Creating a great candidate experience is crucial if you want to hire the right people for your roles.
Whilst the hiring process is an exciting time within an organisation, it’s not without its challenges.
Tasked with bringing in recruits quickly, most will start talking about automation and mass-scale candidate marketing. However, you may notice your candidate feedback scores, either in your surveys or Glassdoor, dropping as a result.
Because there is the misconception that good candidate experience and hiring fast at scale are mutually exclusive. But that’s not true!
During my time at a FAANG, I doubled the EMEA headcount whilst simultaneously doubling our candidate feedback score.
This article will explain how myself and the team achieved that. But first up, just so we're clear...
What Is The Candidate Experience?
The candidate experience is the experience that candidates have with regards to your hiring process. It's impacted by factors such as communication, length, difficulty, the quality of interviews, and overall efficiency.
Working to create a positive candidate experience is important because it will help you close more hires and improve your overall employer brand.
How To Create A Great Candidate Experience
Here are my ideas for balancing scaling with candidate experience so that, when it comes to future hiring, you are not laboured with the perception that you’re a company that treats candidates like numbers in a Lotto drawing machine.
It seems basic, but starting off with a good talent plan either at the start of the quarter, year, or even after a funding round is vital.
Meet all your business leaders and make sure that you schedule a time to talk about the health of their team and how the business aims will impact what resources will be needed. In my meetings I always touch upon the following points:
- Current skills resource - what have they been finding easy to do, what is the current team's strong suit. Who are the superstars, is there a potential candidate on the path to being promoted, and do we need to backfill?
- Skill gaps - what has the team been struggling with? What do they need to hire for vs develop within the team (working alongside L&D if need be here). Who is underperforming and do we need to start thinking of replacing them?
- Hiring to respond to growth vs hiring to create growth - very important distinction. Usually in teams like product, engineering or support, it's hiring to respond to growth, whilst commercial teams are there to create growth. Make sure you speak to leadership so there is a balance between the two types of hiring (revenue-generating roles should almost always be priority!).
- What happens if we don't hire? - this is a great baseline for everyone—Talent and the business—to understand and keep in mind what the impact would be. It will keep Talent searching for the right people and the business leader responsive in making decisions.
- Prioritisation between roles - if there are multiple roles, and you work with many business partners, you won't be able to fill all the roles at the same time—especially once you start going upwards of 30 roles that each require a lot of sourcing. Getting the business leader to think about prioritisation at the beginning will help you down the line to prioritise for yourself and the Talent Team.
If any of you have worked for an Amazon company you might be tired of hearing this, so here is a rework: "What would it take to get us there?".
You should have a rough idea of numbers such as closing rates e.g. for your business it may be 4 acceptances for every 5 offers. If you have the exact number for your business then you start working backwards—a pyramid instead of a funnel.
This gives a rough idea of the scope of work. Then you can start applying it to your favourite project management tool—Kanban for overview or Gantt if you have a shorter-term hiring blitz, for example.
Below is an example of Kanban board of mine with at least rough numbers to aim for.
The next step is super important—share the project map with the hiring manager and the hiring team!
Make this a collaborative endeavour and invite them to participate. That way you can help them have more ownership.
Everyone needs to know what's coming up in the calendar and, if scaling is what the business needs, then everyone needs to absolutely prioritise hiring and that means knowing how much time commitment they will need to give to the recruiting process.
Set Up Some Automations
Please note the use of the word "some"!
The usual formula is that the more time a job seeker has spent on interviewing with the recruiter, the more you need to spend on giving them feedback, guidance and attention. It's a reciprocal relationship.
Will there be 1-2 candidates out of the many who will take advantage? Yes, but there will be all the others to whom you made the difference by humanising what can sometimes feel like a very stressful recruiting process.
Modern applicant tracking systems (ATS) have all sorts of automation, but I like to customise mine a bit.
For example, you can automate the common rejection reasons at CV review—perhaps they don't meet the talent bar or live in the wrong time zone. That way make sure you are rejecting the person for the right reasons and still maintain somewhat of a positive experience for everyone involved.
It takes perhaps 2 extra seconds to find the right reason and, although there is a fear that candidates may get defensive or react and rant about their negative candidate experience, most of the time rejected candidates will appreciate that you have reviewed their circumstance and reacted to it. It's a reflection of your company culture and they will also know whether to apply for your next roles too!
You can also automate some emails as you move a potential candidate between stages e.g. in the email to schedule the first stages, you can have a pre-recorded video/Loom (or some other video interview tool) telling them what the next step on their job application journey will encompass.
I’ve found it’s useful to create a visual representation of what the process will look like for them—like a map!
Know When Not To Automate
As mentioned above, the more time the job applicant spends interviewing the fewer automated comms they should get.
As soon as they start getting to later stages, start getting on the phone with them and interact (this could be you or the hiring manager).
You need to start gauging whether the new hire is enthusiastic about the role. Enthusiasm will not be standard across everyone, so make sure you delve deeper into their motivations! Get curious about people and candidate expectations, they may be your colleague soon! This will also help later at the negotiation stage.
Here is an example of a process I run:
Some of you may already be saying “That is a lot of work!” Yes, it is, but scaling will take a lot of work and you cannot automate everything out of human connections.
People hire people, not companies, not algorithms, not Zapier.
Do Not Forget About Non-Automated Rejections
You will have some job candidates whom you have screened or have gone through X steps of the interview process and did not pass.
Again, the more time they have spent with your company the more attention their rejection will need.
Feedback is super important for 2 reasons:
- It gives candidates something to work towards
- It keeps hiring managers and hiring teams accountable for the reasons they are rejecting candidates. This means no more "they are not a cultural fit" without explaining why. Sometimes the answers for "why" are not great, so talent will need to dig in. I hope that you don't dig up something bad, but it is entirely possible!
In EMEA, with the rise of GDPR-driven DSARs, feedback can no longer be denied so candidates can request all their information including their forms and scorecards.
Make sure the hiring teams are aware of that so that they really think about why they are progressing or rejecting someone. Make them present it as a business case.
Even Amazon can no longer say that they do not give feedback—I should know, I was there processing DSARs!
How Good Is The Interviewing Feedback?
Regularly review scorecards from the interviewing panel to check if they are up to par!
Are they providing a proper business case? Is there a clear record of the questions asked and the answers are given? Are there details? Does the final conclusion match the overall feedback?
All of these will give you an idea of where you might need to step in and course-correct interviewers who are not questioning candidates equally or providing a bad experience.
A three-sentence scorecard from a 45 min interview makes me question whether someone paid attention in the interview!
You can control a lot about the process, but the interactions with the interview will make up the bulk of the candidate experience. You need to keep tabs and call out where you see that it's not meeting the standards.
When you are speaking to the candidate after interviews, or at the last stage, ask how they found the process and the interviewing so far.
Remember that people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one. Make sure you leave less people with a really negative experience and keep on top of feedback.
Will one or two candidates be dropped through the process? Perhaps—no process is perfect—but you do not want to be known as the company that never gets back to people, only prioritises candidates who go through the process, and leaves the others ghosted.
- If you have followed the above and talent, the hiring manager and hiring team are on the same page—have fewer meetings. If you have more than 4 roles with the same hiring manager maybe 2 meetings a week are needed but, otherwise, keep it to one.
- Spend 10% more time on planning than you think you need to.
- Get on that phone and call the person! I know you think you are super busy and you don't have the time, but if a call will take 3 mins (e.g. a rejection or something)—just do it. If you get down to it you can get through so many calls in half an hour!
- Keep track of data and funnels—use one project management board e.g. Kanban as the source of truth of whether you are hitting milestones on time. If not, signal the alarm earlier rather than later and get ready to pull in support from your team or the hiring managers (get them sourcing too!)
Join The Conversation
Good luck with your scaling endeavours. If you have any questions or insights to share, HMU in the comments below or join the conversation in the People Managing People forum—a supportive community of HR and business leaders sharing knowledge and ideas.
Also Worth Checking Out:
- Shortlist of the best employee experience tools to improve engagement and performance
- Candidate sourcing tips to help you find the best talent
- The key to focused, engaging interviews
- How to make a job offer with example email
- Why Honesty Is Important During Hiring Moments (with AJ Vaughan from Beyond Brand Studios)