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How to improve candidate experience to win top talent

Khyati Sundaram, CEO - Applied

Record-level vacancies mean that recruiting is no easy job right now. But whilst employers are acutely aware of the need to attract talent, few recognise the ways in which they’re repelling some of the top candidates – through selection processes themselves, and through candidates’ experience of them. By overhauling hiring systems and improving candidate experience in the process, companies can make the best and most diverse hires possible. Here’s how… 

Anonymise applications
A candidates’ marital status, name or postcode says nothing of their ability to do a job. Instead, this kind of information leads hiring teams to lean into biases which can see women, minority ethnic and lower socio-economic groups passed over for jobs.

Anonymous applications ensure that decisions are based on talent alone, boosting the diversity and quality of hires: 60% of those hired following this approach would be missed during traditional CV sifts. 

Plus, our research shows that when businesses are upfront about using anonymous applications, a wider and more diverse talent pool is encouraged to apply – since candidates can be confident in the knowledge that they’re being judged fairly. 

Assess skills, not experience
One of the biggest pain points for candidates is having to regurgitate information on their CVs when filling out applications. Instead of asking applicants to recite their academic and employment histories, ask questions which determine whether their skills match those required for specific roles, using work samples and cognitive ability tests for example.

As with identifying information, taking experience out of the equation won’t reduce the quality of your hires. In fact, skills are 3x more predictive of performance than CVs. And when hiring decisions are based on true potential rather than bias, marginalised talent shines through: leading to up to four times more minority ethnic hires, and up to 70% more women in senior roles. 

Streamline the process
Hiring processes are made notoriously lengthy by traditional assessments which waste candidates’ time, money and patience. And since they’re often prone to bias and poor indicators of performance, they’re a waste for employers, too.

Cover letters are a reflection of writing skills rather than those needed for specific jobs, unstructured interviews focus on culture-fit rather than role fit, and reference checks are unreliable since candidates only ever name contacts they know will provide a glowing review.

With skills tests in place, there’s no need for all these unnecessary stages, and candidates will no doubt be relieved to see the back of them.

Be human and communicate
Removing human bias from hiring processes doesn’t mean you can’t be human in other ways. Using simple, friendly and encouraging language throughout online and in-person interactions with candidates is one of the simplest ways you can put them at ease and improve their experience. Just be mindful to treat all candidates the same.

Communicating next steps throughout the process will also ensure that applicants don’t feel neglected or worry needlessly in-between different stages. And all candidates – successful or not – deserve feedback. There’s no excuse for professional ghosting – especially when skills-based hiring tech makes the whole process objective and automatic. 

Be transparent
To give candidates a fair chance to prepare and put their best foot forward during any assessments, they need to know upfront exactly what to expect.

In particular, be mindful that not everyone is familiar with skills-based assessments. Take the time to explain what anonymous applications and work samples entail, and how their purpose is to give candidates a fair chance, rather than to trip them up. 

Companies should also be transparent about salaries. Particularly during a cost of living crisis, job seekers can’t be expected to invest time in applying to companies where they don’t know what they can expect to earn. To empower women to negotiate salaries on a fairer basis and improve the gender balance of applicants, salary disclosure on job adverts and beyond is essential.

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