The Same Old (And New) Candidate Experience Story

By Kevin Grossman

If I hear it one more time, I think I'm going to scream.

This part: The research reports are great, but it's the same old story. So, what's new and fresh?

The context of course being the Talent Board global candidate experience research. The overall data we capture, from pre-application to onboarding, hasn't had significant variance over the past few years that we've been conducting this annual research.

That doesn't mean there aren't incremental trends of improvement that have been happening across the board around the world. There have been. But there have also been increases in negative sentiment around the world.

Even with the positive improvements overall, and better processes and recruiting technologies that empower talent acquisition professionals to spend more time investing in candidate communication and feedback loops, there are so many factors pummeling a business year-round that the heavy lifting in recruiting is in the sustaining of candidate experience improvements over time, beyond year one. There are leadership changes, and team churn, and economic impacts, and political impacts, and the list goes on.

So, what's new and fresh?

Well, everything and nothing.

For example, there is an overall incremental positive trend upwards over the past three years with 5-star candidates saying they'll increase their business relationship across North America, EMEA, and APAC (see Figure 1 below – APAC trends down a bit actually). This is good news. Candidates who are more likely to apply again also refer others and buy stuff if and when applicable with consumer-based companies (and the trend continues in 2018 as we continue to collect new data).

Figure 1. A Great Candidate Experience

This means that everything we've shared in our reports year after year of what CandE Award-winning companies are doing differently (these are companies that have the highest positive candidate ratings in our research) can make a difference near-term. (Some general examples are below, and case studies are in our reports.)

But even with the mix of participating companies changing every year, and the fact that we believe more companies are struggling with candidate resentment in today's tight job market, the long-term improvements take continuous investment. In fact, there are multi-year CandE winners that do not win consecutively year after year because of struggles like these.

And yet, these are the companies willing to hear from their candidates, most of whom do not get the job, so there's already a negative sentiment baked into the talent acquisition foundation, for external and internal candidates alike. This isn't about making every single candidate happy because that's completely unrealistic. It's more about being consistently clear and fair in the process. And ensuring candidate closure regardless of how far someone gets in the recruiting process, and hopefully providing some level of feedback for later-stage candidates.

When we look at a quick example by industry in North America in 2017, retail has a 20 percent higher relationship rating than healthcare, meaning retail candidates are more likely to apply again, refer others, and buy stuff if and when applicable. Retail has about the same rating as the average of all participating North American employers, but healthcare's relationship rating is 20 percent lower than the overall average. CandE winners, those companies who had the highest positive candidate ratings overall across industries, had a whopping 61+ percent higher relationship rating than retail or healthcare (more soon on the other industries we track).

Improving recruiting and candidate experience is not for the faint of heart. It's a big progressive step for those just beginning the journey of candidate experience benchmarking, asking for candidate feedback, rating their experience, and then identifying one or two improvement initiatives to invest resources in. And not all things are equal considering the size and stage of organization, the industry, whether in a boom or bust cycle, and the list goes on.

So, what's new and fresh?

Again, everything and nothing.

Negative trend lines are also trending up across all three regions, with 1-star candidates saying they'll sever their business relationship across North America, EMEA, and APAC (see Figure 2). This is not good news. Candidates who are less likely to apply again, refer others, and buy stuff if and when applicable can certainly impact the business bottom line (and unfortunately the same trend continues in 2018).

Figure 2. A Poor Candidate Experience

One step forward and one step back?

I think I'm going to scream. It truly is the same old story.

We'll have to keep digging into the data and connecting the dots to truly be able to map out the best combinations of people, processes, and technologies that help to increase and sustain a competitive people edge. And not just for full-time employees either; we want to dive into the contingent workforce candidate experience more since that makes up over a quarter of the workforce today.

Talent Board is the first non-profit organization to focus on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience with data benchmark research. Our signature candidate experience research report covers the best practices, platforms, and processes that enable companies to provide an exemplary recruiting experience to their job candidates, from pre-application to onboarding. Universal key takeaways from our latest research include:

  • Take a Customer-Centric Approach: Corporate marketing and customer service aren't the only teams today using social media channels and websites to serve "customers." Savvy employers are making their recruiting teams available to answer questions during live chats on career sites and social media, as well as experimenting with chatbots to answer general employment questions. The latter frees up the recruiting teams to have more hands-on time with potential candidates already in play.

  • Walk in the Candidate's Shoes: Employers must be willing to admit that their existing apply process may not be working. In order to think about the application process from the candidates' perspective, more and more organizations are thankfully applying for their own jobs, especially the CandE Award winners, and are reaping the benefits of incrementally improving their application process.

  • Communication and Feedback Continue to Be Differentiators: CandE Award winners continue to differentiate themselves from pre-application to onboarding, communicating more with candidates, giving candidates feedback earlier in the recruiting process, and asking candidates for feedback even before they apply for a job. Most candidates who have an overall "very poor" 1-star and 2-star candidate experience – representing tens of thousands of candidates in the Talent Board research – are getting very little if any consistent communication and/or feedback, a missed opportunity in a highly competitive talent marketplace.

  • The Business Impact Is Here for Good (Or Ill Will): The trend continues: candidates who believe they have had a "negative" overall experience say they will take their alliance, product purchases, and relationship somewhere else. This means a potential loss of revenue for consumer-based businesses, referral networks for all companies, and whether or not future-fit and silver-medalist candidates apply again. However, the good news is that those who had a "great" overall experience say they'll definitely increase their employer relationships – they'll apply again, refer others, and make purchases when applicable. These aren't just the job finalists either, or those hired, but the majority are individuals who research and apply for jobs and who aren't hired.

Now you can figure out your own potential business impact by using the new candidate experience resentment calculator.