Candidate Experience

Candidate Experience is Key to Successful Recruitment
Part Two: Turning First Interviews into First Days on the Job

Exciting news — you’ve scored an interview. In the past, the applicant would be the one celebrating, but in today’s market it’s the recruiter that’s more excited. Talent is scarce: finding a candidate that’s qualified and willing to work is challenging. In some areas, there are reports of over 100,000 more jobs than workers willing to fill them. Depending on your market, you’ll need to work hard to turn that first interview into a first day on the job.

Candidate experience is key to successful hires in any market. In today’s market it’s critical. A recent survey from Paychex polled over 800 active job seekers to find what’s enticing them during the hiring process, and what’s making them move on to another employer. Half reported being ignored during the interview process. From the first point of contact to onboarding, responsive, continuous communication is key to convert the applicant into a new hire.

Get together quickly

If your application process allows candidates to self-schedule an interview, make sure the dates are close to the time they apply. If the first available date is two weeks out, they may schedule themselves, but they may also find another job in the interim. Be available one to two days per week, if possible, to assure you’re meeting with applicants while their interest is piqued for your position.

Be ready to move fast

If you typically interview in stages, plan on the second interview immediately following the first. In this market, you can’t afford to wait a week for them to come back in, you may lose them to the competition. You don’t want to guarantee they’ll move along the process either. If they don’t pass the first screening, you don’t want to waste another hiring manager’s time.

There’s a workaround for this dilemma. If HR (or someone else) is the first screen, let the applicant know they’ll meet with the recruiter first and then, if available, move right on to the next person. If the candidate doesn’t make it past the first screening, tell them the hiring manager was called away. If they do pass, send them directly on to the next interview.

Build a relationship

If you’re scheduling one-on-one, you have an opportunity to start building a rapport with the applicant. During the recruitment process, you will have confirmed how the candidate wants to connect, either by phone, email or text. However you communicate, make it professional and friendly. You want the applicant to imagine they’ll be comfortable working in your organization. How you represent your firm at every point of contact either reinforces a great workplace or somewhere to avoid.

Don’t curb your enthusiasm

Whether it’s an entry level position that requires zero experience or qualifications or a top tier opening, people want to know they have value. Let the applicant know you’re impressed with their resume or qualifications; or you’re anxious to give them a first start in the working world. Tell them you think they’d be a great addition to the team and you’re excited to meet with them.

Enthusiasm is key: no one looks forward to meeting someone glum. Be upbeat and personable, even if it’s your 15th call today. Let the applicant know your company is a friendly environment where they can see themselves fitting in and thriving.

Be welcoming

As soon as they’re on-site make sure your message is welcoming. Offer a bottle of water or coffee while they wait to meet with you. Make sure you’re on time for the interview and provide your undivided attention. First impressions matter: they translate how seriously you take their candidacy. If you want them to be enthused about joining your firm, give them reasons to.

As you wind up your part of the interview, ask if they have any questions about the company, the culture or the work. Answer honestly: glossing over the downsides of the position you may get a new hire, but it won’t be a retained employee. Almost one-third of new hires will quit before their 90th day on the job. The top reason: the role didn’t meet their expectations. Don’t make challenging or mundane tasks sound intolerable, but don’t ignore them, either.

Prioritize communication

That same Paychex survey found half of job seekers reported being ignored during the interview process. Another third said the interviewer avoided answering some of their questions. Either of these, or worse  — both — can cause candidates to drop off your hiring radar. Another survey from Visier revealed 30% of applicants have ghosted a potential employer in the last 18 months. They may have had good reason.

Share a timeline

Like all the ‘What to Expect….’ books, applicants want to know how the hiring process will work. Share the details and timeline you anticipate, like how long before the first round of interviews will finalize; when there will be a second round; or a decision. Include when references and background checks will finalize. Provide as many details as possible to let the applicant know you’re working hard on your end to bring them on board.

Make sure your timeline is reasonable and translates a sense of urgency. A Robert Half survey, found 62% of professionals lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the employer within 10 business days of the initial interview: 77% if there is no status update within three weeks. Few employers are taking that long to hire in this difficult market, but if your process runs slow, just let candidates know.  Provide them with a timeline and then stick to it. Put reminders on your calendar to call with updates on or before the dates you’ve promised.

Check in frequently

If you’re willing to hire someone on the spot, make sure your offer is contingent on a thorough background screening. A sense of urgency is needed in today’s market, but that doesn’t mean you should be reckless or negligent in hiring.

If you’re not hiring on the spot, make sure to call with news on the process when you say you will. Even if there’s no news, it’s often a best practice to check in periodically with a message. ‘Just wanted to let you know we’re still very interested and we’ll be calling you next week with our final decision.’

From offer to onboard

When the decision has been made, you’ll want to contact the applicant immediately, but don’t let that connection be your last. If they accept, let them know you’ll be forwarding materials to get them started. Don’t swamp them with employee handbooks and tax forms. Do send information about company culture, benefits, employee resources and wellness programs.

They haven’t started yet  — you’re still in the ‘selling’ phase of recruitment. Anything you can provide, either with links to web pages or hard materials, will keep their interest in joining your firm. Some companies even send new hires swag to welcome them to the team. You probably have promotional t-shirts, mugs and pens lying around. If you want to really welcome a new hire, send a few of these along with your formal offer letter. These extra touches can help assure the candidate they’ve made the right decision in accepting your offer. Remember to save a few of your best swag items as a gift on their desk the first day on the job!

Candidates are your newest customers. You’re not trying to sell them your product or service, you’re selling them on your organization. Treating them with the same customer-centric mindset you use for your top clients can mean a new hire that turns into a long-term employee.

Also check out Part One of this series:

Candidate Experience is Key to Successful Recruitment

Part One: Turning Job Seekers into Applicants

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