Unemployment is now hovering around 7.9 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a statistical improvement over September’s grim numbers. It looks like we’re in for some job growth, especially in healthcare, seasonal retail and professional and business services. Maybe, for job seekers, things are finally on the mend. Good news, isn’t it? Except for one thing: employers may not be positioning themselves to attract the best talent because they aren’t focusing on the candidate experience.
The past four years have lulled many employers into thinking if they have a job opening, they’ll also have their pick of talented new hires. Now that things are opening up, though, candidates can be more selective. They’re more likely to look for the right job than they are to settle for any job, especially if they have advanced degrees and in-demand skills. So, it’s time for employers to focus on candidate experience – what happens before recruiting starts, and what flows over into the crucial first three months on the job and on.
Candidate experience encompasses all the touch points job seekers have with a company while they’re searching for a job. From corporate website to careers page; from brand, company culture, and social media profile to social reputation; and on to recruiting, interviewing, on-boarding and retention – prospects have many touch points with a company. It’s important to make sure they all shine.
Sites like Glassdoor have made it imperative for companies to be stewards of candidate experience. It’s so simple to search a company name and to read a bad review that HR and leadership executives need to manage their brand reputation more than ever. Potentially complicating this effort is a heavy reliance on talent management software, which is a huge boost for HR productivity, but can also negatively influence candidate perception of the job-hunting experience.
Here are five reasons for hiring managers to focus on candidate experience:
1. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Not sure who said it first – opinions range from Oscar Wilde to Will Rogers – but what’s important is how true this statement is. For most businesses a candidate’s introduction to a company is the corporate website. If it’s ugly, or dated, or uses too much Flash or too many stock photos, you’ll put people off. If it isn’t easy to find the careers page, ditto. And if you don’t have an easy to find, relevant and well-written blog, you won’t be competitive.
2. Innovative companies are competing for smaller pools of qualified candidates. The jobs numbers don’t tell the tale, but if you’re recruiting for an innovative company the pool of candidates is getting shallower. As job requirements become more specific and as we rely more on talent management software, we’re actually artificially thinning the stack of resumes and candidates. There’s more competition for the stars, and they’ll for the company that has the best combination of challenge, compensation and reputation/presence. Make sure your candidate experience tells the tale through all channels.
3. Candidate experience affects talent retention. The experience a candidate has of your company is a long one – from first contact through at least the first three to six months of actual employment. On-boarding and mentoring are critical to retention, as is a consistent, appealing company culture. And don’t forget – your employees may be starting to look around.
4. The economy is finally moving. It’s important to show you are moving up and to the right as well. Candidates are looking for companies trending up. HR folks need to make sure the candidate experience is positive and enriching.
5. Candidate experience is a competitive differentiator. Make your company the cool place to be by creating a great candidate experience. Your current employees will be more likely to bring their talented friends on board, your competitors will have to up their game, and with a better candidate strategy you’ll attract the best and brightest. Then you’ll be able to bring more, better stuff to market faster.
As the economy moves, employees will be easier targets for competitors and innovative startups. Candidate experience is your first, best chance to make sure you’re positioned to attract and retain the people you need to be successful. It’s a journey, not a destination. Start now if you haven’t got it figured out yet, and you’ll be in a better place soon.