Why your company should create the best candidate experience

Nikki Benfield

I have friends whose children are graduating and heading into the working world for the first time. Compared to my own entry into the working world, their stories literally make me shiver when I hear about their experiences as a prospective candidate. Simply put, it isn’t good.

And that’s remarkable, given the paradoxical higher-than-ever demand for good skills.

So, while there is a potentially steady supply of smart, savvy, switched-on graduates entering the labour force, they just aren’t impressed by what they find.

Back when I got my start (almost 30 years ago) I developed a personal relationship with the HR Manager who interviewed me through the short-list. She prepared me well for the Marketing Manager interview from a style and content perspective. She also readied me for the CEO interview – and the CEO was interested in what I had to say and asked great questions.

I knew where I stood at each step in the process, was kept updated and made to feel valued.

By comparison, many of today’s graduates are sending hundreds of applications online to a faceless mailbox, receiving neither feedback nor even a response. If they are granted an interview and spend the time to attend, they often don’t hear back for weeks – if ever.

With no personal opportunity to showcase capabilities, they are left feeling despondent about their prospects in the job market. Good people are being turned away and, worse, turned off.

If you need skills, and let’s face it, who doesn’t, the candidate experience is more important now than it has ever been. That goes not only for the people you do end up hiring, but also for those who you don’t.

Gone are the days when a candidate would only entertain one prospective employer at a time, where it was a simple case of “if they like me I’ll take the job” no matter the complexity of the process. Instead, candidates today want the best from the complete working experience. They want to understand the business they’ll be working for and the type of work they will be doing.

That starts with the hiring process. Prospective employers need to put their best foot forward from Day 1. You need to impress the candidate as much as you hope they will impress you. The people (and remember, these are people you are dealing with) who aren’t hired should be left saying good things about your company—you never know who they will talk to, or when you might find yourself headhunting them.

So, what can you do to make a difference?

  • Be respectful.  Show you respect the candidate by replying timeously, and not cancelling or changing the times of interviews at the last minute. Their time is just as precious as yours. Many candidates are frustrated when they take time off, only to have an appointment cancelled at the last minute. Give feedback often and appropriately, whether good or bad.
  • Be present.  Last-minute crises aren’t the candidate’s fault or problem. Focus on him or her, understand their motivation and assess their suitability for the job
  • Be personal.  Show every candidate his or her effort is appreciated. Send a follow up mail, have someone in the team reach out to them if you offer them a role to congratulate them, refer to things they might have told you in a personal welcome card
  • Be innovative.  Don’t just go through the motions: Do your homework, be prepared and look for unique ways to present your business. Ask good questions and give good answers.

While much is focused on what candidates need to do to impress employers, turning it around shows that employers should perform similar ‘due diligences’ and show reciprocal respect and consideration. After all, you need the skills. When you impress those who have them and deliver a good experience, they will choose your company.

And candidates need to do their homework too; they need to understand what they are looking for, demonstrate commitment and loyalty, understand the ethos and culture of the company and share why they think they could be a good fit for your business.

Even if you don’t hire that person, he or she might one day be a client. If that happens, wouldn’t it be best if they remember being treated with respect and decorum, even though they didn’t get the job?

Nikki Benfield is the Global Lead: Business Development at VentureWeb (and part of the agile workforce). Like what you read? Email Nikki here.


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