Candidate Experience: A Recruiter’s Perspective
As recruiters, 2020 brought a lot of changes to the way we do things. There has been a lot of focus on the shifts we’ve had to make in general business procedures such as the abrupt transition to working from home, but there are other transitions that have not gotten a lot of attention.
If your postings are anything like mine, you’re seeing a much larger applicant pool for the majority of your positions. These applicants range from those who do not meet the minimum qualifications of the position to executives applying for entry-level positions.
Those of us who have been in recruiting for twelve or more years have seen this before. In late 2007, the job market began to decline, and by the middle of 2008, we had entered a full recession. None of us saw it coming then. Just as no one saw the pandemic coming a year ago.
I’ve been in recruiting for almost fifteen years now, but when the recession began, I was the newest recruiter in my department, which meant that I was the first to be laid off. From December of 2007 to early 2011, I was laid off twice and eventually had to take contract roles to see my way through the recession.
It’s an interesting experience to be a recruiter and see this type of job market from the candidate side, and that experience gives me a different perspective on the job market today.
In talent acquisition, we talk a lot about the candidate experience, but as we approach the one-year mark of the pandemic, how has the candidate experience changed?
In the past year, we’ve moved more into phone and video interviews, and far fewer candidates make it to the in-person interview stage.
As recruiters, we need to do more to ensure that candidates still feel engaged in the hiring process rather than feeling like they are just names in the ATS. Each candidate’s needs are different, and each candidate has a different perspective on recruiters and the hiring process.
Some people see recruiters as helpful guides through the hiring process, some see us as a stepping stone to get to hiring managers, and others see us as roadblocks.
Of course, we all want to imagine that we are helpful guides for both the candidate and the hiring manager, so how do we ensure we’re in this group?
We need to have empathy for the candidate and what they’re currently experiencing. The majority of the candidates who I’ve spoken to lately have lost their jobs or have been notified that they will soon lose their jobs due to the pandemic.
For those who have been out of work for several months, many times you can hear the anxiety and the desperation in their responses. Candidates might be reaching out for updates more often, asking for more introductions, and checking on their applications more.
Let them. Be responsive with candidates, take a little extra time to talk to them and to hear their stories, and let them vent a little.
They are going through a very difficult time, and many of them feel that they have no one to talk to about it. Don’t assume that because a candidate follows up a lot or they seem a little desperate that they are a bad candidate.
As recruiters, we have a lot more candidates to choose from than we did a year ago, but that’s because the candidates have fewer jobs to choose from now. Instead of assuming that someone is a bad candidate because they have been searching for a job for six months, give them the benefit of the doubt and be patient with them.
What is Overqualified?
Don’t consider any applicant to be overqualified for a position. People have different reasons for taking a step back in their career, and most times you won’t see those reasons in their application, resume, or even cover letter.
If someone with a director title applies for an administrative assistant role, but you still feel that they could do well in the position, give them the courtesy of a response. They may hear the salary or the details of the position and decide that it will not be a good fit, but they may be genuinely interested in taking a lower position than their previous role.
There are many reasons for this type of move – they may need more time to care for a family member, they may have transitioned to homeschooling their children, or they may simply be looking for more work-life balance.
Whatever the case may be, these candidates deserve equal consideration.
Keep an Open Mind
Be open-minded. Consider candidates who have more diverse experience rather than looking for “cookie-cutter” candidates. Many people are taking the changes in the job market as an opportunity to switch directions or focus on the parts of their jobs that they love but may not have gotten to do as much in their current or previous positions.
Often recruiters and hiring managers have such specific ideas of the candidate we’re looking for that we can overlook a great candidate who has a slightly different background. Keep in mind that diversity of experience and diversity of thought can add a lot to a department, project, or workgroup.
If everyone comes from the same industry, has the same work experience, and went to the same schools, then everyone will have the same ideas. Adding diversity of thought and backgrounds can bring positive change to a team.
There are many ways that we can make this job market more tenable to job seekers, but the most basic need most candidates have at the moment is for recruiters to be a resource.