The Candidate Experience: Turning Candidates into Brand Ambassadors

16 Oct

Usually I like to write for job seekers and career navigators. Today’s post is meant for the recruiter’s perspective, but touches on an issue that job seekers have been complaining about since the beginning of time – and rightfully so. This post originally appeared on TheLadders RectuitBlog. See the original post here.

As recruiters, we have it hammered into our heads that we need to create customer satisfaction for our clients – the hiring managers. This is the same whether you’re in-house or in an agency. It’s about providing a great experience for the client and ensuring not only that the right person gets the job, but that the client is happy with the overall process. But there’s another factor; another customer that needs to be considered, and one that’s all too often overlooked. And that is the candidate. There are two main reasons that it’s important to provide a great candidate experience.

  1. As recruiters, our network of great talent is one of our biggest keys to success. If you want good candidates to work with you again and to keep taking your calls, you’d better treat them right.
  2. These candidates aren’t only candidates. They’re also people. People who know people. And people who know people are the luckiest…never mind. Well, you’ve probably heard the adage that it’s human nature to tell 1 person about a good experience and 10 people about a bad one. You see where I’m going here. You want your candidates to have a good feeling about the hiring company both as a potential employer and as a potential provider of the company’s core product.

So how do you create a good candidate experience? It’s simpler than you might think, and most of it comes down to communication.

  1. Respond in a timely fashion, at every step of the process. If a submitted resume isn’t a good fit, send an email. If you’ve interviewed someone and they haven’t been selected to move on, pick up the phone and let them know. If you do want to keep someone moving forward in the process, keep them in the loop. Don’t disappear for a few weeks and then expect your candidate to drop everything and show up for an interview the next day. Candidates know that they might not get the job. They’re prepared for that and they usually handle rejection well. What they don’t know how to handle is just not knowing where they stand.
  2. Be nice. If it’s an email, a phone call, or an in-person conversation – a smile goes a long way. Make the candidate feel welcome and like you want to talk with him/her – not like you’re interrupting your life to make time for a conversation. Remember that candidates are interviewing you and judging you as a representative of the company, and that in-demand candidates usually have other options. Don’t turn off what could be a great hire by forgetting your manners.
  3. Offer feedback. This isn’t appropriate for every candidate, but for those who have progressed reasonably far in your interview process and then are rejected it’s a great gesture to offer some information as to why they weren’t selected. Maybe it’s as simple as “you were a great candidate it was a very tough choice, but the hiring manager just felt that the other candidate was a better culture fit.” Or maybe it’s a bit more direct, “In the future, you might want to rethink your strategy of sending a singing telegram as a thank-you note.” Whatever it is, this very simple effort is sure to score big points on the candidate experience scale.

There’s been a lot of talk about the candidate experience, and we all know the basics. So why does a good candidate experience seem so hard to deliver? Many recruiters will chalk it up to a lack of time, and this is a legitimate obstacle. But it’s not one that we can’t overcome. There are plenty of ways to automate early-stage rejection emails. And once you have a candidate in the mix, it’s just a matter of setting your priorities.

So today, take a minute to get back to a candidate that you’ve been putting off. Give him or her some information that you think would be welcome. In return, you’ll be creating a solid member of your talent community – and a brand ambassador for your company.

Comments? Something to add? Vent about a bad recruiter experience? I’d love to hear your feedback below.

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One Response to “The Candidate Experience: Turning Candidates into Brand Ambassadors”

  1. Greg H October 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Dave, these are all good points about a issue that has long been ignored (though thankfully, it is starting to get some much-needed attention). One more piece of advice I would add, especially for HR folks and recruiters: There is a certain tendency among that group to write (and speak!) in a very sterile, impersonal style. Think of your typical rejection letter: “While you were a strong candidate, we have decided to move in another direction. We will keep your resume on file.”

    I understand why this happens. HR managers are trained to filter all of their communications through the prism of avoiding lawsuits. It’s also tough to reject people, so it’s much easier to fall back on cliches (as anyone who’s ever ended a relationship by saying, “It’s not you, it’s me” can attest). But as the job-search process grows ever more impersonal, candidates will learn to value companies that treat them like human beings.

    My advice is, before you send those emails, read through them one more time, but imagine you’re sending it to your friend. If you’re not using the same tone you would to those people, go back through and remove all the impersonal cliches. You don’t have to expose yourself to lawsuits, you don’t have to give out your home phone number. Just be human.

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