Zeroing In On the Candidate Experience

job search Recruitment Best Practices Candidate Experience Job Candidates are Customers

The candidate experience is made up of the steps a company takes to select and hire as seen through the eyes of the candidate.  According to a just published survey by Career Builder, a leading job board and resume database, there are gaps between how management sees their hiring processes, and how the candidate sees those same activities carried out.  Those gaps can hurt a company’s brand in the marketplace.

Hiring in the digital age has also ushered in complexity.  More tools and more places for employers and candidates to connect online, combined with managers’ fear of making a wrong decision, have slowed hiring cycles down significantly.  According to CareerBuilder, 75 percent of hiring managers would rather let a position go unfilled than to make a bad hiring decision.  That’s trepidation.

Professional recruiters see this daily; indecisive managers who are slow to pull the trigger and make the hire.  A long hiring process – just one component of the candidate experience – can potentially be perceived as disrespectful.  But does that matter?

Respondents to the employer’s survey were senior managers or business owners who have significant involvement in hiring decisions.  Their companies tended to have less than 500 employees, with 72 percent having less than 100.  The respondents were split evenly between male and female, and were made up of 52 percent Boomers and 38 percent Gen’s X & Y.

In total, managers felt pretty good about their hiring practices.  They stated that their companies were doing a good job in communicating with and treating candidates with respect.  Seventy-two percent of managers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “during the application process, our company is responsive to job candidates.”  And 84 percent said that their companies were concerned about providing a positive experience for job candidates while applying and being evaluated.

But just how committed are these managers to being responsive and providing a positive candidate experience?  Here is where the data paint a contradictory picture:

Eighty-two percent said that there was little or no negative impact to their business if their candidates had a negative experience.  However 80 percent agreed that candidates are more likely to buy from their companies if the candidate felt respected during the application process.  Hmm…

To summarize, the data say that 1) “we” think we’re doing OK in managing our own application processes, 2) that candidates are more likely to become a customer after a positive experience, but that 3) there is little or no risk to the business if the candidate has a negative experience.

How can that be?  That suggests that most candidates would have to feel completely neutral about their participation in a company’s application process.  But they don’t.  Here’s what candidates had to say when asked about general experiences applying to potential employers:

  • 68 percent agreed that a positive or negative experience during the application process WOULD affect their decision if offered employment by that company.  If you’ve ever felt the sting of having your job offer declined by your top candidate, note that this could be critical for winning your piece of the ongoing “war for talent.”
  • 55 percent of candidates disagreed with the statement, “Companies are responsive to me during the application process.”  This does not jive with the perception of 72 percent of respondents on the hiring manager survey.  In fact, candidates report that they hear back only half of the time from a recruiter or hiring manager when they did not get offered the job after being interviewed.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that this could affect feelings of disrespect.
  • 82 percent of candidates stated that they tell others when they have a negative experience with a company during their application process, with 1 in 5 telling 10 or more people (senior leaders, take note!)

And the kicker, when asked if they would be “more or less likely to buy from the company as a consumer” after participating in the application process, candidates reported that:

  • 65 percent would be less likely to buy if they didn’t hear back from a company after an interview,
  • 69 percent would be less likely to buy if they had a bad experience during an interview, and
  • 69 percent would be more likely to buy from the company if they felt respected during the application process.

In case it is tempting to dismiss this data as the rant of the fringe, most of the candidates surveyed were employed full-time (72 percent), exactly whom hiring managers want most.  Respondents were fairly evenly distributed across job categories, age groups and salary bands.

As with so much of life’s experiences, perceptions between two sides of a transaction can vary greatly.  But the data suggest that there are gaps between what hiring managers think is occurring and what candidates believe they are experiencing.  Given that most businesses need every customer they can get, remembering that candidates are potential customers does matter.  The candidate experience can affect your brand in the marketplace in one way or another.