Defining and Measuring the Candidate Experience Part 1 of 2 #thecandidate

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The ‘Candidate Experience’ is a catch phrase few employers can resist. Half a dozen articles and blogs are written on the subject each week and yet the word candidate even the phrase candidate experience do not appear in Merriam-Webster or Wikipedia with any use for recruiting…if they appear at all.

Candidate Experience is therefore easier to define as the impact of recruiting practices on the perceptions and attitudes and subsequent behaviors and choices of candidates. Assuming we could measure them, we might then imagine how it affects or conversion rates, retention, hire quality and even subsequent performance of the firm. If engaged employees correlate to increased performance we can certainly hypothesize that the exceptional treatment of candidates you hire and onboard would ensure a new hire was motivated to perform. Conversely poorly treated candidate who are not hired are neither likely to refer candidates who could be hired and actually more likely to reduce their purchases of a company’s products and services.

The problem is in word candidate. You can’t define the phrase candidate experience by using part of itself.

The standard dictionary definition of a candidate is

“one who aspires to or is nominated or qualified for…” (with political office or degree such as PhD offered as the typical examples).

Applied to recruiting, most employers would find it difficult to accept (or measure) ‘aspires’ with ‘nominated’ (Employee Referral? Sourced? Presented by a 3rd party?), or ‘qualified for’ (applied, considered and meets all qualifications… i.e. an Applicant?) as equivalent. We tend to treat each one a bit different…to say the least.

Wikipedia isn’t much better. Candidate Experience simply doesn’t exist. And Wiki’s Candidate once again is more preoccupied with a nomination processes than the job market-

“A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or honor, or a person seeking or being considered for some kind of position; for example: to be elected to an office…”

Of the first 100 search results of the [candidate] in Wikipedia, only a single example (the 83rd) mentions the word in the non-political context of recruiting.

Why should we care? Simple. Recruiting has changed dramatically and it’s criticality to a firm’s success has moved from a minor function of HR to a core element of its brand.

The ‘practices’ employers used to Find, Select and Hire have expanded significantly. Relevant to this discussion we would add that most firms give equal importance to ‘Engage’ (between Find and Select) as a period during which we are intent on building a positive relationship with a ‘pipeline’ of prospects (sort of like a ‘pride’ of lions). And just what are the ‘practices’ that keep these prospects (who have yet to apply) warm…and more likely to apply in the future? What will keep the very best of them interested in us when others are competing for them?

We also tend to think of Select as something the Employer does when, in fact, the Candidates have as much knowledge (often more than the employer wants to share) and, in the end are the one who are willing to Choose a position with their eyes wide open- when the firm is transparent and authentic. Conversely and increasingly, in the case of top candidates with multiple offers, they are willing to decline or withdraw from a process that treats them badly.

Finally, the Hire, isn’t on-boarded alone. He or she brings their entire network with them- every day, with all that implies for performance and retention.

We desperately need to improve two things in Recruiting:

  • Standards. Our language must clearly describe the recruiting supply chain from every stakeholders’ perspective. We need words whose definition we can agree on- that align to specific the practices stages in the recruiting process. We are particularly poor in our agreements surrounding the candidate. Without agreement on what it is, there is no opportunity to measure it.
  • Evidence. We need data we can collect and analyze the importance of how we treat candidates if only to confirm our suspicions and hypotheses. More importantly, we would then be armed to assert the value we can return to the corporation by investing in practices that feed the candidate’s experience of us.

In order to create the perfect candidate experience recruiters and HR professionals must first understand each part of the candidate lifecycle — including definitions of each stage. We’ll be taking a look at how to define a lead, prospect, candidate, applicant, finalist, and new hire later in the week. Continue to follow the Candidate Experience Week series to learn more.

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Gerry Crispin

Gerry Crispin, sphr, is a life-long student of recruiting. He is fascinated by the playing field where employers tout their latest openings and job seekers game the system. Gerry travels around the world to watch recruiters recruit. Together with his business partner, Mark Mehler, he facilitates peer-to-peer conversations with recruiting leaders compelled to improve what they do and willing to share their current practices at invitation-only, small-group meetings. (Gerry conducted their 68th CareerXroads Colloquium last week in London). Gerry is a co-founder of TalentBoard and the Candidate Experience Awards

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