Building a Better Recruiting Experience: How First Impressions Make or Break the Hiring Process

by Patricia Brown, HR Administrator Manager, ACA Talent

In recent years, the candidate experience has become an increasingly important part of effective recruiting, especially with the advent of social networks, viral marketing, and blogging.

Companies have more ways than before of building their candidate pools. Tech savvy employers using multiple sources are able generate an influx of candidates. Yet, online channels allow not just employers, but potential employees to spread the word, good or bad, about job opportunities on a larger scale. For some employers, the ramifications of such widespread sharing can be downright scary.

So how can employers strike a balance between engaging with potential recruits and ensuring a positive candidate experience?

Where the Applicant Experience Turns Sour

The candidate’s first impression of the organization can make or break the hiring process. At best, it can sway a candidate who might be on the fence about the company; at worst, it can derail recruitment efforts through bad PR.

During this phase, the candidate is looking for as much information about the organization as possible, and companies have a variety of tools in their recruitment arsenal. This initial interaction is most often achieved through internal career sites, help wanted ads, job board listings, career fairs, employment agencies, social networking, conventions, neighborhood events, and the tried-and-true word-of-mouth.

Yet, it’s not enough to simply solicit applications. Where many hiring processes come unglued is by not reaching out to candidates and establishing a connection.

We have all heard the horror stories from candidates who enquire or interview for a position, never to hear from the recruiter again. This alone has potential to damage the employer’s reputation as candidates—through those social media and online channels companies rely on these days—spread the word about faulty hiring processes.

In fact, a recent CareerBuilder Applicant Experience survey revealed that 78% of candidates say they would definitely tell people about a bad experience with a prospective employer.

The same survey went on to reveal the top reasons for a negative candidate experience:

1. Inadequate information available on open positions and the company culture
2. Career site not user-friendly
3. Long application process
4. Complicated and or outdated application process
5. No application/interview follow-up

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

As an employer, you should pose the question: how is our organization’s candidate experience unique to that of the competition? Are we selling jobs or selling the overall employment experience?

To catch the attention of top applicants, employers must make selling jobs a thing of the past and consider the candidate experience as a means of establishing your organization’s employment brand. To do this, your company should:

1. Invest resources in the organization’s career site. (Is it functional, easy to use, and informative?)
2. Streamline the application. (It should take around 10-15 minutes to complete.)
3. Ensure candidates are able to upload documents effortlessly, and that the application flows in a logical manner.
4. Establish a candidate follow-up procedure. (At the bare minimum, an automated message should be created to thank and acknowledge candidates.)

This is where employers have a chance to distinguish themselves from the competition—and hire some great talent. While generating interest and buzz about open positions is more important than ever, fostering a rapport with candidates at the beginning of the hiring process is critical to driving a successful recruitment operation.