Tracking Down the Online Candidate Experience

By Kevin Grossman

In 2016, 47 percent of job applicants reported that they hadn’t heard back from employers more than two to three-plus months after submitting applications. This figure rose to 52 percent in 2017, according to the latest data from the North American Candidate Experience benchmark research.

Although many employers agree they don’t want everybody applying again, these statistics represent a missed opportunity with possible “future fit” candidates.

The sad fact is pizza buyers are treated with more care than these job candidates. Literally. In 2008, Domino’s launched its Pizza Tracker—an online tool that tells customers the status of their pizza from the moment they place an order. Customers know when their pizza is being prepped, when it’s in the oven, when it’s being quality checked, and when it’s gone out the door for delivery. The Pizza Tracker has been a phenomenal success.

Why? Because it makes customers feel informed and respected. The Domino’s tool was such a hit, in fact, that Papa John’s and Pizza Hut eventually both launched their own tracking tools.

I think it’s time we took a page from their playbook and kept job candidates thoroughly informed of their application status. Two or three months of radio silence from employers is just plain unacceptable, regardless of the initial automated response that might have gone out.


Where Improvements Are Happening

Full disclosure: the number of applicants who are having an overall positive candidate experience and are also able to track the progress of their application status has risen over the past few years. But judging by those statistics above, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Historically, the application phase has been the most troubled part of the candidate experience—for both applicants and employers. Thousands of company job sites are as difficult and confusing for applicants to utilize as they are for employers to maintain and manage.

Although the trend today is to collapse the time it takes to apply online, too many applicants are still forced to fill out long, complex and often redundant forms, which generates a ton of data for employers to process and track on the back end. And despite all of their effort, too many recruiters can’t keep up with the deluge of applications pouring in—which again results in the 52 percent of candidates who never hear back after two to three months.

Although employers continue to struggle with timely applicant communications, they have been improving the application process itself. Many Candidate Experience Awards winners like Humana, for example, recently implemented new technology and redesigned its application process to speed things along for its candidates. So has New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Capital One rolled out a mobile application to accommodate the growing number of candidates who prefer to use mobile channels, and it launched a mobile referrals program that now account for 40% of its referrals. Plus there are employers like BASF whose Careers sites are telling candidates “what to expect” during the application process and beyond, including next steps.

Clearly, employers must bring this same sense of urgency to applicant communications—as Johnson & Johnson has done with its newly launched J&J Shine platform. It makes the entire application process more transparent and gives applicants the ability to track their progress in real time.

“Research has told us that the job application process can be a total black box experience, so we’re literally shining a light on it—giving applicants the respect they deserve,” said Johnson & Johnson’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Sjoerd Gehring, when their platform launched. J&J Shine also gives applicants access to articles and videos that match where they are in the hiring process, along with content that helps them get more familiar with the company.


How To Improve Your Own Application Process

So what’s the best way to begin following the example of CandE Award winning companies like Johnson & Johnson and many others?

  • Walk a mile in your candidate’s shoes. The only way to know whether your current apply process is efficient and working to everyone’s advantage is to experience for yourself. In other words, apply to your own jobs. If you find yourself struggling through the process, you need to admit the process in broken and then take steps to change it. CandE Award winning companies do this on a regular basis and improve their processes incrementally.
  • Identify exactly what you’re doing once candidates apply. Are you responding with more than an automated email? Are you setting expectations with applicants on how long the process will take? Are you reaching out to applicants on a regular basis with status updates—especially when the process takes weeks or months to complete? If you answered no to any of these questions, you can bet applicants are less than thrilled and letting their colleagues, social networks and online review sites know about it.
  • Ask for applicant feedback throughout the process. A whopping 79% of applicants who had a one-star (terrible) candidate experience were never asked for feedback by employers. Applicants are eager to give you insights that can transform your candidate experience and put it miles ahead of your competitors. Unfortunately, many employers are missing out on this amazing opportunity for improvement. Don’t be one of them.

These are just a few of the steps you can take to improve your application process and develop an award-winning employer brand. Improving your overall candidate experience doesn’t only impact your reputation as an employer. It also significantly impacts your bottom line:

  • The cost of a poor candidate experience can potentially be in the millions of dollars per year, according to years of North American Candidate Experience research. And incremental improvements to your candidate experience can go a long way toward increasing revenues and referrals.
  • 46% of job applicants who had negative candidates experience promise to take their future job applications, referrals to friends and colleagues, and even their purchases to other companies. Conversely, 74% of applicants who had positive candidate experiences say they’ll definitely increase their relationships as a result.

At the end of the day, organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Humana, New York-Presbyterian and Capital One are interested in the same crucial objectives: to improve their talent acquisition process and deliver a great candidate experience – which is a great customer experience. While technology has helped them accomplish this to some degree, it’s their empathy and a willingness to change that enabled their most meaningful improvements.

These organizations have put themselves in their applicant’s shoes, conducted honest self-assessments, and made necessary adjustments to their strategies and processes. Now, they’re reaping some very well-deserved rewards. Follow their examples and you will, too.


Kevin W. Grossman
President, Global Programs
Talent Board

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