inefficient and inconsistent it would be if marketing didn’t have the technology to manage their campaigns or social media strategy – it would take so long it would be impossible, so candidate relationship management can help. the same way from the point of view of recruitment.”

As a result, interest has been particularly strong in sectors with tight talent markets, such as high tech and financial and professional services. It is also buoyant in those where staff turnover is high, such as manufacturing, transportation and supply chain. Employers eager to be associated with a positive employee experience also tend to be enthusiastic.

The next generation to come, meanwhile, consists of artificial intelligence (AI)-based skills ontology systems, which can infer an individual’s skills based on their experience and match them with job opportunities. jobs available. They also help identify the best candidates with whom it may be a good idea to build relationships.

But Summers adds, “These tools are still mostly in development, but there’s a lot of skepticism and fear of using them for a recruiting use case. Stories like gender bias in Amazon’s recruiting system a few years ago have stuck in people’s minds.

While she acknowledges that, if used effectively, AI can help mitigate affinity bias, a key issue is that “most organizations are still struggling with how to implement AI ethically” and “people are afraid of losing control of the process”.

But even if they’re using less controversial technology, it seems most employers still have a long way to go to create a truly compelling candidate experience.

Kohn concludes, “I don’t know of any organization that has fully understood the candidate experience, and that’s partly because candidate expectations continue to evolve. But many organizations don’t even cover the basics – even though they might think they are.

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