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5 Fast Ways To Improve Your Candidate Experience

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Getting a job out of college was one of the hardest things Mardy had ever done. She was a bright, qualified student who’d worked hard and had the sparkling resume to prove it. And yet she kept having the same problems, over and over.

Applications felt like a waste of her time, as she’d send them out and never hear back—she didn’t even get polite rejection letters. It was like sending emails to a black hole. The application tracking software used by her potential employers were no better, taking well over an hour each to fill out, to the point that she wondered why she bothered to upload her resume.

Her recruiter contacts seldom emailed back on time, a huge frustration when so much of the process was time-sensitive. Worst of all, none of the companies seemed to care how awful their application process was, in spite of the poor reviews they were getting on Glassdoor and Monster. Mardy’s job application process was a huge headache from start to finish, one that she wouldn’t wish on anyone.

But that had been years ago. After months of suffering, Mardy did manage to find her first serious job, and it was the start of a bright career in HR and talent management.

About a month ago, Mardy was promoted to the position she’d always dreamed of: Director of Talent Acquisition for a multi-million dollar company. She was beyond excited, because at last she had her chance: her chance to make things right. It would take a lot of work, perhaps even a total overhaul of the company’s hiring process, but Mardy knew she could do it and, more importantly, that it would be completely worth it.

She set to work, designing a new plan with a few very important changes.

Her first step was to…

Check out the candidate experience from the other side

Mardy started by looking over her current applicant tracking system. It looked like it was fine. After all, it produced enough candidates that the hiring staff was always a little overwhelmed. The design was pretty and on-brand. Everything about the software seemed just fine. In fact, Mardy’s staff wasn’t really sure why she insisted on doing such a thorough examination.

But Mardy knew that just because a system looks alright from the hiring side, doesn’t mean that it looks good on the recruit side. She followed an easy procedure to test her ATS exactly like an applicant.

Mardy looked at her company’s open positions and crafted a perfect resume. Well-rounded, meeting all the qualifications, nicely formatted. She submitted it to her company’s applicant portal. To her team’s horror, their ATS rejected the resume in its filters, before a real resume ever would have ever reached human eyes. Mardy knew that this was a keyword problem. She took the time to recalibrate all of the system’s keywords and ran her sample resume through again. This time it worked just fine.

With the keywords improved, Mardy realized that there was no need for such a thick application packet. So she set to work to-

Cut down on length

Mardy’s next step was to look through the ATS itself. She asked herself how straightforward the ATS was. She also timed herself to see how long it took a candidate to get through the system. With just these simple steps, Mardy found several places that the ATS could be slimmed down, and the application process could be sped up.

She eliminated redundant areas of the application that were already covered by the resume, and reduced questions that weren’t absolutely necessary to the hiring process. Mardy’s thought was that anything that was better for the interview didn’t need to be in the form.

With just a day of work, her company’s hiring process was already well on its way to being faster, and more applicant-friendly.

It was time for Mardy to take the next step.

Craft an exit survey

It was one thing to try and think like an applicant. But Mardy knew that it had been some years since she was actively on the job hunt, and she was wise enough to recognize she didn’t know everything. She needed to find out what real applications thought about their experience.

So Mardy designed an exit survey. She found a strong survey software to help make her job easier, and then came up with the most valuable questions. Each question was asked along with a strongly disagree to strongly agree array of answer options. Her questions were as follows:

  • My interview started on time.
  • My recruiter was professional.
  • My recruiter was responsive to emails and phone calls.
  • Expectations were clearly communicated to me.
  • My experience was, overall, positive.
  • I would tell a friend or colleague to apply here.

In addition, Mardy had two longer-response questions.

  • What about your experience could have been better?
  • How would you describe your experience to someone else?

It was Mardy’s hope that this exit survey would offer her and her staff more insight into how their applicants were feeling after applying.

It was all part of Mardy’s third improvement.

Communicate for a better candidate experience

Mardy remembered being an applicant. She remembered the feeling that she was just throwing resumes into a bottomless pit, and the worry that all her hard work was pointless.

She designed a base email to be sent to all of the applicants who were rejected, so that they would at least be aware that they’d been rejected instead of waiting around on a job that would never come.

As for the applicants who weren’t automatically rejected, Mardy felt that they deserved an improved level of communication. She imposed a new rule for her recruiters: all emails and phone calls had a same-day turnaround. As long as they were contacted on a business day, the recruiters needed to respond. This helped eliminate confusion, bolster communication, and make the applicants (even those who would later be rejected) feel appreciated.

Which left only those who fell through the cracks.

Pay attention to third-party sites

Remembering her own habit of checking online to see what other people had to say about the companies where she was applying, Mardy resolved to keep tabs on her company’s online presence.

She made it a point to regularly check out her company’s reviews on websites like Glassdoor and Great Place To Work. Mardy regarded the positive and negative reviews alike with a grain of salt, keeping in mind that some might be fueled with anger at a job loss or a in the hopes that a positive review might net a job later. She payed special attention to repeated or similar complaints and was careful to address those issues with her team.

Mardy learned to view these websites as a form of free editing. She was able to take their advice to make her experience as rewarding as possible for her applicants.

Where to next?

Mardy knew that these steps would not only make life easier for people like her, but also that this would be a huge boon to her company.

Mardy knew that 42% of people who had a negative candidate experience would never apply for the same company again, and worse, 22% of them would warn others not to apply there. (And some might even warn people not to purchase that company’s products!) She also knew that the more comprehensive and thoughtful the recruiting was, the lower employee turnover would be. Since high employee turnover means huge company losses, Mardy understood how important that was.

Before she set to work improving her company’s candidate experience, her company took well over a month to make a hire. This was long enough that many qualified applicants found offers elsewhere before reaching the end of the process. Recruiters were overtaxed, juggling applicants at various stages, and suffering from some serious workplace stress. But after her revitalization? Hire time plummeted to two weeks on average, a 50% speed increase. Her updated ATS keywords started returning results that were twice as accurate, which saved Mardy’s staff from doing the ATS’s job twice. Her staff actually showed a marked improvement in their morale come performance review time, reporting job satisfaction at a full 30% improvement over their average satisfaction a year ago.

Not bad for one dedicated week of work, just 30 hours in all.

What’s next for Mardy? Well, her new goal is a CandE award for outstanding candidate experience, but that’s still in the future. Taking steps like these are how Mardy strives for her goals.

Be like Mardy.

Ever tested thoroughly tested out your candidate experience? Let us know about your journey in the comments below!

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen writes about HR and eLearning at Capterra. She’s a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a TEDx presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @CapterraHalden, just don’t get her started about her zombie survival plan.

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