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You Lost Me at Hello.

Last week, one of my friends was sharing their frustrating chronicle of applying for a job at a local retail establishment. As you can imagine, all of my friends come to me with such tales. My wonderful friend has a Master’s degree and 37 years of work experience. She is a retired principal who wants to get out in the community. She went to apply online to a said establishment, and, well, let’s just say that the online application experience was… less than welcoming. She recalled, “It was an online equivalent to visit to the DMV. I gave up after thirty minutes.” I laughed, sighed and then shook my head in disgust. A great candidate to any organization, and it’s over before it even started.

Great companies adopt the core principle of treating applicants as customers. In our blog earlier this year we described the William Wallace Effect. We included a formula that we use in all of our business case work. It highlights a realistic formula for calculating the cost of a negative experience – which drives the resolution that a positive experience can drastically change these numbers.

You Lost Me at Hello.

As you can see – it can be bad business. I’ve positioned this line of thinking in various verticals, and while some would say it’s only important in consumer goods or retail, I will argue that it is valid for all industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and power and energy. It’s just bad business to abandon this core principle.

There is an inherent relationship between the business cycle and the balance of power between corporations and candidates. In good times, there is a scarcity of candidates, which swings the balance of power towards candidates. And in bad times, like the last couple of years, there are too many candidates to handle. This is very challenging for recruiting organizations because they are always asked to reduce resources right when the applicant volume is high. As I like to say, in a down economy recruiting organizations take a visit to “Camp Overwhelm”. But this is no excuse to neglect dedication to a positive candidate experience.

What is a positive candidate experience? Many people answer this question by saying that it means to treat all candidates equally. While that is an appropriate answer from a regulatory perspective, it does not cultivate what is necessary to win the best talent. The foundation for a positive candidate experience is a recruiting process where the candidate feels acknowledged and respected for who they are and what they have done. It treats the candidate like a human being – not a as a risk to be mitigated. The manifestation of this idea is an application process that addresses different groups and is job specific. Some characteristics of a positive candidate experience are:

  • Career portals based on type (i.e. college/new grad vs. professional vs. frontline)
  • Application process tied to the type of position or role. (i.e. requesting a resume for a salary based position, completing an assessment questionnaire for a frontline position)
  • Mobile Enablement – (i.e. providing tools for the applicant to check status, and follow up via their mobile devices)
  • Social media connections – (i.e. importing a Linked-in profile vs. asking for a resume or completing an application)
  • Extending the candidate experience back to the company brand, values, products, services (i.e. coupons for discounted products, name registration for newsletter, private invitations to social events/meetings/games)

The candidate experience is everything, my friends. Some companies really get it, but most pretend to get it when the weather is good. I couldn’t be more passionate about this topic, so much so, that I plan to debate the importance of candidate experience with the venerable Gerry Crispin at the upcoming HR Technology Conference. He’s a friend and mentor to me, but we’ve agreed to debate both sides of this argument in the service of industry evolution. During the debate, I’ve promised not to refer to him as “Darth Crispin.” The gauntlet has been thrown.

I am feverishly compiling my notes, refining my case studies, and interviewing my witnesses. I can disclose that I will be sharing hard facts on the value of a positive applicant experience and how it correlates to better business performance in the retail and healthcare sectors. I’ll also ready to shine a light on the social and viral impacts of treating candidates….as customers. I can only imagine the preparation of my opponent.