It’s an Employer’s Market Now — and Candidate Experience Still Matters

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Almost as soon as the job market flipped from a candidate’s market to an employer’s, so did the sentiment around candidate experience. All of a sudden, a decade’s worth of work to improve the treatment of job applicants became null and void. Organizations seemed to think the high number of candidates flooding the market meant hiring would now be easy and great candidate experiences no longer mattered.

The truth, however, is that there will always be competition for the most desirable candidates. Even in a crowded talent market, the best candidates will always have options. Thinking otherwise can do more harm than good for an employer.

Why Candidate Experience Is Still Key

In a high-volume hiring scenario, a company may get the number of applications it needs even with a terrible candidate experience, but those won’t necessarily be applications from the right kind of talent. Sure, some candidates will run the gauntlet for a job, but top-tier candidates will look for another company instead. When you offer a poor candidate experience, only the most desperate candidates will stick it out to the end. Your recruiters will end up spending time, money, and effort looking for needles in haystacks — and they may not even find any.

In terms of more niche, harder-to-fill roles, a bad candidate experience can cause inefficiencies in recruitment marketing and advertising spend. According to one source, only about 5-10 percent of candidate who start an application will finish it. What about the other 90-95 percent of job seekers who were willing to click “apply” in the first place?

Given the potential for drop-off, a great experience is crucial to keep spend for specialized roles down and expedite application flow. Improving conversion rates means getting more ROI from marketing dollars and reducing the length of time it takes to present a full slate of qualified candidates to the hiring manager.

How to Keep Candidates Engaged in a Pandemic

Let’s be clear: Candidate experience still matters, even in an employer’s market. It has always been important, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. From the top of the funnel on down, every recruiting interaction needs to account for the candidate in a meaningful way.

From a recruiter’s perspective, the smart thing to do is create two different recruiting strategies based on the type of role: one optimized for high-volume roles, and one for hard-to-fill roles. A differentiated strategy is the only way to make sure the organization is recruiting as efficiently as possible, regardless of labor market conditions.

Marketing Your Roles

Every recruiting strategy combines pull and push marketing approaches in various proportions, but the proper balance of the two depends on the hiring need.

For high-volume roles, cost per applicant and time to hire are the two main factors to consider. Rather than relying on costly pay-per ad media, such as job boards, it’s better to use a pull strategy that will draw candidates directly to your career site and application. Market the two main products, the company and its jobs, through a one-to-many campaign. The brand component is key to getting passive job seekers interested. People want to work for a company they believe in and that shares their values. Radio, print, and out-of-home advertising sales are down due to the pandemic, but combining traditional media with social media is still an effective way to tap local talent pools.

With hard-to-fill roles, it’s all about push marketing, which means bringing the jobs to candidates and then following up. Programmatic job advertising can be an effective way to put your company and its roles in front of the intended audience. These ads leverage large networks of websites and use algorithms to buy media on the sites that are most likely to be frequented by potential candidates. One-to-one conversations on social media channels can help compel candidates to learn more about the company, what it does, and why it is hiring.

Curating the Experience

Customizing the candidate experience for each type of role is important, too. With high-volume roles, the candidate experience should feel inviting to all job seekers and offer a clear, quick path through the application flow. Even in tight times like these, top talent won’t hang around for long.

At the same time, employers need to have a strategy in place to manage application volume — and a challenging application process is not an effective strategy. Knock-out questions can help filter candidates in and out based on qualifications rather than desperation. The same goes for setting application intake windows rather than keeping the floodgates open. The goal is to narrow the candidate pool without sacrificing the overall experience.

For hard-to-fill roles, remove as much friction as possible. At InFlight, we tested Fortune 50 application processes  and found it takes an average of five steps, two forms, seven fields, and one minute and forty seconds just to get from job board to job application! Given that experience, it’s no surprise hard-to-fill roles remain hard to fill.

Instead of requiring candidates to go through multiple forms, set up an abbreviated “fast apply” flow in your applicant tracking system to allow candidates to complete the process in just a few minutes. For particularly in-demand candidates, it’s worth having recruiters make follow-up calls to collect any details that may be missing from their applications.

Looking Forward

Regardless of your intent, the more clicks, taps, and swipes involved in your application process, the more likely top candidates are to fall off. Marketing, advertising, and job boards should all drive to a final destination, even if that means bypassing your career site.

Wondering where the career site fits into these experiences? Truth be told, it sometimes doesn’t. Instead, candidates should engage with the company’s content as they move through the process, with each interaction shaping their perceptions and helping them decide whether this is the right job for them. Incorporate video, Glassdoor ratings, and other assets that speak to the organization and its culture. Salt the apply flow with materials that cheerlead people through the process, while making it easy for candidates to move from start to finish quickly.

For high-volume roles, find cost-effective ways to mass-market to candidates so they come to you to apply for jobs. For hard-to-fill roles, it’s okay to spend more on digital ad media to bring job ads directly to high-value candidates. Overall, remember to stay the course and continue improving the candidate experience to keep your hiring practices on track today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Karl Wierzbicki is director of marketing for InFlight  North, a member of the InFlight group of companies.

By Karl Wierzbicki