Whether you’re a recruiter, HR specialist, or just a manger looking to fill some open positions, people who are charged with finding talent and hiring personnel often approach the process from the wrong angle. Oftentimes the focus is solely on the needs of the one doing the hiring, without regard to the “candidate experience” of the job seeker. If you think the one doing the hiring has all the power, think again. Companies can’t be successful without the talented employees who design, build, sell, support, advise, and whatever else brings money through the door; so don’t miss out on hiring a future superstar because you treated them poorly in the interview process. Also, keep in mind that the candidate experience, good or bad, will be talked about, and in this age of social media, word spreads fast. Here are a few ways your company can make the candidate experience a great one, and build its reputation as the place everyone wants to work.
Employ common courtesy. Try to imagine the process from the applicant’s point of view. Sometimes the difference between a positive candidate experience and a negative one is simply a quick phone call or email. It’s astonishing how often these things are overlooked. Even if the applicant doesn’t quite meet the job requirements, take a moment to make a personal connection and let them know their interest is appreciated. All too often applicants send off their resumes only to sit and wait for a response that never comes. Automated responses with a generic note saying “your application was received” are almost as bad as no response, especially when the automated message indicates someone will contact you, yet no one ever does. This is not only unprofessional, but it’s just plain rude. Simple human kindness and courtesy will set you apart.
Get off your high horse. Whether hiring for an entry-level position or an executive-level position, many companies unintentionally make the applicant feel more like an intrusion rather than someone who is valued and welcomed. It’s frustrating for a candidate to arrive for an interview on time and ready to go, only to sit in a reception area for 20 minutes before being escorted into the first of a series of redundant interviews with various levels of personnel from multiple departments. And as for hiring managers, making candidates jump through hoops just to get to you, then acting as if you are doing them a favor by squeezing them into your busy schedule, doesn’t impress them. You’re the boss, you’re busy, you’re important, they get it, but treating them like they’re not important doesn’t make you seem more important. The person sitting before you may be the most intelligent and creative mind you’ll ever work with, so show respect and appreciation for the applicant’s time. It may turn out that you need them more than they need you, and it would be a shame to lose them to another company because you made them feel insignificant.
Go off script. Most interviews are predictable, with the same standard questions asked over and over. Although much of that information is valuable and necessary to obtain, try to personalize the process and really get to know the candidate. Sometimes the people who seem off-beat and quirky and don’t seem to “fit the mold” are the most interesting and inventive employees. And don’t get too caught up in ticking off boxes on a checklist that excludes good candidates because they don’t meet certain requirements that are ultimately insignificant. It’s just plain silly to dismiss a candidate because she has four years of experience in an area in which you require a minimum of five, or because you require a specific degree he doesn’t have, or competency with a particular type of software that could easily be learned with a few hours of training. Every job is different and every new hire must be trained on the processes of that specific job within that specific company, so prior knowledge and experience will only take you so far. The real value of a candidate is measured by things like attitude, intelligence, work ethic, and character, and can’t be quantified by a checklist of skills and experience. Focus your interest on the actual person in front of you, not just the resume.
A great candidate experience sets the tone for the applicant’s attitude and enthusiasm when accepting the job, and inspires him or her to bring that positivity to work every day. Even the candidates who don’t get the job can walk away feeling they’ve been treated respectfully and professionally. Employees who feel valued and proud to be a part of your organization will likely be incredibly loyal and hard-working. So treat people right from the first moment of contact, because an exceptional candidate experience leads to an office full of exceptional employees.