The 7-Stage Framework for Developing an Award-Winning Candidate Experience

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Candidates are indeed our customers, as found by Virgin Media when it realized that 18 percent of its rejected candidates were also customers, and costs due to poor candidate experience added up to $5.4 million in revenue.

So, if we know the negative business impact candidate experience can have, why is it that only 36 percent of companies are willing to invest in their talent strategies, let alone candidate experience initiatives? If you need more time to see for yourself the consequences of not having an end-to-end candidate experience strategy, by the time you realize this and prepare to react, you will have already fallen behind your competitors.

We need to start by defining candidate experience and segmenting each phase of its life cycle so we can then develop a model to sustainably control and measure our results. Candidate experience is defined as the perception that interested job seekers have on your company. This perception is influenced by direct/indirect communication which starts with your brand and ends with onboarding. Behold, the candidate experience Framework v1.0.

Stage 1: Employer Brand Awareness

  • Corporate Social Responsibility — It’s no coincidence two of the best companies to work for (Google and Microsoft) have been consistently globally recognized for their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Such initiatives are inclusive of participating in solving human and environmental issues. The idea of being a part of such a movement plays a critical role on influencing candidate experience and can even boost the profit of your company as customer loyalty increases.
  • Innovative Products — Forward-thinking companies like GM and Intuit are using products like VR headsets in their career fairs and showcasing what it’s like to work there.
  • Candidate Reviews via Glassdoor — Unsurprisingly, much like shoppers who read and post reviews when making a purchase, 70 percent of people are looking at reviews prior to making a decision of whether or not they choose to make a career move. Invest in treating people well throughout the entire recruitment lifecycle, and people will write about it.

Stage 2: Job Description/Online Application Submittal

  • Chatbot Integration A study by Allegis Global Solutions found that 58 percent of job seekers are comfortable interacting with chatbots. Consider chatbots like Tasha and EstherBot to aid in answering common questions candidates have regarding your job/company. 
  • Job Description Conciseness Many times we find descriptions that are either dull, too short, or too lengthy for the viewer. Keep them to 400-700 words long. Additional key factors to consider include: Making your mission statement stand out; Using words that promote diversity; Including a Google Map of the office location; Embedding your company Glassdoor page in your description; Including an exciting “Day in The Life” and culture video; Having your interview process posted on your careers page.
  • Application Length – Its common to find candidates abort mission when applying for a role online due to the applications length and complexity. Remove unnecessary information from the applications. Also, requiring to create an account in order for people to apply can be a red flag for making the processes even more tedious. Initiate a pre-test by applying to the job yourself and time how long it takes to complete. If it’s longer than 4-5 minutes, you may need to reevaluate.

Stage 3: Phone Screen/Interview(s)

  • Interactive Virtual Tours For the candidates who do not get a chance to interview on site, provide them with the same touring experience by allowing them to virtually interact with your employees and visit the office from home. Innovative companies like Atlassian have used this approach for a more personalized candidate journey. 
  • Prep Candidates The TalentBoard’s recent report showed CandE award winners recognize the importance of preparing candidates. Don’t risk losing top talent because you did not properly prepare them. Make it a practice like Google to prep your candidates before having them meet with a hiring manager. Doing this will allow candidates to be ready in advance so they can better present their absolute best selves to the company.
  • Constructive Feedback Netflix and Riot Games are one of few companies that call candidates who interviewed in person to reject them with information on how to better improve. Take the time to do this and the candidate will remember and appreciate you for it.
  • Hiring Manager Coaching — A study by CareerBuilder found that only 16 percent of hiring managers are trained on candidate experience. Many times, recruiters find themselves not updating candidates that were interviewed due to a lack of timely response/feedback from the hiring manager after submittals. A simple SLA can fix this by agreeing to a response time so you can update your candidates in a timely manner.

Stage 4: Job Offer

Important factors to consider for an exceptional and flawless job offer:

  1. Avoid the practice of vaporware style verbal offers. Know how to articulate the offer in its entirety and make sure you can deliver what was promised.
  2. Understand the compensation package (salary, bonus, stock, benefits etc.)
  3. Call within 24 hours and confirm their understanding/acceptance.
  4. Confirm if there is any hesitation in acceptance, ask questions and figure if there is any hold-back.
  5. Make the offer letter convenient to complete by having the option for electronic signoff.

Stage 5: Candidate Dispositioning

After making the offer to your best candidate, are you dispositioning your pipeline so they are aware the role has been filled? With technology making it easier to automate this process, differentiate yourself from your competitors and make an effort to call the silver medalists and the ones who took the time to interview. Make sure to also communicate with candidates who did not qualify at the very least through email.

Key factors to consider in your outreach:

  1. Share feedback to improve the interviewees.
  2. Provide them with a forecast for similar upcoming opportunities.
  3. Invite them to company events for networking.
  4. Have them join your talent network.

Stage 6: Pre-boarding/Onboarding

After the offer acceptance, make sure to keep in contact with your new hire all the way until their first day of work. Not doing so increases the chances of losing your new hire to one of your competitors if the candidate was interviewing at others locations. Keep in touch instead of leaving them waiting to start work in two weeks without any communication. Some best practices include the following:

  1. Provide a personal welcome video from the team with a view of their new desk.
  2. Let them know you’ve shared the exciting news with their references as a thank you for being a part of the hiring process.
  3. Consider a company family gift basket.

Stage 7: Measuring Candidate Experience — Quality Control

I have also included my candidate-experience survey here for reference.

We know the importance of the Net Promoter Score in measuring candidate experience, but how are we using our survey data and systematically eliminating detractors and increasing promoters? Having a PDCAR (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust, Repeat) process is a good starting point in segmenting each stage of a world-class candidate experience.

Plan Identify the disconnects in each phase of your candidate experience model. Plan who would be best to partner with in the finance team to figure out the costs of having detractors and its impact on your business. Have solutions at the ready to share with leadership and invest in resolutions.

Do As Yoda once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” This step involves the implementation of your plan to fix/change your candidate-experience practices based on your NPS findings.

Check Confirm if the changes you’ve made has created an increase in your NPS score. Partner again with finance to validate and evaluate the ROI. Check to see if the changes caused any new disconnects.

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Adjust Fix and resolve any additional gap(s)/issue(s) in the candidate experience lifecycle.

Repeat — Repeat your quality control process.

Final Thoughts

Many HR and talent acquisition practitioners like to consider candidate experience as a high-priority, but most companies struggle in defining and creating an end-to-end candidate-experience framework. Though there is no one size fits all model, recognize that the candidate experience lifecycle is constantly changing and evolving at a rapid pace as a result of technological advancements. In order to sustain a competitive advantage, companies must be proactive in continuously adapting and changing their candidate-experience model in order to disrupt the traditional practices that influence the job seeker perception of your company.

Special thanks to Gerry Crispin, Marissa Huang, Adam Humphrey, and Cameron Marsicek for their contributions to this article.

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