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Communicate culture to enhance candidate experience

The candidate experience matters more than ever – but it needs to be communicated from the first touch point, right through to the on-boarding stage.

When it comes to the recruitment processes, there is one area that tends to get overlooked which makes a significant difference to hiring outcomes. Caught up in the application and interview cycle, and up against time to find the right talent, hiring managers and talent acquisition teams could perhaps address this more, as obvious as it may seem. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the very people they’re engaging with during the process are the ones that can provide the precious insights that will help boost recruitment results and strengthen their employer brand.

You may have guessed it, we’re talking about candidate experience. This of course is a wide-ranging term that encompasses many different strands, including the ease and speed of the application process as well as the interaction with TA and hiring teams. That first impression formed about the company, the friendliness of its people, and the messaging around the company’s culture and work environment can be a dealbreaker in attracting the right talent. And especially today when sourcing talent is so difficult, engaging and connecting with applicants is an absolute must.

This was one of the key areas of focus in Hiring Reimagined* report that surveyed HR professionals (over 1,200) and candidates (nearly 3,800) separately, the objective not only to find out about the challenges facing organisations but also uncover what really matters to candidates. And given that half of respondents said that they were struggling to find the talent they needed and almost a third (29%) were losing out to their direct competitors, understanding the candidate perspective is as important as it’s ever been and must be a strategic priority in 2023.

So, what did we learn? Making the candidate experience more seamless and application processes slicker is clearly on the minds of HR professionals with almost half (49%) looking to invest in technology, and a similar number intending to automate more processes (40%). Over a third (36%) acknowledged that they intended to invest in and integrate background screening and identity verification into the hiring process too. Yet shockingly, over seven in 10 (71%) candidates are either considering dropping out or have dropped out of the application process, which is very worrying.

Digging deeper into the reasons why this might be unravelled some key insights. The main frustration for jobseekers which made them drop out, came from overly long (39%) and complicated (37%) processes with too many touchpoints also an issue for 27%. One in four complained about the background screening process while 16% didn’t feel a connection with the people they met. Jobseekers are looking for a fast, quick, and easy process and want to feel as though they could fit into the company and its culture, yet 18% didn’t feel they were a good match.

What really matters to candidates
Before making wholesale changes and ploughing money into some of the areas mentioned above, it is also worth listening to candidates’ personal experiences about what they actually do want. The report’s findings also revealed that both parties were broadly aligned in terms of viewing the process as simple (thinking that jobseekers would find it simple in the case of HR professionals). However, only 9% of HR practitioners thought that candidates would find it difficult, whereas in fact 15% of them did. This clearly suggests that processes do indeed need to be reviewed and simplified.

Even more glaring is the big misalignment when it comes to the background screening process. While HR professionals thought that speed and timeliness was the most important factor for candidates, candidates themselves prioritized finding out about the culture and values of the organisation, which was the lowest ranked factor for companies. This is one area where HR is clearly getting it wrong and once again reinforces the need to communicate culture, especially early on in the process, to engage and establish a connection with jobseekers who are keen to work for companies whose values reflect theirs. Feeling empowered to bring your authentic self to work and confident that you’ll be met with an open, people-first culture is a key part of the hiring process for today’s candidates.

Importantly, the act of a company having a background screening process also puts candidates at ease, with almost six in 10 (59%) reporting that they felt more confident about the organisation and job as a consequence. Clearly, this will have a significant positive impact on drop-off rates as more applicants are engaged and will want to carry on through the process. They will want to invest their time in the process and go all the way to the end. So, the lesson learnt here is that background screening goes beyond the box-ticking exercise which HR may perceive candidates to believe. It actually sets the tone for a better experience.

Expressing an organisation’s culture, what they stand for and believe in is critical at all stages of the process. Yet once again, we see a marked difference in opinions – over four in 10 (41%) HR professionals felt “very strongly” that their hiring processes promoted culture and values, whereas under a third (32%) of candidates felt that this was being transmitted in a “very strong” way during the process. And with almost half (47%) of candidates in the “somewhat” category, this presents a golden opportunity to change their minds. Even more concerning, a fifth of candidates saw little or no demonstration of culture.

When asked about the one thing they wanted HR professionals to know about their experiences, candidates picked out the length of time involved, but also being left in the lurch and not being updated about their application status. Clear, honest, and consistent communication is therefore highly prized. Interestingly, they also felt that employers didn’t really understand the true depth and breadth of their skill sets and potential, and were being too prescriptive with their requirements. Job seekers were also quick to point out that there were plenty of other good opportunities out there for them, again unveiling opportunity for organizations in need of talent to better align themselves with the candidate experience.

The message could not be any clearer. If organisations want to win the talent war, they must focus on making the candidate experience more seamless while at the same time ensuring they promote their culture and values throughout the entire hiring process.

* Sterling

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