Today’s job seekers want it all — which makes the candidate experience more important than ever.
What key differentiators remain constant, and where is there room to improve?
Talent Board President Kevin Grossman revealed the latest research on candidate experience trends, and how employers can stand out among talent today. Watch the full episode here, or read on for highlights from the show!
What key factors do candidates always consider when evaluating employers?
With over 20 years of HR experience under his belt, Grossman has seen a few key patterns emerge when it comes to candidate expectations.
The most critical? “No matter what the world looks like every single year, the first and foremost one is always consistent communication — from the application to onboarding,” Grossman said.
He also added that it’s going to require both technology and recruiters to ensure candidates get the information they need. “That’s going to be driven a lot by technology now, which is fine because companies control the dials — but [there’s] also the human interaction that occurs, too, with recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates.”
So what kind of communication are candidates looking for?
According to Grossman, it’s all about setting clear expectations, being more transparent throughout the hiring process, asking for feedback, and then providing feedback — especially to finalists — if you’re not going to make an offer. “All those things helped to drive a higher level of perceived fairness."
He also added that when recruiters and hiring managers engage with candidates in this way, it results in a more positive sentiment — even if they aren’t hired.
How have candidate expectations changed since COVID?
The entire talent landscape has changed dramatically over the last 18 months — and it’s still evolving.
“Pre-COVID, we were measuring candidate experience in nothing but a growth market … and what was fascinating about that is what we call the ‘resentment rate,’” Grossman said. “One of the things we measure… is the percentage of candidates who say they would never do anything with the employer again… they’ll never refer others … and if you’re a consumer-based business, [they’re] never going to buy stuff. So that resentment rate was actually increasing dramatically from late 2015, 2016 through 2019 — and was still on that trajectory.”
And then the pandemic hit. From there, according to Grossman, everything changed.
As employers embraced transparent and empathetic communication, job seekers (and employees) took note. Then came the push for diversity and equity in the workplace. As a result, Grossman said they saw less resentment and higher levels of perceived fairness.
“It was pretty evident that there was this higher level of candidate forgiveness because everything was just dramatically different … And it helped to really improve the experience of a really crappy time in recruiting and hiring.”
With job supply back up again, the story is a little different. “Now, [candidate] resentment is up almost 65%, which is close to pre-COVID level. And I think what we're seeing is … it's the perfect storm of stuff. We're not out of the woods.”
Even though companies are rapidly bringing back a lot of recruiters, employees are also quitting or planning to leave the workforce at rapid rates.
“I think that there's this backslide to the way that we used to do business. And it's too bad because I don't think it has to be that way,” Grossman said. “Some of the negative sentiment, by the way, is coming. This is an uphill battle because of the sheer volume of people that are never going to get hired and that have applied for jobs — even if applications are down, which they are for a lot of companies.”
So much of it comes down to human interaction, he added, and it’s essential that employers prioritize constant communication throughout the candidate journey.
Is salary the key to getting talent in the door?
To combat a tight labor market — and the looming threat of “The Great Resignation” — many organizations are raising wages, offering incentives, and embracing flexible work to boost their appeal. According to research conducted by Grossman’s team at the Talent Board, the top three incentives candidates want are flexible work, higher wages, and stronger safety protocols.
Ultimately, it depends on job type.
“We know that companies are struggling with hourly work … especially those industries that have come back … I think wages are a lot of it,” Grossman said. “But remember, that same group of folks can't leverage flexible work. They have to be on site. They have to be in the store, in the plant.” But for those who can work in the office or from home, it’s a big priority.
“The other one that was also rising was monetary bonuses and incentives, as well as non-monetary,” he said. “We've already seen the media blitz on things like people hiring at McDonald's [giving] them an iPhone ... and others that are paying for full tuition to continue education.”
Regardless of what companies offer, Grossman remarked that these changes were inevitable. “Maybe it would have been another 5, 10, 15 years before some of these changes would have finally been in place, but now organizations want to continue to grow and thrive. They've got to adapt to it. So I think we've dramatically accelerated a lot of important changes that continue to be put into place.”
Total transparency: Building a better rapport with talent
Despite the high demand for talent, the reality is that most people applying to jobs are not going to get hired. Employers still need to evaluate candidates based on how they will contribute to the organization and help it grow.
Grossman encouraged employers to be clear about what the job entails and what it doesn’t — as well as paint a true picture of the day-to-day environment. Not only does this help recruiters and managers better target best-fit talent, it also gives candidates an opportunity to remove themselves from the running.
“You want to be that transparent because you want candidates to self-select [your company],” he said. “Why not help them make a better decision: ‘You know what, I probably wouldn't be a fit for this job. I'm going to go over here.’ That's going to be helpful to you, even if applications are down.”
When it comes to salary, Grossman encourages employers to be proactive here too. It also enables organizations to further support salary equality in the workplace. “You need to start changing the way you do business. And that's what's happening.”
For candidates that aren’t the right fit for the job? Grossman recommends dispositioning them early on, rather than waiting weeks or months until the role is filled. “There's no point in holding on to them if they weren't qualified for that job.”
In the long run, this can actually lead to a positive experience and perception of fairness. “A third of all the candidates in our research every year said that they're still extremely likely to refer others, and over 90 percent of them never get hired,” Grossman shared.
What technology is helping recruiters boost hiring efficiency?
With hundreds of requisitions to fill, finding more time in the day to increase communication with individual candidates is always a challenge. This is where HR technology — including artificial intelligence (AI) and automation — can help free up a recruiter’s day.
“Texting is very powerful. A lot of us don't answer our phones anymore, and we don't answer email. But we see our texts,” Grossman said. “So communicating jobs and opportunities and industry news and information via text is important.”
Conversational AI is also critical. “[It’s] super hot right now because that's really allowing companies to build a communications infrastructure, from pre-sourcing through sourcing — even up until scheduling interviews and beyond.”
Talent Board research has also revealed higher levels of positive candidate sentiment when there’s more engagement throughout the hiring process. “That means if I am engaging a conversational AI chatbot, that's helping me move through the process and get questions answered,” Grossman shared. “There's a much higher level — upwards of 25-30% higher positive experience — combined with other things that are also probably happening with the candidate. But that's a big deal, as opposed to nothing at all.”
Celebrating employers that are making strides in candidate experience
Improving the experience for talent is a journey that takes time — but Grossman and his team at the Talent Board have dedicated their annual Candidate Experience Awards (the CandEs) to celebrating companies that are moving the needle and trying to make a difference.
“Not every company will do everything right, but they’re doing a lot right,” Grossman said. With their research wrapping up at the end of August, the winners will be celebrated during a virtual event Nov. 17 and 18. Learn more about the CandEs!
For more information on how to boost recruiter efficiency, sign up for our coming webinar, “Hiring in a Recruiter Shortage: How BMO is Filling Roles Fast with AI & Automation”
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