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Why Candidate Experience Should Start with the Job Description — and Continue Well After the Hire Date

By Lou Adler

I’ve been roundly criticized for saying that improving the candidate experience is a waste of time, money, and resources.

But while close, that’s not exactly what I said.

To set the record straight, I believe that providing an extraordinary candidate experience for serious and well-qualified candidates is essential. After all, you’re affecting these people’s lives and it’s important for them to have all the information they need to make the right career decision. But since 95% or more of the people who apply for open jobs are unqualified, it’s my opinion that it makes no sense to dilute the candidate experience for the people you actually want to hire at the cost of making everyone else feel good.

To find the best talent, it’s time to broaden the candidate experience 

You’re doing your candidate experience a disservice if you’re not considering what the best candidates are thinking and feeling throughout the hiring process. This starts with your job descriptions and how and where you post them — if the most qualified and diverse people never even find or read your postings, the candidate experience will be irrelevant. Worse still, if the best applicants do find your postings but don’t take the time to apply because the words themselves are demeaning, biased, or exclusionary, they will be instantly turned away.

Recruiters must also be sure that candidates who accept offers have a full understanding of the job, the company culture, and the hiring manager’s style. If they’re brought on board without this information, your hiring process — and your candidate experience — is both misleading and dishonest.

Don’t forget, too, that the candidate experience stretches well past the moment where a candidate signs the dotted line and accepts your offer. According to Gallup, job satisfaction is at an appalling 30% for the US. High turnover rates are a real problem in this country, so you should always be thinking about a candidate’s job satisfaction level long after they’ve been hired.

With that in mind, here are my seven tips for creating an extraordinary candidate experience:

  1. Implementa scarcity of talent strategydesigned to attract a few very strong prospects rather than one designed to weed out the many. By spending more time with fewer and more talented people, you’ll create a unique candidate experience that will improve and raise the talent bar without increasing costs or time to fill.
  2. Clarify the performance expectations for the job during the intake meeting.Make sure you define the employee value proposition (EVP) by answering this question: “Why would a top person want this job over competing opportunities aside from the compensation?” Since the strongest prospects use this information before they even consider a new job, it must be at the core of an extraordinary candidate experience.
  3. Avoid job descriptions that are just a list of skills.The best people don’t have time to wade through jargon-filled descriptions and certainly aren’t looking for ill-defined lateral transfers.For a good example, check out this sample posting which is both compelling and inviting.
  4. Put duct tape over every button that says “Apply Now.”To make sure candidates are serious, I recommend including in the job description a request for a customized half-page cover letter describing how their background meets the performance objectives described in the posting.Here’s the legal justification for this step.
  5. Show candidates that your opening is a worthy career move.Providing timely feedback and being prepared and on-time for meetings is a good first step, but the best way to respect your candidates is to take their careers seriously. Always take the time to have an exploratory conversation and get-acquainted step somewhere at the top of the funnel.
  6. Get to know your candidate’s intrinsic motivators and career aspirations.While compensation and benefits are obviously important, the best candidates will be motivated by the job itself and what it can do for their career. Take the time to get to know what drives your candidates — try a “go-slow” discovery process,rather than a transactional rush to hire.
  7. Listen and take action on candidate feedback.The quality of a company’s entire candidate experience can be measured by the quality of its interviewing process. If it’s not professional, objective, and thorough, it means the candidate experience doesn’t meet minimum standards. You’ll know you’ve passed this threshold when candidates who aren’t offered jobs say they were professionally and properly assessed.

Final thoughts

To hire the very best people, a company needs to offer exceptional jobs and provide a meaningful candidate experience that emphasizes high touch over high tech. Make sure it’s designed and implemented based on how top candidates find jobs, how they expect to be interviewed, and what information they need to make the best long-term career decision in comparison to other opportunities they’re considering. If done properly, job satisfaction and performance will soar long after the person has been hired. This should be the gold standard of a successful candidate experience — and one every company should strive to achieve.


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