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Building A Candidate Experience Strategy That Works

| Ameya Deshmukh
Candidate Experience
candidate experience best practices header image Mya Systems

A few years ago, you couldn’t take 2 steps in a room full of staffing and recruiting leaders without hearing the words “candidate experience.” It really seemed like a buzzword at the time. Now, candidate experience has become table stakes for leading an effective recruitment effort. But, many of the world’s largest brands and staffing agencies still struggle with building a candidate experience strategy that works.

You might find that you’ve tried candidate experience in the past and didn’t see the value in it. I suggest that you were measuring the wrong metrics. Maybe you tried candidate experience and saw some benefits that didn’t last. The real problem is likely that you didn’t do enough to align your organization around your strategy.

If you look at candidate experience statistics you know that candidate experience is effective and important. The numbers and case studies prove that. So why is it so challenging to successfully implement a candidate experience strategy? The answer, as you might suspect by now, isn’t so much around tactics but more around how you manage behavior.

In this article:

  1. Build empathy in your culture
  2. Use design thinking
  3. Think about the talent journey
  4. Use recruiting automation
  5. Take a cue from marketing
  6. Work cross-functionally at your staffing firm
  7. Document your candidate experience strategy
  8. Define success metrics for your strategy
  9. Customize the strategy for every level of employee
  10. Align your recruiting team around the strategy
  11. Set clear behavioral goals for every level

Build empathy in your culture

vinita venkatesh candidate experience best practices have empathy mya systemsYou should approach your recruitment experience with the right mindset. First and foremost, you should know that candidate experience is a transformative strategy. It’s not just a tactic. It’s not a fad and it doesn’t stop working soon as the market sees a downturn.

Do you know where the concept of candidate experience comes from? It all started with a trend I like to call consumerization of the workplace. You see, we live in a world where as consumers any of us can order almost anything we’d ever need from the palm of our hand – from anywhere – at any time.

Allow me to explain it to you some more. Let’s go way back in time to the concept of customer experience and customer service. These ideas were once seen as revolutionary or innovative. Ridiculous to think about, right?

Then more recently,  a field called user experience emerged. User experience or UX for short is all about creating the most convenient and intuitive technology experience possible.

Today, the most successful B2C companies create both great customer experiences and user experiences. In fact, some of them are so good at it that they can predict what we want as customers even before we know that we want it!

Experience design always starts with having empathy. I write and talk about empathy a lot.

You have empathy for your customers, you also need to have it for your candidates. That’s where candidate experience starts. It starts with empathy!

Once you have empathy in the equation, you can see your hiring process from the perspective of your candidates. Soon as you can step into their shoes the importance and value of candidate experience become glaringly obvious.

Candidate experience isn’t revolutionary. It isn’t a breakthrough idea or concept. It’s not even a new idea! It’s just the natural progression of customer service, customer experience, and user experience.

These business concepts are universal. They work in every area of business. Software development, marketing, even sales teams become more effective by orienting their efforts around the experiences they create.

It’s time your staffing company does the same.

Use design thinking

Design thinking keeps people at the center of every process. The design thinking approach is one that’s used by many of the world’s most innovative companies. In fact, it’s likely already being used in your staffing and recruiting company today!

Have you heard of the company IDEO? They are an award-winning global design and innovation company that’s based out of Palo Alto. They’re regarded as one of the best, if not the absolute best, human-centered design, user experience design, and customer experience design companies in the world.

Here’s how their founder and leader Tim Brown defines it.

tim brown IDEO Candidate experience best practices design thinking mya systems

Years before I worked at Mya, I worked as a marketing manager for a boutique user interface and user experience design firm in the Bay Area. I spent over a year studying and writing about user experience design. Prior to that, I had also worked at Cisco for several years where I worked as a user experience designer for internal-facing systems.

One of the lessons I can share with you is that every time I designed a system without considering the user – it turned into an awful system to use. No one wanted to use it. It frustrated them! I wish I had known about the principles of design thinking back then.

I was unaware years go. And what you may not realize today, is that your staffing company is making the same mistake I was back then. You’re creating a frustrating experience for your candidates! Thankfully, I was designing internal tools for IT teams to use. It didn’t really impact the business on a major level if they weren’t good experiences to use.

But that’s not the case with the experience you create for your candidates. Your candidates are your assets. They’re your customers.  The relationships you build with them are your source of competitive advantage.

So it’s absolutely critical you approach your candidate experience strategy by using design thinking. Your candidate experience strategy needs to integrate the needs of your people, the possibilities of technology, and requirements for business success.

Your people include your candidates, your recruiters (and other employees at all levels of your organization), and your customers. You’ve also got to make the right use of technology, automation, and other tools. Finally, you’ve got to balance these factors with the #1 predictor of your success as a business -> your ability to quickly find and convert qualified talent into placements.

Think about the talent journey

The talent journey is every interaction a candidate has with your company or representatives of your company while moving through your recruiting process. Instead of thinking about a recruiting funnel, that you’re pushing candidates through, try thinking about walking alongside your candidates and supporting their journey.

candidate experience strategy kristin hunter mya systemsWho will they interact with along their journey? What will they interact with? What challenges will they face? How can you use technology to solve them? How can you use your recruiting teams to improve the talent journey?

Examining your recruiting process from the perspective of a talent journey will give you ideas to take fresh new approaches. Thinking about a talent journey means thinking about how to make your recruiting process frictionless. The more convenient and human you make your process the faster candidates will move through it.

Ultimately, the business goal of candidate experience is to create a process that’s so engaging, positive, and frictionless that you create a massive increase in your speed and efficiency. It’s counterintuitive to think about.

Use recruiting automation

It’s counterintuitive to think about creating a more human and positive experience as a mechanism to increase speed and efficiency. Until recently, it wasn’t possible to do this. You’d have needed to hire hundreds of more people onto your team and even with the extra headcount, it’s likely you wouldn’t have enough manpower.

Besides that, hiring so many additional employees just isn’t feasible for your business. Using conversational AI for recruiting is how you can create a positive candidate experience that unlocks speed and efficiency for your staffing firm.

One of the largest staffing firms in the world used conversational AI to engage 1.8 million candidates in conversations. The staffing firm found that the CAI booked over 390,000 interviews with qualified candidates for their recruiters.

It added speed by reducing the time to interview for the firm by 79%. It created efficiency by improving their placement rate without needing to acquire additional applicants. It also clearly improved candidate experience.  1.8 million candidates gave their experience with the CAI a 9.8/10 average candidate satisfaction score.

Take a cue from marketing

Employer branding and recruitment marketing are emerging strategies in the talent acquisition space. Employee storytelling is a core concept to takeaway from recruitment marketing. Employee storytelling asks how can you engage your employees and feature their stories of growth at your company?

Recruitment marketing is the process of reformatting and distributing these employee stories on various online and offline channels to build awareness of your company in the talent market.

Think about how you can leverage these strategies to impact candidate experience, support the talent journey, and improve the efficiency of your recruiting process.


Work cross-functionally at your staffing firm

A candidate experience strategy can’t exist in a silo. It’s not just the responsibility of your recruiting teams. Think about how you can get IT, operations, marketing, and other teams to buy into the value of candidate experience and support your candidate experience strategy.

Meet with leaders in different departments as you create your candidate experience strategy and have them dedicate resources/support formally to your initiative. One example of how you might work cross-functionally with IT is by implementing AI for recruiting to update your passive candidate database.

Without IT buy-in and support it’ll be challenging to pick the right recruiting AI software. They’ll know the right questions to ask vendors to determine how easily the AI will scale in the context of your software ecosystem.

Document your candidate experience strategy

Less than half of staffing firms report that they have a documented candidate experience strategy. Documenting your strategy will help you to align your company around the candidate experience.  A documented strategy will create buy-in from cross-functional leaders and their teams.

A documented strategy will also make it easier for your recruiting teams and recruiting ops teams to align internally around the candidate experience.

candidate experience strategy sean snyder talent launch

Define success metrics for your strategy

A candidate experience strategy isn’t just about creating a positive recruiting experience for your candidates. When it’s done right, a candidate experience strategy should produce measurable results for your staffing firm. For example, staffing firms who follow our recommendations for candidate experience have been able to produce measurable impacts like a 4x increase in placement rates and a 79% reduction in time-to-interview.

The success of your candidate experience strategy should be measured on 3 fronts.  The first is in bringing speed to your recruiting process. Measure candidate experience metrics like time-to-interview and time-to-fill. The second is through bringing efficiency to your hiring process.

Measure your overall funnel-conversion, placement rate, and applicant to hire ratio. Third measure the qualitative impact to your employer brand.  Collect a candidate satisfaction score, use social monitoring to check brand mentions, and track your status on review sites.

Your candidate experience strategy should produce measurable increases to speed, efficiency, and employer brand sentiment.

Customize the strategy to every level of employee

Each level of your recruiting organization from a sourcer to a recruiting manager to a VP of talent acquisition should have clear objectives that align them to increase speed and efficiency by improving the candidate experience.  If you don’t communicate your initiative properly to different levels of your organization it won’t be as effective.

This is where many good candidate experience strategies fall apart. Make sure to meet with each level of your recruiting org and consider speaking to your candidate experience strategy at your regular all-hands meetings.

Align your recruiting team around the strategy

Even after getting buy-in for your strategy and communicating it to all levels of your organization it’s common to see candidate experience strategies lose momentum in a few months. Sooner or later, everyone resumes their behavior and candidate experience falls to the wayside.

It makes recruiting leaders wonder if their candidate experience strategy is worth the effort at all. The problem isn’t with your candidate experience strategy it’s with aligning your recruiting teams. If you don’t change their formal performance reviews to start evaluating them on achieving speed and efficiency through candidate experience you won’t be able to create lasting change in your organization.

Without holding every level of your team accountable for the candidate experience, you won’t be able to have a sustainable candidate experience strategy.


Set clear behavioral goals for every level

For example, for your recruiters, you might want to set the goal of increasing candidate engagement. This will help cut down on a serious problem with a funny name, called recruiter ghosting. For your recruiting managers, you may want to set a goal of increasing interview schedules for their recruiting teams with qualified candidates.

Use systems thinking to work your way up from the perspective of your recruiters all the way up through your organization to your perspective. Think about what behaviors you need to support with goal setting to increase speed and efficiency in your recruiting.

A final word on candidate experience

The candidate experience at its core is about candidate engagement. How can you create an engaging experience for all of your candidates? What makes an engaging experience? What’s not engaging in your current experience?

These are all questions you should look to answer as you approach creating a winning candidate experience strategy.

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