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Monday, February 11, 2013

The 2012 Candidate Experience Report: Giving a Voice to Candidates

By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis


The Talent Board just released its 2012 Candidate Experience Report, a 48-page document that summarizes the findings subsequent to the Candidate Experience Awards (the "CandEs”). You can download it here. A competition started in 2011, the CandEs provides employers with a survey of how candidates perceive their hiring process and gives them the opportunity to benchmark their candidate experience against that of other companies. The 2012 report analyzes 17,500 candidate surveys (compared to 11,500 candidate surveys in 2011).

Purpose of the CandEs: Give a Voice to Candidates
"It is our mission to better understand the impacts of recruiting, screening and hiring processes from the viewpoint of every stakeholder, but especially the participant who historically has the least influence – the candidate," the report states. Such mission is also a challenge and its success is undoubtedly linked to the personal clout of the people behind the initiative, Chris Forman, Elaine Orler, Gerry Crispin, Ed Newman and Jeremy Tipper... Very few employers used to care about the candidate's experience, the less so as the tacit assumption was that employers have the privilege to “offer” jobs. For decades, the hiring process has been designed for the candidate to respond to a job requisition or job requirement, NOT for the company to be responsive to an inquiry or expression of interest — let alone to bother about candidates' opinions about the hiring process.

The success of the CandEs is part of an irreversible trend heralded by the John Sumser's CandidateVoice in 2003. Treating candidates well is all the more important as the popularity of social media has enabled every single individual to speak up: "More than half of candidates surveyed indicated they are Likely or Very Likely to tell their inner circle of friends about their experiences, whether it is positive (73.5 percent) or negative (60.7 percent)." Treating people poorly is risky business. A 2010 research by Alexander Mann Solutions found that "More than half (52 per cent) of [candidates] across the world said a negative interview experience would likely impact on their buying products or services from that organization in the future."

Key Findings in the Report 
The report analyses the candidate experience through four phases: Candidate attraction, Expression of interest, Candidate dispositioning before the finalist stage, and Candidate evaluation and selection. 
  • Candidate attraction: Around 10% of the respondents said that employers were interested and willing to listen (about half of what employers reported). Yet, paying attention to the attraction phase may help employers who are afraid to collect too many unqualified candidates to take a "strategic approach to early communication and assessment questions that immediately inform the candidate of their suitability for the position."

  • Expression of interest: 63% of the candidates "said 'no' when asked if employers were interested in learning about their experience in applying for a job." This percentage shows that employers still have to bring predictability into the application process even if the report states that many organizations are making strides in this area by providing various improvements: email notifications online helpdesks, allowing candidates to save and complete applications at a later time, etc.

  • Candidate dispositioning before the finalist stage: This is an area of significant discrepancy between employers and candidates still exists: "While nearly half (43.7 percent) of employers report that they are able to communicate effectively with both qualified and unqualified candidates, just 17.9 percent of candidates say they were treated well when not selected. In fact, the majority (43.6 percent) reported a negative experience, followed by 38.5 percent who reported a neutral experience."

  • Candidate evaluation & selection: The reports provide extensive information on how the candidate experience is dependent upon the valuation funnel, screening and interviewing capabilities used by employers, as well as their ability to explain the process to the candidates. In the end, the criteria for a positive candidate experience might be to check if a candidate would apply again or refer others to apply at that company: "While the response rate is skewed to the favorable end, it also documents that many candidates (about 30 percent) are left with a neutral or negative impression for future personal interest and a low willingness (just half at 50 percent) to enhance a company’s sourcing though their referral actions."


The employer's brand at a critical touch point
Employer branding follows the overall rules of any branding strategy, and consists of casting a far-reaching inclusionary net to attract as many people as possible. And then what happens? The CandEs' report encourages companies to better understand their internal processes in order to manage their brand at a critical touch-point: when people are not simply an anonymous population, but human beings actually showing up at the company's doorstep. Employers have to master a paradox: if too few people apply for a job, it may be easier to treat candidates nicely, but chances are that the brand is not compelling. If the brand is compelling, it's critical to make sure not to be perceived as uncaring if 100 candidates apply for a position — just because the company is overwhelmed with the number of applications.

The perception problem could even be more complex to manage than first thought: "More than half of candidates surveyed (53 percent) indicated an existing relationship with the company prior to applying, either as a customer, advocate or with family/friends already at the company." So what happens if referring sources also have reasons to be disappointed in the company's process? And if "referred job candidates are four times more likely than non-referred candidates to receive an offer," should the company wonder about its ability to identify fresh blood, or come across the "rare find?"

This remarkable report is a must-read for HR professionals, but also for executives who care about the image, the reality and the culture of their company. 



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