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For businesses’, progress is a constant pursuit to drive competitiveness, revenue and brand domestically or globally.
This was the case for Virgin Media and the decisions that went into revolutionizing their candidate experience.

Small steps in search of something bigger. 

This case study will explore what Virgin Media did to improve their candidate experience. And how they interact with candidates positively, regardless if they were successful in their application or not.

We will investigate:

  • What demanded the change in approach towards candidate experience at Virgin.
  • What actions did they implement to improve their attitude and solve the issue of candidate experience.
  • What have been the benefits to Virgin Media? What excellent results have Virgin Media seen as a consequence of delivering a personal candidate experience.

Whatever size or type of your company, it can never harm learning from the best, and so, this will hopefully open your minds to how you can improve your candidate experience and reap the benefits of such a move.

To learn more about Virgin Media’s innovative approach to Candidate Experience, please find more information here.

So, who is Virgin?

When did Virgin start? 1970

How many companies do they have now under the Virgin umbrella? 40+

How many business sectors does Virgin work within? 5

How many continents does Virgin have a presence in? 5

From a humble beginning selling cut-price records. 

… to reaching for the stars with Virgin Galactic. 

Under the inspired and visionary leadership of Richard Branson, Virgin is never content, always striving to provide unimaginable and unique customer experiences.

Embracing challenges and with an eye always for the future. That is the Virgin way.

The backstory behind Virgin Media’s Candidate Experience upheaval

For Graeme Johnson, the then Head of Resourcing at Virgin Media, he wanted to better understand those applying for Virgin Media jobs. 

Especially those candidates who were unsuccessful in their application, and thus how they perceived Virgin Media because of this.

What he found out worried Graeme enormously. 

  • Negative interview experiences. 
  • Poor treatment. 
  • Lazy feedback.

The grim reading kept piling on Graeme’s desk. 

And the disaster culminated in messages from disappointed candidates saying they would be cancelling their subscriptions to Virgin Media services and switching to their competitors. 

All as a consequence of poor candidate experience. 

This shocked Graeme. 

“How many of these cases were there?

Graeme realized that Virgin Media had a bigger problem on their hands if they did not act on this.

How bad candidate experience affected the Virgin Media business? 

Graeme contacted Virgin Media’s customer insight team for data to support his growing hypothesis. 

To learn more about these unhappy candidates. If they followed through with their cancellations, and what impact this was having on Virgin Media's economy and reputation.

The stats make for grim reading.

Graeme learnt that:

  • 18% of the unsuccessful candidates were current Virgin Media customers.
  • Graeme investigated the NPS of Virgin Media. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) tells us how likely or unlikely an individual is to recommend a business based on their experience. It revealed to Graeme that two-thirds of unsuccessful candidates were ‘detractors’, who would not recommend Virgin Media based on their negative candidate experience.
  • Furthermore, of those unsuccessful candidates who had said they would switch providers, 6% of this group followed through with their threat.

Graeme worked out because of a lack of emphasis on the importance of stellar candidate experience, costing Virgin Media £4.4/$5.4 million per year! 

And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

These numbers only counted the unsuccessful candidates. What about friends or family members, who were also Virgin Media customers, who, after hearing about the poor treatment of their loved ones when they applied for a job at Virgin Media, would now be cancelling their subscriptions in disgust.

GULP! Not good. 

And with a growing demand within Virgin Media to attract more candidates for more positions, Graeme knew they needed to do something quickly to fix their candidate experience. 

And prevent the slide of revenues and reputation.

So, what did Graeme do?

“Houston, we have a problem.”


Graeme knew that when seeking to overhaul how Virgin Media communicated and worked with candidates, he needed to get the C-Suite on board.

By highlighting to Virgin Media executives his findings and the commercial impact because of their poor candidate experience, it would help them to:

  • To visualize and understand the opportunities excellent candidate experience can bring to a business. And the commercial impact of getting it wrong.
  • Thus, reducing the risk to a business's finances and reputation.
  • Ensure buy-in and support so that the right resources are available for improvements. 
  • And show how the changes made would also help Virgin Media stay ahead of the curve. By emphasizing an innovative new solution to how companies interact with candidates, it runs parallel with Virgin Media's constant desire for excellence and innovation.

By talking to those with the power to bring about change can be vital. 

We all admire the lone hero riding off into battle with just a mighty cause for company.

However, without adequate support, the cause will fade.

But with collective support, in particular from those in positions of power, can help steer the direction of a business.

Explaining your vision, the positive implications if accepted, and the negatives, if not, can allow for a smooth transition of the changes you wish to make.

Especially when it comes to subjects like candidate experience, changes in attitudes and working practice require C-Level support.

With support from the top, your goals for a more personal and human candidate experience will be easier to achieve and mean acceptance from employees will also be more forthcoming.

With the support of the C-Suite following their extensive talks, Graeme started putting into practice the methods he thought could radically improve the candidate experience at Virgin Media.

What did Virgin Media do, and what can I do to improve my company's candidate experience?

Emphasis on the White Glove Treatment

Candidates deserve respect. It is as simple as that. 

The time and effort candidates have shown in making an application, answering emails, going through the stages of the recruitment process with patience and a positive frame of mind.

Gone are the days, where businesses could get away with a quick email saying to a rejected candidate, “Thanks, but no thanks”.

In an age of social media, your business can’t afford to have negative candidate experiences sprayed across the Internet for the whole world to gasp in horror at. 

It’s terrible for your reputation and candidate pipeline. How are you going to attract potential candidates if your reputation for treating people is abysmal?

It doesn’t add up.

So, the reasoning behind offering a ‘White Glove Treatment’ to your candidates, successful or not, is sound. 

The line between candidate and customer has disappeared. Anyone who has direct contact with your business is a potential customer. 

You show respect and appreciation for the candidates’ work and support for your organization. In return, they remember that you treated them well and are thus more inclined to look at your products or solutions in a positive light.

Furthermore, Virgin Media compared the cost of attracting new customers via traditional forms of marketing, like retail and telephone outreach, versus acquiring one who had been a candidate and had a great candidate experience. 

They found it is ten times cheaper to get business from the candidates.

So, it brings you a positive reputation and benefits you financially, ensuring a great candidate experience is a must for any organization!

Motivate and educate your recruitment teams 

To improve your candidate’s experience, you must involve the right voices. And just as you communicated the problem with your superiors, the recruitment teams, those responsible for the day-to-day hiring, they also need to be aware of the change in process and methods.

We all want to feel we work for a purpose with achievable goals that will help us perform well. 

For recruitment teams, providing excellent candidate experience is a worthy challenge and one that can motivate them.

By teaching employees the importance of candidate experience, not just for their jobs but also for a company’s reputation and branding, you highlight how they can significantly improve the company.

Really? Are our recruitment teams that important to a company's reputation?

Well, imagine this:

The recruitment team has an unsuccessful candidate.

They take the time to explain to this candidate how and why they have been unsuccessful and what they could do to improve.

Even offering the opportunity of follow up sessions.

How is that candidate going to view that company?

Pretty well, in all honesty.

Will they speak well of the organization and continue to use their products and solutions?

Hopefully, yes!

Thus, showing the importance of excellent candidate experience and excellent engagement from the recruitment team.

Understanding this active role helps forge a sense of ownership among employees and recruitment teams. They feel responsible and thus want to improve how they can become more innovative and friendlier.

For Graeme, his recruitment teams were the key to implementing and improving the candidate’s experience. Without their buy-in, it would not be possible. So, Graeme came up with ways to incentivize his teams, which would reward excellent performance and reiterate the importance of candidate experience continually.

He introduced an annual award given to the employee who was providing the best candidate experience.

Little things are done to reward great work!‍

Introduce a state-of-the-art training program 

You cannot underestimate the importance of training your employees.

Providing a detailed and tailor-made training program focused on your recruitment process can help your teams interact and work with candidates far more efficiently and effectively.

To make sure that every candidate’s experience is superb.

Training can benefit a company in several ways:

  • Improve the recruitment team’s performance. With knowledge and understanding, it helps teams to perform their job at a higher standard. 
  • Addressing company-wide weaknesses. Provide consistency in your recruitment process; everyone knows what they need to do and what they should say to the candidates.
  • Enhance employee satisfaction. Investing in specialist training shows employees that they are appreciated and are adequately supported. Which in turn will make employees more confident. Thus enhancing performance and benefitting your Company.
  • Solicit new ideas to improve candidate experience and the recruitment process. Training provides a safe and open environment where employees can speak their mind. They can offer feedback and suggestions on how their Company works and ways to improve. You may learn something great.
  • Company reputation soars! It is a feel-good story; Company identifies a problem, works hard to solve it. Training makes a company more attractive to new candidates and customers. New candidates want to work in an organization where their personal development is supported and desired. And customers want to hear about a company that is constantly pushing for ways to improve. They will show their support in potential new business.

For Virgin Media and Graeme, they sought to create a ‘Gold Standard’ interview program, which could be utilized across the company, bringing synergy to the recruitment process.

They also asked company leaders to record videos about the types of interview processes that had become a problem for Virgin Media.

By drawing awareness to the mistakes, everyone is aware of standards and what is acceptable. And enforces the importance of representing the brand and company to the best of their abilities.

Personalize and improve your recruitment process

Personalization is key to modernizing your business's practices and recruitment process. And thus improving the candidate's experience. 

It is the future so adapt quickly!. 

A robotic interaction of company and candidate in a hiring process could give advantages to other companies. 

Those taking a more human approach to communication may attract a broader range of employees based on their new personal reputation. 

People want to work at places they feel comfortable with or have heard good things about treating their candidates. They will wonder if this is how they treat those who have been rejected, how must they treat their employees!

You can do this by:

  • Personalizing contact. Use names. Be friendly and warm in tone when you interact with candidates.
  • Ask for feedback from candidates. Be curious, show a desire to hear candidates' thoughts throughout the recruitment process, to track the performance throughout the entire journey and those responsible for different stages. Which in turn offers a willingness to improve.
  • A proper rejection. Don't be lazy! Give appropriate actionable advice candidates can use. They will be thankful to you for highlighting how they can improve their suitability for other jobs.

Get 21 email templates to optimize your candidate journey here.

The Aftermath

What happened at Virgin Media because of their change in approach?

The teams at Virgin Media embraced the opportunity to provide an excellent candidate experience. 

And made candidate experience a company-wide priority.

They identified and acted on the fact that their talent recruitment could boost customer acquisition.

Now, the importance of candidate experience is so ingrained in the culture at Virgin Media, teams and managers are constantly trying to improve their NPS scores. Friendly competition to drive progress! All to the benefit of their candidates!

Virgin Media has taken advantage of the time they have direct contact with their candidates to sell their company and boost their brand.

Which in turn leads to more customers signing up for their services.

They even turned to the King of Speed, Mr Usain Bolt, to help personalize their recruitment process, offering candidates tips and good luck. Sending out positive messages to candidates that they will enjoy!

An estimated 450 hiring managers completed their training program. And Virgin Media is continuously searching for new ways to grow and be the best in treating candidates, successful or not.

So, what can my business do to achieve an excellent candidate experience?

Following these valuable tips would be a good start:

  • Get buy-in from C-Suite. With their support, you can make the necessary decisions to implement new strategies.
  • Educate and train your recruitment teams. These individuals will be responsible for carrying out the new approach to candidate experience. They should be sufficiently prepared and value the importance of their work for the company.
  • Personalize your recruitment process. Make the candidates feel special. This could result in a positive increase in your brand recognition and boost opportunities to retain and acquire new customers.
  • Deliver outstanding candidate experience for every individual who applies for a position at your organization. Emphasis on the all.

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