car repair for dummiesHave you ever tried to fix a car yourself? It seems pretty easy when you’re watching the YouTube video or reading the tutorial. It’s a step-by-step list – anyone can do it, right? A twist here, a cap there and boom – your car is running like new.

Wait a minute.

So, that’s not quite how it works. If you’ve ever attempted to take on one of these DIY car fixes, you probably already know it isn’t the easiest, especially when you’re taking on the task alone. It’s one thing to work alongside a friend or parent with years of experience, but taking it on with the help of the Internet doesn’t always produce the best results. Why?

There are quite a few variables that can stop us from accomplishing our task and fixing the car. There are the parts. Each part is slightly different based on the make and model, down to the windshield wipers. Ordering the cheapest part off of Amazon usually just leads to a collection of unused car parts in the garage, not a quick car fix. Then, we have to consider how all the parts connect together. Replacing a mirror is simple… until you’re trying to remove an entire door panel and you don’t have the physical strength to pull it apart. It’s not as simple as plug and play – there are wires, screws, pins and plugs – all of which make it increasingly difficult to just replace the window.

We have the right parts, we have the instruction manual, but we don’t know what we need to do in what order to assure success. We don’t know how to operationalize and make it easy because in most cases, this is our first time taking on the task. The complications multiply, as well as frustration, and we’re left in a pool of some blue liquid or parts without getting the project done. It’s a struggle from beginning to end. One I’ve seen metaphorically recreated in the process of creating a candidate experience in our workplaces.

Listening To The Rattle: Finding The Problem

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 12.50.25 PMWhen it comes to building the candidate experience, much like working on a car – we start by looking for prescriptive approaches, like the car’s YouTube how-to. We read eBooks, watch webinars and phone friends looking for the linchpin. We’re looking for an answer to the question: How do we build a candidate experience that doesn’t suck?

We look at the list of complaints, one I’m sure we’ve all encountered coming to a new organization.:

  • Your career site isn’t mobile friendly
  • You didn’t provide all the information I want to know about the job (e.g. salary range and benefits information) before I take the time to apply
  • Did you get my application?
  • When will you let me know about your decision? Is the job filled?
  • How long will it take to get me the offer, because I need to give an answer to another company?

On this encounter, we’re not any better informed on what we’re supposed to do – just that we need to do something. But the real question is: why do these things keep happening? No one intentionally wants to create a bad candidate experience, do they?

It’s complicated… at least that is why avoiding change in a process is usually rationalized. It’s also the excuse we use not to fix the car ourselves and pay the hefty fee to the dealership to do the work for us. We don’t necessarily have one answer for every candidate for each of these problems. But the real question – one we often don’t ask is “what are the issues in my organization that cause these bad results?”

In reality, sitting behind the scenes – we know that what the candidate sees is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what is actually happening internally during the recruiting process, even if they’re the ones who have to deal with most of the consequences. Little do they know that beneath the surface company values, compliance, talent acquisition philosophies, the job details and hiring team behaviors drive the experiences. All of which add up to an even bigger challenge in trying to create one candidate experience to rule them all or one “right way.”

That doesn’t leave us with a ton of options to take a systemic approach to your candidate experience process. But it does leave us at a place of self reflection and a moment where we need to go back to the most fundamental question: ‘Is the candidate at the center of each of the recruiting stages of your candidate experience?’

Engine Problems: Putting Candidates First

car fixWhen did we start focusing so much on candidate experience and forget about the candidate? What does it mean to put the candidate at the center? To start, you don’t need to watch a bunch of webinars or read another article. Just start by mapping the end-to-end candidate experience. This is the workplace equivalent of reading all the instructions before we get started. Make sure you limit the scope of this analysis to only look at the world from what the candidate sees, by stage, and by decision status (yes, no, maybe, not reviewed).

Look at each activity (or inactivity – e.g. not following up with every candidate). How much of the process that candidate’s experience is due to the internal demands of the culture? How much is due to limitations in the tools you use?

Once you have mapped the process, look at all the sources of friction that the candidate’s experience – whether forms to fill out, periods of ‘where do I stand’ or gaps in information required to be well prepared for an interaction. Collecting data on each of these sub-experiences allows you to operationalize the candidate experience. Basically, evaluate if each one is adding value for the candidate and focus on activities that reduce candidate experience waste.

A Bolt And Wrench: The Right Tools

toolsOf course, we also know that there are plenty of aspects of the candidate experience that are driven by the tools you have available. And you can definitely fix that. There are two categories of tools to review.

The first are the set of tools that enable the process which both candidate and hiring teams work. The reality is that all tools have their limitations and they may not have the flexibility to perfectly align with both candidate and your organizational needs. So figuring out where tools fall short and how the hiring team can close those gaps is key to candidate success.

The second is to look at the tools that measure the process – metrics like net promoter score or digital marketing techniques to measure abandon and conversion rates at each stage of the application process. Why is that so important? Without measuring the process effectively you cannot optimize and improve. Instead, you are working with anecdotal data and cannot properly apply lean manufacturing principles to reduce friction in the end-to-end process.

Managing the processes to deliver a great candidate experience is a balancing act of competing needs where you try and strike the right balance between the candidate and organizational priorities.

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.