‘Candidate Experience’ is being killed by the recruiter experience

Written by Steve Ward

Steve Ward is generally regarded as one of the original practising Social Recruiters, having run his agency CloudNine as a fire-starter in the space. Now; as well as being Head of Agency Solutions for Candidate.ID; Steve is a Talent Attraction & Social Recruiting Strategist; working interim to help businesses understand how to be a magnet for the best talent.

We’re beyond the stage where ‘Candidate Experience’ is a buzz-phrase now. It played its role in recruiting conferences’ buzzword bingo card for a good period, 5 or 6 years ago; but now, providing a quality candidate experience should be commonplace.

However, it isn’t. Not by a long chalk.

People are still bemoaning their treatment by recruiters. Either by agencies and their transactional cream-picking, or by in-house recruiters and their incessant addiction in opening up rejection funnels the size of the Ganges Delta, by advertising every role on any job site portal that will accept willing rejectees.

So, let’s blame recruiters.

It’s always easier to blame the recruiters. Let’s just feed the #RecruiterFail hashtag and shoot pelters at the people tasked with filling the roles.

However, we’re only focusing on symptoms. What about the root cause? Why exactly are recruiters so flippant or negligent about providing a genuinely awesome candidate communication experience? Well, I believe it stems from age-old issues, driven by age-old processes.

When I run workshops for recruitment teams from corporate companies, about social recruiting, content, connectivity and employer brand; the response is that it’s like delivering a dream sequence. How can they do proactive branding activities, when they have 30+ requisitions to fill…? THIRTY??!

So, we establish how they intend to fill those 30 roles. “More sourcing, more advertising…”. Well, of course, this was going to be the case, of course the answer to every new role, is to treat it like it’s the first time you ever hired one. It’s sad, but the hamster wheel keeps turning: new roles, mean new adverts, new sourcing journeys, new candidate pools, one successful candidate, and a whole bunch of rejections.

How can the candidate experience be a positive one, if the core communication, is rejection? No matter how nicely we package “Thank you, but no…”. Automated messages aren’t ‘great candidate experience’, they are merely a preferential replacement for silence.

So, what are the proposed solutions? Well to me, it starts with reducing operational recruiter workload. You can’t instantly change the number of requisitions, but you can think about how we identify, segment, nurture and select talent to ensure that feed the typical turnover cycle. Starting each new job, with another external process, is not helping.

We have talent data. The larger the company, the bigger the available data. Previous applications on our ATS, Talent access via LinkedIn Recruiter, and the likelihood that you’ve implemented a CRM.

Let’s take that ATS. Previous applications are an indication, that someone at some point wanted to work for your company. The people who want to work for your company, are invaluable in enhancing performance and retention. But do we really manage that data productively from our ATS, or is it merely a compliance black hole?

Rather than opening the doors to another 200 unfortunate ‘marketing executives’ let’s say, why don’t we see what marketing people have already applied to previous roles, and start from there. In fact, rather than just say “Thank you but no…” we should be welcoming the appropriate ones onto our CRM and starting a journey of building a relationship that may or may not lead to a hire, but will certainly improve the experience of the people included, should they feel the benefit of opting in. Talent communities are not complete nonsense, after all. They were just poorly executed.

Surely talent pipelines are our solution. Call them talent communities, call them talent networks, call them what you like; but care less about the title, but only about the opportunity they create to organise the recruiter workflow. The ability for a recruiter to respond to a new role, not with an advert or a sourcing exercise, but with a dip into an already identified network of suitable, interesting, interested and likeminded options is gold.

But this is chicken and egg, like the recruiters I alluded to earlier bemoaned – how do you start talent communities and build pipelines, if you are constantly filling the here and now?

Well, it’s almost 2018 folks, your recruitment team structure needs to evolve. And you need to evolve your recruiters. Something needs to shift if we are to improve the candidate experience, because it often starts with improving the recruiter experience. Volume spray and pray is old-school, yet it is integral to the heart of the industry. Should we be employing so many long-ball sourcers and miners? Should we really pumping out every new requisition onto a job board or LinkedIn?

Having specialists at each segment of the talent attraction funnel becomes essential. The aim is to allow the recruiters to where possible, to only be contacting people who have an invested interest in the company, and the roles thereafter – and therefore be focused on the consideration and actionable end of the funnel.

In the volume candidate area, generated by ATS, sourcing history and industry research – the focus is on content production, industry insights and content that improves the professional knowledge and capability of the people we have already attracted or sourced. As more talent interacts with more of your content, they effectively come through the talent attraction funnel and become identifiable as warmer career prospects. That is when your recruiters should become involved. More human focused and relevant conversations, more warm engagement, with content and points of intersection where the work of the recruiter is more enjoyable, more effective and with a higher rate of conversion.

And so that finally brings us to KPIs. As in-house functions, we want to usurp some of the size of agency necessity, yet we KPI our in-house recruiters the same way. Booking.com recruiters talk with glee about that fact they are not KPI driven, and yet they continue to hire at 15-20% growth year on year. The recruiter job there is a rewarding, engaging and exciting job; and they treat their candidates – particularly in key competitive talent areas – like stars. Further, each interaction from every recruiter is enhanced, because the recruiter is highly motivated through happiness, and unburdened by KPIs and micro-management.

The future of great candidate experience is the evolution of recruitment and resourcing teams from agency models, to talent attraction and engagement models. If we make recruitment a fun job from end to end, then we make candidate engagement focused, purposeful and valuable; and therefore the experience is a profitable one.

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