Candidate Experience – when every application is an experience

Employer Branding and Candidate Experience are closely related. If there is a weakness in one, there will be consequences for the other. The current state of the labour market means that a powerful employer brand is essential to set yourself apart from the competition and to attract skilled workers in sufficient numbers. However, if the candidate journey through the hiring process leaves behind a negative impression, the Employer Brand will be affected. As such, what can businesses do to ensure that employees and candidates are both at the heart of their operations?

In the era of a constant online presence, with the ability to rate employers on Kununu or Glassdoor and the enormously fast-paced nature of the internet, employers can scarcely afford to receive bad reviews from employees or candidates. It is no longer possible to sweep negative assessments under the carpet: if an area of the business is doing poorly, employees do not feel valued, or candidates feel that they are treated unfairly during the recruitment process, this experience is highly likely to be shared with others. Everything is posted on the day it happens and linked, liked, commented upon, or rated. A positive reputation should be important to employers, with a focus on employees and candidates who will, in turn, report positively about the employer to their friends and relatives and recommend that they apply for roles as well. This means that current and potential employees and candidates must occupy centre stage in employers’ strategies.

What does this have to do with the Candidate Experience?

When would employees or candidates recommend a business? Only if they have had a positive experience with the business themselves. It makes no difference whether they are passive searchers who have read something about this particular business by chance, or serious candidates who have been rejected by the business, or candidates who have been invited to interview: each of these three candidates can retain a positive view of a potential employer, as long as the business has conveyed a positive Candidate Experience. That applies to everything from the first contact with the candidate, through to the process of hiring the candidate as an employee and the time when the employee eventually leaves the company. After all, former employees can also return as new employees, and all potential candidates can recommend the business to their friends and family: it is up to the business to ensure whether they decide to do so.

The current labour market situation means that a new approach is needed

The multi-faceted labour shortage is increasingly making its presence felt in human resources department, with a reported 792,637 unfilled vacancies combined with the lowest ever unemployment rate. The result is a ratio of just 2.1 unemployed people for each unfilled vacancy, and this trend will not be reversed in the near future. Due to demographic changes, it is foreseeable that the number of people of the right age to be economically active will fall, while the number of jobs offered will rise.

While just a few years ago the standard job advertisement was enough and the companies that advertised did not have to give too much thought to the way of the advertisement to receive suitable applications, companies today should come up with something to be attractive for applicants and to keep and satisfy existing employees in the company. Today and in the future, applicants are more demanding, impatient and, above all, even more in demand.

Candidate-focused communications are essential

Consistent, rapid communications should be a given in relationships with candidates. Nevertheless, they cannot currently be taken for granted. According to a survey, 34% of candidates who were interviewed would have liked better communications between their potential employer and the candidates. That would involve both confirmation that the application had been received, as well as information about the timeline for the hiring process. 40% of candidates even felt that they would see the Employer Brand in a negative light if they did not receive confirmation once their application had been received. Some candidates even reported that they had not received any response to their application for many month or that they had not received any feedback at all.

Candidates perceive an employer’s brand negatively when they fail to receive an acknowledgement of their submitted application.

The most common reason for a poor Candidate Experience is a lack of feedback..

44% of candidates signalled that businesses had failed to respond following an interview and 41% described being unable to get in touch with the relevant recruiter in order to ask questions or obtain further information.

Additionally, 14% of survey respondents wanted a personal, human follow-up following their application. While digitalization and AI are making significant inroads into the world of recruitment and the wider economy, candidates still seem to want contact with human HR advisers.

After submitting an application, candidates look for human contact with the business.

After submitting an application, candidates look for human contact with the business.

These facts make the importance of timely, candidate-focused and informative communications clear. This approach makes candidates feel valued, respected, and informed. Businesses therefore leave a lasting, positive impression, even when candidates subsequently have to be rejected. Consequently, this is the only way that candidates will decide to reapply in future, or to recommend that other interested parties apply to the business.

What can employees do to keep pace with these trends?

What creates a good Candidate Experience?

A positive experience starts with the initial contact between the candidate and the business. The first contact takes place via a vacancy or advertisement online or on social media. Even the format of the advertisement has a decisive impact as to whether a candidate decides to learn more about the business. However, a realistic candidate profile and clear information about the job on offer are absolutely fundamental in making the vacancy interesting to potential candidates. This is the point at which the candidate experience starts. When candidates feel that the business is reaching out to them, and that they can identify with the business from the initial point of contact, the business has done everything right in creating the job advert. At that point, the first hurdle has been overcome and the candidate will continue to engage with the potential employer, and will either submit a well-thought-out application to the employer or recommend that others do so.

Once the candidate has applied, it is essential to send confirmation of this fact in every case. Automated process optimisation makes it possible to confirm receipt automatically, so that no candidates have to wait in vain for a confirmation. This confirmation should follow shortly after receipt of the application and, where possible, should contain more information about the next steps in the application process.

As the application phase continues, the business should emphasise the value of candidate-centred communications. A friendly approach, with short response times, should be the aim. This will leave the candidate with a positive, lasting impression of the experience, no matter how successful they ultimately are.

Placing the candidate at the heart of the process is also known as Candidate Centricity. Corporate missions statements often talk about how “the customer is king” and “employees are at the heart of everything we do.” But what about those candidates who are neither customers nor employees: at least, not yet? They are the ones who need to be convinced about the company. This does not mean that existing employees or customers don’t need to be convinced continually to secure their loyalty, but Candidate Centricity is all about doing what it takes to encourage candidates to apply and to recommend the business to others.

A recommendation from friends and acquaintances is extremely important to many candidates.

Word-of-mouth is the largest single source of new employees.

As part of the “World of Work” study, it was discovered that 67% of Germany’s HR experts identified their existing workforce as the most important source of new employees. In Great Britain, this applied to 55% of respondents, and to 42% of those surveyed in France. This shows how the importance of word-of-mouth recommendations spans across borders. Moreover, the study showed how recommendations from friends, partners, or former colleagues was described as “very important” by a quarter of employees who were surveyed.

Candidate Centricity should become part of the business’s culture and lived experience. Only then will it also make itself felt externally. In any event, it is important to bear in mind that there is no way to build a strong Employer Brand on the basis of a weak Candidate Experience.

The Candidate Experience at ARTS

ARTS has long recognised these trends and has adapted its structure to suit the conditions of the labour market. We have put together a large recruitment team to be able to offer suitable jobs to all qualified candidates and to ensure that all applications receive rapid feedback. HR consultants look after ARTS employees and their concerns, while a team of HR marketing consultants is responsible for preparing targeted, candidate-centric job listings. This enables ARTS to guarantee a positive Candidate Experience throughout candidates’ journey, from their first contact with ARTS in the form of the job advert, through to communications with the candidate and continuing until the day they start working for the business.

Become an ARTS team member, either by responding a published vacancy or submitting a speculative application.

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