Written by
Ali Hackett

17 May 2017

Whats wrong with your candidate experience?

17 May 2017 • by Ali Hackett

For a long time, I have really wanted a VW camper van. I’ll spend Sunday afternoons looking at forums and researching the type of camper to best suit my needs, reading reviews, seeing what’s available. A contact in my network told about his adventures with his young family in their van and how he motored to Belgium with a group of mates for his 40th. I have used all the sources of information available to me to build a clear picture and can start to make an educated decision about taking the plunge. The important part for me has been finding out the detail; the compelling nuggets of information that are relevant to me and to my circumstances, my wants and needs.

If you think about it, this methodical research, this process of gathering relevant knowledge, is often mirrored in the recruitment process. People who are interested in working with you will increasingly form their opinions in this way. The increased traffic on sites like Glassdoor tells us that we are looking for transparency; we want to see right into an organisation: the good, the bad and the ugly. Less sell. More tell.

Most companies are stuck with old processes and old ways that look at things like employer brand on a macro level with overly generic job ads, tortuous application/filter processes and don’t ask for feedback. What they need to be doing is looking at new ways of doing things with tailored job postings and approaches, social engagement, speculative conversations and applications, conversations fuelling conversions, asking for feedback and acting on it.

But how can they move towards this new way of ensuring optimum candidate experience and who is leading the way?

Understand where you are now and audit your process

Before you get into your candidate experience audit, you’ll have a pretty good sense of where you sit right now. But, if you don’t have any hard data from candidates, pull together a group of people from your business and ask them to step up and mystery shop each stage of the process. These colleagues should represent different areas within the organisation.

Ask them to look at your social content, your careers website and Glassdoor. They should apply for a role and provide feedback around the ATS experience and the automated and non-automated communications. Don’t forget to review your on-boarding process, how do you connect new team members with their new colleagues? How do you ask candidates for feedback and how frequently? What benchmarking data do you have in place?

Bring your business to life

The kind of over-arching, top-down messages employers have long relied on about their culture, vision and ethos are failing to adequately promote opportunities to candidates looking for their next me-sized move. 

It’s no longer enough to spread the word that your business is dynamic and ambitious, to set out your vision and values or to convey a catch-all employer personality via a few polished employee profiles. No matter how true to life these propositions are or how well you present yourself as an employer, they won’t be specific enough to help individuals really understand the job in hand and what it entails for them. 

Looking at ways to bring your brand to life and encourage conversation is key and peer engagement is the best way to do this. It’s convincing, authentic and tailored – whether this is an online Q&A or face to face. 

Candidate attraction cutting the jargon

Confusing, jargon-filled job descriptions are a major barrier for potential candidates but especially young job seekers. Business in the Community (BITC) and the City & Guilds Group asked young people to rate the accessibility of entry-level job adverts posted by over 65 companies which between them collectively employ 1.2 million people. It found young job seekers are deterred from applying for entry-level jobs by ‘business speak’ which leaves them unsure about the suitability of roles and what their day to day responsibilities would actually be. Some 66% of the young people who assessed the company vacancies didn’t understand the role they would be applying to. 


Becky McVittie, group graduate recruitment manager, RWE Npower

Becky McVittie, group graduate recruitment manager at RWE Npower, believes in the power of peer connection. After analysing their success on campus – only 2.5% of the students they met on campus applied for roles with them – Becky was looking for a better way to help students to connect with the business.

Running a series of digital chat events proved to be a great way to connect candidates with the organisation and neatly fits with the ‘digital first’ ambition of the business. During the online chats, around 60% of the questions are around the recruitment process, but 40% are about the programme itself. Current graduates can participate and answer the questions – a great way to connect peers. 


Handling rejections well

The Virgin Media candidate experience case study is probably one of the best known in the market having calculated the cost from a poor candidate experience to be one with a £4.4 million price tag. With 18% of rejected candidates being consumers, the net effect from a poor experience and lack of engagement was significant.

The brief to their advisors PH Creative was ‘how can you help us reject people better’?  Dave Hazlehurst from PH explained: “We know candidates can go into an ATS to die!  The employer brand experience isn’t words, it’s actions and behaviours across all touch points. During the process the candidates have feelings and these feelings create the experience. Treat people right and rejection is easier.”

The net result of this project was the creation of a candidate experience portal; a companion through the process that provides advice and guidance through personalised tailored content and measures the experience throughout. 

Engage your hiring community to deliver a great candidate experience

Emma Ball, who leads the experienced hire recruiting team at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO explains: “We know it’s a candidate driven market and competition is strong. We’re working with our hiring community to amplify the need to deliver a great experience. Those who might have applied for our grad scheme and who might have been rejected will be candidates we’ll want to have a conversation with further down the line. Robust, quality feedback is essential.”

As part of their candidate experience review, the BDO resourcing team is looking at using Textio, an easy-to-use platform which helps businesses to create job postings using the most appropriate and inclusive language.

Four steps to success

Of course, all businesses are different and everything needs to be tailored to meet specific requirements. However, some things are consistent whatever your industry nuances and using the following four introductory guidelines should help everyone challenge and personalise their approach.  

•    Audit your process
•    Look for opportunities to personalise and customise 
•    Create opportunities for conversation to encourage peer engagement 
•    Ask for feedback and act on it.