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Crafting a Winning Candidate Experience for Top Talent

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This is the reality on the job market:

  • The competition for talent is extremely fierce.
  • The unemployment rate is low, which means most of your potential applicants are currently working. Your competition for hiring talent isn't just other companies in your industry - it's also the job a candidate already has and may be happy with.
  • Since the demand for top talent is greater than the supply, applicants have an advantage.

What does this mean for your company and its hiring practices? First impressions are crucial, and you need to provide candidates with a positive, frustration-free experience that makes them choose your company.

Below are top tips that address candidates' biggest complaints about the recruiting and hiring process.

1.Be smart about job descriptions

Job descriptions are often the first thing a potential employee reads about your company or an open position - you need to get them right to convince people to take the next step and apply.

Too often job descriptions are:

  • Overly long
  • Boring
  • They miss important details that are actually important to applicants.

Instead, job descriptions should be:

  • Concise. Most candidates today read job descriptions on a mobile device, and 100 bullet points or long blocks of text can become annoying.
  • Clearly define the role and describe the most important tasks. No applicant wants to feel like they are being misled about what the position really is.
  • Full. Use language that doesn't inadvertently appeal to - or turn away - certain demographics.
  • Focus on the things that set your company apart and are really important to applicants. These include 1) corporate culture, 2) stability and 3) flexibility. (Did you know that job postings that contain the words "flexible," "hybrid," or "remote" typically receive an overwhelming response, while the response to job postings that refer to on-site work is negligible? )
  • Transparent information about social benefits and salary or salary range. Some states require that you include salary information in job advertisements, but regardless of where your company is based, this is a good idea.

Many of us are used to talking about salary toward the end of the hiring process, but it should be one of the first topics discussed. No candidate wants to spend the time and energy to go through your hiring process only to find that the salary doesn't meet their expectations. This is a waste of time - for you and for the applicant. (Also, applications tend to increase when salary and benefits are mentioned in the job advertisements).

2.Make the application process convenient and easy

Applicants should be able to apply online directly via a link in the job description. And they shouldn't have to take multiple steps to submit an application. Instead, the application should be short, simple and concise and should only take a few minutes. Otherwise, the applicant may simply give up and end the application prematurely.

A major annoyance for applicants is uploading a resume and then filling out a separate form where they have to re-enter much of the information from their resume. Consider using technology that automatically populates application form fields with information from the applicant's resume to cut down on the tedious work.

3.Embrace technology, but know its limitations

Speaking of technology, artificial intelligence and systems that can increase the efficiency of the recruiting process are on the rise. Your company should adopt some of the advanced technologies available that speed up and simplify the process, improve communication, help hiring managers keep track of where candidates are in the process, collect recruiting data, and enable analytics. A good example of a useful technology related to recruiting is an applicant tracking system.

But don't forget the human touch - recruiting is a people-centric function. Many recruiting tasks can be supported by technology, but technology cannot completely replace the people who perform them.

And never prioritize recruiters’ convenience at the expense of candidates’ experience. For example, asking applicants to record answers to automated questions as part of an initial interview may save recruiters time, but is quite cold and impersonal for applicants. No one wants to have to deal with a computer during their first interaction with a company.

4.Communicate in a timely manner

There may be valid reasons why you are stuck in a holding pattern with the hiring process. Maybe another task has popped up that has a higher priority. Perhaps senior management has postponed some new hires.

But from a candidate's perspective, the lack of news is frustrating and insulting. People want to know what's going on and be kept up to date. Nobody likes being “ghosted.” If candidates don't hear from you for a while, they'll assume you're no longer interested and move on - and they'll probably also be upset about the treatment they received and won't deal with you again in the future companies employ.

For this reason, you should stay in regular contact with applicants:

  • Personal feedback
  • How far along they are in the process
  • The next steps and the expected time frame
  • The reasons for any delays

Also in a timely manner:

  • Answer any questions they ask
  • Thank you for any documents you submit or participation in interviews

5.Streamline the hiring process

Hiring a new employee is a big deal, and it's understandable that your company would want to be thorough in its hiring process to find both the right skills and the right cultural fit.

However, if you take too long or put up too many hurdles, you risk losing patience and interest. Remember: Most applicants are currently employed and cannot risk their position to engage in a lengthy, multi-stage hiring process with your company. Your time is also valuable.

Additionally, it can send the wrong signals about your company. For many applicants, a lengthy and complex hiring process is a sign that a company is inflexible and incapable of innovation and quick, effective decisions.

6.Prepare for the interview

An interview is an important opportunity for hiring managers to go beyond the information listed on the resume and get to know the candidate on a deeper level.

It's incredibly frustrating for applicants when a hiring manager clearly hasn't done their homework and appears unprepared by asking them to regurgitate the contents of their resume. They feel like their time is being wasted or that the hiring manager doesn't think they're important enough to learn more about them.

Before an interview, study the documents provided by the applicant, including portfolios or work samples. Familiarize yourself with the companies they worked for or the schools they attended. This will help you craft intelligent follow-up questions tailored to the candidate.

7.Show respect

During an interview, show that the candidate is your top priority and has your full attention. Even if you're busy, you don't want to appear rude and disrespectful.

Some good practices:

  • Turn off your cell phone and put it out of sight.
  • Turn off notifications on your computer.
  • Lock up your office space.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Demonstrate active listening skills.

8.Provide a consistent experience for candidates

It's easier to give candidates a positive experience if your company ensures it's a consistent experience that can be repeated.

  • Establish a hiring process and use the same steps with each applicant.
  • Set default communication checkpoints.
  • Write general communication scripts that should be tailored to each applicant.
  • Ask each applicant the same core questions, combining both behavioral and skills-related questions.
  • Rely on an objective rating system to evaluate applicants and make decisions.

9.Monitor online employee reviews

Most applicants research your company online as part of their own due diligence, including reading reviews from current and former employees. A negative review - or a negative response from your company to a review - can definitely affect their experience and their overall impression of your company.

Your company's human resources department should proactively monitor online reviews from employees and respond to them politely and professionally. Don't leave negative reviews unaddressed.

10.Inform applicants of the final decision

Even if you didn't select a candidate for an open position, that doesn't mean they're not suitable for another position in the future. In today's competitive job market, it's smart to maintain a pipeline of vetted talent.

That's why you should build bridges with the applicants. This includes a respectful message that another candidate has been selected for the position but that you would like to stay in touch for future opportunities. Ask them for permission to keep their contact information. This can ease the sting of rejection and shows that you value the applicant.

In summary

To have a positive experience with applicants, you must treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were them: professionally, communicatively and respectfully. Otherwise, you risk not only upsetting a candidate, but also negative word of mouth and tarnishing your company's reputation, which can have repercussions in the future. We've outlined the steps you can take to avoid the most common frustrations candidates face in the hiring process.

Prioritize professionalism, communication, and respect in your hiring process to ensure a positive candidate experience. Explore IceHrm for streamlined HR solutions.

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