How Candidate Experience Improves the Bottom Line

“I believe in what I see
I believe in what I hear
I believe that what I’m feeling
Changes how the world appears…”

—Rush, Totem

After the second exercise on candidate communication, she forwarded me the link to his online venting. This after another successful Talent Board Candidate Experience Workshop focused on both sides of the recruiting and hiring process. Another filled with dozens of talent acquisition and HR professionals onsite at multi-year CandE Award winnerAT&T headquarters in Dallas, TX. All of whom were serious about elevating their profession and impacting their businesses for the better, including the global candidate attraction, engagement and experience manager who forwarded me the above link.

AT&T has done a tremendous amount of work improving their recruiting processes and candidate experience. It used to take them on the average 100 days to recruit and hire technicians at 37 applicants per hire. They have since reduced that (and the emotional rollercoaster for candidates) to less than 40 days at 9 applicants per hire. Plus, they’ve reduced the nearly 90 fields to complete their online application to around 30. You can read more about what AT&T and other top-ranked benchmark companies are doing to improve candidate experience in the recently released 2015 Candidate Experience Research Report.

Reciprocal communication and feedback continue to be a work in progress for employers and even the CandE winners still struggle at this. But at least they’ve got it on their gap map and they are addressing it.

After the Dallas workshops were over, I read through the above crappy candidate experience confession and thought, Mercy me, this person called out the employer he had been interested in and nearly every single player involved in his job-seeker drama. All 22 weeks of it. I empathized. I did. I’ve been there myself. And so had most of the 90 commentators on his post.

One thing is crystal clear – that no matter the process and technologies in place, the recruiting and hiring process is extremely personal. The visceral responses are always in order for both job seekers and hiring professionals. It can be one helluva of a messy exchange, like awkward “morning after” conversations, or those uncomfortable exchanges at holiday family meals. We’re all perpetual candidates and we’ve all been there, whether currently gainfully (and/or happily) employed or not.

And then there’s the part where candidate experience is the weight that sinks the bottom line. How much exactly and its significance will vary, but the chances it will affect revenue and the bottom line are really, really good. Consider this: based on the over 200 employers that participated in the 2015 CandE Awards and Research in North America alone, 1 million hires were made. The average number of applicants per open job is around 200, so that means 200 million applicants were received, leaving 199 million rejections.

One hundred and ninety-nine million opportunities that could go south or that you could leave some good will with in the place of not getting the job. When it goes south, you get that negative resentment that compels the candidates to not only share their experience with their inner circle of family and friends, but to share publicly online as well (again, like the above example), many stating definitively that they will never again apply for a job with that organization. Both positive and negative social sharing has more than doubled since 2012.

Social Media Sharing

Not only that, 41 percent of candidates who participated in the CandE Research and who overall had a horrible candidate experience stated that they will definitely take their alliance, product purchases, and relationships somewhere else. That’s a lot of potential lost revenue to any organization and the true business impact of millions of unhappy recruiting “customers.”

In the red cande

Conversely, 67 percent of those who had an excellent 5-star candidate experience – over 80 percent of whom did not get the job, by the way – said that they will definitely increase their relationship through brand alliance, product purchases or networking.

Now, being the economics junkie that I am, I don’t know of any direct empirical evidence that shows causation between a poor candidate experience and revenue loss, at least not yet. However, a recent Freakonomics podcast on whether or not literal boycotts work did emphasize that, while there were mixed results overall, damage to brand reputation canlead to revenue loss and losing key talent to competitors. And if you want to estimate the potential cost of candidate resentment, we recommend checking out HireRight’s candidate resentment calculator.

The negative outcries online and beyond aren’t boycotts per se, but word of mouth does get around. How many times have you heard people say, “I will never buy a single thing from that company again” based on their customer/candidate experiences?

Again, these visceral experiences can be quite painful. The hot human mess of boom or bust alters our perception and how we respond to every single action and reaction we experience throughout life. Especially those that provide food, shelter and security for our families, communities and countries.

Major changes take time and resources, but what talent acquisition teams could do now to improve candidate communication throughout any part of the recruiting cycle is to do a combination of these four simple things regularly:

  • Thank the candidates for their time – always
  • Follow up with recommendations on what can be improved or what missed the mark
  • End with positive comments about the situation no matter what
  • Not only give positive feedback, but ask for it as well

It’s not easy to scale these direct touches with high-churn positions (high volume hiring), but a combination of relevant and targeted automated communications combined with low volume high touch communication and feedback is what will help.

Employers will always have to deal with candidate resentment, but thinking of their candidates as the primary customers of recruiting, and talent management ultimately, could be the part where candidate experience buoys the bottom line.