Humanizing the Candidate Experience

Shephali Gaier, Director of Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding, Watkins Wellness

Humanizing the Candidate Experience©Shephali Gaier, Director of Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding, Watkins Wellness

What’s the “secret sauce” to hiring talent?  Go back to humanizing the candidate experience.  In today’s labor market, with a plethora of jobs available and a shortage of available workers, we are all competing for the same talent.  How does an employer stand out from the rest, secure that right candidate, and build their organization with qualified people for their business needs?  Personalize the hiring process.  No, I don’t mean ask personal questions and violate everything we were taught in terms of dos and don’ts of interviewing, I mean focus on creating a personalized experience and connecting with candidates during the recruitment process.  Accepting a job offer can be like buying a house.  No matter what we might put on our check list, sometimes it’s just that feeling that we get as we walk into the house that leads to our decision to go for it. The same goes for accepting a job offer.  In most cases, it’s that feeling we get through the recruitment process that leads to our decision to join the company or not.  The importance of creating an emotional connection during the hiring process often goes highly underrated.  To win the “war on talent”, we need treat people like people. 

“To make a successful hire for the long term, TA must learn both the business needs and the candidates’ needs”

As a Talent Acquisition (TA) leader, my philosophy is simple:

1) People are important!

2) Candidates are our customers.

3) Everything that job seekers experience reflects and impacts the company’s employer brand and product brand.

4) We should leverage technology to help us, but not to replace human interaction, especially during key points in the process.

5) Every candidate, whether they get the job or not, should have a positive experience during the recruitment process.

6) Word travels fast.  Job seekers will share their experience – especially if it’s notably good or bad.

Create a Connection

Creating a personalized approach and an emotional connection from the start of the process will help your company stand out.  Extra effort taken to engage the candidate, create that connection, and that feeling of being valued, will help build interest and secure that offer acceptance.  You might also consider how you can involve not only the candidate, but the family as well.  In many cases, it’s not only the candidate making that offer decision.  There’s often a spouse, significant other, parents, or other family members who influence that decision.  Offering to speak to family members to answer questions or inviting the family for a tour (or virtual tour) can go a long way and is simple to do.

Where does candidate experience and that emotional connection exactly start?  Does it start when the recruiting team makes first contact with the job seeker? Is it at the onset of the interview process?  When is their first impression created?

The “experience” starts well before the employer ever interacts with the candidate.  It starts with the Employer Brand, continues with the job postings, company website, social media accounts.  Social Media is especially important.  It’s imperative that whoever is running the company’s social media accounts has their recruitment hat on with each post. Every step of the candidate’s journey is an employer’s opportunity to start building that connection with the job seeker.

Does Your Employer Brand Speak to Job Seekers?

A meaningful Employer Brand is key to how an employer positions itself to candidates.  If your company has a formal Employer Brand in place, take a moment to consider what type of experience that brand creates for your audiences. Does your Employer Brand offer something to job seekers or is it rather a boastful statement about who the company thinks it is or hopes to be?  It’s important that your Employer Brand be authentic and genuine to your organization and let’s job seekers know what was in it for them.  For example, at Watkins Wellness®, a world-leading manufacturer of hot tubs and aquatic fitness systems, we developed the Employer Brand ‘Discover Your Ripple Effect’.  This brand not only incorporates the product with the word ‘ripple’, but also advertises a sense of purpose for job seekers.  Job seekers can envision the opportunity to make an impact and play a role in making products that help others feel good and thus live better lives.  The brand offers a sense of meaningfulness that goes well beyond just making a hot tub.

Personalize. Don’t Roboticize.

Personalizing that experience can be easy.  Find out what matters to your candidates having detailed conversations and listening. Once you know what’s important to them, you can connect on those aspects and highlight what the company offers respectively.  Is it benefits, lesser commute, telecommuting options, growth opportunities, etc.?  TA professionals are key players in the hiring process. They have the relationship with the candidate, and they build those relationships by finding out what matters, checking in with the candidates often, and ensuring candidates know where they stand. To make a successful hire for the long term, TA must learn both the business needs and the candidates’ needs.

Another way to stand out and personalize the approach is to simply respond to candidates.  Talent Acquisition has gotten a bad reputation over the years for not getting back to candidates.  If we go back to the principle that people are important and if someone took time to interview or even speak with you, they deserve a response.  A simple follow up through phone, email, text, or an automated communication will go a long way. 

Candidates Are Your Customers

Sure, internal hiring teams are our customers but so are candidates.  In today’s environment, we need them more than they need us.  We need to treat them like customers for the job opportunity. They are interviewing us as much, if not more, as we are interviewing them.  The tables have turned and gone are the days where employers had the upper hand.  In fact, one could say that the employer has now become the “candidate” as job seekers, especially the stronger candidates, weigh out their multiple options. Ultimately, it’s the candidate’s decision whether they will accept the offer or not.  They are in control, not us. Plus, they are our customers!  Candidates often rely on their experience to make purchasing decisions and establish or abolish brand loyalty.

Bottom Line

While personalizing the candidate experience does require more time and effort, what’s the bottom line? In my experience, the investment up front can lead to higher offer acceptance rates and stronger new hire engagement from the start.  Considering the costs of declined offers, vacant positions, and/or negative brand reputation, companies can’t afford not to focus on candidate experience. Most companies will say that people are their most important asset. If that is the case, they should be treated as such. 

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