If you’re in recruitment then the ‘candidate journey’ should be a vital topic in your everyday hiring vocabulary. Everyone will have either had or have heard about a really crappy experience applying for a job. It’s all too frequent that you’ll hear someone complaining that Company X never followed up an interview, or that Company Y never actually acknowledged receiving an application in a proper way. It’s no wonder why the industry got a bad rap. Luckily the winds of change are sweeping across parts of the recruitment landscape, and many recruitment professionals are wising up to the reality that employer branding is key. The candidate’s experience all the way from finding your vacancy, right through to hiring/rejection will determine how they perceive you as a brand and as an employer. People talk. People share. In order to strengthen your employer branding you’ve got to work hard to build great candidate experiences.
What is the candidate journey and why should I care?
Old fashioned ways of thinking in recruitment would imagine the whole process as pretty linear. The candidate applies, the hirer reviews the application, the candidate is invited for an interview, or not, and then they’re either hired, or not. Is this way of thinking still tenable? Arguably… not.
An unsuccessful candidate doesn’t fall off the face of the earth when you’ve hit send on your rejection email. The candidate journey will unfold differently in each unique case - of course - people are unique. Not every hire or rejection will follow the same path, but as a recruiter you should understand that there’s a fork in the road at every turn. You want to ensure the journey for every candidate results in the path on which they remain a promoter of your brand. Ask yourself if the course of action will work towards building a good relationship with the person behind the application. Every interaction with your candidate is an opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce your brand values.
A few things to consider about any unsuccessful candidate. You want them to be a brand ambassador for you, even if they’re not hired. Brand ambassadors are an essential part of your marketing, and in every job applicant you’ve also got a potential future customer. You’ve got two options:
Never communicate anything to the unsuccessful candidate and leave them feeling like they’ve been left out in the cold. Expect negative word-of-mouth to spread.
Engage with the candidate throughout their journey from start to finish. You’ve respected their efforts and they’ll be left without a job (sure), but hopefully still positive.
Option two is easier said than done, but very doable. Tool-up with a good ATS (E.G. Homerun or Carerix) and implement the right follow-up mechanisms at every crucial stage in the journey. Getting feedback from your candidates should be essential. Hiring is a two way street, and as a recruiter in order to build a great candidate journey you’ve got to be open to feedback.
Feedback as the central cog in the wheel
As a recruiter, ensuring you have feedback from candidates continuously rolling in will give you the insights necessary to continuously improve the candidate experience and journey. There’s no room or actual need for guesswork when it comes to considering how candidates perceive their experience with you, before or after the inevitable decision.
There’s many important candidate touchpoints at which surveys can be sent. Here are just a few that we’ve found insightful:
Just after you’ve received their application. Send them a survey which helps you understand their estimation of your brand on various aspects. In the same survey why not ask them if they were easily able to apply for the role and whether they found enough resources on what working for your company is like. Let them know that this matters to you, and in their mind they’re already dealing with a company who takes them and their opinions seriously.
After a round of interviews. Give the candidate some time to digest all the information and discussion in the interview(s) they’ve had, then ask away. Did their expectations of the role based on what they researched beforehand meet with what you discussed in person? Did they feel welcome in your working environment? Was the content of the interview specific enough to the role in question? With concrete answers to these kinds of questions you’ll soon become acutely aware of where you need to improve in order to attract the right candidates, and equally know exactly what about your culture is appealing and can be leveraged.
Decision time. Have you made an offer and the candidate accepted it? Find out the reasons driving their decision. Or have you rejected a candidate? This is an opportune time to follow-up a kindly written, respectful notification letter with an invitation to get their feedback. They may have been rejected, but would they still recommend you as a company? If you’ve been engaged and upfront with them throughout, and the reasons for rejection are also communicated in an upfront way, then why wouldn’t they be a brand promoter?
If they get the job, they may have picked you over a number of other offers because you engaged them. If their application falls through and some way down the line they choose you as a supplier it may well be because you took them seriously as a candidate.
Automate and engage
If this all sounds labour-intensive then fear not - automation is your friend. Once someone lands in your ATS and moves between various stages in the candidate journey you should have triggers in place to send the right survey. With StarredHR we’ve got the perfect solution for this. Send a personalised invite to the right survey depending on where in the process your candidate is. By creating a landing page which thanks the candidate for giving their feedback, with StarredHR you can encourage your candidate to follow you on social media or perhaps subscribe to your newsletter with a click of a button. An engaged candidate is a happy candidate. You can expect extremely high response rates here. Which candidate worth their salt would not respond to their potential employer’s invitation to communicate and connect? As already mentioned, the potentials for learning about your employer branding are huge when you work with feedback in the candidate journey.
Feedback should work for everyone. In the case of the candidate journey this means that everyone gains: your candidate feels engaged by being asked directly for their opinion, as a recruiter you learn from the candidate’s experience and improve your process. It’s about respect: the candidate put themselves out there to apply, did their research, made every effort to connect well in interviews - and then what?
“We’ll be in touch.” Silence follows.
… Or you proactively engage with the candidate - I hope the advantages of doing so are clear by now. By getting feedback on their experience as a candidate, you’re making sure that no matter where they land they remain your promoter. If they get the job, they may have picked you over a number of other offers because you engaged them. If their application falls through and some way down the line they choose you as a supplier it may well be because you took them seriously as a candidate. Maybe there’s another role that will open up at your company that they will be perfect for. Building a great candidate journey with continuous feedback is an essential step towards the end goal of having a great employer brand. You obviously want the best people to work for you, so get (even) better at hiring and start listening.
Case Study: Carerix & Starred
At Starred we stand behind the added value of feedback in strengthening the candidate journey. We’ve partnered with an excellent provider of recruitment solutions - Carerix - to integrate Starred feedback into their clients’ recruitment toolkit. Reinald Snik, CEO at Carerix, is a proponent of mapping out the new philosophy of the candidate journey that I’ve delved into here. “Effective knowledge about candidates is essential to intermediaries, outsourcers, HR managers and hiring managers. Starred’s feedback tool gives our customers a powerful instrument, which offers them a real-time insight into candidates.”
Careermaker is an innovative Dutch recruitment agency and user of both Carerix and Starred. Commercial Director Jorrit Brocaar’s description of the integration shows the value of feedback in the hiring process in action. “We ask our candidates for feedback after their first discovery conversation with us, after they had their first interview with our client, and once they are one month into their job.” On top of this, Careermaker also seeks the feedback of the company at all of the aforementioned touchpoints. Brocaar continues, “This gives us concrete insights into how good we are at our job: aligning our candidates needs and values with those of our clients and vice versa.”
The candidate journey is one of modern recruitments key terms. In this article I’ve made a case for why gathering feedback from candidates is an excellent way to keep them engaged, no matter their destination, and continuously learn about how you are perceived. Automating candidate feedback is a piece of cake with the right solution and a small amount of time invested, and the insights you’ll gather will keep on giving.