At a time of ongoing skills and talent shortages across most areas of the economy, the idea of wooing prospective employees with a compelling candidate experience is garnering increased attention.
Whereas it used to be considered a “nice-to-have” that was explored after other elements of the recruitment process had been dealt with, “intense competition has led to a renewed focus” here over the past year or so, says Jamie Kohn, a research director at Gartner’s HR practice.
This is not least because “when people are receiving multiple job offers, they don’t have the patience for long, drawn-out application processes, which is leading to a lot of effort in terms of creating an effortless experience”, she adds.
Also, it is starting to dawn on more hiring managers and business leaders that recruitment is a two-way process, which involves understanding what job applicants need, what engages them and what information they require to help them make the right decision.
As to what an effortless candidate experience looks like in practice, Kohn believes it consists of three key elements. The first is based around process-based activities, such as making jobs easy to apply for and providing applicants with frequent updates and insights into different stages of the hiring process. A key aim here is to streamline such processes to speed them up.
The second element is about understanding the candidate journey and what information and support are required during different moments that matter. These include the application process, interviews and offer stages.
Both of these elements are what Kohn describes as the “low-hanging fruit” of candidate experience and where the majority of employers are currently focusing – although “they don’t always do super well at it”, she adds.
The third area is “still a work in progress”, however, and is where organisations still tend to struggle most. It entails “engaging candidates on a more emotional level to build connection with the organisation and see if it feels like the right fit”, says Kohn.
It is this connection, based on whether applicants can identify with the company’s values and are likely to find the work they will do meaningful, that differentiates one employer from another.
But to build it involves viewing the candidate experience as part of the organisation’s wider employer branding activities. It also means understanding that everything that happens during the hiring process affects the company’s brand reputation.
Kohn explains: “So, for example, if you’re trying to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in your branding, candidates should feel that and see those values throughout the experience. Everything has to be consistent and make a strong connection to who you are, so it’s about rethinking how you provide a view into the organisation.”
One way of doing this is to connect job applicants with existing employees and managers early in the hiring process to provide them with a “voice of experience” that is more likely to be trusted than that of recruiters. Another is to be upfront and transparent about issues ranging from pay to flexible working.
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