Redefining the Applicant Experience for a Post-COVID World

July 13, 2021 | Bryan Barajas

It’s always intriguing to find areas that improved during the pandemic. According to applicants, it happened in recruiting. The 2020 North American Candidate Experience Research Report found positive sentiment from candidates shot up (from 25% to 31%), while resentment dropped (from 14% to 8%). This finding leads to the obvious question: Why?

“Candidates were more forgiving and employers were engaging in more empathetic communication and feedback loops,” says Kevin Grossman, who authored the report and is President and a board member at Talent Board HR. “It was tough, but the positive experience was the result of more engagement and communication.”

Engagement and authentic communication are key factors in a good hiring process. Here’s how to incorporate them to redefine the candidate experience at your organization.

 

Applicants Who Don’t Advance Still Deserve Consideration

Automated communication is essential for industries experiencing high-volume hiring, like finance and healthcare — especially since most candidates won’t make it past the application stage. “There’s a lot of folks that have very limited interactions with brands and employers based on that fact,” Grossman says. For a company, this message tends not to be particularly high priority, as they focus on the remaining candidates. For these applicants, however, it matters. That’s why Grossman asks, “When was the last time you audited candidate communication?”

Take the time to consider: What is this interaction like for those applicants? Review the content of automated messages. Grossman notes you should also consider the “timeliness” of the message. If you know an applicant isn’t qualified, don’t wait to tell them until you’ve selected someone else. For the best candidate experience, inform them within 1-2 weeks of their initial application.

Keep in mind a candidate who isn’t qualified for a particular position might fit another perfectly. (For that matter, they could develop skills they currently lack.) Take the time to ensure they don’t remember your company as the one that took three months to send them a form rejection, complete with misspellings.

 

Infuse Humanity into Candidate Experiences

Although automation is necessary for maintaining contact with applicants, ideally there will also be human interactions. AdventHealth, for example, staffs virtual conferences and hiring events with live recruiters to chat with candidates about what it’s like to work there and to answer their questions in real-time.

Although this requires carving time out for recruiters to be available, Grossman says it’s worth the effort. When creating a positive experience for candidates, there is no substitute for human interaction. With competition for talent so high, it behooves companies to differentiate themselves with a human touch, particularly in industries such as healthcare and finance. Connecting with candidates on a human level helps them feel more heard and valued.

 

Better Background Screening

Partner with a vendor who leverages new technology to provide quick, seamless screening processes. Cisive/PreCheck, for example, is at the forefront of a paradigm shift in career credentials that aims to accelerate verification processes. Candidates often expect a background check, especially in highly regulated verticals like finance and healthcare. Naturally, background screening can add time to the hiring process; candidates typically anticipate waiting days for results. Delays rarely improve any experience, including the application process, which is why the next step is so important.

 

Let Them in the Loop

During the pandemic, we learned candidates feel valued by an organization when they’re kept informed. “Communication and feedback are always going to be the key differentiators,” Grossman says. Background checks can actually engage candidates — as long as they know they’re still in the running for the role. Alert applicants when they move into the background check phase. Make sure candidates have access to their status through an applicant portal during the process. If the background check takes more than a couple of days, let the candidate know what’s happening.

Remember, with all the challenges faced during 2020, the candidate experience still improved. With so many things opening up again, keep strengthening the lines of communication with your candidates to ensure past frustrations don’t return.

 

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