Talent Acquisition

The One Thing You Should Do to Improve the Candidate Experience

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Candidate experience is critical to the success of a talent acquisition function and a business. Research has supported this concept, and as talent acquisition professionals we have collectively agreed on this for a few years now.

The question is, how do we improve the candidate experience? What has been tried?  What’s new? What works?

Each year organizations such as Talent Board research and report on organizations that candidates rate as providing great experiences. Also, in working with many large organizations as an RPO business, IBM Talent Acquisition Optimization has seen an increasing number of our clients survey their own candidates to learn what matters most to them.

From these reports, we know that candidate experience improves when:

  • Organizations have a more prestigious employment brand
  • Information about the organization and the job is readily available to the candidate
  • The technology is user friendly
  • Applicants believe the process gives them a fair shot at the job
  • Candidates feel they were treated with respect and kindness by recruiters, hiring managers and all others involved in the process

However, new research suggests that one element may be more important than all of the above in improving the candidate experience — timeliness.


Timeliness sets expectations

If we want to increase candidate experience, we must first and foremost be timely.

The researchers conducted a rigorous study of a wide range of applicants, controlling for whether each got a job offer, and found that the impact of many of the important factors listed above was dampened if recruiters weren’t timely but enhanced if they were timely. There is a lot of math to wade through in this report, but the main point is simple and powerful:

Timeliness helps the candidate plan and perceive that the process is orderly, reduces feelings of uncertainty and sets up an expectation that working for the organization would be similarly pleasant.

Timeliness seems simple, but it isn’t. To be timely, you must anticipate accurately, communicate effectively, meet expectations and manage your time well. And even when you do all of that, people are rarely called out as excelling at timeliness. It is the most important factor in candidate experience, and we still don’t talk about it very much unless there is a problem.


How to champion timeliness

So what can you do to proactively champion timeliness in your talent acquisition process?

I talked to people who regularly practice timeliness. (They weren’t easy to find because people rarely discuss this topic, but they are out there!) I wanted to discover the habits and routines they have in common. This is not an exhaustive scientific study—just some ideas that you could implement to improve the candidate experience.

  1. Make specific promises you can keep. If you believe you can have the next step ready for your candidate by Tuesday morning, promise it on Tuesday by 3 PM. This sets up specific expectations in the candidate’s mind and gives you plenty of room to meet or even exceed those expectations when you deliver in the morning.
  2. If you are going to miss a promised deadline, or if you made a mistake and already missed it, reach out ASAP. Explain that the situation has changed and why, if appropriate, and then make another specific promise you can keep. Make sure this time that you will be able to keep the second promised time. There are no third chances in timeliness.
  3. Record your promises in a central location. Some people choose a mobile app, some people use their e-mail calendar and others (like me) keep an old-fashioned, hand-written “to do” list. Don’t try to remember your promises. No one can do that efficiently.
  4. Make time every day to review your list and ensure that everything that was due in the past 24 hours is done and crossed off and everything that is due in the next 24 hours is identified and highlighted in some way. You won’t find the time to do this if you keep a full calendar of interviews and meetings. Intentionally set time for this and stick to it.
  5. Block time to proactively review your pipeline and ensure that the candidates you are recruiting or nurturing—or even those whom you need to reject—have all heard from you recently. (Define what “recently” means if it isn’t set for you.) If it has been a while, reach out, say hi and update your candidates.

You have the power to enhance the candidate experience right now. Examine your habits and incorporate the tips above if necessary. Start a conversation with your team about timeliness and recognize those who get all the little pieces of it right!  Also, share in the comments below any other ideas that work for you to ensure your timeliness. We can all learn from each other.

POV report

Portfolio Executive

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