Maintaining The Candidate Experience Through Rapid Scaling

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Scaling is the “it” term when it comes to hiring and many job descriptions for HR recruiting and talent partners call for specific experience in it.

Whilst an exciting time within an organisation it’s not without its challenges, especially from a hiring perspective.

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.

Why? 

Because there is the perception 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.

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. 

Talent Planning

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:

Working backwards

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.

The ‘hiring pyramid’.

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.

Hiring Kanban board.

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.

Set up some automations

Please note the use of the word “some”!

The usual formula is that the more time a candidate has spent on interviewing with us, 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 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.

It takes perhaps 2 extra seconds to find the right reason and, although there is a fear that candidates may get defensive or react, most of the time people will appreciate that you have reviewed their circumstance and reacted to it. They will also know whether to apply for your next roles too!

You can also automate some emails as you move candidates between stages e.g. in the email to schedule the first stages, you can have a pre-recorded video/Loom telling them what the next step 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!

Example candidate journey map.

Know when not to automate

As mentioned above, the more time the candidate 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 someone is enthusiastic about your role. Enthusiasm will not be standard across everyone, so make sure you delve deeper into their motivations! Get curious about people, they may be your colleague soon! This will also help later at the negotiation stage.

Here is an example of a process I run:

My recruitment process.

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 people whom you have screened or have gone through X number of interviews and did not pass.

Again, the more time they have spent with your company the more attention their rejection will need.

Give Feedback

Feedback is super important for 2 reasons:

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.

Next steps

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.

Final bits:

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.

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