You can tell a lot about a business by the way it goes about recruiting its people. I first heard this in my early days as a recruiter and over the years, more often than not, it has proved to be true. Jobseekers know this and the recent REC analysis of recruitment processes and the candidate experience - 'The Candidate Strikes Back' - has helped to highlight some of the differences in expectations between candidates and employers. For recruitment consultants, this insight is crucial, both as a signal for how they should manage their own relationships, and for the advice and support that they can offer clients to help them be seen as employers of choice.
(Word of mouth is) the number one source for finding out about vacancies
The first thing to underline is how important word of mouth has become in the talent marketplace. It's the number one source for finding out about vacancies, ahead of company career sites and job boards. Each candidate has their own network, including friends, family, professional contacts, social media connections and ex-colleagues. They talk to them about their search, the companies they meet and their experiences of the job application processes.
Every candidate is also a consumer and a potential recruit, whether for the role applied to or a future vacancy. Crucially so are their networks. Research showed that a bad application experience makes people less likely to buy, or to apply for a different role with the same organisation, whilst 26% would also dissuade someone in their network from applying. The impact of a bad reputation can be felt far beyond a rejected applicant. It’s not all bleak though - candidates like sharing good experiences too, and advocating positively for companies that provide it. With 62% of job applicants rating their experience as either very or fairly good, there will be some positive messages being passed through their networks.
Candidates are quite clear that the number one thing that needs to be improved to make for a better experience
When looking at the broader set of interactions that make up the application process we see possibly the biggest mismatches. Candidates are quite clear that the number one thing that needs to be improved to make for a better experience is the lack of feedback, specifically feedback on unsuccessful applications. However when employers are surveyed they rate this the least important.
In my experience, there are three things at play here - clarity, consistency and communication. There needs to be information from the outset on timeframes and the process itself, particularly length and number of stages. As a minimum, there should be an acknowledgement that an application has been received and anyone who attends an interview must receive proper, constructive feedback. If anything is going to turn a potential advocate into a detractor, it will be a failure to get any clarity over how they performed and where they came up short. Generic feedback won't be sufficient.
The length of time that the process takes can be an issue for candidates, primarily the period between interview and hiring decision. Employers themselves recognise this, with a third believing that reducing the time can lead to a better experience.
The number one thing that employers think can improve the process is better job related content
The number one thing that employers think can improve the process is better job-related content. For candidates, this doesn't seem as big an issue but anecdotally they get frustrated with descriptions that are vague and fail to specify skills, tasks, compensation or culture, and that also don't explain where the role fits in to the organisation. This is likely to discourage them from applying.
The findings about interviews were interesting. Candidates want to be sold to but also want to be tested, provided it's fair. They like to be probed by someone who has read their CV and is looking to see how they might fit into the company, but don't like interviews that are 'box ticking' exercises or ones featuring generic questions from an interviewer that hasn't read up on their background. The chance to look around the office and spend time with the hiring manager is also important.
The candidate experience is something that all hiring businesses need to be aware of. Whilst LinkedIn research has found 75% of recruiting leaders believing that their employer brand has a significant impact on hiring, I believe a great brand can be compromised by a negative experience. If there's one thing that comes through all the aspects in the RECs recent report it’s that candidates invest a lot of time and energy in the application process and want that respected. Tellingly, hiring companies asked only 11% of candidates for their own feedback on the application process. More need to be bold enough to do this if they want to offer an experience that attracts.
This matters for two main reasons. Firstly, we want the successful candidate to join our business and be successful. We don’t want to lose them because of failings in our own process. And secondly, all recruiters are in the 'rejection' business. Only one person will get the role and the way that we reject the rest will determine whether they are advocates for our business, recommending others, or if they become detractors.
And detractors can impact the bottom line as well as our reputation.