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Recruitment: four mistakes that threaten the candidate experience

Savvy organisations understand if you provide a bad experience for job applicants, it damages your employer brand and even your reputation.

That's why they seek to provide a positive 'candidate experience' - the process which begins when a candidate applies for a job and finishes with them getting feedback on whether or not they were successful in their application.

One way to improve the selection experience for candidates is to understand what most annoys or confuses them about the application process. Many organisations make the following four mistakes when using ability tests and personality questionnaires to sift and select job applicants:

1. Recruiters don't communicate sufficiently with candidates about why they are being asked to undertake assessments; why the information is needed; how this is relevant to the job; what the organisation will do with the data and who will actually see it.

2. They don't offer feedback to candidates after they have conducted assessments, leaving candidates none the wiser about how they performed.

3. Some organisations don't use the data they collect from assessments at all. Others do but they don't keep a centralised record of the candidate's assessments and interviews. As a result, candidates can unintentionally be asked the same questions by different interviewers. Overlapping the selection process not only wastes time, it also exasperates the candidates. If the application process isn't seen as valid, some candidates will drop out of it. The hiring organisation therefore risks losing talented people through inefficiency and lack of professionalism.

4. Recruiters don't properly explain why candidates were ultimately unsuccessful in their application. Candidates can blame the assessments if they don't get the job, when in fact it may have been other factors.

Psychometric assessments, such as personality questionnaires, have been shown to be a valid way of assessing a candidate's approach to tasks and projects, their relationships with others, their drivers and their emotions. However if they are deployed in the recruitment process without context or instruction - and no feedback is given afterwards - it is understandable that candidates may treat them with suspicion and distrust.

Before assessments moved online, candidates would physically go into organisations to complete paper-based versions of these tests. Recruiters would invariably take this opportunity to explain in detail the objectives of the assessment and how the data would be used. It was seen as a 'sales opportunity', a chance to positively impress the candidates. With the advent of technology - and the increase in the number of candidates applying for positions - the concept of pre-assessment communication has slipped through the net in many organisations.

Good assessment practice is to be clear about what information you want from candidates; to proactively plan the process from their point of view; to use relevant assessments; to communicate clearly; to offer feedback to candidates throughout and to use - and share - the resultant information.

At the interview stage, you should conduct verification tests to check the candidate's results from unsupervised ability tests if used earlier in the process. It is also worth thanking the candidates for undertaking the initial assessments and explaining that the time they spent on them was worthwhile and that the data gained will be used to support the interview and the subsequent stages of the process. At all times, you want candidates to feel valued and engaged, even if they will not be appointed.

The real way to deliver a great candidate experience that enhances your employer brand is to treat your job applicants with the same care and consideration as you would treat your customers, because many of actually are or could be.

Steve O'Dell (pictured) is CEO of Talent Q UK,