A Great Candidate Experience Starts by Walking a Mile in Their Shoes
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A Great Candidate Experience Starts by Walking a Mile in Their Shoes

Updated: Feb 26




(updated from 10/2016 post) Walking a mile in the candidate’s shoes really helps us to understand what the candidate is experiencing and helps to perfect what experience we want to create.  Let’s take a walk.


“What am I doing? What am I thinking? What will my significant other or family say?” the candidate thinks.


“I am intrigued and a bit apprehensive all at once.  It’s exciting that the recruiter reached out to me about that position.  The recruiter really understood who I am and though I am not looking for a new position, this one seems interesting. The recruiter also seems interested in me. ” 


“I didn’t know the recruiter before this, but they really seemed to do their homework on why I would be a fit for this position.  I felt at ease and trusted our conversation.  I usually don’t take calls from recruiters that I don’t know.”


“She said she was going to send the position description to me.  I will wait for that because I am pretty sure my current job is better and I won’t have to make a change.”


“What if I do like the job? What if my qualifications do align with the job description? I don’t have a current resume and I don’t have the time to write one.  I will have to take off from work to go to an interview and I really don’t know if I can get away with that. Things are too busy and if I am out it will be obvious.” 


“After all I am not sure I will want the job even if I go in for an interview. There is the possibility they won’t think I am a fit. However, if this does move forward, I need to make sure my current boss does not know a thing about this conversation. I am so glad I gave my personal email, but I will have to check it more frequently since I only check it every 3 weeks.”


“Uh, there is the job description. OK here it goes! I am opening it to see what they say.  I see a bit about the company which is the same thing I just read on the website; the skills required I can put a check mark next to and the responsibilities are all things I can do.”


“Hmm… I can 'identify business opportunities' (check). I can 'develop relationships and recommend solutions; maintain relations with clients; and identify improvements' (check). I need to 'contribute to the team effort by accomplishing related results.' I don’t know what that really means, but the rest sounds like my current role.”


“So the description is pretty basic and I am not sure I really want to make a move for the same position and challenges, but the recruiter did say some things beyond the description that excited me. Now that I think about it I have been getting a little restless in my job and my boss has not given me any indication of my next role or what he may be considering for me.” 


“I’ll call the recruiter and let her know I am not sure about the position.  I can ask some questions and take it from there.”


“The recruiter has gotten me more excited. My questions were answered and this position aligns with what I am looking for as next steps in my career. I learned more details about the company and the working style of the team; this really fits well with me and I think I can see myself working for the company, if this all works out.”


“I was just told the team likes my background, but now I have to enter my information online.”


“The process took a while and I was not sure I even wanted to complete it, but the recruiter has given me a lot of her time. The least I can do is spend the time to complete the process. I really wish my resume being submitted to the recruiter was enough.”


“I hope I hear something back soon. I am going to have to mention this to my family, especially since it requires a move and I don’t want to rock the boat just yet.”


Obviously the internal dialog will be different depending on the candidate and the process and dialog will continue while setting up the interview, the interview itself ,and next steps of offer or pipelining the candidate.


At each step it is a fine line on how the process progresses or if it derails.  The hardest part of all of this is that every candidate has different interests and different frames of reference.


So what are the key takeaways from this and how can it be assured that the candidate’s experience is good?


  • Just like the sales mantra we do business with people we know, like and trust.  People buy on the emotions they feel and if they don’t feel secure or trust the situation they will walk away. Talent acquisition is a sales process that includes rapport building, answering questions and understanding the emotional needs/motivations of the candidate.  At this stage small details are important.  For example, if a candidate asks you to contact them on their person cell or email and you forget and contact their company email or phone, there a very good chance you just lost the candidate because trust is broken.

  • Showing candidates that this is not a cold call and research was conducted to get to know a bit about them, is as important as the candidate researching the company.  Candidates, especially strategic targeted hires, want to know you respect them before engaging in discussion. They want to know they are not just one of many that you emailed or called based on their title. Even if they applied to your job, it is important that you took the time to know more about them before the conversation.

  • When a person changes jobs, we are asking someone to change their entire life. Listening and communicating are keys to understanding what is important to the candidate.  What WE think is important to a candidate, is not necessarily what THEY may need.  We may think something is trivial and the candidate finds the same thing important to evaluate. They may not even care about the specific answer. They may be determining if the company is right for them by the way the answer is communicated or the format of the response. To give an example, if a candidate asks when they will receive follow up and they are told they will hear back in a week. Seven days later they are expecting communication and if a reply doesn’t come in until two weeks later (though the company is interested in them), they hear the communication loud and clear that they are unimportant. They may also create a belief that the company may not meet the commitments it makes.This may not be the intent; business got busy or there was a fire that needed to be put out. Unfortunately a perception has been created that will now take more time to fix. The way to make sure this does not happen: if an answer was not available on the seventh day, a quick email to the candidate stating that things are taking a bit longer and explaining the the process is still moving along will keep the process on track. Committing to a new follow up date/time shows respect and still enhances the candidate experience.

  • Marketing the position through the job description needs to compel the candidate to be excited or engage. Candidates want to know what the company is all about (culture, mission, vision or purpose), what the company stands for (differentiators) and what makes a new hire successful. This creates a 3-D experience where the candidate can place themselves in a scenario of what it would be like to work with the company.

  • Setting expectations is important and helps to save time while keeping communication open. When everyone knows the timeline of what will happen there is no additional work or worries. A candidate will typically stay engaged and not lose interest or take another job from someone who moved faster. They will actually reach out if another offer comes in. They will let you know they are very interested, but will consider their second choice if you are not interested in them. This helps to maintain a relationship no matter what the outcome is, because all candidates that do not receive an offer may be a candidate in the future or may be a client. If the process is broken this individual may create a perception of future interactions with your company or an unconscious bias.

  • Setting expectations also helps the hiring team assess how the candidate meets the expectations or adheres to the process. This is another dimension of building trust, but is also serves as an opportunity to analyze how both sides work together before committing to an offer.

  • An application system that is friendly engages applicants. With life being so busy for the majority of individuals, time is a commodity and if an applicant has to jump through hoops they may hit the threshold. At that time they decide they do not want to continue in the process and a good candidate could be lost.  This is similar to an online buying process. When the online store system asks several questions or is not apparent about hidden fees we tend to abandon the cart. If we only have to click on the item we want, go to the cart, hit pay and everything is right there we are going to complete the transaction 9 out of 10 times.

  • Asking questions about concerns is important to mitigate any risk of the candidate getting uncomfortable in the process. A candidate who may need to move their family or has a family situation requiring immediate health care with no grace period or any number of situations can derail the process.  We don’t live to work, we work to live. It is important to ask questions about concerns or questions the candidate may still have when each phase of discussion is concluded. This will help to make sure there is alignment with their personal and professional situations.

The common theme in all of this is communication, both external and internal communication. Understanding the candidate’s motivations and communicating to create a good perception of the process will create a great candidate experience every time.

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