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How to Design an End-to-End Candidate Experience [Expert Tips]

Trying to improve the candidate experience can feel like chasing an ever-moving target. In recent posts, we’ve covered the many stages of the candidate experience: pre-apply, application, interviewing, offers, and the employee experience. While all those elements matter, an end-to-end perspective matters most, according to the experts who shared their insights in the recent ERE webinar Delivering Excellence: How to Audit Then Improve Candidate Experience. The experts were: 

“Too many people approach the candidate experience as a silo,” Mary said, “Acknowledge that it is an end-to-end process.” She mentioned how TA teams might focus on the application and screening process but find that things fall apart when the candidate’s experience with the hiring manager is completely different. 

The power of candidate experience surveys

While companies often use ATS analytics or annual surveys to measure drop-off at each stage, Mary recommends using ongoing pulse surveys at different stages of the process. “It’s important to capture qualitative experiences with the candidate in the moment so they’re not trying to remember what happened weeks or months ago,” she said. Pulse surveys can be delivered after the application, after the phone screen, after the interview process, and after offer acceptance. “It helps you understand what it feels like for the candidate during the process,” she added. 

Mary recommends looking at the data from surveys in aggregate after a req has been closed. Rather than using it as a lagging indicator of recruiter performance, use the data as a leading indicator of how the team is influencing the candidate experience. Looking for a job is an emotional experience, and information from pulse surveys helps you craft better experiences. 

The hiring process demonstrates company culture

Back to Mary’s example of the candidate experience falling apart when it reaches the hiring manager—she stressed the importance of educating hiring managers on illegal and inappropriate questions and candidate-friendly interview techniques. “Your candidate experience is only as good as the people running it,” Mary said. 

The right combination of systems and people processes drives a positive experience. “It doesn’t matter how amazing your system is,” Mary said. “If it’s not configured properly, the experience can still be terrible. Every person involved in the process needs to be empowered to create a good candidate experience.” That can be through training, monitoring, feedback, or 1:1 education.

It’s important to be aware of discrepancies between the recruiting process and how your company actually operates. “You can create a hiring process and a hiring philosophy that you want everybody to follow,” Mary said, “but your company culture is going to dictate how everybody interacts with it.” For example, if the recruiter is warm and fuzzy and the hiring manager is cold and robotic, the candidate might get an unclear impression of the working environment. “Make sure that the hiring experience is indicative of where they’re going to be working,” Mary said, “or your 90-day turnover rate will be insanely high.”

Designing an effective candidate assessment process

Companies use a variety of techniques to give candidates an accurate impression of the working environment and assess their abilities, some to more success than others. These all impact how the candidate views the role and the company. Mary shared insights on using assessments.

Digital assessments can be configured to test faculties relevant to a role. For example, a spatial reasoning test could be used as a knockout assessment for an installation technician. Candidates for a trainer role might be asked to give a sample lesson.

“Be thoughtful about assessments,” Mary stressed, cautioning against unskilled use of free assessments like off-the-shelf personality tests. With the end goal of making a candidate feel that they were evaluated fairly, she added, “any assessment an organization chooses to add to their hiring process must be validated and normed to the appropriate job and group.”

Authenticity sets expectations

A ResumeBuilder survey found that 4 in 10 hiring managers lie to candidates during the hiring process, and 80% of these managers say that lying is “very acceptable.” The most common lies are about the role’s responsibilities and growth opportunities. 

That approach is a direct threat to a positive candidate experience. “If you can be authentic through the whole process, it helps the candidate decide,” Mary said. For a call center role, a company might paint a picture of the day-to-day complaint handling but also offer insights into team camaraderie and growth opportunities. 

“An organization has to be aware of who they are and be honest about it,” Mary said. “If a candidate says ‘thank you for being honest with me,’ that’s a win because it shows you intend to find the best fit for the position.”

Onboarding sets the stage

“From the candidate’s perspective, the onboarding experience is the same as the hiring experience,” Mary said. “They don’t care that you’ve handed it off to an onboarding coordinator. It needs to be seamlessly integrated.”

“You want to make sure that when they show up,” she continued, “they feel like they made the best decision possible, that they’re excited to be with your organization, and they want to stay with your organization for a long time.” Getting the matrix of forms, provisioning, policies, and training delivered in the right order takes forethought and ideally, an onboarding system to manage.

Two tips for a better candidate experience

Allyn and Mary have helped companies bring thousands of hires in the door. What do they think is most important to today’s candidates?

Post salary ranges. In a previous role as head of recruiting, Mary conducted A/B testing on job postings with and without salary ranges. “We always got better candidates and a better hiring experience if we posted the ranges,” she said.

Disposition candidates quickly. “Give up hoarding candidates just in case you don’t get the hire through,” Allyn said. Timely disposition–think days or weeks, not months–helps candidates move on.

Conclusion: A holistic approach turns candidates into engaged employees

Allyn Bailey summed up the conversation: “You cannot isolate any independent area of the candidate experience. You cannot just say this is about the sourcing process, the application process, the interviewing process, or the onboarding process. You are creating one holistic experience to find, attract, hire, and get people into the door for day one.”

To learn more about how to design an end-to-end candidate experience, our latest ebook has you covered with 6 checklists to keep track of improvements for each stage of the candidate journey. Download New Essentials of the Candidate Experience: How to Create Candidate-Centric Experiences from Attraction to Onboarding.

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If you’re ready to get started on upgrading your tech stack, SmartRecruiters can help. Not only do we have a highly-rated applicant tracking system, we cover the pre-apply experience with SmartRecruiters Attrax, SmartCRM, SmartJobs, and the chatbot SmartPal. We also offer SmartOnboard to start your new hires off on the right foot. Get in touch with us for a demo today!

Lee Ann Prescott