Definition by Elimination: Deconstructing the Candidate Experience

Last year, I took in a presentation led by the head of talent acquisition at one of America’s largest spirits and wine companies. In the presentation, we were guided through the speaker’s experiences transforming the company’s global recruiting organization to place greater emphasis on improving the candidate experience.

He traveled around the world, visiting different offices and meeting with their recruiting staff at each location. As the head of talent acquisition, during each visit, he’d meet with recruiters in the lobby and ask, “What would we have to do during the interview day that would guarantee candidates would never return our phone calls?”

After posing such a question, he was often met with bewilderment, blank stares, and furrowed brows. Not surprisingly, ‘Is this guy serious?’ was written on most of the faces he confronted.

As it turns out, he was serious, and his question made perfect sense. You see, often in life it is easier to state what you don’t want, rather than what you do. It’s definition by elimination, and more often than not, it just comes easier. His approach was shrewd and guided the company’s recruiters to a complete deconstruction of what could go wrong from start of the interview process to its end. The list flowed:

  • Book candidates in sub-standard hotels
  • Leave them stranded at the airport sans ground transportation
  • Provide transportation, but pick them up late
  • Have interviewers wander into the interview after their scheduled time
  • Have interviewers who are not prepared for the interview
  • Leave the candidate alone in a corner or a conference room between interviews
  • Ask them terrible questions during the interview
  • Take them out for a rushed lunch at a fast-food restaurant

You get the picture.

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The presenter explained that this approach facilitated a very detailed discussion and, more importantly, an actionable strategy for interview process dos and don’ts. The discussion participants developed a highly choreographed plan for a positive candidate experience (a topic I’m giving a workshop on at the annual ERE conference in Florida this fall). Before they knew it, it became standard practice to book candidates in quality rooms at the best hotels, and they were driven to the office by way of the most scenic city routes only. The end result was a fantastic candidate experience in which candidates felt valued.

When reassessing your own organization’s interview strategies, don’t be afraid to ask the same question. It’s worth moving past the blank stares to help define best practices for your company. You might also find that this approach will permeate and improve the whole recruiting process, as it did for the spirit and wine company.

Elaine Orler is president and founder of the Talent Function Group and chairman of The Talent Board, founding organization of the Candidate Experience Awards. Involved in developing and implementing HR solutions since 1993, she has worked with countless clients on dozens of global talent acquisition and management implementations to help them embrace new technologies aimed at improving internal processes and the candidate experience, a topic on which she’s regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Contact her at Elaine.orler@talentfunction.com.

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