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Want to build a great candidate experience? Listen, and learn.

Posted by The ConveyIQ Team

Great minds love good challenges. But with the tightest job market in 50 years, even top industry leaders in talent acquisition can use a little help. Last Thursday evening they gathered at NYC’s Park Avenue Winter for an intimate fireside chat with Gerry Crispin, CareerXroads’ founder who describes himself as a lifelong Talent Acquisition learner, shared his take on today’s best practices as well as vital insights from Talent Board research. Danielle Weinblatt--CEO of ConveyIQ--kept it real with her moderating skills. And some great food and even better wine ensured the creativity and camaraderie were off the charts.

When it comes to building a great candidate experience, Crispin explained he is “obsessed with the evidence”: in his well-researched opinion, successful recruiting strategies will evolve from candidate survey data and benchmarks these create. He advised talent acquisition leaders to take a page from their marketer colleagues and track clear measurements of progress such as Net Promoter Scores (NPS)--which measure a customer’s (or candidate’s!) loyalty to a given brand.

As a great example of a company doing it right, Crispin called out Capital One and one of its TA leaders, Christina McClung (who has since moved on to HR leadership).  “Christina surveyed as many 10,000 candidates a month with impressive response rates as high as 50%. She had the ability to filter by geography, recruiter, job family, and level to stack rank NPS scores,” Crispin noted. “Every month, out of a department of 100+ recruiters, she tasked the five who score highest with a teaching moment for their colleagues--they led a webinar on what they did and brainstormed new ways to improve the candidate experience.”  From this intensive culture of testing and learning, McClung exceeded her internal stakeholders’ needs in terms of time to hire and quality of hire. And just as important, she created an extraordinary cohort of people not hired, but still singing the praises of Capital One: advocates so enthusiastic they would refer friends to work for the company, apply again, and purchase its products and services.

What makes it great

Crispin learns from the many companies that participate in TalentBoard, a non-profit he helped found that has overseen the Candidate Experience Awards each year since 2010. Each year, hundreds of employers participate and more than 200,000 of their candidates answer questions regarding the hiring journey. The firms whose candidates rate them the highest are acknowledged each year and their data shared at thetalenboard.org. The TalentBoard questions drill down and enable a detailed understanding of what makes for a great candidate experience--and he shared his latest findings over the course of the Park Avenue night.    

Getting back to candidates.  Crispin relayed how even before the digital age--when applications required filing systems in metal cabinets and people corresponded with things like typewriters, letters, and stamps, Johnson and Johnson did a wonderful job of keeping in touch with candidates and letting them know their status every step of the way. If their recruiting departments could take the time to type out letters and labels then, is it really so hard--with the array of intelligent software available to us today--to schedule an automated email?  The costs for not doing so run high: according to Crispin’s research, the amount of time it takes to start communicating with candidates clearly affects how candidates judge a company and its overall hiring process. And if that company NEVER communicates with some candidates? Those candidates will remember it forever.

Creating a perception of fairness. “Fundamentally we need to start thinking through the scripts we’re developing and talk about what fairness really means,” Crispin explained. “This can be a huge factor in terms of possibly damaging a company.” This year for the first time, for example, Crispin included in his survey the question ‘Did they ask you about your salary?’ Results showed that 19% of companies did ask this question and that those that did consistently had the lowest NPS rating. Conversely, those that openly stated salary range ranked the highest.  And when companies asked, ‘What didn’t I ask that would help you compete for the job?’ their score went up by 5 - 10%. “People want parity,” Weinblatt noted. “And they want to be heard.”

Providing transparency. When it comes to conveying what it’s really like to work at your company, honesty pays. Crispin shared how candidates expressed how they wanted to be able to ask hiring managers about their own track records and achievements, just like hiring managers get to interview them. “We’re not there yet,” said Crispin. “But any company that can provide this level of truth in their storytelling will look incredible to incoming candidates.” And just like in any good storytelling, revealing vulnerability creates sympathy.  Candidates respond favorably when companies give them the truth about opportunities AND challenges. “The more transparency you provide, the more you will get back from candidates,” Weinblatt explained.

A lot more in common

Attendees requested special insight into certain types of candidate experiences -- such as best practice approaches for particular age groups, or specific tactics to avoid the shortage in tech. In each case, however, Crispin said the same core principles apply. “Recruiting is psychology,” agreed Weinblatt. “And psychology, at its foundation, is about addressing common human needs.”

“When it comes to generations, we’re more similar than you’d think,” Crispin explained. “People react in different ways at different points in the hiring process.  But different age groups react similarly at each of these points, and have similar communications needs when they get there.” The one distinction to consider, Crispin noted, is how we choose to communicate with candidates at each juncture. Certain types of digital communication--like texts and video--can be more effective with younger groups, whereas older cohorts may respond better to alternatives like email.

Crispin also emphasized the commonality between tech candidates and other job seekers when it comes to the candidate experience. But he did offer a shortage-reducing tactic, one that can make companies more attractive not only to tech talent--but to candidates all around.  “Recruiters and hiring managers for every department need to shift their focus more and more into workforce planning -- onto build, rather than buy,” he advised. Training and promoting talent from within not only helps decrease the shortage of tech talent--it 1) fosters the learning culture every company needs for agile adaptation to accelerating change, and 2) presents the organization as a people-centered place to grow, making it more attractive to current and prospective top talent.  

Give the people what they want

The bottom line? The elements candidates want in a hiring experience help organizations grow stronger, too. “People want to work for respectful and purposeful companies who teach, who support teaching organizations, and who support the development of diverse workforces and talent,” Crispin stated.  “And the companies who prioritize these preferences will not only attract the top talent as we move into this period of rapid growth and change. By virtue of meeting their candidates’ needs, they will develop the learning culture and agile infrastructure they need moving forward to survive and to thrive.”