CandE Multi-Year Panelists Deliver a Master Class in Sustaining a Great Candidate Experience

We recently hosted a virtual panel discussion during our 2020 CandE Awards Virtual Conference featuring representatives from four remarkable CandE Award-winning companies. What makes them so remarkable? Each company has earned eight CandE Awards based on having some of the highest candidate ratings in our annual benchmark research program. That’s right, we’re talking 32 CandEs among four companies.

Offering what amounted to a master class in sustaining a great candidate experience, the panelists discussed the unique and creative paths their organizations have taken to achieve repeat award-winning results year after year. Attendees were given a rare window into the metrics these organizations have used to measure success, how they built a business case for their efforts, what they’re most proud of, and much more. Like the top 10 CandE Winners this year, companies big and small across industries can and should apply these strategies to their recruiting processes today.

Below we’ve gathered some highlights from our discussion, condensing responses for brevity. We hope you find their wisdom as valuable as we did.

This year, more than ever, Talent Board wishes you and your loved ones a truly peaceful and joyous holiday season.

Be safe and well.


Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

The Panelists

With well over five decades of combined experience, our panelists have an array of responsibilities including talent acquisition, organizational development, oversight of their employment brand, and HR, among others. The four panelists were:

As 8-year CandE Winners, what improvements are you most proud of and how did you sustain them?

Melissa: It’s really tempting to focus on serving internal constituents, but to get the talent attraction process right you really need to put the candidate first. So, I’m most proud of how we’ve kept the candidate at the heart of our decisions. I’m also proud of the fact that we continue to map the candidate journey to the employee experience. Candidates aren’t just candidates when they’re first coming through the door. They remain “candidates” as they move throughout the business. It’s one continuous journey. We work hard to provide a seamless, effortless experience at each transition point of this journey. We’ve also gotten better at making sure incoming candidates really understand AT&T’s values, culture, and what it’s like to work here. We’ve created job preview videos that we constantly refresh so candidates get a truly accurate, comprehensive view of what it’s like to be in a specific role and a specific environment at AT&T.

Stacy: I’m most proud of the fact that for 10 years we’ve been calling our candidates “customers” and treating them accordingly. We want every candidate walking away from their experience feeling like they matter, whether they get the job or not. Our recruiters and hiring mangers spend time with candidates making sure every one of them feels like they matter, even when the person isn’t right for the job. We also give candidates feedback and insights into how they can do better in future interviews.

Bill: At one time, Lockheed Martin relied pretty heavily on brand recognition and people applying to jobs on our career site. At that time, we also had extremely long applications and lots of red tape to clear in order to get hired. Fast-forward to today and we’ve really streamlined and improved all of the touchpoints throughout our process, including the ways we leverage our talent communities. Candidates can actually reach out and ask one of our engineers what it’s like to work here. We’ve also shortened our applications significantly—from 20 minutes to an average of about 4 minutes for a new applicant. And we built in automation where we needed it. For example, we automated our interview scheduling, which is a big help with roughly 50,000 interviews a year. Overall, I’m proudest of our improvement in human interaction with candidates. Most of the candidates we hire today have talked with a talent sourcer, have been personally referred, have met our campus representatives, or had some kind of human interaction rather than just finding their way to us through a career site.

Jonathan: Our overriding philosophy at Colorado Springs Utilities is to make sure every applicant is treated with the same high level of dignity and respect, and to make sure their applications get the diligent review they deserve. One thing we did long ago was to solicit feedback from applicants about our application form to make sure it’s short, easy to complete, and gives us only the information we really need. We also took a look at every part of our continuous feedback loop—application, phone screen, assessment, every stage of the process—to identify what we could do better. This led us to automate certain things and adopt technology that adds value for the candidate while giving us the specific information we need to make the best decisions.

How do you measure candidate experience and the impact on the business? What metrics and analytics are critical to success?

Bill: In addition to looking at the usual talent acquisition metrics, we really do value the things that Lockheed candidates tell us. We use a variety of partners—along with the CandE survey—to gather information and feedback from them. We also tap into recruiter performance, tracking individual candidate experiences to specific recruiters and using the findings to coach our recruiters. We use all of these data to drive strategic investments and course correction when things don’t work out as planned. The data have validated some of the changed we’ve made to our process. In the last year, we’ve created an internal AI team made of up of full-time data scientists dedicated to HR, and they’ve built custom algorithms to help us analyze things like the top 10 to 20 positive and negative phrases from our candidate evaluations. They’ve helped us pinpoint major areas of concern as well as areas of opportunity.

Melissa: At AT&T, we use a variety of surveys conducted with candidates and hiring managers at each interaction point to gather data and metrics. We also measure our effectiveness by determining whether we’re enabling the business to achieve its key priorities … and how well we fill jobs with qualified candidates and, ultimately, engaged employees who are able to deliver on expectations and needs. Another thing we look closely at is the recruiting team’s impact on AT&T’s overall brand health. We’re an important connection and interaction point with consumers, and we have the opportunity to shape their perceptions.

Jonathan: We use surveys as well, conducted at various stages of the recruiting process to spot trends. One metric we look at closely across the organization is quality of hire. Actually, this single metric is made up of several different metrics woven together including performance data. At the one-year mark, for example, we circle back with the employee to learn whether our company is still a good fit for them and whether they’d recommend it to others.

How did you build the business case to make recruiting improvement investments, whether they were technologies, staffing or both?

Melissa: We tied our case back to the business’s key priorities in a way that was strongly linked to our culture. Our culture is built on four pillars: serve customers first, move faster, act boldly, and win as one. So, in making our case, we had to show our investments would drive these four pillars and enable our culture. We also had to be able to quantify what the returns to the business would be and how the investments would differentiate AT&T in the talent marketplace. We even identified how the investments would deliver on what matters to our customers and employees—diversity and inclusiveness, for example, in ways that tie back to business results.

Stacy: Because of our growth as a company, we were fortunate at Deluxe not to have a lot of resistance to recruiting investments. But, given the challenges we face today, such as COVID-19, when we do want to make an investment—in an employment brand site, for instance—we need to show what the return to the business will be.

Jonathan: At Colorado Springs Utilities, we need to justify our investments in terms of improved efficiencies and, ultimately, their value to the customer. Because we’re a utility company, we’re basically a nonprofit, which means we don’t have a lot of money to throw around. Every dollar we invest—whether it’s in human capital or technology—is scrutinized for its potential impact to our rates. We need to keep our rates as low as possible for our local community.

Looking beyond 2020, what are you most excited about for your organization, recruiting, hiring and candidate experience?

Jonathan: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we bring people into the company. Historically, that was done in person but now we’re doing a lot more virtual recruiting and onboarding. So, we need to make sure this process is as robust as possible, and we need to get more efficient at preparing candidates and making them available to our hiring managers.

Stacy: At Deluxe, we’re most excited about the upcoming work we’ll be doing to showcase our diversity and inclusiveness efforts. We’re going to expand a lot of our storytelling on our career site so that it’s much more clear to candidates.

Melissa: At A&T, we’re excited about how we use technology and process improvements to drive transparency, particularly in a world that almost mandates immediate access to information. We’re thinking about how we measure the performance of our staff, how to get those 5-star ratings from candidates, how to better facilitate interaction between candidates and our recruiters and hiring managers. We’re also excited about where we can use data, technology, and process improvements to drive real change along with greater diversity and inclusion. For example, we’re using labor pool availability data to gauge in real time whether our candidates meet or exceed labor pool availability and ensure that we’re passing diverse, qualified candidates to our hiring managers.

Bill: Since none of us know when we’re going to come out on the other side of the pandemic, we really need to get less reliant on in-person interaction. We’ve been working with some really great partners on enabling a “touchless” experience through technology. In fact, we’ve been able to accelerate some of our investments in these areas, and we’re making some strong long-term plans. As an organization, we’re becoming more flexible in terms of how we think about the jobs we offer. We’re reclassifying some jobs that, until now, we wouldn’t have considered as fill-time, teleworking roles. The circumstances we’re all dealing with today aren’t the circumstances we’d want, but we’re doing what we can to adapt and make the best of the situation.

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