How Southwest Airlines Creates Spectacular Candidate Experiences with Phenom

Jenn Thomas

Southwest Airlines is well known for its customer satisfaction. A major factor? Its service—which ultimately comes down to its employees.
 

“Our employees are our secret sauce,” revealed Greg Muccio, Director of Talent Acquisition at Southwest during a recent webinar with Phenom People—the provider of the airline’s talent experience management platform for recruiting employees. “It’s all about our people, so we do a lot of hiring,” he continued. 
 

For perspective, Southwest hired 6,300 people and received over 300,000 applications from external candidates in 2018. The same year, they adopted the Phenom Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform to help them deliver the personalized, effortless kind of talent experiences consumers have come to expect when searching and shopping online.
 

Since then, Southwest has made considerable strides attracting, engaging, and converting top talent with Phenom’s robust set of product offerings. 

 

Attracting Job Seekers with a Compelling Career Site

As an incredibly front-facing company, it’s critical for Southwest’s TA team to remember that every candidate is also a potential customer. “We believe that someone’s candidate experience with us begins the first time they start to think of Southwest as somewhere they may want to work,” explained Muccio. And as such, first impressions are important. 
 

A top priority for Muccio was to improve the company career site, which was static and not user-friendly. “We need to tell our story 24/7, 365 days a year, and be able to access people,” he said. Job seekers expect to be able to search and view jobs on multiple devices without losing functionality. And they anticipate their search to deliver accurate results with minimal effort. “Nothing else we do matters if we’re sending people to an outdated career site,” he added.

 

Southwest career site

Southwest’s new Phenom-powered career site is available across diverse user interfaces and gives visitors the semantic search capabilities they’re looking for. In addition, the career site and CMS empowers Southwest to showcase an accessible, authentic representation of its culture, benefits, open roles, and locations through engaging, easily-refreshable content such as video, Glassdoor reviews, and employee testimonials.

Employee testimonial


 

Instead of using stock imagery, Southwest now fuels its site with transparent information that shows their actual employees on the job. “People don’t want a bait and switch,” Muccio pointed out. Candidates want an honest look at what it’s really like to work someplace in a specific role to see if they’ll fit in.
 

Screenshot of Southwest's career site videos

Companies also need to keep in mind that more content isn’t better than changing content, advised Muccio, whose team is always working on its refresh strategy to leverage best-fit resources. “Our site is ever-changing—which is why we love the Phenom CMS so much. It allows us to be nimble and flexible with the content we provide on the site.” 

 

Engaging Candidates with Targeted Campaigns

With 25 to 30 open positions at any given time, Southwest recruits frequently—and the Phenom University Recruiting and Phenom Campaigns tools have been vital to the success of those initiatives, Muccio said. Leads from a variety of events and interactions enable team members to engage and nurture active and passive candidates directly from the CRM.
 

A pain point for many high-volume recruiters, including Southwest’s, is providing timely communication. Some of his recruiters are using the campaign tool to send “tips & tricks” emails and “just checking in” messages to keep the conversation going with possible contenders. In addition—as the airline continues to prioritize its employee experience—team coordinators are bringing this experience to new hires by creating drip campaigns for first-day and monthly check-ins. Southwest reports great success with this technique.
 

Muccio expects communication efforts to get even better now that they’re implementing Phenom’s SMS capabilities and AI-powered chatbot. Being able to reach people according to their preference is another key element in improving the candidate journey.

 

Converting Top Talent Through a Thoughtful Approach

To convert applicants, employers must consider how they perceive their entire experience, from start to finish. If the application process isn’t easy and intuitive, prospects may abandon the application altogether. Providing social apply functionality and highlighting necessary actions to correct application error notifications are the kinds of thoughtful updates companies can implement to create a positive experience.
 

Post-apply, timely communication is a must. Whether they got the job or not, candidates want feedback, relayed Muccio. When and how they receive that communication matters, he continued. 
 

Many organizations don’t let people know the status of their application for months or until the position is filled. Conversely, communications can come too fast, signalling there’s no human on the other end of the exchange, added Muccio.
 

If there’s been a phone or in-person interview, Muccio prefers rejections be delivered more personally with a call, rather than an email or automated response. The challenge many companies face with that approach comes down to capacity. 
 

“That’s the value of texting and chatbot,” said Muccio. Automating aspects of the candidate journey that are purely transactional frees up his team to personally handle the moments that matter.

 

Looking Toward the Future

Southwest already gives its employees the same kind of personalized experiences that they provide candidates. But now they want to take it a step further. By leveraging Phenom Internal Mobility and Phenom Career Pathing, the airline hopes to provide employees easy access to information to grow their careers. Skill gap analysis and learning recommendations are just a few examples of the features employees will use to advance their futures.
 

But before someone is an employee, they’re a candidate. So, how can companies improve their candidate experience? Measure it, identify pain points, prioritize enhancements, and continuously monitor and adjust the strategy, advised Muccio. “I’m interested in the people we’re saying ‘no’ to,” he disclosed. Paying attention to those experiences provides invaluable feedback.
 

And it shows. This year, Southwest was recognized with the CandE Award from Talent Board for the candidate experience they’re providing. They ranked 2nd overall for large companies (10,000+ employees) and 7th overall out of 65 companies that won. In 2020, the TA team aspires to improve their ranking even further to garner the top spot.
 

Southwest CandE award photo

“There are some days when our career site can get more hits than our consumer site,” Muccio shared, emphasizing the benefits of properly addressing candidate experience. His final thought: “I don’t know if you can be competitive in the war for talent if you’re not doing something like this.”
 



Listen to the entire Southwest webinar with Greg Muccio here.
 

For more on how Southwest transformed its talent experience with Phenom People, check out our case study.