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How to Avoid a Meh Candidate Experience

This is not the usual “x things you can do about improving your candidate experience” listicle. A simple search of the term “candidate experience” returns 2.64 million search results! A quick look at top 10 results will tell you pretty much the same thing. Most of the candidate experience advice is a variation of the following 4 things:

1) Be honest and forthcoming.
2) Provide some form of closure to disqualify candidates.
3) Be proactive and communicative.
4) Genuinely help your candidates make a careers move and think from their perspective

So on and so forth….. You get the gist.

If you are anything like me who likes to devour recruiting content, you have read the same message multiple times in different packaging. At Recruiterflow we are guilty of it as well. A side effect of the abundance of content is that “experts” have started to jargonise everything under the sun in an effort to stand out from the crowd. This has desensitised us to what it really means to deliver an incredible candidate experience. Candidate experience has been reduced to a silo of “best practices” with a set of rules you should follow.

If you need a blog post to tell you that you should be honest and forthcoming with your candidates (but if you do need one read this), you probably have much bigger problems than candidate experience to deal with. While most of the advice you will find is true but that’s not enough for incredible candidate experience. You can safely assume that you and half the recruiters around the world have read this advice and are following it. So, if you also follow it, you will probably be closer the average. The greatness was never achieved by the average!

Swinging for the fences

Ever seen Sachin Tendulkar (arguably the greatest of all time batsman) bat? Ok, it’s cricket but bear with me! He would patiently wait for the bowler to throw him one weak delivery and smash it out of the boundaries while defending or just taking single runs on the good bowls. Same goes for candidate experience. Most of the work is just business as usual. Just following the recommended best practices but swinging for the fences at the right opportunity.

This is what sets apart a great recruiter from an average one. Their ability to swing for the fences when it really matters. They can deliver the exceptional candidate experience, break the mould of the “best practices” and just go for it! It is about going a step further, into the unknown, experimenting, iterating and creating an experience that resonates with your brand and mission.

In a recent interview with Virginia Lloyd (Talent Acquisition @ Google, Sonos, Spotify and now at Whiteops) she revealed that she felt a moment of pride when a real hard position was filled. She was working at Sonos and made sure that no stone was left unturned delivering a fantastic candidate experience. Her team even made sure that they booked an entire weekend at a hotel in Boston because a candidate was coming for the interview near his anniversary weekend. They even made sure that the candidate had a hand-written welcome note at the time they arrived at the hotel!

Granted, it’s not easy…

I know you are thinking “assuming this is practical- do you even have the budget for this?” It is humanly impossible to treat everyone like Mick Jagger but that is where you need to push the limits of your creativity and learn to work within those constraints.

At the end of the day, candidate experience boils down to how comfortable and sociable a person feels with you and your team. How you make sure that they know that you want them and this is going to be the best place they ever worked at in their lives.

Best practices are not the end – they are the means.

To deliver truly incredible candidate experience, you need to break the mould of best practices. Stop stopping at the best practices. Following best practices always means that you will regress to the mean and deliver the average. Best practices are not a secret and they are followed by a whole bunch of people. Awesomeness was never achieved by staying with the best practice. It was achieved who went a step further and eventually established the new best practice.

The greatest candidate experience stories that I have heard are the stories of the team going that extra mile. The best way to learn how to deliver a truly incredible candidate experience is to use the wisdom of others. If you think you got a candidate experience that feels you with pride and joy and you think that the world needs to hear it, share it with us in the comments!


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