Improve candidate experience without falling for hype
In a world where technology changes constantly, increasing users’ expectations, businesses in all sectors have to adapt their strategies to keep up – not only with their customers, but with their candidates as well. With the ubiquity of social media, the rise of new platforms with younger generations, and the promised efficiency of automation – it’s very easy to fall for the hype and lose out on the real value of these new channels and platforms.
Our recent research found that, when ranking the factors that determine a good candidate experience, candidates overwhelmingly prioritise access to sufficient information about roles and working life, receiving feedback on their application, and the opportunity to speak with current employees. There is a danger that focusing on efficiency will lead to over-investment in tools and initiatives that won’t push the needle for your top talent.
Here, we break down three of the main myths about digital recruitment, and offer some practical advice on how to get real results to improve your candidate experience and employer brand with new technology and trends.
Myth: “Today’s candidates are all about social media, we need to have a presence everywhere – Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat – you name it!”
The importance of a social media recruitment strategy isn’t the debate; 67% of candidates use social media to gain insights into company culture (Robert Walters) and 73% of companies have successfully hired a candidate with social media (JobCast).
However, just having a presence across a few platforms isn’t enough. Instagram might be the best way to communicate with your target demographic, but what are you saying? Photos of your company’s annual bake-off and the office dog are an excellent starting point, but they’re not enough to help a potential hire make a decision about taking a role.
Research from professional recruitment consultancy Robert Walters reveals that candidates want corporate social media profiles to provide a range of insights. 76% of candidates surveyed look to discover generic information on the company and its operations, and 67% also look for pointers on cultural values. Around half expect details of future strategy, and 54% hope to discover more about the opportunities for career progression. Without delivering content that answers these questions and provides value to your target candidates, you won’t see an impact.
Worse still, having a presence without having impact could actually be counterproductive; if candidates don’t get the information they need from you, they’ll turn to other sources. Research from CEB global shows that candidates find 80% of the information they use in assessing a potential employer from sources other than the company itself. When candidates head to third party websites like Glassdoor and Fairygodboss to form their opinion of you, you lose control of the narrative (and employer brand).
Fact: Social media strategies to improve candidate experience give candidates the content they want, where they already are.
What content to create
The first thing you need to do is identify which types of content matter to your candidates. For example, the banking sector faces a bigger challenge than before with recruiting recent graduates. Banking students rank the sector as 2nd in attractiveness, falling behind the growing Tech sector as soon as 2022. Research by Deloitte and Randstad found that banking is seen as “less cool” and less diverse than challenger sectors like technology and media.
For example, when banking-oriented students in the UK are deciding which bank they’d like to work for, they prioritise:
- Whether the role will be intellectually challenging
- What the work/life balance is like
- Whether there is opportunity to travel internationally
- What kind of career progression and leadership opportunities are offered
For a bank trying to recruit top students into a graduate scheme, this means focusing their efforts on demonstrating how their organisation is tackling these important topics.
How to produce it
Let’s say you’re a bank with great parental leave options, an LGBTQIA+ network on site, and a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace. This is likely to go a long way in reassuring concerns around diversity.
A starting point is to post links to your policies on Twitter. However, this might lack real punch or credibility — stories about diversity and culture should come from employees. Employees are seen as the most credible and reliable source of information about what it’s like to work at a company. And for information about work/life balance, office culture, and working environment diversity, employees will be able to tell a more accurate and compelling story than your HR policy guide ever could.
Where to share it
Once you know which content you want to share (in this case, diversity and culture information), and how you want to produce it (employee stories), you can start planning the where. Social media platforms are plentiful, and which platform is best will depend on your target demographic. If we’re targeting students, we should focus on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter — all are most popular with 18-35 year olds. Using features like Instagram Stories or Facebook Live is a great idea for sharing employee-created content, but the focus should remain on what value the content adds to the candidate experience, rather than on the novel method of sharing.
A great example of a company using Instagram well is CRM provider Salesforce, who run a dedicated @salesforcejobs page. While admittedly there is a surfeit of office dogs and Hawaiian shirts on their feed, they manage to strike the right balance between that and more useful content such as their position on global employee satisfaction indexes and reposts of employee photos — providing genuine insight into what it’s like to work for the business. What’s more, the flow of communication on the account isn’t just one way — Salesforce’s recruitment team actively replies to candidate questions and comments on posts, offering the two-way engagement and transparency that 18-35 year olds prioritise.
Myth: “We need to redesign our website and careers page to look fresher and more modern – candidates will love it.”
Updating your website with a slicker, more modern design will appeal to your candidates and leave them with a good impression of your brand. However, it’s not enough to convince them to apply for a role with your company on its own. 64% of job seekers surveyed by the Talent Board listed career sites as a top resource channel for researching new opportunities.
However, 57% of candidates reported that employers fail to share important information such as ‘day-in-the-life’ stories.
According to The Talent Board’s 2015 Candidate Experience Research report the top ranked websites for candidate experience (CandE Award winners) offer examples of career progression and other content important to candidates more frequently than all other participating companies.
Fact: You need to update the content on your careers page – not just the design.
First, assess your website and careers page with a critical eye – does it include the most important factors for creating a positive candidate experience? Specifically, sufficient information about the role and working there, and opportunities to engage with current employees? Does your website cover the key issues for candidates in your sector? The bank in our earlier example should ensure figures and policies around diversity and inclusivity initiatives are prominent in their working culture information.
Once you’ve assessed your website and careers page, it’s time to start creating content that will close the gap.
- Create, or beef up your FAQs. A great example is Citi’s FAQ which goes beyond questions on the application process; including questions like, “How does Citi support work/life balance in its culture?”
- Use a tool that will allow candidates to ask your employees questions about working at your company – preferably one that also integrates with your social media channels, allowing easy sharing of employee stories.
An example of a company doing this well is Marks & Spencer — their careers page covers key information like diversity and learning & development, as well as giving applicants the ability to engage directly with employees in the Inside M&S section. It’s well-designed, of course, but it also provides the content that candidates want most, for example concrete stories of employees responding to this question “What is the career progression in retail management in M&S?”.
Myth: “We should be using top of the line automation to maximise efficiency in our hiring processes, or candidates won’t apply.”
Automation, whether that’s an applicant tracking system (ATS) or chatbot, is often perceived by recruitment departments as being more efficient than traditional channels of communication. However, while it’s true that automation used well — say for candidate screening or answering candidate FAQs — can improve efficiency, it can also go too far, as businesses end up prioritising the expediency offered by automation over valuable content and interaction with candidates.
Research from Randstad US demonstrates this: a survey of 1,200 U.S. jobseekers in August 2017 revealed that 82% of respondents were “often frustrated with an overly automated job search experience.” A further 87% noted “technology has made the job search process more impersonal”, and almost everyone (95%) agreed that automation should “assist the recruiting experience, not replace it.”
Fact: Automation isn’t a priority for candidates, and it’s not enough on its own to improve candidate experience.
82% of respondents to a Randstad survey agreed with the statement: “the ideal interaction with a company is one where innovative technologies are behind the scenes and second to personal, human interaction.” This is where any automation you use is best employed: processing administrative tasks such as sending updates or answering common questions more efficiently. This adds value to the candidate experience by providing them with content they need quickly and reliably.
For example, an ATS is great for keeping candidates updated on the application process, issuing reminders of deadlines, receipt of application, or even delivering general application tips. What it’s not, is a substitute for elements of the hiring process that require a more detailed or human touch such as qualitative application feedback, more comprehensive role or business information, and tips specific to an individual candidate.
Likewise, while chatbots are excellent at providing instant responses to FAQs and retrieving information or content from your website, they’re no substitute for stories from existing employees on what it’s like to work for you, from the people best placed to answer.
The key is playing to automation’s strengths. For aspects of the candidate experience where expediency is likely to add value, such as process notifications or answers to general FAQs, harness automation. In a world of limited resources and time, automation is necessary to improve efficiency, but it shouldn’t be a primary concern when looking at ways to improve candidate experience. Automation isn’t your candidates’ priority – so it shouldn’t be yours.