I’m Tired of Hearing About Candidate Experience

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Feb 16, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

If you’re like me, you tend to grow tired of the latest buzzwords in the talent acquisition community. Over the last 1-2 years, candidate experience (or CX) has been one of the most well-known trends. People talk about it, they write about it, they say they care about it, and they do nothing meaningful to impact it.

My frustration lies in a dark place that has grown over the last two years. Don’t expect this write-up to grasp you in the first paragraph … because it probably won’t. If you’ve bought into this idea that CX is simply caring about candidates, you are wrong and you should read why it’s wrong.

So I urge you to join me as I take you through our story regarding this thing that, apparently, many people care about … that thing called candidate experience.

A Long Time Ago …

Nearly two years ago, our recruiting team embarked on what has turned out to be a career-changing journey. While treating those who apply to our jobs with respect was a part of that journey, it certainly was not the main focus in the beginning. You see, we wanted our recruiting process, our applicant flow, our speed of hire, and all of the metrics we tracked to be the best in the industry. We started by looking at “speed of hire.” Instead of focusing on time-to-fill, or how long it took to fill a job, we focused on how fast we could do it.

Here’s the scene: Our recruiting team sat down in the San Diego conference room with the bright spring sun beaming through the windows (OK, that’s a lie. There are no windows in the San Diego conference room — major design flaw). Anyway, we sat in the poorly lit conference room and I asked the team to outline all of the areas that took too long in the recruiting process. I was to the side writing those items on the whiteboard as our recruiters listed the aspects of the recruiting lifecycle that make their daily life difficult. It didn’t take more than 20 minutes before we realized that all of our headaches were more than likely the same areas where job candidates had similar frustrations.

These pauses in time within the applicant flow were as obvious as the time you tripped over your shoelace and turned it into a small jog to cover up your clumsiness. The pauses happened when candidate resumes that fell into a “maybe” category and after they were submitted to a hiring manager. Worst of all, the last pause happened after a candidate interviewed for a job. I won’t go into detail as to why that is, but if you’re in the talent acquisition space, take some time and think to yourself the following:

“Self, I’m pretty great and obviously an amazing recruiter who can do no wrong, but … If I happened to unknowingly create a black hole of candidates in my recruiting process, where would that black hole be? Further, and knowing how awesome I am, is it possible that I have two or three black holes in my recruiting process?”

I’ll wait while you think on that for a second …

I assume you’ve come to the conclusion that you do, in fact, have areas of your recruiting process or applicant flow where there are lapses in time; where good candidates (that you may want to hire now or five years from now) are treated with a lack of follow up and respect.

More importantly, what are you going to do about it? You can see what we did about it at Cumming Corporation by reading the blogs on my LinkedIn page.

This Thing Actually Works?

Fast-forward to last year, 2015. We had been using the new applicant flow and process for approximately eight months. In those eight months, every single recruitment KPI at Cumming Corporation improved and, some of them, by a very large margin. So when Todd Raphael from ERE Media put out a call for speakers at the ERE Recruiting Conference in the spring of 2015, I humbly (you should read that as arrogantly) raised my hand. Todd granted my request. He obviously didn’t realize at the time that I was going to ask the hundreds of recruiting leaders in attendance to stand up and say, “I suck at Candidate Experience.”

At the ERE Recruiting Conference last year, I approached Gerry Crispin, one of the kings of candidate experience in my opinion, and asked him to watch my presentation — to tell me what was good, bad, and everything in between. After I got off the stage, Gerry informed me that what we were doing was good, but now it was time to fill in everything else. I remember thinking to myself, “What do you mean everything else? We did it! It’s done!”

About a month later we applied for a CandE (The Candidate Experience Awards) and guess what? We actually won a CandE. Not only that, but we ranked #14 out of approximately 250 participating organizations and The Talent Board nominated our small but mighty organization as one of ten companies with a Story Teller designation. To put all of this into perspective, we had kicked this entire program off just a year prior. We finally had proof that a better candidate experience is not only a good business decision for recruiting efficiencies, but candidates (via surveys) appreciated our straight-forward, matter-of-fact, and transparent approach. It wasn’t about fluff. It was about respect between a job candidate and a company with the goal of information exchange so that both parties can make an informed decision about employment. That’s it.

Look at Me! I Care!

I thrive on proving to others that with a candidate-experience focused recruitment philosophy, recruiting efficiencies will improve.

At the beginning of this article, I stated that I was tired of hearing about Candidate Experience … and that’s true. Here’s why: recruiters and recruiting leaders continually espouse the virtues of how they treat candidates when, in reality, they do not have a structured system in place to tackle this issue. If you want CX to impact your recruiting and business operations efficiencies, then caring, alone, will not get you there. A recruiting leader asking a recruiter, “Did you treat everyone well?” prior to closing out a requisition will have close to zero impact.

In the short time that I’ve been a part of this candidate experience community, I’ve learned something daunting, yet extremely exciting. The companies that are focusing on CX as their recruitment driver are beating the companies who don’t. The organizations who strategize and build competencies around CX are beating you for talent. Caring is not enough. Caring is merely the seed. Most recruiters care, but they lack the structure to grow that seed into anything meaningful. Check out the list of the CandE Award winners linked above. They represent almost any industry you can think of. They’re winning and they represent some of the most forward-thinking recruiting strategies that I’ve ever seen.

2016 ERE Recruiting Conference

Here we are, two years after Cumming Corporation kicked this whole “CX” thing off and, once again, Todd has mistakenly asked me to return and speak again at the Spring ERE Recruiting Conference in a few months.

***Spoiler Alert***

Here’s what I’m going to talk about: Remember when Gerry told me that I needed to do “everything else” in relation to candidate experience? We finally figured out what he meant. You see, CX is not just CX … it is recruiting. For example, when a potential candidate first sees your job advertisement, company website, or recruiting video, what does that person think and feel? More to the point, what does that person experience? Are they driven to apply or reach out? Is that branding, marketing, or candidate experience? I’d argue that it’s all of the above.

That said, I’m going to show you how to build a CX program within your organization. I’m going to show you the metrics and the data to not only track it, but to prove that it’s improving your recruiting operations. We’ll discuss the role the entire recruiting team needs to play (you won’t be able to do it without them). And I’m going to show you why candidate experience is better stated in its most simple form … recruiting.

Finally, I hope to motivate you to take action. Whether it be a CX initiative or something else, we can all do better. I hope that you will join me in that journey.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.