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Candidate Experience - The Big Seven Process Expectations, Part 2 of 6

by Joseph Murphy

This is Part Two of a series connnect to the Candidate Experience Monograph

We believe one of the customers in the business process called staffing is the candidate. And being interested in customer expectations, we asked job seekers what were the most critical bits of information they wanted to know about their application process. Their responses are not real surprising, but they may pose a challenge to recruiters, in particular, recruiters with high applicant-to-hire ratios.

In this second in a series, I will share the job seeker’s top seven expectations of what they want to know about their application, but first, I digress.

Back in the day, before the web, I would hang a sign in the front door of our building – Not taking applications at this time. I did not want to deal with a pile of applications from walk-in candidates that I had no use for at the moment. I did not want to establish expectations that the prospect of a job existed either.

My predecessor had filled part of a file drawer with a number of pre-printed no-thank you letters, organized by job family, to send to those individuals who sent in unsolicited resumes. My assistant would slip one of these thoughtfully crafted letters into the typewriter and quickly drop in a name and address. I’d sign it and the post office would deliver it. In a few days, the candidate knew I had received their resume and that we were not hiring at the time, or that we had no position that met their qualifications. It seemed efficient, respectful and was considered common courtesy. There was an implied social contract: “when I put effort into expressing interest in your firm, please acknowledge me.”  Now that whole process can be done not to one, but to large groups with a few mouse clicks.

30 years later the resume spam funnel is wide open, some requisitions are never closed, social media and extravagant sourcing campaigns pour millions of applications into ever increasing cloud-based web farms hosting applicant tracking systems databases. Companies no longer really know who has applied, but candidates still want to know one thing – “Did you get my application?”

The Big Seven

The big seven job seeker expectations were determined from process communication factors rated as critical need to know by 80% or more of the survey respondents. 1. Do you receive my application? 2. When will I hear back from you? 3. Have I been knocked out of the process? 4. What is the time frame for filling the job? 5. What is the next step in the process? 6. Has anyone actually looked at my application? 7. Where am I in the process?

Did you receive my application? Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Every Apply Now click carries with it a degree of hope, an edge of anticipation, maybe even desperation. Next month’s mortgage payment may be riding on obtaining a job.

Candidates have to commit time and energy to get into your digital lobby and drop an application in the box. Most ATS or CRM systems have a login and profile creation step. The paste a resume or, recreate a resume functions also require effort. Then there are the minimum qualification questions, the EEO self report questions, the legal right to work questions, the willingness to provide biological samples, the allow us to check out your bill paying history questions and is it OK if we fire you if we found out you lied on any of these questions question. After heading down this one-way information drain and answering all those questions, finally getting to the SUBMIT button, the candidate has one important question for you. “Did you get it?” They want a two-way exhange.  Some common courtesy.

Each touch-point with your careers page leaves a brand impression.  How you respond to each candidate can be brand positive or brand negative.  As a frame of reference on brand impression, sit down with your senior brand executive and review the candidate flow from one requistion. Describe the number of acknowledged and unacknowledged  candidates.  Then have a dialogue on what system and process the brand executive has in place to communicate with every individual that requests information about your company.  There may be a lesson in brand experience management that can have implications on your candidate experience.

When will I hear back from you? Job seekers have a life. And they may want to make plans, commit to various events, opportunities or alternative options. Bring back the hope or desperation factor and again, put yourself in their shoes. Your door was open and you took my application. What is the timeline here.

Addressing the need to be acknowledged by letting candidates know you have their application allows you to also include a timeline. When I was involved in the staffing process at a Fortune 300 company, our practice was to always use the sundown clause. “We will be contacting the most qualified candidates no later than (DATE). Granted, it is a more subtle version of “If you don’t hear from me by Friday, you are out of the race.” But, it established a degree of understanding in the candidate’s mind.

Your job posting or application process overview can provide timeline expectations. You can use sundown clauses on-line: This position will be filled by DATE. Or Interviews for candidates advancing in our process will be conducted by DATE.

And of course there is always the Select All> Disposition>Send. Use the mass communication features at your disposal. Extend some common courtesy.

Have I been knocked out of the process? Job seekers, for the most part, are grown-ups. In or out, let them know where they stand. The benefit is better time management for all involved.

When I worked with sales teams, I would implement periodic ‘kill the maybe’ initiatives. Sales reps were invited to contact indecisive prospects and customer in their territory. The objective was to get a YES or NO from every indecisive buyer in the next 30 days. Sales always had a nice upward spike and the time wasted chasing a yet to be heard NO was brought to an end.

Being strung along is a waste of everybody’s time. Candidates do not want a Maybe. Extend some common courtesy, give them the straight story.

What are the steps in your process? Job seekers want to know the steps in your process. And they want to know where they are in your process.

Process maps are often shared in on-line applications. However, the steps often include only the sequence in the online portion of the process. Consider expanding the amount of information you provide. Let them know if you conduct phone screens, webcam interviews, on-site one on one or group/team interviews. Describe any assessment or pre-employment testing you may use. And commit to telling your candidates where they are in your process. Again, you most likely have mass communication resources in your recruiter’s tool box. Step up your two-way communications and extend the courtesy of a reply to those who answered your call. Remember, you asked them to show up and give you their contact information. So use it.

Has anybody actually looked at my application? Careers are born from personal connections. Careers begin at the end of that process of discovery that arrives at a mutual conclusion – this job is the right fit.

Today’s application process has stripped away the opportunity to connect on a personal level for the vast majority of candidates. One of our clients can have a 500 to 1 applicant to hire ratio at times. A recruiter looks at 50, calls 10, interviews three and hires one. What about the other 450?

Have we created an uber-sourcing mentality? The staffing process has fallen victim to the more is better mind-set. What is the implied social contract in today’s ‘post and hope’ and ‘spray and pray’ job posting-job seeking exchange? Tongue in cheek I suggest this response to candidates:

“We have attracted far more candidates than we need. We cannot possibly get back to each of you on a personal level. There is a very low probability your will hear from us.”

But without any closure to your applicants, that is you message by default.

Inviting people to apply for a job creates an expectation and hope for some degree of career change intimacy. It may be the beginning of a dialogue with a storybook ending. But contrary to that invitation to career change consideration, our sourcing models create populations that are beyond the scope and scale of achieving any semblance of meaningful interpersonal exchange.

Does that mean our staffing process model is broken? Not necessarily, but it may need some attention. And your candidates definitely want some attention. As is always the case, there is room for staffing process improvement.  We can deliver a better candidate experience.

For additional information on this topic visit the Candidate Experienc emonograph at CareerXroads

In the next installation of this series, I will share some insights on how candidates want to hear from you.

Part One,  Part Three Part Four, Part Five, Part Six