Candidate Expectations and Your Employer Brand

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought historically high numbers of job loss and unemployment claims in a very short time beginning in March of 2020, the talent marketplace in many industries isn’t having trouble finding open jobs. In industries like healthcare and logistics, which contracted initially in the first half of 2020, hiring has ramped back up as demand outpaces supply. Considering the number of people who lost jobs due to the pandemic, finding candidates should be relatively simple for recruiters, even those hiring at high volume, right? 

Candidate Expectations and Your Employer Brand

It’s not that straightforward. The experience of the past year has fueled burnout in the healthcare industry that has led to accelerated retirement and attrition. This means that competition for healthcare workers will continue to be fierce and wages will stay high. Larger retailers are increasing hourly wages in order to be competitive with other large retailers who set the bar high during the pandemic and kept it there. Pandemic relief bills that increase unemployment checks along with stimulus checks mean that hourly or entry level employees might not have to snag the first job that comes along. 

A Global Pandemic and a Chaotic Economy 

Throughout the pandemic, many employers had to furlough or lay off employees. Millions filed for unemployment. Some companies, including niche retailers, shut their doors for good. All signs pointed to a booming talent marketplace as industries began to reopen this year. But layoffs and new unemployment filings didn’t tell the whole story, as early retirement and natural attrition (particularly parents leaving the workforce to supervise young children in the absence of open schools and childcare) meant that some of the employees who left would not be returning. 

Recent Department of Labor reports indicate that job growth boomed in March of this year at the fastest pace since last summer, as stronger economic growth and an aggressive vaccination effort contributed to a surge in hospitality and construction jobs. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 916,000 in March, while the unemployment rate declined to 6%. The job growth was well ahead of Dow Jones estimates for 675,000 and the fastest since August 2020.

The labor force continued to grow after losing more than 6 million Americans at one point last year. Another 347,000 workers came back, bringing the labor force participation rate to 61.5%, compared to 63.3% in February 2020. 

Speeding Time to Hire Improves Candidate Experience

As recruiters and HR leaders work to fill high-volume roles, making a positive impression on candidates will be crucial. What we have learned from the past year is that our employer brand is more important than ever. Many large and public companies have suffered from bad press during the pandemic; an employer’s actions during a crisis are magnified by the employees whose health and safety may have been put in jeopardy. 

Can a company overcome that level of damage to its employer brand? Of course, but it takes a lot of money and time. The good news is that, for the most part, companies handled the pandemic without incident and many of the protocols put into place during the pandemic will remain, as will the higher rates of pay.

The biggest challenge we face today in recruiting is elevating our employer brand to attract the right candidates and being able to offer an exceptional candidate experience. This means speeding time to hire, letting candidates know where they stand in the hiring process and what next steps to expect, and eliminating any scheduling confusion. 

According to Cronofy’s Candidate Expectations Survey data for the United States, responsiveness came out on top as the thing that mattered most to American candidates in the hiring process. In fact, 64% of US candidates said that the process of interview scheduling directly impacts their perceptions of an employer, and even more so in those applying for senior roles. 

In the United States, interview scheduling delays were the second most frustrating part of the overall hiring process after responsiveness. With such importance placed on positive candidate experience, interview scheduling – a big issue easily solved – offers an obvious opportunity to differentiate yourselves from the competition. 

The impression a candidate takes away of your employer brand is strongly linked to your interview scheduling process, and in fact not being efficient can cause them to disengage totally or perceive your brand negatively. For the majority of U.S. candidates this window was under two weeks, with over a third disengaging in just seven days if the interview scheduling process was poorly managed or slow.

Over half (51%) of all American candidates report that they left an interview process because of frustrations with the time it took to schedule an interview. This can be easily solved with flexible, personalized scheduling solutions based on real-time availability. A scheduling solution not only improves the candidate experience and their impression of your brand, it also helps recruiters save time and focus on building stronger relationships and a more robust talent pipeline.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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