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With Choice Comes Power: 3 Candidate Experience Differentiators for Job Seekers

We receive them every year – direct comments from you, the job seeker, who received our Talent Board benchmark research survey from an employer you had applied to.

Sometimes they’re brief. Sometimes they’re ugly. Sometimes they’re positive. And sometimes the feedback is quite lengthy and full of recruiting process, communication and recommendations, as if they’re directly out of our research best practices.

When reading each one, we do our best to stay neutral and not respond. Primarily because our benchmark research is confidential for employers and anonymous for you, the job candidates. Meaning, employers send out our surveys to a targeted population of their job candidates, most of whom did not get hired. In turn, employers get their candid feedback, without capturing any contact information, and they also get access to the aggregate data from all the employers that participate, big and small across industries. If you’ve applied for a job in the past 9+ years, odds are that some of you have received our surveys. We empathize of course, we’ve been there.

A recent candidate comment really struck me. I’ll change it up a bit to further protect the person’s anonymity.

How dare you ask me to do complete this survey in the middle of an unemployment crisis. You never even responded to my job application and now you want me to do this? This is incredibly tone deaf and callous behavior and is probably why you’re having issues. Have a great day!

I don’t think the last statement was supposed to be a positive one. And I get it, too. For those of you looking for work today, there’s unprecedented high unemployment, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and now our communities are grappling with daily protests for positive social change, with only fits and starts of hiring happening in certain industries like health care, finance and insurance, technology, government (public sector) among others. This according to our latest “Coronavirus at Work” surveys we’ve been running since March.

Prior to COVID-19’s impact, we measured candidate experience in nothing but a growth market for over nine years, with month after month of pretty consistent job growth. During that time, however, candidate resentment globally increased. Meaning, those of you who told us through our survey research that you will never do anything again with a specific employer – never apply again, never refer others and never make purchases or positively influence them. In North America alone that resentment rate increased by 40% from 2016 to 2019.

We’re still collecting data for 2020, so we don’t have anything to share yet. We could assume that resentment will go up, especially for those of you who are hourly candidates, since you also make up the majority of lay-offs and application surges for companies that are actually hiring. In fact, last year hourly candidates said they had a better candidate experience than professional and management candidates.

Unfortunately for those of you currently searching for employment – most of you will never make it further than the application process, with or without acknowledgement. And the odds are also pretty good that you’re never going to get closure if you apply and are rejected without any further screening or interviewing. 

And that sucks, especially those of you who really need a job right now to take care of yourselves and your families. That’s not to say that some of you could have at least some of the skills and experience they’re looking for and/or could possibly do the job. The reality is for every 10 of you that apply, only 2-3 or you will ever get human interaction – a test or assessment (although you’re probably getting that when you apply today), a phone screen, an video interview, etc.

This means that most of you will only receive automated messages and acknowledgements from employers, even smaller ones. Recruiting has been more automated than ever in recent years, and this pandemic has only pushed employers to further automate. Their processes and technologies aren’t always optimized to identify the right potential person for the role – like you.

You do have a choice, though. A choice of who you really want to work for and who you don’t. And with that choice comes a little power from what happens during the application process if that’s as far as you get, or if you’re one of those 2-3 who get screened and interviewed. A choice based on these three differentiators of candidate experience:

  1. Consistent communication from pre-application to onboarding

Are you being communicated with, no matter how far you get in the hiring process? Are the automated messages you receive definitive about whether or not they want to pursue you?

Or are they vague and superficially positive that they’ll “be in touch if you’re qualified” – which of course they usually aren’t much of the time. Or, are you just not hearing back at all after you apply?

If you’re not being communicated with and/or it’s vague and impersonal, then tell them that and then don’t apply again, or refer others, or maybe even don’t buy their stuff if it’s a consumer-based business.

  1. Setting better expectations about the recruiting process

Are you being told what may happen before you even apply (on the career site for example)? Are you being told about next steps after you apply? When you’re screened and interviewed? Made an offer to? Before your first day if you’re hired?

If you are being told about next steps, are they accurate? Do they tell you they’ll be in contact in two weeks after you apply, and then it’s more like six weeks? 

If expectations are being set for you, or they are and they’re wildly inaccurate, then tell them that and then don’t apply again, or refer others, or maybe even don’t buy their stuff if it’s a consumer-based business.

  1. Asking for feedback and provide feedback more often

Are you being asked for feedback after you apply? What about after you’re screened and interviewed, if you make it that far? If you’re made an offer and hired? Does they seem sincere with wanting to know how they can improve their recruiting and hiring processes?

And if you do make it to the final interview stages, are they providing you some feedback about why they won’t pursue you any further if you’re rejected?

Again, odds are pretty good that you’re never going to get feedback if you apply and are rejected without any further screening or interviewing. But, if they’re not asking you for any feedback about your experience, and if you’re a final stage candidate who doesn’t receive any valuable job fit and qualification feedback, then tell them that anyway and don’t apply again, or refer others, or maybe even don’t buy their stuff if it’s a consumer-based business.

Many companies over the years have worked hard at improving their candidate experience after participating in our research – you can find some of them here. They don’t always get it right, and some do struggle to maintain it over time, but many do care about your experience, whether hired or not. So taking the time to give them your valuable feedback may help improve the experience for everyone that applies after you – and when you apply again, if you choose to do so.

Regardless of how employers respond to you will never change the fact that most of you will still always be rejected, until you find the job that’s the right fit for you as well as the company. This is angering and frustrating, and yet, during booms or busts, you do always have a choice, and with choice comes power. The power to positively or negatively impact a business and its brand.

We hope you’re all hired (back) soon. Be safe and well.

–Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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