quick-fixThere are a ton of tools out there that purport to be some kind of silver bullet for candidate experience. From enterprise platforms to point solutions, the concept of “candidate experience” has become increasingly commoditized, an organizational imperative reduced to a software sales pitch.

The thing many employers don’t seem to get is that no matter what tools they choose to use, any candidate experience initiative is going to fail without the right people and processes in place, first.

If you can’t get these aligned, then there’s no tech on earth that can fix what’s really broken with your candidate experience. You can automate all you want, but getting it right really requires high touch, not high tech.

That’s not to say tools can’t help; in fact, they can make all the difference when it comes down to converting a passive applicant into an active candidate or new hire. And if your people and processes are actually aligned, then the tools you choose to help improve the candidate experience will actually have a real impact when it comes to your recruiting results and ROI.

Here’s what every recruiter needs to know when selecting and adopting the tools they need to succeed when it comes to improving the candidate experience.

Measuring Candidate Experience: Building A Better Benchmark.

dogma-if-you-cant-measure-it-you-cant-manage-itUnderstanding where your organization is actually at in terms of candidate experience is imperative; building benchmarks that are standardized, scalable and sustainable across your recruiting organization is an essential starting point on any employer’s candidate experience roadmap.

Getting the insights and information you need to effectively build this benchmark, however, requires recruiters to increasingly adopt a marketing mindset and start treating candidates like customers, and knowing that they, as consumers of work, have a choice when it comes to choosing an employer of choice.

The entire point of candidate experience, really, is making sure more candidates choose you than the competition.

Knowing what’s really driving those consumer decisions means really listening to what your candidates really think about your employer brand; every organization has an employer brand, whether or not you actually have an employer branding strategy.

Listening to candidates is a straightforward and simple first step to building a baseline for benchmarking candidate experience. By combining qualitative data as well as anecdotal experiences through personal follow ups and automated surveys, you’ll get a better sense of what you’re doing right right now, and what you can be doing better today to create the kind of candidate experience you’ll need to win the top talent of tomorrow.

There are literally hundreds of tools for obtaining this type of insight or information from candidates; from no or low cost solutions like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to more robust enterprise tools like Formstack or Slack, there’s very little financial risk involved in reaping the rewards inherent to continuous market research and consumer surveying.

While these technologies make surveying candidates simple, using these tools presents a unique set of challenges. When assessing potential survey platforms, it’s important to concentrate less on the content of the survey, focusing more on any potential issues involving process automation, systems integration, data aggregation and predictive analysis that might arise before or after implementation.

To reach the candidates you need to get the information you want, any surveying solution should seamlessly integrate into any candidate management tool, CRM or other enterprise wide candidate communications platform your organization might already be using.

From adding calls to action into the acknowledgement e-mails automatically generated by your ATS to following up with pipelined candidates or targeted prospects through a talent community or recruiting network, it’s critical that all candidates have the chance to provide insights and information on their own experience at some point in your process, and that you’re collecting this sort of data at every point in the hiring process.

Recruitment Marketing: Meaningful Metrics And Actionable Analytics.

review-imgOnce you have enough responses from a wide enough representation of your candidate population, you’ll need to take a step back and spend some time crunching the numbers to see what kind of story the data is telling you about your people and processes, and the focus areas you should be prioritizing to ensure a consistent, world class experience for every single candidate, every single time.

You might be surprised at the disconnect between what you think, and what the numbers show; you’ll never know how well you’re really doing in terms of candidate experience until you actually ask your candidates, something too few employers have taken the time to do. Don’t make the mistake of making assumptions.

Knowing what top talent really thinks – and knowing how to convert passive candidates into active applicants – means adopting some marketing best practices for monitoring and measuring candidate behaviors throughout the talent attraction and application process. By applying established online marketing best practices to your candidate experience strategy, you’ll be able to actually quantify how effective your candidate experience really is (or isn’t).

As you’re probably already aware, the talent acquisition funnel is almost completely congruent with the consumer sales funnel; online recruiting, like ecommerce or SaaS solutions, requires breaking through the noise of a crowded, cutthroat marketplace and making sure you’re being heard. The only way to do that is by knowing what your candidates are actually listening for, which, again, is why big data is such a big deal.

Looking a little more closely at the recruiting funnel, we have the “consideration” stage of the process, where a qualified, interested and available potential candidate is trying to decide whether or not to formally apply for a position or opportunity at your organization.

Every employer needs to accurately measure not only the source of every applicant, but also the percentage of application starts to submissions, and where in the process that drop-off is occurring. By measuring things like bounce rates, applicant drop off rates and the problems preempting candidates from at least entering your recruiting funnel, you’ll be able to identify specific process areas where your investment in candidate experience tools and technologies are the likeliest to have the biggest impact on your business and bottom line.

Collecting this kind of data is similar to what marketers are already doing with tools like Google AdWords, tracking and optimizing candidate click through and campaign response rates in real time, all the time; by adopting these proven B2C best practices, recruiters can lower bounce rates, increase engagement, and improve conversions throughout every stage of the candidate lifecycle.

Much like survey software, there are a ton of free or low cost point solutions out there for measuring where candidates are coming from, where they’re dropping out and what you need to do to capture and convert the top talent your organization needs. In addition to the aforementioned AdWords, a few of the more popular providers in this category include solutions like Mixpanel, Optimizely, Qualaroo and KissMetrics; each of these solutions, as well as the other software providers in this category, are built to capture usage data across both mobile and desktop experiences, an increasingly critical capability for employers today.

After implementing one of these solutions, you’ll at least have the data and visibility you need to know where to identify the issues you’ll really need to address, and the most imperative people and process problems you’ll have to overcome, to give the candidates your organization needs the experience they expect – and deserve – throughout every step of your sourcing, screening and selection processes.

Priorities, First: The Five Biggest Candidate Experience Mistakes Employers Make.

reboot-computer-errorsNow that you’ve established an effective baseline for collecting both qualitative and quantitative applicant data and candidate feedback, you have the data you need to start identifying the areas that represent the greatest opportunities (or biggest liabilities) for positively impacting candidate experience, and where you’ll likely get the biggest bang for your HR Tech buck.

Candidate experience isn’t limited strictly to the talent attraction and application process, however.

This is why it’s so important to consider the other three phases of the recruitment process that also impact the candidate experience. We’ll call these additional three phases Screening and Dispositioning; Interviewing and Selection; and, finally, Offer, Onboarding & New Hire.

Tools shouldn’t create new problems, as is too often the case, but should instead solve existing ones, which is why it’s so important to identify specific challenges or areas for improvement you want to focus your candidate experience initiatives on.

If you’re collecting the right data, figuring out where you really need to focus on for improving the candidate experience is easy; if you can define your problem, you can not only find the right solution, but also measure the impact this technology is making on your ability to attract, engage and hire top talent.

While every organization’s primary problems and most dire drivers are different, here are some of the things candidates identify as the most common mistakes employers and recruiters make when it comes to candidate experience today:

1. The Devil’s In the Details: Most candidates say that they feel as if posted job descriptions or career opportunities don’t provide them with enough information to determine whether or not they’d be a fit, nor give them any specific reason or value proposition for actually applying.

Candidates are looking for more than a job title and a bulleted list of qualifications; they’re looking to know what working for your company is really like. This is why you’ve got to make sure you’re not only adequately communicating what you’re looking for, but why potential candidates should look at you, too. Job ads are the common currency in recruiting communications, and an ideal place to clearly communicate this value proposition.

2. Time Is Money: Many candidates report that the average application process is too long or complicated; fully 60% of job seekers in a recent survey report that they’ve abandoned applications for jobs they’re otherwise interested in because they require too much time and information. There’s a good chance your application process is scaring away applicants instead of converting them. Want to improve candidate experience?

Keep it simple, stupid.

If only it were that simple.

3. The Black Hole Sucks: After investing an average of 20-30 minutes on job applications, over 50% of job seekers report that employers never even take the time to send them a perfunctory e-mail acknowledging their application has even been received. Giving candidates peace of mind is a big piece of improving their overall experience, which is why it’s imperative for every employer to at least let candidates know where they stand in the process – even if that’s something as simple as shooting them a standard “thanks but no thanks” e-mail once they’re no longer under consideration.

4. Who’s The Boss: As another recent survey suggests, over 3 out of 4 candidates never receive any sort of feedback, even if it’s general or generic, from employers or recruiters during their job search process. Of course, a similar percentage reported to not knowing whether they should be soliciting that feedback from the recruiter or the hiring team directly, a communications breakdown that’s not limited to candidates, but rather, is endemic at most employers.

Improving the candidate experience is an enterprise wide initiative, which is why every employer needs to define expectations and assign specific responsibilities for communicating and engaging with candidates for both recruiters and their hiring managers alike, and ensuring ongoing accountability is shared between both parties. You both own candidate experience, after all.

5. Decisions, Decisions: Many candidates, particularly those who are a little further down the funnel in the interview or offer stage, cite the speed of decision making as being one of the biggest inhibitors to a positive candidate experience. While no news is old news for most candidates, the fact that even good news often takes forever (or at least longer than anticipated) is one of the biggest frustrations job seekers report having with the recruiting process today. While attracting and selecting the best and brightest candidates on the market is every employer’s ultimate goal, ultimately, the truth is, top talent is increasingly unlikely to wait around for you to make a decision. Remember, it’s not entirely your decision to begin with, which is why the end game is so important.

Candidate Experience: How HR Technology and Talent Tools Can Help.

c9a77fbe11020b3d83f072b4d8aa313aHistorically, many enterprise software suites and legacy HR or recruiting systems have been the cause of, rather than the solution to, some of the most pressing and persistent problems plaguing the candidate experience today. Chances are, if you’re relying exclusively on these outdated tools and obsolete technologies, you’re already losing the war for talent – and probably have a pretty crappy candidate experience, to boot.

Whether you’re using an old school ATS or one of the new generation of SaaS recruiting solutions, it’s unlikely that these systems of record have the full set of features and functionalities you need to succeed at solving your most pressing candidate experience problems.

This means increasingly relying on integrating point solutions to overcome the legacy of legacy systems and make a meaningful impact on candidate experience and recruiting results.

This has led to a natural tension (and competition) between integrated talent management technology providers and these point solution providers, but the reality is that no single vendor has effectively cracked the candidate experience conundrum, and the reality of recruiting tools in 2015 is that there’s no one stop shop or single bullet for recruiting success, which is why no employer should put all of their eggs into a single technology basket.

Instead, organizations should focus their spend on the talent tools that are the most likely to align with – and solve – the most common candidate experience issues. Remember: if you can’t define the problem, you’ll never know whether or not any solution is working in the first place.

1. Sweating The Small Stuff: The challenge of providing the right details and enough insights for candidates to make an informed decision before applying can be easily solved; by providing much clearer information and insights into your company culture, value proposition and what working at your organization is really like, you’ll give candidates the details they want while still communicating the information they need to succeed, too.

By augmenting those boring bulleted lists of job related responsibilities and requirements with compelling copy, convincing collateral and consistent career value prop, you’ll be able to build a magnetic employer brand that’s not only going to attract more candidates, but more of the right candidates, too. In recruiting, quality of hire matters most.

That’s why a quality solution that can help build a brand and create awesome recruitment marketing content, such as CEB, Jibe, Avature, Clinch or Smashfly, for example, is a great investment – and a great way to start improving the candidate experience at your organization.

2. Making The Application Processes Easier: The challenge with optimizing and streamlining your process to place the proper premium primarily on developing candidates instead of generating applicants lies primarily in the fact that most online applications and ATS systems are inflexible, or that outdated enterprise or legacy systems often require applicants to fill in a million forms and fields that aren’t really necessary at this early stage in the process. If this sounds like your system, it’s time to get with the system.

Start by auditing your process carefully, and analyzing the data to determine which steps in your process are costing you the most candidates; then, take the time to figure out which steps, fields and information you truly need from candidates, or which actually add value to applicants, and update your tools accordingly.

The more straightforward and streamlined you can make your application process, the better the experience your candidates will have. Period. Talk about simple solutions.

3. The Death of the Black Hole: Overcoming this candidate experience challenge is really about making sure you’ve got the right combination of high tech and high touch, and your people and processes are appropriately aligned with both your enterprise systems and point solutions alike.

By augmenting the application processes with steps as simple as automated submission acknowledgements or a standard follow up e-mail providing additional information on the company, your people or your process to candidates, you’ll be able to set expectations and ensure you’re able to consistently deliver as promised. Which is all most candidates want, anyways. It’s the little things that go the longest way; with the right tool or technology, those small improvements will make an even bigger impact when it comes to improving the candidate experience.

4. Closing the Loop: Depending on the unique candidate experience challenges your organization is facing, from absentee interviewers to poorly communications between recruiter and hiring manager, you’ll need to figure out how to make sure you’re closing the loop with candidates at a minimum; ideally, you’ll also partner on generating and delivering constructive criticism and specific feedback to your candidates, too.

You can offer a candidate value without extending them an offer; give them the tools they need to succeed the next time they apply for a job, and you’ll not only have better candidates in the future, but you’ll also build a pretty killer employer brand in the process. But if you can’t get your internal processes and people aligned, then you’ve got a problem that no tool or technology can solve.

5. Freedom of Choice: If you’re like most organizations, there’s a good chance your decision making delays are not only frustrating candidates, but also likely costing you top talent through paralysis by analysis. By implementing a tool to collect the actionable analytics and meaningful metrics you need to build a strategy for candidate experience success, you’ll have the data you need to make better decisions faster, without second guessing or scenario planning.

While slow decisions are evident throughout the hiring process, a couple of the most common causes are the delay in compiling interview feedback or standardizing that feedback across every stakeholder in the recruiting process. Studies suggest that less than 30% of organizations have any tool or technology for interviewers to submit feedback digitally, nor any standard process for collecting or analyzing that feedback.

Even if the tools and technology are there, typically, it’s up to the recruiter to drive those decisions by making that feedback easier to collect, curate and communicate. By implementing recruiting tools that provide a way to automate feedback while standardizing and structuring that feedback and giving hiring stakeholders a way to deliver that feedback via mobile devices, you’ll not only improve time to fill, but likely, quality of hire, too.

There are literally hundreds of tools out there with the potential to help you improve your candidate experience. Some focus on improving interviewing efficacy; some on streamlining application processes; some on building better employer brands and recruitment marketing collateral.

No matter what the tool is designed to do, what matters the most is that they solve a current problem, ideally a high priority need, and provide real value for your recruiting technology investment. Given the many self-service and SaaS options now available, most potential providers should allow a trial period (generally 30 or 60 days) to let you test drive the product to see how it matches your candidate experience roadmap.

You don’t need a tool to get you where you need to go, but having the right partner, product or provider sure can help make the journey a whole lot faster, and your recruiting process a whole lot less painful. Which is the experience your candidates really want in the first place.

ray (1)About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.


By Ray Tenenbaum

Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Interviewing Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams.  Great Hires was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant Companies of 2016 where it was ranked #2 in Business Tools.  Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.