For all the ink being spilled in praise of all things “candidate experience,” the candidate experience is still pretty bleak, primarily because the experience can be boiled down to three simple steps: You apply, you wait with no information and you hope for the best.
No amount of “white glove service” has served to change that.
But as the world becomes more and more transparent, as expectations are shifting about how much information is available for even simple transactions, the candidate journey remains locked up tight by each company.
To solve this, we start by identifying the problems that need to be solved:
- Lack of Transparency: There’s a really strong argument to be made that what made Uber such a great tool wasn’t that it added more ride options, but that it gave you a map to know exactly how long the wait would be and where your ride was. Not knowing creates uncertainty and that makes most people feel deeply uncomfortable.
- Lack of Context: If you apply for a job, are you the first or last? How well do your base skills match up with other applicants? You can’t be mad that you didn’t get “the call” when you can clearly see that you only have six of the ten necessary skills and three people had all ten.
- Lack of Perspective: To candidates, recruiters are gatekeepers. But that’s not how recruiters create value. Often, only they know if five people applied or five hundred. Only they know how many candidates were forwarded to the hiring manager and accepted or rejected.
- Lack of Two-Way Communication: In 99.9% of cases, applications are effectively “tossed over the fence” to be considered as the are. Shouldn’t companies be able to simply ask the top ten candidates to offer more clarity or detail on a critical skill? Shouldn’t candidates have the ability to get more information about the process and add more information to their application?
- Lack of Just-In-Time Thinking: Assuming all job postings are not great, it seems strange to ask a candidate to give their entire work history based on an imperfect description of the job. While some places can at least parse an uploaded resume (sometimes), do companies really need that much information when considering whether to call or not?
So how do you solve these problems?
The modern ATS is a database with a public web front end. So is Amazon. And so are major airline reservation systems. In many ways, these companies have set the expectations for how much information customers can expect.
Let’s take some lessons from eCommerce and hospitality systems and apply them to the application and hiring process.
A Perfect Experience for Candidates
To start, the candidate sees the job as they always do.
Rather than seeing the typical application — one that demands 10-15 minutes of uploading a resume and retyping the resume into the database — the candidate uploads the resume, types their name, email and LinkedIn URL.
Then, they are faced with this prompt: “In order to quickly evaluate you as a potential candidate, please answer these three questions about your experience.
- This sales role requires deep experience managing people. How many years have you been a sales manager? How many people did you manage? Where was the last place you managed people?
- We expect successful candidates will come in the door with B2B selling experience with complex products. How many years experience do you have at this? Was the largest deal you sold more than $10,000?
- What’s your preferred approach to engaging leads? Email asking for a meeting, email them some content of value, call on the phone to start a relationship, engage with them on social media, or tap your existing network to find a connection?”
Obviously, this is for a sales management role, so the questions would need to not only be incredibly concise and tailored to the role, but also written to show how they connect to the job (no, “what’s your favorite tree?” fluff), and revealing enough about the candidates’ core necessary skills to weigh their potential ability.
An LLM AI would read the resume and helps standardized skills and qualifications, so “sales director” at one role in a company of 100 wouldn’t be weighed more heavily than a “sales manager” role at a company of 10,000. The tool could then identify if anyone within the company knows this person and flag as a possible reference point.
Once the application is complete, the candidate sees a dashboard that lists all anonymized applicants, when they applied and what their “score” is based on a parsing of the resume and answers to the question. There is also a status column showing if a recruiter has reviewed the resume, if and when it has been passed to the hiring manager, and if an interview is set.
The candidate can sort the listing multiple ways to see if they are towards the top of the qualifications list, if their application has been reviewed and passed on, pending or in a waiting list, helping the candidate see their relative competition and how far along in the review process the company is.
As the candidate moves through the interview process, they are preemptively given the standard list of interview questions for everyone who makes it to this stage of the process. This means companies can craft questions that are tougher and potentially require research beforehand, giving the company the best chance to see the candidate in action. Candidates can see how many other people the company is talking to, and even add more information to their application based on interview feedback.
A Perfect Experience for Hiring Managers
Hiring managers can see in a click how many people applied, when they applied and which are the ones they should consider first, eliminating friction between them and the recruiter.
If the candidate is ultimately rejected, the process makes it easy to identify what qualities that candidate was lacking relative to the person who ultimately was given the role.
A few things to note: From a technological standpoint, this could be created and implemented almost immediately, as none of these steps require any new tech.
You’ll also note that the process doesn’t necessarily become any shorter. We may have reached the limits of how quickly a company can collect, consider and take action on candidate information. What this process does is create transparency on both sides. Candidates don’t have to wonder if their resumes are going straight to a trash pile, or if there’s an internal candidate already earmarked for the position, meaning anything they do is meaningless.
The process isn’t shorter, but it most certainly feels better in the same way having been told a check has been mailed to you doesn’t feel as good as seeing the last stage of the journey and where the delivery truck is.
A Perfect Experience for the Company
From the company, the value is that it forces hiring managers and recruiters to do recruiting properly — decide what skills are crucial, and which are nice to have. This much consideration in advance of the job posting lowers bias and allows the company to identify the best candidate of available options. It also creates enormous goodwill by giving candidates more information than they get today, extending positive brand sentiment and generating buzz about how committed this company must be when it says it cares about its people.
But obviously, the challenge isn’t technological. It’s political. Companies remain unwilling to do almost anything new in the hiring process. They fight tooth and nail to not reveal even the most basic data points around the job (salary ranges, anyone?), which forces them into a combative stance with all prospects and candidates.
The future of work starts by doing what it takes to invite collaboration between candidate/employee and the business, because ultimately, that’s what the business really wants out of its people.
James Ellis is an authority on employer branding, focusing on companies who think they have no choice but to post and pray for talent. He is the principal of Employer Brand Labs, a bestselling author, keynote speaker, practitioner, and podcaster with a wealth of experience across multiple industries for almost a decade. You can find him on LinkedIn or subscribe to his free weekly newsletter The Change Agents.
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