Firms Improve Online Candidate Experience

Organizations of all sizes and industries face a daunting recruiting challenge: find qualified talent to achieve vital business objectives that will drive their mission forward.

Yet in today’s increasingly competitive hiring landscape where candidates have more control than ever, it has become more difficult to identify, engage, attract and hire the best individuals.

Based on 2014 research by nonprofit research organization Talent Board, the answer lies in delivering a stellar candidate experience that engages candidates, keeps them informed throughout the entire recruiting process, and leaves a positive impression that encourages candidates to apply again and recommend the company (Editor’s note: The author works for Talent Board).

Talent Board established the Candidate Experience, or CandE, Awards in 2010 to create a benchmark process for companies to measure candidate experience by seeing how candidates feel about the hiring process. With the recently completed 2014 program, Talent Board collected data from nearly 95,000 candidates who applied to 140 companies.

The candidate experience is more than just the apply or interview process. Much of the experience occurs well before the candidate even reaches the application. The 2014 CandE research shows that a majority (78 percent) of candidates rely on their own job search as the primary driver of their decision to apply, compared with direct contact from a recruiter (8 percent) and employee referral (13 percent).

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This drives the need for organizations to promote their employer brand through online content and channels effectively to build those connections with candidates early on, enticing them to apply.

The 2014 CandE research shows that a company’s career website is the most critical interactive channel, with 71 percent of employers identifying it as “differentiating” to their 2014 strategy (Figure 1). In an important shift, employers are also implementing more robust strategies such as job agents (36 percent) and microsites (32 percent) to better target specific audiences.

Another important aspect in the attraction stage is the level of information employers provide before candidates apply. While the data show employers provide a high level of visibility through job descriptions and benefit information, there is opportunity to create more transparency in other areas such as potential career paths and successful candidate profiles (Figure 2).

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A big part of a positive candidate experience is the disposition stage, or informing candidates about their status in the process.

While 99 percent of employers tackle the easy part — acknowledging receipt of an application — less than half inform the applicant about what to expect next, how to check their status or let them know that they will be informed when the position has been filled, CandE data shows (Figure 3).

In a positive sign, more organizations seem to realize the importance of a short and simple interview process, as 63 percent of candidates surveyed report that they only experience one or two interviews total for the position to which they applied (Figure 4).

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The vast majority of participating candidates (86 percent) agree that interview questions were conducted professionally and focused on the job qualifications, and 82 percent were satisfied with how they were able to present their skills. Still, not all candidates had a positive experience, the data suggests, as 16 percent reported that the interviewer was not effective in determining their skills and abilities to perform the job.

The findings also indicate a significant missed opportunity during the interview stage. Overall, 61 percent of candidates in the 2014 CandE survey said they were never asked to provide feedback on the interview experience, and 75 percent of companies report that they do not survey candidates about their post-application disposition. Doing so provides important insight that companies can use to identify what they can do better and adopt that processes that lead to improvement.

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The candidate experience doesn’t end with a job offer. The onboarding experience is just as crucial. How this is handled can have a lasting effect, as effective new-hire onboarding can lead to increased employee performance. Despite these benefits, 45 percent of employers show low priority in investing in onboarding technology, CandE data shows.

Of the 10,000 candidates who accepted offers, less than half of new hires (47 percent) received a phone call from the human resources department during the onboarding process, and even fewer (38 percent) received a call from the hiring manager (Figure 5).

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 While 2014 CandE data show there are clear areas for improvement around activities not often associated with the candidate experience, such as dispositioning and onboarding, companies are moving in the right direction. The research indicates that this trend is expected to continue throughout 2015, as employers continue to recognize the crucial role that candidate experience plays in talent acquisition.