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Three P's – the foundation of a good candidate experience

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improve Candidate Experience

If you were with me last week, you’ll recall I wrote about the ways in which the baby boomer generation used to apply for jobs and their expectations of how these applications would be handled. I contrasted these with the demands of the millennials and Gen Z who expect seamless, digital communication and won’t be prepared to work for you if you don’t do what they want.  Offering a great candidate experience is therefore essential if you want to maximise your chances of recruiting in what is currently an extremely competitive job market.  

A wiser man than me once commented that while he knew not every applicant would be successful, he also knew they would all have an opinion about how their application had been handled.  At best, it might be that the applicant felt thoroughly involved and well-treated at every stage of the process. At its worst, this might include allegations of illegal discrimination on the grounds of age, race, gender etc.  In days gone by, ‘word of mouth’ could slowly over time create an impression amongst an unsuccessful candidate’s friends and acquaintances of a company as a ‘bad employer.’ Today, ‘word of mouse’  (or, more likely, the moving finger on a screen) moves opinion into the public arena in seconds and can, rightly or wrongly, result in a Twitter sh*tstorm which destroys reputations and shareholder value in days.  

Fake news and maliciousness can be hard to counter, but an insistence that your recruiters abide by the three “Ps” – politeness, professionalism and process – should underpin your candidates’ experience and help reduce the scope and opportunity for any malcontents to besmirch your firm’s reputation.  

In essence, any recruitment exercise can be boiled down to this: treat candidates as you would prefer to be treated yourself.  Politeness should be a given: everyone who applies for a job with your organisation must be treated with respect.  This extends naturally into your processes.  Technology ought to make this easier.  Applicant tracking systems will automate your acknowledgements, interview, rejection and award letters, but make sure you review and revise them regularly so they are not soulless, HR-speak, but polite, pleasant expressions of invitation, rejection or success.  If a candidate has been particularly impressive at interview but ultimately unsuccessful, why not add a personal hand-written acknowledgement to the standard letter?  That’s professionalism. Making people feel good about rejection is a skill, but one that will enhance your reputation significantly.   I heard a great story, which I do hope is true, about how Starbucks managed to let people down gently and make them feel good about the company.  They offered unsuccessful candidates a voucher for $5, in the expectation that those who took up this offer would spend additional money which might otherwise have gone to a competitor. Moreover, Starbucks knew the average spend per customer per visit was more than $5, so they were also in with a chance of making a bit of money out of this.  For some, this may seem the unacceptable face of capitalism, but it’s very probable that those who did take up this offer enjoyed their coffee and cookies and thus felt good about a company that had just rejected them for a job. That’s also professionalism. Underpin your recruitment with these three Ps and you’ll be giving your job applicants the 5-star treatment and protecting your brand and reputation.

In my next blog, I’m going to delve a bit deeper into some more key aspects of the candidate experience.  Specifically, I’m going to show you how to make sure your senior management helps you to ensure that your application process is slick, professional and easy to use.

Chris Peace, MD, Peace Recruitment


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