Macro Impact with Micro Experiences in the Candidate Journey

David BernsteinBy David Bernstein
February 13th, 2023 • 6 Minutes

Virtually every company wants to provide a positive candidate experience. You’re apt to attract more applicants, find and hire top talent, streamline the hiring process internally and build an employer brand that stands out from the competition. 

Though, if you want to intentionally cultivate a seamless and candidate-centric experience, it’s time to look more closely at the entire spectrum of your talent acquisition processes. Learning how “micro experiences” influence the candidate journey can help you develop a strategic plan to optimize each one, and ultimately, construct a more efficient, effective and positive experience for everyone involved. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

The Candidate Experience Can Be Complex

Unfortunately, most articles, podcasts and “experts” oversimplify the candidate experience. By examining the recruitment process holistically, they gloss over important details.

That sort of bird’s-eye view simply isn’t helpful. Recruitment professionals need to dial into the core problems that affect job seekers and the challenges of today’s hiring strategies. Otherwise, there will be details that go overlooked and underestimated, and those points could mean all the difference in your company’s recruitment marketing efforts.

In other words, you need to think about what makes each candidate’s experience wholly unique. No two applicants will go through the same process, even if they’re applying for the same position, because every candidate will have a series of “micro experiences” that they encounter individually from the moment they enter your recruitment pipeline.

A granular understanding of these experiences can give you better insight into your recruiting methods and promote better satisfaction for job seekers as well as your company.

From Candidate Experience to the Candidate Journey

It may be easier to highlight these micro experiences by shifting the vocabulary from “candidate experience” to “candidate journey”. While the candidate experience is typically used as a way to summarize how the candidate feels at the end of their journey, the candidate journey includes all of the interactions that help to inform it. 

Think of the candidate journey as the sum total of all the interactions each prospect has with your company. Their journey begins the moment they first encounter your marketing content or job posting and continues all the way through the onboarding process to their first day on the job and all the steps in between.

The challenge lies in the fact that there are many things that influence the candidate journey, and not all of them are under your control. Even a candidate’s assumptions about your company or industry can influence their willingness to engage in the hiring process. A clear branding strategy can provide candidates with a better understanding of your company culture, but it’s important to integrate that branding strategy into the larger candidate journey.

If you take a closer look, the candidate journey represents everything that the candidate goes through from beginning to end. Their journey begins the moment they first encounter your marketing content or job posting and continues all the way through their first day on the job. 

Each micro experience has an impact on how the candidate will rate their overall experience. 

Candidates may find patterns throughout their journey. If a single interaction occurs that is somewhat negative from their perspective, that negative sentiment may be amplified if it frequently occurs (e.g. lack of timely or clear communications). This is why the phrase “candidate experience” is much more complex than simply a sum of individual micro experiences.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all micro experiences have equal weighting in the personal algorithm that the candidate will use to rate their overall experience. 

Bad Candidate Experiences Are Common

No one sets out to design a bad candidate experience, but job seekers report that bad experiences happen all too often.

While each individual is unique, there are common themes when you survey job seekers. 

For instance, 46% of post-pandemic job seekers report that employers are “unresponsive”. A shocking 34% of job seekers were unable to secure any interviews, and nearly half (47%) of job seekers found themselves looking for opportunities outside of their career field, citing a lack of jobs in their industry.

Recruiters feel the pain as well. Tiffany Dybna, a recruiter in the tech sector, told the New York Times that job seekers “think we’re used car salesmen”. Her attempts to contact prospective applicants have been met with skepticism and a surprising rate of decline. 

In an age where applicants hold all the power, it’s more important than ever to redesign the talent acquisition process to eliminate friction and deliver a better candidate experience.

How to Improve Your Talent Acquisition Pipeline

Having sketched out the problem, here are some initial strategies to help you address the candidate journey and improve your acquisition process:

Understand the Process From the Inside Out

Experience is the best teacher, so give the candidate journey a shot by applying to your own jobs. Doing so will give you a clear understanding of how well your career site actually works. Read the emails that you receive in return. Determine whether they are clear and timely, and consider how interviews are scheduled and conducted. Is feedback provided to each candidate?

Going through this process will help you better understand the candidate’s experience, and it can highlight areas of weakness that you need to address to improve the experience for future job seekers. It will also help you see your employer branding materials in a new light, potentially prompting you to refine your content to better reflect your current company culture.

Having more than one person go through this process can also give you fresh insight into your hiring strategy. Others may offer a different perspective that can improve your process and message.

Set the Right Priorities

After you’ve identified areas of opportunity for improvement, prioritize changes that will provide the biggest bang for your buck. 

If you aren’t sure where to start, consider whether you have feedback from past applicants. You may discover recurring problems in your messaging, communication or other key areas. These might be the issues you should tackle first, and you can expand your priorities as you move forward.

Make sure that you don’t stop there. It’s tempting to tackle a problem and quickly move on as if the issue has been completely resolved. Instead, use that initial challenge as the starting point of an ongoing conversation about how to improve the candidate journey you provide and develop a plan that aligns with your company’s goals.

Mindset, Skillset, Toolset

It’s true that the right tools can improve your internal processes, but these sorts of improvements are lower in priority compared to mindsets and skill sets.

HR professionals should work hard to cultivate the right company mindset. Adopting a candidate-focused approach will enable you to be more proactive and reach applicants with a message that speaks to their needs while highlighting the strengths of your company.

Mastering the right skills can likewise ensure that you have the capacity to address the needs of today’s job candidates. Any tools that you implement should therefore be an extension of your skill set rather than a quick fix.

Make Communication a Priority

As we mentioned earlier, nearly half of post-pandemic job seekers described employers as “unresponsive”. Few things tank the candidate experience more than inconsistent, unclear communication. A lack of communication will not only frustrate your job applicants but will also tarnish your company’s reputation.

Don’t forget that many recruitment websites allow applicants to leave reviews. You want these reviews to align with your broader employer branding strategy, and failing to respond to potential candidates can result in negative reviews that can deter other prospective applicants down the line.

Automated responses can prevent candidates from feeling ignored or dismissed, but it’s also important for recruiters to stay on top of the acquisition pipeline, providing more personalized feedback as candidates move through the process.

Improve the Recruiter Experience

One of the most important ways to fix the candidate experience is to fix the recruiter experience. Recruiting managers bear great responsibility when it comes to recruitment marketing, employer branding and managing the acquisition pipeline. 

Too often, recruiting teams are asked to have superhuman powers. Recruiters and recruitment marketers are asked to support an extraordinary number of requisitions, manage a tremendous amount of administrative work and use disconnected systems. 

Plus, they are expected to serve as experts on a large number of topics (i.e. labor market data and analytics, recruitment marketing, branding, sales, negotiations, etc.). It’s no wonder that it’s often difficult to expect that each and every candidate interaction will go smoothly. 

Too often, these individuals are expected to be experts at a wide variety of administrative tasks but lack the resources to devote to improving the candidate journey. But, the right tools can fix that. 

Digital platforms can give recruiters greater end-to-end visibility of the talent acquisition pipeline. Not only does this streamline the process for recruiters, but it can minimize the number of applicants who “slip through the cracks” and later label your company as unresponsive.

Companies can also invest in recruiters themselves through training and continuing education programs. Providing access to conferences, webinars and other opportunities can help them refine their skill sets, and it can also be a good way to keep your recruiters engaged and satisfied in their own positions.

Connect With Top Talent

In many ways, the post-pandemic recruitment landscape has been inverted, placing more power in the hands of job applicants. That’s why hiring teams need to understand the “micro experiences” that candidates go through as they proceed through your hiring pipeline. Making adjustments to the candidate journey can improve the final experience and help you better connect with top talent. 

Improving your “candidate’s experience” will be a journey unto itself. As Lao Tzu famously said, “The journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step.” What’s critical is that you pick the path and begin the journey. Your candidates, recruiters and your company will be better for it!

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