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Why prospective employees are not the only ones who need to make a good first impression. By Jean Martin
Job candidates know only too well how important it is to make the right impression on a potential employer – it’s the difference between getting the job or not. Yet companies are not considering the impression they have on candidates during the hiring process, and it’s giving them a bad rep. According to a recent CEB study of nearly 4,000 people, one-in-four candidates report having had a negative recruiting experience during their most recent job search.

Keeping candidates in the dark

Organisations wouldn’t dream of keeping their customers or prospects in the dark – not responding to a query, ignoring a proposal request or failing to get in contact about a delayed order, but it frequently happens to job candidates.

Digging deeper into our data shows that poor communication is the main driver behind bad experiences and candidate dissatisfaction. These candidates – like many more across the globe – were victims of the “recruiting black hole”.

Potential employers gave them the silent treatment by failing to acknowledge when CVs and applications had been submitted, not providing feedback on how they progressed in the hiring process, or giving insight into their performance in interviews. Worse still, applicants weren’t made aware that they had been unsuccessful in securing the job.

First impressions count

The business impact of a poor candidate experience is undervalued and creates significant reputational risks for employer and product brands. One-in-three candidates tell their friends about their negative recruiting experience, and more often than not will take to social media to vent their dissatisfaction. What is more, one-in-five candidates will stop using or purchasing products or services from that company altogether.

On the flip side, when companies get the candidate experience right, it has a knock-on effect after the candidate joins the enterprise. New hires apply 15 per cent more discretionary effort and are 38 per cent more likely to stay with the organisation. Happier employees work harder.

Employers do not set out to upset job candidates, but expectations and technologies have changed, and hiring processes have not kept up. Recruiters are going head-to-head to compete for the same talent and must improve and differentiate their candidate experience, as a result.

There are four things recruiters need to know and do to make the right impression on candidates and create a better hiring experience:

1. Job candidates expect a straightforward experience online. People use their mobile devices for a whole host of activities now, from shopping to banking. But the steps to apply for jobs are rarely as clear or intuitive. Organisations should ensure that their career sites, application processes and assessments are easy to use and optimised for mobile.

2. Candidates want greater transparency. They want to know more about the job they’re applying for and what they need to do to get it. Companies are missing a trick by not providing applicants with more information upfront about the day-to-day requirements of the role and the stages in the hiring process. Setting candidates’ expectations in advance helps them to make informed decisions about whether it’s the right job for them and allows them to choose to continue with the application process or self-select out.

3. Job candidates want to give and receive feedback. Having put in time and energy to progress through the hiring stages, jobseekers want feedback on how they performed, how their qualifications stack up, how they scored on assessments and how they could improve for future opportunities. Companies don’t have to share a full report, simple hints and tips helpful for guiding their development will often be improvements on the existing process. Some firms signpost to other job openings that the candidate might be more suited to. It is also important to capture candidate feedback routinely to surface issues and understand engagement across the stages in the process.

4. Candidates want status updates. There are critical touchpoints in the job application process where candidates want to hear from a potential employer. These communications don’t have to be highly personalised, but they do need to be clear, actionoriented and set expectations on the next stage(s). A candidate’s recruiting experience can be greatly enhanced by firms acknowledging when applications have been submitted, assessments fulfilled and interviews completed. Organisations also need to let candidates know if they’ve been successful or not in securing the job.

The recruiting relationship between potential employers and job candidates is a delicate one. Hiring processes need to be transparent and well communicated to help minimise messy break ups and avoidable fall outs. The most successful organisations are realising the benefits of integrating technology to create a more engaging, interactive and rewarding experience for candidates, and ensure that recruiters identify the best-fit job applicants effectively, quickly and efficiently.

Jean Martin is a talent solutions architect at CEB, now Gartner, www.gartner.com/ceb.

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