Many business owners are familiar with the saying, ‘customers vote with their wallets’, but they may not realise that the same is true of job candidates.
The 2016 National Job Seeker Survey was the first Australian study to ask job seekers to share their experience and perspective on the current job-hunting process, and the results are cautionary for any company expanding its workforce.
Beware of brand backlash
We all work hard to provide the best possible customer experience, but do you go to the same lengths to provide a positive candidate experience?
Well, perhaps you should, with 43 per cent of respondents to the job seeker survey confirming a negative candidate experience has affected whether they continued to buy from the company, and 45 per cent confirming it affects how often they buy from the company.
The survey, conducted by HR technology company Workible, also revealed that people applying for a job with your company could well be existing customers, with close to one in 10 respondents (9 per cent) stating that they only apply to companies they like or shop with.
When questioned about whether brand impacted their job search decisions, the response was a resounding yes, with 60 per cent confirming that brand matters.
Survey respondents were asked to name their dream employers and explain their choices. Nearly every answer was due to some affinity with the company, whether they were an existing customer, attracted by the company’s vision and values or found commonality in their passions and interests.
Delving into the ripple effect of a negative candidate experience, a staggering 71 per cent of respondents said they shared their negative tale with family and friends, while 8 per cent admitted to venting about it on social media.
What will damage your brand the most?
Overwhelmingly, candidates’ biggest complaint was a lack of feedback on an application. Most applicants never hear back from would-be employers – including when they submit an application or even after a formal interview.
Some 57 per cent of job seekers said they were less likely to apply to a company again if it did not send an email about the outcome of their application, while 21 per cent would never apply to that company again.
After a four-month search, one respondent summed up the general sentiment by saying, “I understand that companies are busy … but not hearing anything back … even after an interview is horrible”.
When did candidate experience become such a problem?
Since recruitment moved online and the market became saturated with job boards, the bar for what is considered acceptable behaviour has been lowered.
Today’s job seeker has to navigate dozens of job sites, send off countless applications and rarely receives any human acknowledgement, let alone feedback.
So it’s no surprise that when asked to rate their overall candidate experience, 32 per cent of respondents answered ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
When asked to look at how well employers treat candidates generally, the results were even more negative, with 31 per cent responding ‘poorly’ and an additional 12 per cent saying employers ‘don’t care at all’ about candidates.
While technology has made it easier to access more job opportunities, it has also increased the competition among candidates.
With more applications to filter, some employers have reduced the administrative burden of recruitment by leveraging online systems to send impersonal automatic messages and pick out the ‘best’ applicants, who pass inflexible screening questionnaires or keyword searches.
Yes, business owners have never had access to so many candidates, but the problem with relying too heavily on technology is that for SMEs, the ‘best’ applicant for the job often has more to do with cultural fit than with specific skills or attributes.
Make the time to be nice
All business owners know that employees leave at the most inconvenient times. It’s always when you’ve got a looming deadline, a critical milestone or your busiest period is fast approaching that a key employee decides to move on.
Suddenly you’re faced with the time-consuming job of replacing your employee and, unless the company has a dedicated HR person, the job is likely to be added to the business owner’s to-do list.
It is easy to blame an impersonal approach to candidates on your own lack of time, but the question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Would you treat your customers shabbily because you were busy?’.
The bottom line is that if you treat your candidates poorly, the end result could be the same. Companies that ignore the holes in their recruitment processes rather than continuing to shape them will struggle to remain competitive and have access to top talent.
But keeping the job seeker at the centre of a company’s recruitment process and crafting strategies to effectively deliver a consumer-quality experience for everyone who applies to your company will not only protect your brand, it will establish you as an employer of choice.
Tips for improving your company’s candidate experience
- Don’t wait until a key employee resigns to start the recruitment process. Work proactively to create a pipeline of prospective hires that you can tap into when the need arises.
- Make sure the process is documented and followed by every staff member involved in recruitment so there is consistency across your company.
- The recruitment process must acknowledge every application.
- If using an applicant tracking system (ATS), make sure all responses are personalised.
- Provide applicants with an outline of your recruitment process, including realistic time frames.
- Inform unsuccessful candidates as soon as you have made a decision.
- If possible, provide feedback on the specific talents or experience that secured the job for the successful candidate so unsuccessful applicants know what they need to do to improve.
- Ask candidates for feedback, so you can continue to improve your customer experience.
- Look for technology that will streamline the recruitment process and help you deliver a consumer-quality candidate experience.
- Put yourself in the applicant’s shoes and test your own recruitment process to identify areas of improvement.
Alli Baker is co-founder and CEO of Workible.
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