Candidate Experience (CX) – Stay Focused on Empathy and Relationships
A Forbes article named 2018 as the year of employee experience, or EX: “Anything that sets employees up for success or improves our culture should be a part of EX.” Forbes.
The focus on employee experience (and, as future employees, the candidate experience) is not new and has been described and analyzed by countless industry publications and thought leaders. “The longer I write about recruiting and hiring, the more I believe that the candidate experience needs to be at the heart of how every organization recruits and hires people. And the longer I write about recruiting and hiring, the more clearly I see that is not the case.” RecruitingDaily
Which makes me think of when, as an HR leader, I managed to do exactly the opposite of creating that positive candidate experience.
It was once upon a time, over a decade ago, and yet it still haunts me. My actions must qualify as an “epic fail” in the candidate experience department.
The candidate, (let’s call him Kyle) felt unseen and disrespected because of me. I learned of this through a letter Kyle took the time to write to my CEO at the time… about his interview experience with me. I can only imagine how bad Kyle must have felt to go to this trouble.
At the time, the professional (and people pleaser) in me was not only mortified, but deeply ashamed. I spent many an hour riding up the elevator and sitting across from the candidate in my mind as I chastised myself. Of course, I wrote and called to apologize and finally got over it. Yet, it deeply affected me, especially since customer service had always been a priority to me. I knew better. I had allowed myself to lose focus that day. I have never allowed this to happen again.
Like Wells Fargo did on branding just this year, identifying its recommitment to service, back then I re-established my integrity and recommitted to the candidate experience and this has become part of the fabric of how I and my company operates every day. The golden rule is to appreciate the privilege we have when recruiting, in shaping peoples’ lives and careers.
There are a few other golden rules we employ, in our work at Peoplescape Consulting, in building the experience for candidates. These rules underline that how we do our jobs is not only important to others, but also to ourselves and the legacies we leave behind.
Let’s look briefly at responsibility. What is our responsibility with regards the candidate experience? We acknowledge that we have an important responsibility in taking on the work we do. Just as Peter Drucker said “Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”
If the candidate experience is defined as what your candidates for jobs see, feel, read, and hear during the recruitment process, then obviously we should make it memorable… but why not make it magical?!
Secondly, let’s look at hospitality. Jeff Bezos talks of how “We see our customers as invited guests to a party and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
If a candidate is your next business relationship waiting-to-happen, then the way we treat our candidates impacts our future business in powerful ways. If this isn’t obvious to every person on the team, nor intuitive, then it really should be!
Think about the following 3 things next time you or your team is hiring:
- Empathy for the Candidate’s Big Picture
If we put ourselves in the candidate’s shoes, what are we experiencing and what do we seek as an outcome?
As a job seeker one is dealing with the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, lack of information about how we are being received, what will happen to our application, where it is sitting in any of the many application processes we have applied to. We may feel fear. After all, we might really need a job, more than the recruiter knows.
Thinking from the candidate’s perspective helps us maintain the humility and focus that we need to really serve our customer. It allows us to mindfully focus on the importance of ensuring information flow, providing the realistic reassurance and truthful feedback the candidate might need. This information could be all they need to adapt or enhance themselves for success in this role or the next one. It really doesn’t take that much longer to go this route, rather than the route so many of my candidates have told me they have experienced with some recruiters. The way that Kyle felt after his brush with me!
As luck would have it, when I was seeking to return to work after having my twins, I experienced what one might call a “lack of courtesy” from a recruiter myself. I had forged what I thought was a relationship with the recruiter, while they eagerly spoke with me about a job for which they were seeking a candidate. When they needed information to present me to the client, they’d call me 4 times a day! Little did I know that it would take a thick skin and numerous ignored invitations over a 6-9-month period to realize that once they no longer needed me for this immediate client, they had absolutely no intention of building anything with me at all – let alone a relationship.
When we are serving others on their job search, we need to be courteous and respectful, not only because it’s our job and the candidate is our product, that we need to nurture. The state of our candidates’ psyche, their behaviors, their belief in themselves, are the raw ingredients that make up their value. We have the responsibility to appreciate the power we wield. We can make candidates’ lives better by brushing with us! We set the tone for their experience with us as a person, a recruiter, a talent leader, a company. We have the ability to be the example of how to behave in the world. When our candidate does land a job and needs to interview others, let their mind recall the treatment they received from us, as what they emulate.
- Build Relationships with Candidates
In the words of Richard Branson, “From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better.”
Candidates, both active and passive, are open to connecting. LinkedIn’s survey of 14,000 global professionals revealed that 63% of candidates feel flattered when recruiters reach out.
After the outreach, the next natural step is fostering the relationship. Relationships, whether they begin as simple introductions or are built during the application process, are a gift that enriches the tapestry of our networks and gives us access to expand our influence. Our relationships with candidates can continue well after they have been hired or rejected
Candidates want to feel seen, that their recruiters care and are invested in their careers and are present for their journey. They can easily gauge when a recruiter is only looking for someone to submit to a company as their “dart,” hoping that one of the many will land the bullseye. Those recruiters are usually the ones candidates don’t hear from after the initial contact or interview; which is odd as it should be so obvious a blind man can see that discarding talent after they’re no longer of immediate use is the worst long-term approach for any recruiter’s pipeline or career longevity.
We need to play the long-game when it comes to our business relationships. Imagine the irony of recruiting for a Head of Talent. One out of three candidates proposed to a company is hired and the recruiter neglects to communicate in person with the rejected candidates. The two rejected candidates are then hired as heads of talent for two companies that the recruiter later pitches to. How likely are these recruiters to acquire their business? Remember the experience I mentioned above of being ignored?
Giving feedback to someone is another gift. Especially feedback to a candidate who needs to bring their best self into their current situation. Strengthening relationships with candidates is through communication. Job seekers are in a vulnerable position facing uncertainty about their future and are compelled to work hard at maintaining strength, confidence and positivity. Recruiters who take time to listen, ask a lot of questions, and provide transparency, feedback and direction are those who succeed in enhancing the candidate experience and building a valuable, personal connection at the same time.
60% of candidates say “better communication throughout and after the application process” would make the most positive impact. When providing feedback, be honest about why they were not chosen for the role and give concrete examples, suggest helpful tips for future use, remind them of their value and show them your appreciation for their time. Recruiting is like playing match-maker. A job applicant who is not a fit for one role will be a fit for another and why successful recruiters who provide a boundless positive experience have a strong pipeline of satisfied clients and candidates for future roles.
Feedback to the hiring client is also of immense value for the long-haul. When Peoplescape Consulting conducts a search, we ensure that our client listens to our input regarding how to treat the candidates throughout the process, including the candidate’s experience even in the client offices. Many businesses are not set up to be experts employing best practice in hiring and candidate experience themselves. We make sure that the experience our candidates receive is seamless; whether it be in the stages they brush with us or with the client, it needs to be one and the same. Input to the on-boarding process is another critical piece of the puzzle that we support and mold as talent experience experts – we show clients how critical it is to also get on-boarding right for the long-term success of the hire in their new role and company.
Doing recruiting well means engaging and connecting with candidates – while appreciating the importance of this experience they are enjoying with you in their broader journey. Recruitment is not only opening a door to someone new into your company but it’s a new door being opened for the candidate to a potentially powerful life choice about their future. They’ve chosen to walk the path with you – make them love their decision!