Many applicants to our jobs are also consumers of our products and their connection to our brand may run deep. When they fall into the infamous “black hole” and never hear back, we’re likely losing customers. It’s not easy to resolve – recruiters are busy and don’t have time to close the loop with candidates. This will always be the case, so we wanted to share some inspiration for your candidate experience workflow.
The All-Too-Common Candidate Story
My first memories of [Your Company] probably go back to my childhood. [Your Company] was always around our house. I suppose my parents were really the customers then, but the seed was planted for lifelong fandom of [Your Company] at an early age.
As I got older, I guess the torch was passed. I was now the one paying for [Your Company]. It’s funny how brand loyalty can be passed down from your parents, but to me [Your Company] was always a known thing. A [brand/product] I trusted.
Imagine my surprise when I decided to look for a new job and found that [Your Company] was hiring [my career] roles! I was so excited. Having grown up a loyal [Your Company] customer, the idea of working there was something I never considered.
I read the job description and it looked like my resume. All of the requirements and experience aligned so I updated my resume and cover letter, and clicked “apply” with confidence. I could barely contain my excitement at the idea of working at [Your Company], a [brand/product] I grew up with. How cool will it be to tell my family? I can’t wait to interview and learn more about what it’s like to work there.
It’s been two weeks and I haven’t heard back from my [Your Company] application. That’s okay, I know [Your Company] is a great [brand/product] and I imagine they have a lot of applicants. I applied early so maybe I have to wait until the position closes to hear? I’m not really sure. I got an email from their online application saying my resume was received, but it didn’t have any other details. I’m sure they’re busy.
It’s been four weeks now and I haven’t heard anything. I thought my background was a great fit, but maybe it wasn’t. Did I stress my experience in [insert skill] enough in my resume? Hmmm, the job is still open on their career site, so maybe I just have to wait until it closes to hear something? I thought about applying to other jobs, but [Your Company] would be my dream job so I’ll wait to hear back. I’m sure I’ll hear soon.
It’s been seven weeks now. The position came off their career site two weeks ago. Crickets. The other day my recruiter friend joked about a “black hole”, where you apply to a job and never hear back. I never imagined [Your Company] might be the one to show me what that meant. This sucks. [Your Company] has always been such a big part of my life, but how can I support a company that wouldn’t even tell me “no thanks?” I guess it’s time to find a new [brand/product].
Inspiration for Your CX Workflow
Recruiters are more aware than ever of the need to optimize CX at all stages of the process – from application through interview and rejection, but the “how” can be tricky. Here are some of our ideas, along with ideas we’ve seen from Hubspot’s Dharmesh Shah. You can find his full blog post here.
- Decide to do it. The first step in creating a great candidate experience (CX) is deciding that it’s important. Just like you’d commit time and energy for creating a great UX for your product, you need to devote some calories to iterating on your CX and working had to make it exceptional. There are a number of reasons you should do this: Recruiting great people is hard — and competitive. All things being equal, on average, if you can make the candidate experience better, you win. People will often take positions with lesser-known companies simply because they had a great interviewing experience.
- Start looking for ways to automate as much of the candidate communication as possible. When you take an action in your ATS, does it update your candidate with relevant correspondence? That’s where it needs to be.
- Keep focus on the entire experience. Designing a great candidate experience is not just about doing interviews well. A great CX starts from the moment a person connects with your company (like your website) all the way through the point that they are delivered a decision — and every step in between.
- Measure it to improve it. It’s not possible to create a great CX without getting feedback from candidates. What I’d suggest is a simple NPS (Net Promoter Score) style survey at the end of the candidate interviewing process. The survey asks exactly two questions: 1. On a scale of 0-10 how likely are you to recommend that a friend or family member interview here? 2. Why did you give us that score? You don’t have to use these specific questions — the benefit is that NPS is that it is simple, and widely used as a way to measure customer satisfaction (or more accurately, customer delight).
- Treat interviewing as both a buying and selling process. One of the mistakes inexperienced interviewers often make is behaving as if their job is only to “be convinced” by the candidate that they’d make a good hire. As a result, they often have an “edge”, aren’t particularly friendly, and don’t do enough to make the candidate feel comfortable. That can be a bit disconcerting for the candidate, and creates a sub-optimal candidate experience. As an interviewer, your job is two-fold: One, make a rational judgment as to whether you think this person would be a good hire for the team. Two, ensure that the candidate wants to work at your company. It’s both a buying and a selling process (not just buying). As it turns out, great people always have options. Even if they’re not a good fit and you decide not to hire — you want them to leave with as positive an impression as possible. They may have friends or family that are better fits. Quick mental hack: Pretend like every candidate you don’t hire is going to become a future potential user/customer.
- Be organized. Yes, everyone’s already working away furiously and interviews are often an unwelcome irritant. But, that’s our problem — not the candidate’s problem. Spend some time devising at least a simple process to ensure that meetings are scheduled appropriately, the candidate knows what the process is (and how long they’ll need to be there) and always, always, always make sure they’re feeling comfortable and welcome.
- Make speed a feature. Just like great UX, a great CX is about speed. Faster is always better. I’ve never met someone that thought: “Boy, am I glad those folks took 2 weeks to get back to me on an answer…”.
- Have a “guest” tablet available for candidates. Make sure it’s already on your WiFi network, the home page in the browser is your company website. The idea is to give the candidates something productive to occupy their time with while they’re waiting. They can even play Angry Birds, if they want. Nothing’s worse than sitting in reception, not knowing what the guest WiFi password is, and having to twiddle one’s thumbs before an interview.
- Don’t repeat the same topics. Be organized enough that if the candidate is going to go through multiple interviews, you don’t have them cover the same topics multiple times. That’s annoying and a waste of time. If one interview focuses on their front-end development skills and how well they really understand jQuery, then perhaps the other interview should be more about work style and thoughts on team collaboration.
- Have a clear feedback/rating system. You need to have a clear internal rating system so that interviewers can express their overall take. If the person is an absolute no-hire, that should be clear. So, your scale could be: absolutely no hire, leaning against, neutral, leaning in favor, absolutely hire them. One important point while we’re on this topic: The rating scale is not about the person — it’s about whether this person should be made an offer at this point in time. I’ve sometimes seen people give a “high” rating (because the person was really, really good — and interviewed really well), but then later heard “but I wouldn’t hire them.” The reason for the interviews is to make a hiring decision. Said differently, the ultimate return value of the function is a boolean hire/no-hire NOT awesome/good/not-so-good person.
- Learn something. Make every effort to learn something from every candidate. Just because you’re on this side of the hiring table and just because you may be more experienced does not mean you can’t learn something from every candidate. You can. Try to draw out a particular passion that the candidate has. Perhaps a recent epic debugging victory. Or, why their editor is the One True Editor To Rule Them All. Doesn’t matter what the topic. Find what they’re passionate about, and genuinely get them to teach you something about it. (If they’re not passionate about anything, you’ve got a problem).
- Teach something. Whether the candidate gets an offer or not, they should have learned something from you. They need to walk out smarter than they walked in. (Note: This does not mean you spend 50% of the interview telling them about the proper Pythonic way to do something).
- Be transparent. Make the conversation open. Let the candidate ask questions that are on their mind. It could be about team dynamics, work style/hours, financials (growth, cash, etc.), product strategy, dev philosophy, whatever. Be honest. If there are some things you can’t answer, be honest about that. But, try to be as transparent as possible — it makes for a much better candidate experience.
- No leading of the witnesses. If you’re having multiple people interview a candidate, you need to make sure that the early interviewer(s) don’t unduly influence the later ones. This is important for a couple of reasons: One, you want multiple viewpoints, not the same viewpoint multiple times. Second, from the candidate’s perspective, if they feel like they got off on the wrong foot in the first interview, you want them to have a reasonable chance of showing off their awesomeness in the subsequent interviews.