In a world where the internet seems to present companies with an endless stream of candidates, it’s easy for companies to view their jobs as prizes not commodities and in doing so assume a high risk that their favorite candidates choose to not accept their offer. People don’t always accept the best job. Instead they often accept the job that makes them feel the best. Many people will say no to a job that could objectively be their dream job if it isn’t presented in the right way.

No employer sets out with the intention to create a poor experience for candidates. While some recruiters and hiring managers see themselves in more of a selling role than others, all know that at some point the final decision to join a company lies with the candidate. By the time a candidate receives an offer, they will have already formed an emotional assessment of their interest in accepting an offer. Candidates who have had a positive experience may still need a final push and want to negotiate some terms, but candidates who have had a negative experience thus far usually decline the offer, regardless of the offer details.

Why do employers fall short on candidate experience?

There are many answers, some justifiable and others unfortunate. Commonly, employers rationalize a poor candidate experience as being unavoidable because they have:

  • Too little time
  • Too few resources
  • Unforeseen business challenges that divert attention
  • Unrealistic expectations from candidates

However, in many situations, the answer is much more subtle. Most employers engage candidates based on their process, not candidate’s process. Employers who do are not predestined to generate a poor candidate experience, but they do miss opportunities to connect with candidates in meaningful ways.

The employer experience typically looks like:

While all of these steps are important for the company, not all of them are important to the candidate and the candidate goes through a few steps that many companies rarely think about:

Obviously, the are many points of overlap (highlighted with darkened shading). Candidates engage with employers during the acquisition, interview, offer negotiation and integration steps in their process. Yet for the rest of their process, they generally operate isolated from the company. While employers are traditionally not actively involved in making the decision to look for new opportunities or selling an employment decision to the candidate’s family and friends, companies do win and lose candidates during those process steps.

As complex as the process for an experienced hire is, the process for a new graduate is usually even more complex.

 

Recognize the differences in processes

Companies run the risk of losing the interest of candidates during any step in their process. Steps where the company plays no role are inherently more prone to candidates ending the process because the company lacks the presence to address and mitigate issues (real or perceived). Employers neither want a candidate to accept an offer that is a poor fit for their career aspirations nor decline an offer that is a great fit but the candidate inaccurately assessed to be a poor fit. Yet when a candidate progresses through a process step without involving the company, the likelihood of one of these undesirable outcomes increases.

The natural (unavoidable) overlaps in process mostly focus on establishing the fit of the candidate to the needs of the employer. Applications, interviews, assessments, and offer negotiations mostly serve the purpose of proving the candidate is qualified for the job. Savvy candidates should use interviews to help establish the fit of job to candidate, but rarely does this happen in equal level of detail to the company assessing the candidate. Furthermore, these steps hardly ever involve people who are key stakeholders in the candidate’s decision such as family and friends whose influence on whether the candidate accepts or declines an offer can be substantial.

Creating a competitive advantage by shifting the employer perspective

Engage candidates based on their process not the company’s – The recruiting experience is a window into the employee experience. Employees want to know they will be understood, supported and cared for by their employer. When an employer comes across as relating well to the candidate’s situation, supporting them in their process and caring about their personal success, the candidate is more likely to expect a positive employment experience and accept an offer.

Engage candidates based on their process not the company’s – The recruiting experience is a window into the employee experience. Employees want to know they will be understood, supported and cared for by their employer. When an employer comes across as relating well to the candidate’s situation, supporting them in their process and caring about their personal success, the candidate is more likely to expect a positive employment experience and accept an offer.

Support candidates in identifying “win-win” outcomes – Candidates and employers alike are prone to thinking that a recruiting process has only been successful when it results in a hire. However, avoiding unhealthy employment situations is another form of success for both parties. Taking an active role in determining the level of fit of job to candidate (not just the fit of candidate to job) increases the likelihood of both parties feeling confident in the decision to move forward (or not) and reduces the likelihood that fear of missing out may undermine the employer’s ability to secure a great candidate.

Address the broader set of candidate stakeholders – It is rare that a candidate makes a job move decision in isolation. Family, friends and even current colleagues regularly influence those decisions. When a future employer does not engage those stakeholders, they have no control over whether those people become supporters or detractors of the decision to accept the offer.

While engaging that audience may sound difficult giving that they have no natural involvement in the company’s recruiting process, many opportunities exist to do so. For example, creating “+1” events where candidates can connect their stakeholders with people inside the company they are considering joining provides the company a chance to turn those stakeholders into powerful advocates. Even simply helping the candidate tell a more compelling story for why he/she wants to join the company through providing them with news articles, marketing collateral, or even FAQs can have a powerful impact on creating support for offer acceptance.

Ultimately, the key for any employer is to make it easy for a candidate to say “yes” to an offer. Companies should aim to build the emotional connection throughout the process, not just when they have decided they want to hire the candidate and create an experience for the candidate which will justify that outcome.

 

Recommended Reading

Blog: Recruiting in the Social Media Era

Blog: FOMO – A dangerous villain or a secret weapon

White Paper: Chasing the Perfect Candidate Assessment