How the Candidate Experience Pushes the Needle in a Competitive Hiring Market

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One for one. That’s today’s ratio of job openings to people unemployed. A far cry from the days of the Great Recession when there were almost seven candidates for every job advertised. Employers could be very choosy then. Now, candidates are the ones who get to be picky.

The upper hand

To get the upper hand in the most competitive hiring market in decades, employers are scrambling to spruce up their employment brand – exploring benefits, training, perks, and career maps to distinguish themselves and set the expectation for the employment experience. While this is super important, as a well-marketed employee experience is undoubtedly a differentiator, companies should consider the job candidate experience too.  Mishandled, the candidate experience could contradict all the hard work a company has put into employment branding efforts.

What is the candidate experience?

Well, it’s the sum of every interaction and every point of contact between the job seeker and your company before, during and after the recruiting and hiring process. The website. Every job posting. Every job description. Every email exchange (or non-response). Every phone call (or unreturned voicemail). Every meeting. The length and complexity of the process. The offer, and even the rejection. It includes ambassadors of your employment brand, both the internal representatives and those who serve as external proxies (like the recruiting partner you choose). You get the idea. How all these steps are handled has a lasting impression on candidates whether they end up working for you or not.  In our most recent job market research, a majority of employees (72%) had their perceptions of a company positively impacted by their experience as a candidate. Of the percentage who were negatively affected by the candidate experience, a lack of communication and the process taking too long were cited as reasons for their dissatisfaction. Other criticisms included too many interviews, an application that took too long to fill out, as well as excessive work sample or reference requirements. We are all consumers and live in an experience-driven society, trained for this by the best brands in the world. Where once we may have expressed our experience by word of mouth to a circle of friends, family, acquaintances and professional colleagues, today our reach is so much broader and faster. We evaluate everything as an experience and have the capability to share in an instant, empowered with multiple platforms to disseminate our opinion – Google reviews, Yelp, Glassdoor and more. Further, we are also living at a time of unprecedented expectations about transparency and authenticity.

First impressions are everything

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Moreover, this idea no longer applies only to the job seeker. Is your candidate experience sabotaging your recruiting efforts? If you suspect that you might be having a tougher time than others attracting and keeping candidates engaged through the hiring process, it might be time to consider the how things feel from the other side of the search.