1:1 Recruiting: The Secret to a Great Candidate Experience

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Candidate experience isn’t just a buzzword. Having a great candidate experience can seriously affect the number (and quality) of applications that you receive. Can your company afford to have people saying bad things about them? Trust me, people put a lot of stock by the opinions of random people that they’ve never met. Think about the last time you bought something from Amazon. How many reviews did you read before you hit ‘Add to Basket’? The opinions of people that we will never meet have a huge effect on the decisions that we make.

Candidates are influenced in exactly the same way as online customers. The things that they hear about your company have a profound impact on their likelihood to hit that ‘Apply’ button. Their decisions are based on anonymous employee reviews of your company left on Glassdoor, conversations with friends, rumours on social media.

The 2014 Candidate Experience Report shows that 64.3% of applicants would share negative application experiences with friends and family, while 27% would go as far as actively discouraging others from applying.

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What does a great candidate experience feel like?

I never eat Mexican food. I just don’t really like it. I’ve got nothing against nachos, quesadillas, and burritos on a personal level, but when it comes to picking dinner, they’re rarely at the top of the list. But. My sister loves it. Last time she came to town, I was tasked with the unenviable task of finding a spot for us to grab a bite to eat. Eventually, I settled on a local Mexican place round the corner.

It was a family run place, seemed nice enough, but when I sat down I had no idea how far they’d exceed my expectations. The service was fantastic. They were gentle with me! They helped point out the dishes that I might enjoy, those to steer clear of and the ones to try if I was feeling adventurous. I can’t call myself a convert to Mexican cuisine, but if I’m ever asked to recommend a local restaurant, they’re top of my list. In fact, I now go out of my way to send friends, colleagues, even people on the street in their direction!

It wasn’t just the great tasting Mexican food that has turned me into a (huge) brand advocate, it was the fact that the whole dinner felt like a genuine 1:1, personal connection.

There were plenty of other people eating at the restaurant that night, but my experience felt different. I wasn’t just another customer. Fortunately all of this doesn’t just apply to eating out. It’s a lesson that translates directly to recruiting.

Candidates are customers nowadays.

This can be literal, (if you’re a recruiter at Vodafone, chances are plenty of your applicants are Vodafone users), or figurative – candidates consider jobs in the same way that they consider other purchasing decisions.

“Top talent is searching for a company the same way they would any other purchasing decision”  – Matt Charney

A great candidate experience takes this into account. It understands that in every other arena of life, people crave 1-1 treatment. It’s the reason people buy tailormade clothing, pay for private tuition, and eat at expensive restaurants. Why should recruiting be any different? It doesn’t stop there though. People don’t just want personal treatment, they take everything personally.

They rarely register the fact that you might be dealing with hundreds (if not thousands) of applications. They don’t know about all the open roles that you have to fill. They don’t think about the stress and the time pressure. A candidate’s opinion of your company is based entirely on your personal interactions with them. Nothing else matters to them. A great candidate experience is personal, no matter the volume of your hiring requirements.

Creating a 1:1 candidate experience: 3 simple changes

Here are 3 simple ways that you can make your recruiting process more personal, and start providing a great candidate experience:

i) Email and uncommon commonalities 

What’s the difference between a business email and a message from one of your friends? It’s simple. Personalization.

In fact, it’s both shocking (and slightly) depressing to learn that 90% of recruiting emails aren’t personalized at all. Recruiting is all about relationships, and the boilerplate templates that most candidates receive are definitely not the best way to kick off a new relationship. If you want your candidate outreach to be successful, try to give candidates the 1:1 feeling whenever you interact with them. Remember – it’s the emails that you send candidates that form their impression of your company.

The problem is, everyone tries to personalise their emails in the same way. Everyone uses the same information at the top of the LinkedIn profile. No one digs deeper. If you want to stand out, an easy way is to look for uncommon commonalities:

If you were to travel 15 miles away from home and bump into a stranger who is also from the same hometown, it wouldn’t mean much. But if you’re 5,000 miles from home and in a different country, you’d experience a different feeling meeting that same person. This is because you share an uncommon commonality.

We’re hardwired to trust people that we think are similar, so finding common ground is the best way (I know of) to connect with a new candidate.

Scan each candidate’s LinkedIn, Github or Twitter profile to see if you can find anything out of the ordinary that you can relate to, and use it in your message to stand out.

Here’s an example:

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ii) Give your process a name (and a face)

So little of the recruiting process actually happens in person nowadays.

This isn’t anyone’s fault – it’s just a product of living in an on-demand, online world. But, it makes it easy to forget how personal a decision applying for a job really is. It’s a huge step in anyone’s life, and usually people want to deal with another person when they’re making big decisions (e.g. applying for a loan with a bank manager, as opposed to doing it on the internet). We want our questions answered, our feelings acknowledged. By contrast, most application processes are faceless. After a candidate hits apply, most of their interactions are with automated emails sent from a “no-reply” address.

Talking to a machine isn’t fun, the machine doesn’t talk back and the machine can’t answer questions. Try changing this and humanising your process. Updates during the application process can be automated, but they should come from a member of your team. This makes it easy for candidates to ask questions and open a dialogue. Similarly, rejection letters can be short and sweet, but if you want a candidate to reapply or refer their friends, try to make them as personal as possible.

iii) Nurture – treat candidates as customers

Let’s say you’re looking for a new phone. Finally, you settle on the iPhone 7, (you’re excited about the new wireless headphones), job done! Except it isn’t done. 2 years later, you’ll probably be looking for a new phone. Maybe it will be another iPhone, maybe not. Samsung understand this. They’re not going to stop marketing their products to you just because you bought an iPhone, they know you’ll be looking again soon, and they want you to be thinking about them when you do.

This is the direction that the job market is moving in. The concept of the ‘lifer’ is vanishing. Nowadays, people change jobs every couple of years (a trend that is particularly pronounced for millennials). A candidate might work at a competitor now, but a few months down the line who knows?

This is just one of the reasons that the responsibilities of the recruiter are changing (and becoming more complex). They have to consider how to “market” their roles to candidates that aren’t looking. Approaching passive candidates is simple, but it requires a slight mindshift. It’s not effective to just reach out with a role, the relationship has to come first. Recruiters have to apply 1:1 recruiting tactics to candidate nurture. The goal here should be to stay relevant or front of mind with a candidate. Some of the best ways to do this include sending over educational material about the market that a candidate works in, interesting company news and valuable content.

The message might not result in an application off the bat, but if you play your cards right you can build a pipeline of passive candidates for future roles and win big down the line.

About the Author: Ben Slater is VP Growth at Beamery, the all-in- one Sourcing, CRM, Candidate Engagement and Employer Branding platform powered by machine intelligence.

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