CraptasticHave you been seeking the secret to a less craptastic recruiting process? One in which only top talent gravitates to you, and your competition is left with clusters of crapplicants?*

Hint: It doesn’t necessarily require new strategies for social, mobile, branding, video, viral or anything resembling (or actually called) a talent community.

Despite having the term front and center in the HR and recruiting world for the past several eons, there seems to be an entire segment of the employer population entirely unaware of the concept of candidate experience. If you haven’t personally searched for or applied for a job in recent years you may be missing out on the plethora of pathetic practices permeating the recruiting realm.

Isn’t candidate experience just another meaningless gimmick?

Magic SomeecardFirst, candidate experience isn’t as mysterious or complicated as the conference circuit speakers, mass media article writers and twitter chatters make it sound. And, no you don’t need to compensate pricey consultants promising to deliver positive candidate experience through any of the aforementioned tactics.

Rather, take the premise of customer experience and translate that to job applicants and candidates. It really can be (and is) that simple.

For example, if customers that you wanted and needed to do business with were being ignored, turned off or made to endure and difficulties and dysfunction during their interactions with you, you’d probably find out why and take action to correct any issues, right?

Unfortunately, similar (known) issues exist among the job seeking cohort. Yet no one seems particularly concerned – at least not enough to implement a few quick and mostly no cost fixes that would alleviate the major sources of pain.

Let’s start with the origin of a job opening

It usually comes from someone determining a need (for whatever reason) and acquiring the budget to hire a qualified individual to perform a new or existing job. Logical so far…

How about a few preliminary questions to help define that need? 

  • What is the purpose of the open role – why does it exist and what are the expected outcomes, deliverables or results?
  • How will successful versus mediocre or poor performance be measured?
  • Which key competencies will increase likelihood of a viable candidate fit?
  • Is there any must-have knowledge, skills and abilities correlated to effectiveness in the role?
  • Are there any deal-breakers that could interfere with making a placement?

Is the above objective and relevant criteria upon which to base a search effort? If yes, continue. If no, don’t advertise the opening or take further action until the above is clarified and agreed upon.

Why do these things matter to the recruiting process and ultimately candidate experience?

Essentially, it boils down to knowing what you are looking for and why, understanding how and where to find it, recognizing it once you encounter it and communicating all of that, throughout. While this piece may seem basic, it is exactly where rudimentary rationale may cause a rude awakening. A little thought focused on what you are striving to accomplish in filling this role is a big deal.

Building a targeted job ad to market the opportunity to the ideal applicant

Job AdBased on a vast array of examples, it would appear that most job ads are hastily, haphazardly and half-assedly developed and posted. What a tremendous waste of time and effort for all involved!

Instead of doing it that way, try taking the data obtained in the prior section to craft a custom and compelling piece of content that captures the essence of why the ideal applicant might wish to apply. Referencing the customer perspective, think about what would attract or motivate the desired type of talent to express and maintain interest. Again, it really can be that simple.

Next, determine the appropriate methods, techniques, tools, systems or technology required to facilitate an expedient (and legally compliant) search and selection process

At this point, it would also be a good idea to confirm any logistical or administrative considerations for the position – such as urgency to fill, interview scheduling preferences or challenges, budget flexibility, who will be involved, and how and when a final decision will be made.

Establishing all of this up front will tremendously help support the communication with all parties from start to finish. Which of course tends to be a major component to a productive recruiting process and positive candidate experience.

Don’t let that dazzling job post get wasted by your discombobulated process

Face it, no one desirable wants to spend time on crummy career websites or jumbled job boards. Not even those active applicants everyone warns against. And, by the way, if you are actually posting a job and/or requiring applicants to apply in some way, the fact that they are taking such action makes them active.

History SucksYou have no room to gripe if your crapplication process is a crapplicant magnet. Going back to the first point, if you haven’t applied for a job since the Bush administration, do so now.

Why? Because, if you don’t have first hand awareness of what that entails, you will not be able to experience what candidate experience is all about and why it generally sucks so much. After you get that flavor of frustration out of your system, let’s dig in and sequester the suckage.

Dissecting your observations

What did you notice? Most likely some obvious obstacles were immediately apparent. These could range from trouble finding the right posting (req # TNQ048973ZQ), cumbersome ATS registration steps, intrusive, premature and unnecessary data collection, and a whole host of other process predicaments likely to piss off even the most patient patrons of postings.

Did the job ad you located make sense? Would it stand up to the same level of scrutiny you put resumes through? Did it make you say: “yes, this is the one!” If not, go take a look at the postings you are putting out to the world and revisit the recommendations above.

Were the steps to apply more complicated than making an online restaurant reservation or buying a pair of shoes? Did it take around the same amount of time and require the same amount of personal information as filling out a mortgage application? If so, golly-gee-willikers have some empathy for the poor suckers who really want to apply, but end up saying “awe shucks, this sucks!”.

More questions for you before you have questions for candidates

I’ll spare you the gory details but in thinking about several interviews I’ve been through with recruiters and HR professionals (combined with mind-blowing stories I hear from others), it’s safe to say those that should be the most qualified and prepared sometimes ARE NOT.

Are your interviewers qualified and prepared to interview? Just because someone is in a recruiting, HR or hiring manager position doesn’t automatically guarantee s/he knows how to properly or professionally conduct an interview. Candidates will notice the novice and not hesitate to hit you where it hurts on their employer review site of choice.

bad RecruiterFor instance, if any members of your interview team use scheduled interview time on something as unproductive (and insulting to candidates) as “walk me through your resume” then TRY HARDER and TRAIN BETTER! A decent place to start is to formulate meaningful and substantive interview questions based on the information you relied upon to define and advertise the opening in the first place.

Are your hiring managers the “grill ‘em & drill ‘em” type or the “let’s chat” style of interviewers? Do they understand the importance of asking job-related questions versus flavor-of-the-month gut-feeling inquiries? Make sure egos are in check and decision makers consider the value of being considerate and compassionate about not making the process any more grueling than necessary for candidates.

Hang on. Don’t leave them hanging!

What about follow-up? Is the mentality of your team “don’t call us, we’ll call you” or “there’s no way we can personally contact non-selected candidates.” Once someone invests time to engage in (endure) your screening and selection process, show some common courtesy and close the loop with him/her.

Since this is the human interaction part of your candidate experience, showing respect for candidates here is extra critical. Anyone involved with any aspect of the process must be on their best behavior. In this context, best behavior means treating candidates like you actually care about candidate care. Yep, you got it, it really is that simple.

Still skeptical about the importance of candidate experience?

Experiment with the above and conduct your own A/B test comparing your current methods (if they are different than described) with ideas depicted here. Then stop back here and share your findings.

Some results of changing it up might include: better candidate quality, increased hiring manager satisfaction, shorter time to fill, higher ratings on ratings sites and more employee referrals. If anything like that happens, these might be secrets worth sharing.

*(note: the term “crapplicants” was coined by @Mike_Recruiter, a member of Recruiting Animal’s #AnimalCrew)


About the Author: Leveraging her unique perspective as a progressive thinker with a well-rounded background from diverse corporate settings, Kelly Blokdijk advises members of the business community on targeted human resource, recruiting and organization development initiatives to enhance talent management, talent acquisition, corporate communications and employee engagement programs.

Kelly is an active HR and recruiting industry blogger and regular contributor on She also candidly shares opinions, observations and ideas as a member of RecruitingBlogs’ Editorial Advisory Board.

Follow Kelly on Twitter @TalentTalks or connect with her on LinkedIn.