And vice versa.
A job search or career change is a considered process – just like any of life’s important decisions. Candidates take their time and want to know about far more than the role itself. They are evaluating the experience of your employer brand even before they become a candidate – and it’s remarkably easy to lose them at any point.
They’ll be taking a close interest in your organisation’s values and reputation (especially how you’ve treated employees during the pandemic), what is being said on social media, what they hear from their own network – all of which will help them in their decision to apply or accept any job offer.
As this blog will show, their exposure to your employer brand affects their experience from awareness to interview and offer. Here’s how to make that a positive one at every stage.
When we talk about the Employee Proposition or EVP, we often say that it should answer the question ‘why a candidate should choose to work for you, rather than anywhere else’. But this assumes they’ve found you and are considering your employment proposition. For that to happen, they first have to be aware you exist. That’s easy if you are Google, the BBC, Apple, Facebook – and many other well known employers.
Being a lesser known employer means you need to work a little harder to fight for your space. Like any brand, when you are building awareness, you need people to hear and talk about you, maybe even what it’s like to work for you. For example, does your purpose as an organisation make a difference, especially now?
The power of purpose
During the pandemic, employers in the public sector especially have noticed an increase in popularity and it’s not just down to job stability. The past year has brought purpose high up into the mix – and that’s what the public sector delivers. Are you, and your employees, talking about your purpose?
Social media – it’s where engagement is built
Social media is where your candidates are researching, talking and sharing what they find. It’s often where the initial awareness and then trust and engagement are built. You can’t afford to miss out on social media for sharing all the best parts of your employer brand. You can start sharing content with a blog and Facebook page and a few enthusiastic employees – just as long as you present an authentic view of what it’s like to work for you.
Social media is an important part of the awareness process and early candidate experience. We’ve covered it in more depth with two articles ‘How social media will support your employer brand‘ and, for those doubters in your organisation, ‘The business case for using social media for employer branding’.
Once your candidate has found you, if they like what they see, they’ll want to dig deeper and evaluate your employer brand. LinkedIn has published some employer branding data that shows just how much evaluation goes into a job search. They claim that 75% of jobseekers consider the employer brand before even applying for a role, and just over half (52%) visit the company website and social media sites to find out more information.
The truth is out there
Candidates, like all consumers, are truth seekers. They’ll be looking for reviews, feedback, positive comments, real case studies, the kind of immersive experience that eases them that little bit further into engaging with your hiring process. And remember – all of this is before they’ve even seen an actual vacancy.
The evaluation stage is where you don’t want your candidates to hear stories about applications that were never acknowledged, poorly conducted interviews, a bullying culture, long hours, poor appraisals – all the things that will end up on Glassdoor. If you do find yourself reviewed – respond to both good and bad as it gives a little more insight into your culture and will help candidates make up their own minds.
Compelling careers website content
If your potential candidate has landed on your careers website it will figure in their evaluation of your employer brand and whether they’d like to seek out actual roles and potentially apply. So, your content matters – from the opening strong headline to the information about the organisation, your culture and what your existing employees think.
Our recent blog walks you through the things that make great and compelling content. Read our little article on ‘What makes compelling content for your careers website?’
The application process is often where you’ll lose candidates, undoing all your earlier hard work. Let’s look at two of the most likely routes to application – and what each means to the candidate experience.
Route 1: They’ve found a job posting
Maybe they’ve seen it listed on Indeed or found one of your own postings because it was set up well and appears high in searches. Either way, at this stage all they really have in front of them is the job posting itself – possibly with little other awareness of your employer brand. This means your job posting has a lot of work to do. Will it excite and engage your candidate, make them want to apply? Or, will it turn them off because it’s poorly written and looks like a cut and paste of the job description? A well written job posting is always a vital part of the candidate experience. Here’s a quick guide to writing an effective job posting.
Route 2: They’ve arrived at your careers site
Thanks to a growing awareness of what you do, and hearing positive things during their evaluation, they’ve arrived at your careers page engaged and looking for an opportunity that matches their skills and interests. So, your careers page has to deliver. Our previous blog ‘How to improve the SEO of your careers website’ contains a lot of tips on how to get the experience right. In summary, 50% of your visitors are likely to be using a mobile device and research has shown that 47% of people expect a site to load in less than two seconds. A slow careers site turns off candidates.
Ease of job search and application
Once your candidate is on your careers site, they’ll want to find your roles. That’s why we design careers sites with the job search facility centre stage and a clear keyword search function. Knowing that (on average) 80% of visitors come to a careers website to search for jobs, our websites are designed to ensure that the right people find the right jobs.
Let’s assume that by either route, your candidate wants to apply for a role. Again, you still have a good chance of losing them if the experience of applying has unnecessary stages.
Research by Appcast found that when a job application takes longer than 5 minutes to complete, companies see a 50-75% drop-off rate and applications with more than 25 questions see a 25-50% abandon rate. We’d also advise against asking candidates to register or set up an account with your ATS – it’s just another barrier to dissuade them from applying.
Interview to offer
They’ve made their application and you’ve invited them to an interview. If there’s any stage where you risk creating a poor candidate experience and damaging your employer brand, it’s likely to be what happens here.
Improving the virtual experience
The pandemic caused widespread use of virtual interviewing and the inevitable tech problems that came with it. It does, however, create an opportunity to enhance the candidate experience with help on how to prepare for a video interview, putting their minds at ease at a potentially stressful time. They’ll be able to have their first meeting with you feeling more prepared, relaxed and confident.
An offer they can refuse
Good candidates will often have more than one job offer. It’s therefore a mistake to think that you call all the shots and your candidate is anxiously waiting for your call. The experience you provide at interview stage may make the difference between accepting your offer or one from a rival. We’re not going to go into how to manage a well run interview – it’s a topic all of its own – but we will state the obvious and say that the better the communication process with your candidates, the more positive their experience will be. Not the least, it will suggest the experience they’ll have as an employee.
The danger comes when their experience during the interview process doesn’t measure favourably to the promises made in your employer branding and candidates exit and look elsewhere.
Managing unsuccessful candidates
The best measure of a great candidate experience is when an unsuccessful candidate leaves the process still a fan of your employer brand. Even better if they apply again in the future and tell their friends what a well managed process they had, despite not getting the job. This of course requires careful management and it’s all too easy to let this slip and with dangerous consequences in terms of negative comments – the sort you don’t want people evaluating your employer brand to hear.
At the very least, let those who have been unsuccessful know in a dignified and timely manner, and with constructive feedback. If there is a post that’s going to generate a big response on LinkedIn it often contains “and I didn’t even hear back from them after interview…”
A positive candidate experience is crucial to how you successfully attract candidates. It’s also equally important to those that you don’t hire and your wider reputation. It’s a reflective process and will define how they feel about your employer brand and what they share with their friends and networks.
While they’ll be evaluating you before they apply, it’s at the application and interview stages where they actually engage with your organisation as candidates. It’s therefore useful to review these to see where there are any risks to a positive experience and ask candidates for their thoughts too. They’ll be pleased to tell you and it could be very valuable feedback.
Needless to say, candidate experience morphs into being an employee and what happens next, starting with an on-boarding process that meets their expectations needs to be just as positive.
For further information
If you feel that you’d like some help, support or even a little chat around your candidate experience, just drop me a line. After all, much of our best work has started with a cup of tea, a biscuit and a Zoom call.