· Features

Kevin Green: The candidate experience is getting worse

The experience employers give potential employees is getting worse. All the figures show that while we spend a huge amount of time creating employer brands, streamlining recruitment processes and trying to use technology to improve the candidate experience, it’s actually going in the other direction. What's going on?

As part of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s (REC) Good Recruitment Campaign, we brought experts and eight companies from different sectors together to explore how they could improve their recruitment processes. 

Here are the facts: 

  • Recent data from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) shows that candidates who have a positive experience put in more effort in the job, to the tune of 15%.
  • Those who have a positive recruitment experience are also 38% more likely to stay with that employer than those who didn't.
  • Candidates share their poor experiences with others. An amazing 83% tell friends and family while 64% take to social media. 

Three examples that underline why it's so important we get recruitment right. But mystery applicant research shows only 5% of candidates say they had an excellent experience and 26% a good one. A whopping 48% say they had a poor or very poor time when seeking a new role. 

The two areas where businesses get it wrong are in keeping candidates informed during the process, mentioned by 58% of applicants, and how we made the candidate feel during the whole journey. Just over half said they didn't feel that they were treated as an individual. 

Often the challenge is attracting the attention of both active and passive candidates. Then making the process quick, effective and as straight forward as possible for the candidate, while not adding huge complexity or cost onto the potential employer. Some clear and consistent lessons have emerged from both the experts and practitioners: 

1) Make sure your website and employer brand is attractive to passive candidates. You should explain what your process would be like if they decide to apply. The key is being explicit, so you’re actively managing their expectations from the beginning. 

2) Early self-screening by candidates helps route out those who don't fit your requirements. Good for them, but also for your business because you don't receive applications that don't meet your criteria. Make job requirements clear and easy to find so applicants can make up their own minds about whether they fit the role.

3) For volume recruiting, it’s important that your technology or applicant tracking system can provide early and clear feedback to every applicant, even if they have not got past the first stage of the process. Even some generic feedback, for example wrong experience or qualifications, is better for the candidate than hearing nothing.

4) Ensure line mangers understand, and have bought into, the company's candidate expectations. Stories of processes taking three months and involving more than four interviews are not uncommon. So be explicit with the candidate if this is likely to happen and keep your managers to agreed deadlines.

5) Communicate throughout the process. Firstly set out whose job it is to talk to the candidate: is it HR, line manager or recruitment consultant? The rule should be an email or a call after every significant touch point in the selection process, but who makes sure that this has happened? 

6) Ask candidates what they think of your process. It sounds straightforward but only 11% of employers currently ask for candidate feedback. Make sure you don’t just ask the ones who get the job. Regularly review the findings with all those involved and take action. This instils a continuous improvement mentality. Don't forget to communicate your plans to all the key players internally and externally.

Kevin Green is chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation