An Excellent Candidate Experience Starts With Effective Communication

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In a market hungry for talent, competition for top-notch candidates is fierce. In order to recruit stellar contenders, recruiters and HR managers must first know how to communicate effectively with them.

First impressions are important. If the initial communication with an applicant isn’t satisfactory, it can hurt their overall candidate experience with your company.

What kind of experiences do top candidates respond to best? Technology-driven experiences — which tend to ease the process for applicants and HR teams alike — come to mind. Applicants are also interested in exploring workplaces with exciting opportunities that speak to their skills and provide the next, best steps for their careers.

Companies need to be forward-thinking enough to align their communication practices with usable technology. HR leaders and recruiters need to take the initiative to improve their candidate experiences — and avoid some common communication missteps along the way.

Keeping the Lines of Communication Clear

If you’re skeptical about how improving your candidate experience affects your business, just take a look at the success of British telecom company Virgin Media.

A few years ago, the brand’s recruitment team wasn’t at the top of its game. In fact, a post-interview survey of candidates revealed that about 18 percent of them were also Virgin Media subscribers — and some of those customer-candidates were actually canceling their subscriptions as a direct result of negative interview experiences. Furthermore, these displeased interviewees were encouraging their friends and family to do the same.

Virgin Media reported losing about $5.4 million per year as a result of candidates’ poor experiences. Thankfully, the brand recognized the need to transform its interview process and used the data collected from the survey to do just that. By communicating with applicants, offering tailored feedback, and asking for feedback in return, Virgin Media boosted its Net Promoter Score (a measure of how likely someone is to recommend a brand) from -57 to a +11.

4 Ways to Improve Your Candidate Experience

Virgin Media’s team members took what they learned and revamped their hiring process to include feedback and follow-up sessions for candidates. You, too, can transform your candidate experience and avoid miscommunication by implementing the following tactics:

1. Initiate Post-Interview Surveys

talkVirgin Media’s post-interview surveys first alerted team members to the fact that poor interview experiences were costing the company money. Before this feedback loop was put in place, candidates were turning away from the company for specific, solvable reasons, yet the company was none the wiser.

Post-interview questionnaires can help hiring managers and HR leaders identify where they are losing top talent in the hiring process and develop a plan to engage the best candidates before they’re swayed by other companies. Collect applicants’ interview feedback and start making enhancements right away.

2. Provide Actionable Feedback

Just as Virgin Media needed to hear feedback to improve its interview process, give applicants the chance to learn from their interviews by offering practical advice. The best candidates will likely ask for feedback from you, regardless of whether you extend job offers to them. Show respect to the interviewee and give them something actionable to improve on — not a generic or scripted response.

For instance, turn “Get more experience” into something like “Get involved with a project that focuses on B2B marketing strategies.” With this kind of specific feedback, you’re clearly communicating that you care about the interviewee’s future success. Give applicants the chance to address problems, and they might come back to wow you during your next round of hiring.

3. Update Candidates at Each Step

A survey from Software Advice found that 34 percent of candidates want more communication from companies during the hiring process. Candidates want to know how they’re doing and whether they’re still on your company’s radar. It is infuriating to them when they don’t know where they stand with a potential employer, especially if their livelihoods are on the line.

With an applicant tracking system, you can send automatic updates to applicants throughout the process. Whether you’re just letting them know when they can expect to hear back or giving them more detailed instructions, these extra touchpoints let candidates know that your organization values their time.

4. Streamline Your Application Process

Last, but certainly not least, you can vastly improve the candidate experience by making your application process easier and clearer. Confusing application instructions or minimal job descriptions could drive candidates away before you even learn their names. In fact, the aforementioned Software Advice survey found that 93 percent of job seekers cite unclear application instructions as a primary cause of bad candidate experiences.

Why doom your candidate experience before an applicant has even met you? Create a streamlined, easy-to-use application process that is accessible across devices. It should be short, yet comprehensive. Include a lucid and engaging job description that gives applicants all the information they need in order to say, “I want this position.”

If you continuously try to find the next best strategy to create the ultimate candidate experience, you’ll be cursed just as Sisyphus was, forever failing to push a boulder up a hill. But transforming your candidate experience doesn’t need to be that extreme. Let go of that boulder — the idea that you must put on a showstopping performance to create a magical experience for applicants.

You just need to communicate with candidates effectively to show them they could truly have a place in your organization. By simply being open and honest with applicants, you’ll stand out from the competition by having the best candidate experience around — no special tricks or gimmicks necessary.

Christian Valiulis is chief revenue officer at APS.

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Chief Revenue Officer Christian Valiulis at APS is a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. As a national human capital management and full-service payroll processing company, APS delivers a unified cloud solution backed by guaranteed payroll tax compliance services. Christian oversees marketing and sales, channel partnerships, and strategic product and service alliances.