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May 24, 2021

Customizing the Candidate Experience to Stand Out

We’re all humans, and we want to be treated as such. But as much as the staffing industry denies it, there is a temptation to replace names with numbers, particularly in entry-level, high quantity, and high turnover sectors.

But anyone who has been in staffing for more than five minutes knows that an impersonal, transactional approach isn’t exactly a long-term one, even in areas where it feels almost natural. To ignore the experience of the candidate is to burn individual bridges, one by one, until you’re stuck on your own island, disconnected from talent.

At times it can feel like technology is pushing the industry towards this transactional approach. With the internet granting candidates access to a broader range of jobs than ever before, and a range of platforms making it easier than ever for jobseekers to find their next opportunity, a recruiter might presume that candidates prefer a disconnected, impersonal, and transactional approach. 

“This will make things less human if recruiters aren’t careful,” says Joey Brodsky, Manager of Business Development at BlueWave Research Partners. “Candidate experience can start to slip, as priorities switch to KPIs like efficiency, time to hire, and advertising spend.”

Recruiting is the most human of human industries. And the truth is that in an increasingly digital world, candidates are crying out for a customized, compassionate, and human experience. And somewhat ironically, technology can play a key role in facilitating just that.


Understanding the strategy of candidate experience

To understand how to improve the modern candidate experience, you must first understand the shape of the modern candidate experience.

More often than not it begins on Google, with no fewer than 73% of job searches starting there. These then lead mostly to the major job boards, and in turn the job post. This means that the early stages of the candidate journey have more in common with the sales funnel than many in the industry might think.

“Recruiters should look at job postings like a marketer would – like they’re part of the funnel,” advises Jessica Rowen, National Marketing Manager at TalentWorld. “Is your job post search engine optimized? Is there a persona-based approach to copywriting to drive a certain person to apply? Is the application process simple enough; i.e. optimized for mobile, and integrated with the one-click applications that are offered by platforms like Indeed?”

As a marketer herself, Rowen brought this mindset to TalentWorld when she joined, applying her expertise in the customer journey to the candidate experience, and in the last year or two it has reaped serious rewards. 

“When we launched our new approach to job postings in early 2020, we saw a huge increase in apply rates. The average rate on Indeed is 7%, but we’re now sitting at 15%.”

Another area of focus for the staffing industry in candidate experience is communication. 69% of candidates want employer/recruiter response time improved, while 63% of candidates want more communication in general. But how do already busy recruiters find the time to both increase and hasten their communications? 

It demands a shift in mindset from leaders within your firm, another process that Rowen and her team have recently gone through. “We recognized that trying to solve the candidate experience demands that we first solve the recruiter experience. We need to give them time in their day to actually build those meaningful relationships.” And so TalentWorld set about freeing their recruiters from any low-value labor that they could be freed from.

And like many other forward-thinking firms, they used technology to do it.

Recruiting Methods You Haven't Tested | Able


The role of technology in the candidate experience

Automation might be a bad word to a factory worker, but it is an excellent word to a recruiter. It’s a word that means that the staffing professional is freed from the monotonous, the tedious, and the laborious, and is left with only the high-value, the human, and the fun.

Automation technology can be used to enhance the quantity, the speed, and when done well, even the quality of communications. Unlike in a factory, this is not a case of machine takeover but is rather a case of offering your recruiters the most efficient and effective assistant there is.

Automation technology can source candidates and sort candidates, leaving recruiters to sift through a selection of the very best. It can take care of introductions and answer basic questions, leaving recruiters to have more meaningful conversations with the right candidates. It takes care of the basic stuff, and the recruiter jumps in whenever they’re needed to add the human element, and turn a good candidate experience into a great one. 

You’ll also find that candidates are absolutely fine with automated messaging, as long as a recruiter comes in when necessary. Chatbots are a great example, as they give instant answers that candidates might previously have had to wait five or ten minutes for over the phone.

This all gives recruiters time to look deeper at their candidates. 89% of bad hires typically lack soft skills. Leaning on automation technologies gives you the time to look more closely at subtleties and soft skills - creativity, personality, ambition, excitement - and find the perfect fits for your clients. Just remember, automation is only as good as its programming, so be sure that you are getting quality data in, so that you can program quality automation on the way out. 

There are also technological considerations that extend beyond automation in the candidate experience. According to Spark Hire, 73% of candidates will leave a site if it’s not optimized for mobile, with one in five never returning. Many staffing firms are now going a step further than mobile optimization, using proprietary apps to craft a highly customized experience, and that can even have on-demand functionality, serving up jobs that candidates can secure in a single click.


The branding benefits of a good candidate experience

Everybody uses online reviews to shape their decision-making these days, whether it’s finding a restaurant, booking an Airbnb, or choosing a product on Amazon. Staffing is beginning to follow the same trajectory.

In an ever more transparent world, where candidates can get a good sense of the reputation of a recruiter with nothing more than a quick Google, candidate experience has never been more critical. Continually offer a bad experience, and a recruiter could see their talent streams drying up. Offer a great candidate experience, and their cup will runneth over.

“Our platform posts testimonials online,” says Robert Mann, Sales and Content Specialist at Great Recruiters. “What I see in every review is either the word ‘timely’ or ‘responsive’. In every testimonial. Being quick to get back to people is something that's weirdly, and perhaps subconsciously, undervalued. But if you pay attention to it, and you're always trying to be timely, you'll create a better experience, and you'll convert more.”

It’s thanks in part to these review platforms that recruiters are becoming more conscious of the experience they’re offering to candidates, knowing its importance if they are to survive and succeed in the industry long term. Branding is playing an ever-greater role in success, and its value is beginning to be quantified in real-world, dollar terms.

Once you have a good brand, a whole range of other opportunities open up, something that we’ll be looking at in the second article of this three-part series: the art of building candidate communities.

Why not join us there?