Articles by Smart Recruit Online

How to maximise your candidate’s experience – A candidates Perspective

Although in today’s recruitment space, buzz-terms like “Talent Shortage” and “The War for Talent” are all too flippantly chucked around. In truth; there might not be a talent shortage. Instead perhaps, this is just a result of the recruiting pendulum swinging; with candidates now in firm control of the process and in all honesty, this probably has been the case for some time.

Company review sites like Glassdoor have allowed candidates to have a set of preconceptions of your organisation and contrast & compare their experiences, with other applicants and your competitors.  Social media is usually the first place candidates look when completing their company research, to find out about the company culture. It is also a platform for them to vent their anger of a bad experience within their peer network.

This can be damaging to the brand image with 58% of people unlikely to buy your product or service as a result of reading this kind of feedback.  Our own research has found that 91% of candidates are already in employment and 83% of all candidates surveyed were passive, to the point that they were not committed to moving jobs, unless totally sold, not only by the advert itself, but also through their application experience.

So without an excellent candidate experience, how do you intend to persuade passive candidates, that the grass is greener? Getting your candidate experience right, isn’t as daunting or as difficult as you might think, Being a recent hire @ SRO, hopefully the experience from my own candidate journey, qualifies me, to give you some advice on improving the experience for your candidates and the rewards this can bring.


High quality communication

First and foremost, communicate with your candidates…all of them! Research by Bullhorn discovered that 59% of candidate’s felt that poor communication was the primary reason for clients delivering a bad candidate experience and 51% felt frustrated at not knowing where they stood in the recruitment process. It’s vital to keep everyone in the loop if we want to retain the interest of the best applicant – Simply acknowledging receipt of their application and giving time scales can make a massive difference to an applicant’s perception of your organisation.

It’s important to make the applicant feel like they’re progressing and to be transparent with them. From my own experience, this honesty was a key factor in me accepting the offer from SRO. There was no ambiguity; they made their interest in me clear from the offset, told me the process for my application would follow and set realistic time-scales. Like many applicants, I had fingers in many different pies and the fact I knew where I stood with SRO (Unlike most others), gave them the edge and made my decision easier. Their actions even compelled me to reciprocate and inform them of all the details of my other applications (Which might have not have been the case with other roles).

This leads nicely onto my next takeaway – be respectful and demonstrate empathy to your candidates. As mentioned, I had other applications in progress – even other interviews, on the same day. On-top of all that, I had a family wedding the day after my interview and although I was offered the job on the more-or-less on the spot, my manger (to be), suggested I enjoyed the weekend and took some time to think about my decision and gave me a fair deadline to make a response. Without this flexibility, I honestly don’t think I would have chosen Smart and if I did without exploring all my other possibilities, I’d of been left with a sense of ‘what if….’

Furthermore, think about how your messaging will be perceived and more importantly, how you want it to be perceived…keep things positive and make the role sound appealing at every stage. **Note our Job advert generator tool is a proven formula to ensure you are doing this appropriately – to try it for free, Click Here!**

Also, try to be a ‘Moral Machiavellian’ in your approach to communicating with candidates – This doesn’t mean manipulating them as if you were the prime minister’s spin doctor, rather  learn what interests your candidate about the role and then tailor the rest of your  communication to emphasise these areas of interest. To put that into context, in my initial screening @ SRO I was asked to complete a number of questions; one of which was labelled simply “What interests you in the role”…I then noticed my manager appeared to make a conscious effort to flag up these areas, when discussing the role in my formal interview.

Humanise the experience – Beware of a lack of personalisation

Human beings are sensitive creatures, most of us want to feel special and our job hunt isn’t much different (Well for me at least). Don’t treat your candidates like cattle, try and give them a fair amount of effort in your response, to that they have invested into your application. For example, if they don’t make it past your initial screening, automated responses will probably suffice; whereas if they have a formal interview, perhaps some constructive feedback might be fairer – Try not to be like the company who kindly just set me an automated email rejecting me, after I’d Invested time, money and lots of effort in all 5 stages of their application process (Yes, they got bashed on Glassdoor).

Again SRO utilised this to their advantage, I’d say nearly to the point of overkill, making use of the technologies/services they provide to clients, themselves. They contacted me via telephone, email and SMS within 24 hours of me applying. The next stage was for the CEO of the organisation to have a quick 5 minute chat with me about the opportunity and discuss the next steps.  Now I’m not saying you should be doing this for all your candidates or have the luxury of your CEO taking an active interest in all your potential hire –  but perhaps once you’ve got it down to your final 10 candidates; step up your personalisation efforts.

Quick tips

Don’t – Ask generic interview questions that make it look like you haven’t made any effort looking into your candidate, for example “Tell me your five year plan”

Do – Utilise all the HR technology you have available to you – For example, SMS, simply merging personalisation tokens into your correspondence to all candidates

JAG Tool

Understand the costs of a bad experience!

Although this isn’t really relatable to my own candidate experience; I’ve seen some interesting articles floating around recently and upon further research; I’ve noticed some pretty common costs of a bad candidate experience and some that might come as a bit of a surprise. It probably goes without saying a bad candidate experience can have a serious knock-on effect of applicant drop offs, subsequently slowing your application process down – and leave your hiring managers becoming increasingly frustrated. Also, a survey by HR Grapevine, found that 4/5 of candidates will tell others if they have a bad experience and this is can be extremely difficult for a brand to control and spread like wildfire if posted a post on social media goes viral.

In addition, this negative coverage may not stop at just a damaged brand image; some companies may be in denial over this, but it can even affect your bottom-line. One of the only organisations to look at this seriously and think about the total cost bad experiences are having on them, are Virgin Media. After some serious number crunching they estimated that roughly negative candidate experiences are costing the business £5 million annually. Although this is an extreme case and most businesses would have to be doing something seriously wrong to have a similar hit to their revenues, it should be the motivation (as virgin media did) to turn candidate experience into a “company-wide priority“.

Furthermore, don’t neglect that the rejected candidates can be the proverbial Mesut Ozil of your recruiting journey…They might not be the candidate you’re after, or they might accept your offer, but how do you know someone in their peer network isn’t the right fit. So, keeping in their good books means they can ASSIST in doing so! As it is 2017 so you’ll hopefully respect the importance of your referral network – therefore it’s probably important to be aware that 72% of candidates, who don’t hear back from you, won’t recommend you to others. In fact, they’ll do the opposite and actively warn people off your organisation. From my own experience, I know I still share jobs from organisations whom I’ve had a particularly good experience with.

Ask yourself…what motivates a candidate to choose an organisation?

Again, these aren’t just suggestions from me…

Personal  – As many of you reading this can probably relate to from your own job searches, ( I know I can), usually candidates primary concern is the ‘What’s in it for ME’ factor; they’re understandably interested in how this job will benefit them personally.  The usual motivators include: financial rewards, the geographic location of the role, personal development opportunities and vanity factors like job titles. So, it’s important to ensure it’s demonstrated that these will be met to your candidate throughout their application. Also, it’s crucial to note the importance at which your candidate ranks these motivators can vary between demographics. For instance, the 2015 Talent trends report identified people in their 40’s are less likely to be motivated by salaries and job titles in comparison to millennials; instead favouring  factors such as a better work-life balance.

Company Culture –

Don’t be a David Brent and try and fake a good company culture, it doesn’t work (For long); candidates will pick up on the red flags throughout their recruitment process. Whether it’s a scathing review on glassdoor, or a feeling that they’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse as they look round a misery filled office, your culture starts with your employees, so getting them onside and becoming brand ambassadors is crucial, as candidates are more likely to believe it from someone not directly involved in their recruitment process. So, treat them well and your candidates will be drawn to your company. Also, ensure they are met with the right portrayal of your organisation at each touchpoint, with appropriate content presented throughout their journey. Whether that’s the look and feel of a career site, or the messaging in an email correspondence; ensure you’re on brand and portraying the impression you want. If you don’t, how will you convince the candidate that the grass is in fact greener?

Tip: Putting key words in the job description can be a method of getting the quick wins, when trying to demonstrate your positive company culture to the candidate. Using terms such as innovative and ambitious, can provide an insight of what your business is about and you can even attract candidates to the environment they can expect with phrases like flexible working, independence and autonomy.

Dig even deeper –

You need to really learn about your candidates, spot patterns in those who accept; ask why they chose you and learn what motivated them to do so. Whether it’s believing their role will provide them a sense of purpose, a feeling the organisation is demonstrating altruism, or perhaps just the fact you offer free pizza on a Friday; it’s vital to understand what you have to offer, what your typical candidates are looking for and then to tailor the candidate experience to this. Perhaps equally as important, find out why candidates reject you and adapt to their feedback!

What a good candidate experience might look like!

Ben Gledhill’s model offers a blueprint to creating your own candidate experience


Most importantly…What’s in it for you?

Some of the many benefits include:

  1. A Cande report found that 97% of candidate would refer others to the organisation if they had a positive experience and 95% of unsuccessful candidates would re-apply if another suitable role came up
  1. You can attract more candidates, in fact Appcast found that making the application process easier for candidates, can boost your application rates by 365%
  1. This larger of pool of candidates will allow you to cherry-pick from a better quality candidate pool and compete for top talent

 We can help you make further improvements to your candidate experience!

If you like the idea of making improvements to your application process and in particular the candidate experience, but just don’t quite know where to start, then I can highly recommend that you Book a demo with the organisation that I work with, Smart Recruit Online. They have a great team of online recruitment specialists who will be happy to help you to find out how you can improve your candidate’s experience with their award winning Applicant tracking software (ATS)? Which amongst other things, empowers you to cut down the administration time on screening candidates, allowing you to respond to applicants quicker and significantly reduce time to hire.

I am genuinely seeing first-hand how my colleagues are successfully helping business of all sizes and across all industry sectors make tangible improvements across all key areas such as application numbers and quality, retention and drop off rates and interview attendance and offer acceptance rates.