Create A Great Candidate Experience to Recruit the Right Fit

By Kathleena O’Connell, Marketing Specialist, ACA Talent

Finding a job is easy, but finding the right career can be like gnawing through metal.

Before landing my marketing position at ACA Talent, my experience as a candidate was frustrating and discouraging. Searching for the right career with the right company was a long process. I knew precisely what I was looking for in my next move; I was looking for the complete package, including a role that challenged me, a company culture that matched my values, a pleasant office environment, an ideal location, a competitive salary and benefits package, and room for growth.

In short, I was looking for a home; naturally, I was picky about where my time was going to be invested.

My search consumed my spare time and took my full commitment. I was systematic in my approach, and kept a log of everywhere I applied and followed up daily. On my lunch breaks, I dropped off resumes and introduced myself to companies; this also gave me a chance to scope out the office environment. That’s when I would be offered interviews or meet the right people, but there were times I would politely decline interviews if the office environment was undesirable.

If I called to follow up and the person on the other end was curt or rude, I never called back and moved on to the next. That told me enough about the company culture to know I wouldn’t be a fit there either. In this way, I was interviewing companies too, because there’s only so much information you can find on the Internet about an organization.

On the flip side, a company that appeared attractive on the Internet might turn out to be a poor fit in person. This is why my search took so much dedication.

The biggest struggle I had was my resume. At the time, I was switching industries but also had some transferable skills with an all-star work ethic and an eagerness to learn and grow. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always enough. I was rejected a lot and very discouraged. My resume is just a piece of paper, but it’s not who I am. Week after week I was dressing it up as much as possible, but it just wouldn’t shine. The only thing I could keep doing was my best. Apply, follow up in person, and network. I marshaled all of my resources, although I felt like my search came down to my resume.

After eight months of dedication and persistence of searching for the right career, I was finally offered a position as a Marketing Specialist at ACA Talent where everything on my list was checked off. Interestingly enough, I live by their motto, “Humanization.”

Both candidates and companies are looking for the same thing: the right fit. Here are some recommendations I have for employers when it comes building a great candidate experience to recruit the right fit for their companies.

  1. Look beyond the resume. As candidates, especially when we fill out long applications and end up in an applicant tracking system, we all feel like we are just a piece of paper. If something stands out on a resume but that person doesn’t meet all of the requirements, call your candidates and ask a few questions. Their answers may surprise you; a candidate you may have dismissed may turn out to have hidden skill sets or be a great fit for another role in your company. Never be in a rush to make a mistake.
  2. Consider persistent candidates. From an employer’s standpoint, I can understand how exhausting it is to review resume after resume. However, if you have a candidate that is calling you and being persistent (but not invasive or annoying), give them a chance to introduce themselves. Some suggestions are to have him or her write an email briefly introducing themselves with their background and what they are looking for. You can also take the time to chat for a few minutes over the phone for a dose of tone and personality.
  3. Phone interview first. To familiarize yourself with the candidate, it’s a good idea to have a short interview over the phone with the person to ask preliminary questions as well as review the role and the company. In this case, the hiring manager can get a feel for personality and determine next steps.
  4. Make the interview less of an interview. Interviews can be nerve-racking experiences for many candidates, and they might not shine like they would in a more relaxed situation. Consider breaking the ice first before launching into the interview to make it feel more like a business meeting and less like an interrogation. That does take skill, practice, and patience, but it keeps the energy in the room positive.
  5. Assign a small project. The last thing any candidate wants to do is have a little project to do that they aren’t paid for over the weekend. However, if this candidate is serious about the position, he or she will put the time and effort in. Refrain from assigning an outrageous and time-consuming project; any assignment should take less than an hour for the candidate to complete. This will give the employer insight as to the candidate’s direction of thinking, how effectively he or she communicates thoughts and ideas, and writing skills.

Overall, the finding the right fit is just as challenging for the candidate as it is for the company. What you see on paper is not always what you get in person. Take the time to find the right candidate and don’t overlook those candidates who are persistent. The real substance is not the resume, but the candidate seeking you out.