The Candidate Experience Is Everything (When Hiring Top Talent)

There are myriad ways for any one person to get to know your organization without ever walking through your office doors. One of those ways is through the "candidate experience." If you are hiring, how candidates—potential future employees—are treated is one of the most important determinants of whether these prized potential future employees will consider working for your company. And in the age of social media and the Internet, candidates talk; employees talk; everyone who has ever worked with your organization talks—and potential candidates do their research. If your recruiting process is branded as "candidate unfriendly," ­­­­this will almost certainly negatively impact the quality and volume of resumes submitted to your organization either directly or through your outside search firm partner. That is why it is vitally important to build—and maintain—your organization's brand by optimizing the candidate experience every time you are seeking to fill an open position. Your company's ability to successfully attract and recruit top talent depends on how well it manages the hiring process. Maximizing the candidate experience through each phase of your internal recruiting process will significantly enhance your company's effectiveness in appealing to high caliber candidates, especially at a time when there is increased competition for talent and active candidates have more job options available to them. Remember - every interaction with your company will either positively or negatively impact the candidate’s perception of your organization.

Building your "candidate brand" is a job that starts with your internal HR person and is carried through by the hiring manager and all other company employees with whom the candidate meets. One of the primary jobs of the hiring manager and the internal HR person is to sell not only the role but also the company and its culture. Top talent is not necessarily actively looking to make a move so they want to be told what's so special about the company that would make them make the change. Your hiring manager and HR person need to be stellar representatives of the company and reflect what is most positive about your corporate culture.

Once an initial interview is scheduled, your hiring manager and the HR person then become responsible for conveying the culture and values while also explaining the position and setting the expectations for the role. Throughout the entire interview process, all individuals who interact with the candidate should be focused on enhancing the candidate’s experience and painting a realistic but affirming picture of the organization.

So how can you paint that picture during the interview process?

  • Show your appreciation for the candidate's interest by reviewing his/her resume in advance and getting a general sense of why this person might be a good fit. I have gotten feedback from candidates that have been brought in to interview with a company where it becomes apparent that the interviewer has not taken the time to review the candidate's resume and become acquainted with his/her experience—or even worse has no idea why the candidate is there. If you are trying to hire the best possible person for a position, that lack of effort clearly does not present your organization well. It should go without saying that an interviewer needs to be familiar with the resume of any candidate they interview.
  • Gain an understanding of the candidate's intrinsic motivation and then explain how the job responsibilities and future career path for the position match their motivations. The more the candidate can see how this job relates to his/her goals and desires, the more likely he/she is to express continued interest in the role.
  • Continually communicate with lead candidates that you are interested in. Keep the lines of communication very open and constant with candidates and your external recruiting partner who is your direct point of contact with candidates.
  • Convey why your company. A candidate needs to understand why he/she should want to work for your company and not only because of the career potential. The candidate needs to know what your company stands for (its mission, values, plans for growth) and what makes yours better than another opportunity (outside of the potential salary).
  • Communicate that an offer is coming and do it in a timely manner. Do not let the successful candidate's enthusiasm for the opportunity wane by taking too long to present a formal offer once the hiring decision has been made. It is imperative to maintain momentum; significant lag time between interest and interviews or between a decision and the extension of an offer can be the death knell of a successful hire.

By creating transparency throughout the process, giving timely feedback and keeping candidates in the loop as to the next steps, you will greatly enhance your brand image with prospective, current and future candidates. Treating candidates exceptionally well, respecting their time and validating their interest reflects well on your company and sets the tone for how future employees will be received and integrated into their new roles.

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Deborah Z. ThompsonDeborah Z. Thompson is a Managing Director for Major, Lindsey & Africa's In-House Practice Group in Philadelphia. She has over 15 years of legal search experience with a specialty in in-house placements at all levels, including a specific focus on General Counsel and other senior level legal department positions. Deborah can be reached at (215) 636-9849 and dthompson@mlaglobal.com.

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