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“I had the most AMAZING interview today!”

This is this kind of candidate experience that employers should deliver. On this occasion, the comment wasn’t made because the candidate got the job, it was made because the experience the employer delivered stood out, regardless of the outcome.

Candidate experience is trending right now. To be fair, it’s been a long time coming. As the talent market shrinks to levels not seen since pre-2008, organisations need to be smarter and work harder to not just attract talent, but to stand out as an employer of choice in a highly competitive marketplace. This is particularly important for SME’s.

"Standing out in a competitive talent market requires creativity and attention to every detail of the candidate journey"

If you look at the latest events and awards such as the CandE Awards and Inhouse Recruitment Network awards, the same names are popping up again and again. And these companies are likely to dominate the candidate experience space until other companies catch up. Pepsi, LV=, L’Oreal, Deloitte and PWC are all striving to create a great place to work, and they are using the positive buzz about their workplaces to attract talent externally.

If you’re thinking about improving your candidate experience, here are some ideas that will help you do just that.

Internal stakeholders

First of all, start from the inside out. Build a great environment for candidates to come into. From resourcing, management and senior leaders, make sure that whoever is a human touch point to candidates is delivering a consistent message, brand and employer vision that is positive and inspiring.

Most hiring managers require some form of interview or employer brand training. A well conducted interview that is positive, challenging, engaging and supportive is essential to wooing talent. You want candidates to leave the interview or assessment thinking, “Wow, this company and person has the ‘x’ factor, and I want to work with them.” You want candidates making an immediate emotional and career connection from that first interview.

Many times during the initial interview process, too much focus is on the idea of ‘what are you going to do for us?’ Companies are far too worried about having talent prove themselves and not enough on ‘selling’ what they have to offer in terms of vision, values and the amazing work experience they can provide that will get candidates jumping out of bed every morning, excited to come to work. Remember that it’s a two way sell after all.

Everyone that is a touchpoint for your candidates has to understand the value of employer branding and candidate experience. They must be prepared to uphold and defend the reputation you create. All it takes is one hiring manager to dismiss the importance of candidate experience or employer brand, and it can effect reputation of the entire company.


AirBnB have kindly shared fantastic insight into how they work hard on candidate experience. (Candidate Experience Makeover and Talent Connect Keynote).

A simple start involves grabbing a bunch of post-it notes, a white board and the key stakeholders of your company. You can then map out, in detail, the candidate journey and associated touch points they go through from the first time they see the job brief to their first day in the chair. Focus on the details.

Does a particular touch point generate an email? What’s the content, language, look and feel? Do you want it formal, quirky, fun or engaging? What fits best with your brand?

Review your ATS. Think about any automated responses or invitations. Are they personalised? Do they offer support, or does the tone feel cold and uninviting?

If you’re unsuccessful in acquiring a top candidate, what can you learn from their experience and how it affected their decision? Are there changes you can make to your process to be successful the next time? How can you put this in a positive and supportive light?

Once the recruitment process is mapped, you can start to wrap the relevant actions and output around each of the touch points. These will typically relate to people, systems, process and content.

"In a recent survey conducted, only 38% of candidates received any information prior to their actual interview other than a date and location"

Before a person enters your reception for an interview, they’ve already created a perception of your business. The content you publish or proactively send people directly impact these perceptions and set the tone.

If the stats above provide an indication, 62% and probably a proportion of the 38% mentioned are missing an opportunity to enhance employer brand and imbed a positive reputation.

The next time you print off an airline confirmation, take a look around the details relating to your flight. It’s covered with guidance to your departure, your luggage; it’s cross selling rental cars, hotels and services. They take the opportunity at that single touch point to cram other services, make sales and, most importantly, ‘support’ the customer if they require it.

Print off your confirmation of interview and consider the perceptions it creates. What could you include to support your candidates and embed your employer brand?

Some ideas would be links to your brand aligned career site, helpful resources to support preparation, video content or candidate packs, things that will embed your employer brand, culture and support preparation.

I remember a few years back when Virgin Mobile sent candidates an introductory video, a leaflet detailing culture and values, a tea bag and a Kit-Kat bar requesting you sit down, take a break and watch the video with a cup of tea.

It stood out and got people talking about the brand positively. Well crafted emails, documentation, support documents or job descriptions tell more about you as an employer than you realise. If a candidate is comparing you to other opportunities, it’s the small details that can make the difference.

As a simple task, take an hour out of your day. Print off email templates, job descriptions, interview invites and any content you send to candidates. Lay them out on a table with your candidate journey touch points. How does it look and feel? Where can you improve?

Getting into detail with your candidate journey and delivering a great experience significantly increases your ability to secure talent, improve interview to placement ratios and increase overall employer brand sentiment. With some simple tweaks and a bit of creativity, this is more than achievable for any business.

Have you had a great experience before? Where have you seen organisations be creative in how they deliver the candidate journey? I’d love to hear from you.

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