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  • Using Technology, Data to Enhance Candidate Experience

    September 27, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    A candidate interview for a job.

    TAGS: best practices, branding and marketing, operations, interviewing, spotlight

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    When it comes to employer interactions with student candidates, Kayla Woitkowski and Anna Prorock say that the “Golden Rule definitely applies.”

    Woitkowski and Prorock explain that students treat their interactions with employers as human interactions, and, as such, they expect to be treated kindly and communicated with promptly.

    “Student recruitment is especially challenging because all of the top employers are targeting the same talent all at the same time,” explains Woitkowski, senior manager of university outreach and recruitment for SAS Talent Acquisition. “This said, the experience that you provide can truly be what makes you stand out as the employer of choice for top talent.”

    Adds Prorock, senior manager for SAS Talent Acquisition: “Deciding on their first career out of college is a big decision for students to make. Students can become very turned off when employers are only concerned with making hires, and are not interested the students’ interests and career desires.”

    One of the common missteps employers make during their interactions with candidates is not following up with candidates after they submit an application or are interviewed. Woitkowski says it's an easy thing to miss. Oftentimes, recruiters are working many positions and are very busy. They might be focused more on who is moving along in the process, and not who has been declined. Or maybe the organization doesn't have the technology to allow this to be as scalable as it needs to be to follow up successfully.

    “Regardless of the reason,” she says, “this can make a big impact on an organization’s talent brands, as well as the overall employer brand, so it’s important that this is addressed. Organizations should educate their hiring managers on why quick turnaround times are needed. How do you do this? By using data.”

    Woitkowski and Prorock point to data to underscore this, such as those in a recent report from CareerBuilder that show a poor candidate experience not only impacts an employer’s ability to hire, but it can also affect the bottom line.

    “In fact, 83 percent of candidates surveyed said that a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or a company they once liked,” Prorock cites. “That is a direct impact on the company's brand. Also, 69 percent of candidates surveyed reported that they are less likely to buy from a company if they had a bad experience while interviewing with that company. That directly impacts revenue.”

    Another report from Virgin Wireless quantified the impact of candidates who did not have a good experience when interviewing with the company. Woitkowski explains that Virgin Wireless used its candidate database to identify the individuals who had been declined from the interview process who were also Virgin Wireless customers. Then they cross-referenced this list with candidates/customers who had dropped their accounts to find there was a direct correlation. The result was an impact of $5 million in lost revenue.

    “Obviously, the candidate experience is more than just an important HR topic,” Woitkowski says. “It's a topic that all business leaders should pay close attention to. And candidates should be treated with the same level of care as customers because they actually might be, both now and in the future.”

    There are several key elements to providing an outstanding experience for candidates—most notably technology and data. The underlying factor is ensuring you have the right technologies in place, Woitkowski points out.

    “This is especially important for large organizations that are interacting with greater quantities of candidates,” she says. “To provide the timely updates that candidates are seeking, they have to have a system that is able to scale that outreach in a meaningful and customized way.”

    In recent years, SAS has completely transformed its talent acquisition team and processes to keep an exceptional candidate experience on the forefront of everything it does. SAS started with the implementation of a new global applicant tracking system that allows for streamlined communications to candidates, customized reporting, and specific opportunities for branding that allow it to provide more information to its candidates during the application and interview process.

    “Specifically, during on-campus recruiting, we use a technology that allows us to capture resumes virtually and contact candidates nearly immediately after meeting them on campus,” Woitkowski says. “This decreases the amount of time it takes for candidates to hear back from us from several days, or even weeks, to hours.”

    She adds that SAS recently received a comment that appeared on a LinkedIn blog from an individual who said that SAS was kind even in the way the company rejected her for a position and that the rejection didn’t feel like just another autogenerated response.

    “It’s all about how you customize and use your technology to provide an extra level of touch that other companies are not,” Woitkowski says.

    From a data standpoint, SAS now surveys every candidate during the interview process to obtain feedback on their candidate experience.

    “Recruiters are held accountable for these numbers and we present our team score during each of our monthly team meetings, so everyone knows how important the candidate experience is,” Prorock notes. “To improve, you have to understand your areas of opportunity, so this survey data is key for us to continue to evolve how we interact with candidates throughout the process.”

    SAS’s outcomes have been excellent so far. Its most recent data shows a 53 percent response rate with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 for all responses.

    Beyond technology and data, it's important that organizations look at all the phases of the candidate experience and ensure the human element is infused throughout. This includes asking questions and finding solutions, such as:

    • How do your employees represent your organization while at events? Are they approachable and kind, and do they have the necessary information to provide meaningful answers to students’ questions? If not, the organization might create a virtual training session to set expectations.
    • During the application process, do students clearly understand the next steps of the process? Are they communicated with in a timely manner? If not, the organization should update its external webpage to include timelines and updates.
    • Do your candidates know exactly what to expect during their interview? Are they treated with utmost respect by interviewers? If not, the organization should consider establishing a cross-functional project team to address concerns and implement change.

    Woitkowski and Prorock offer several other tips for using technology and data to transform candidate experience, including: 

    • Finding people who are passionate about candidate experience—Establish a cross-functional project team of employees passionate about candidate experience. Establish a charter, discover your candidate experience gaps, and build actionable plans to fix them.
    • Making little changes that cause big impacts—A small change may go a long way. Tweaks to your communications can change how your company is perceived. Updates to your website can provide information that gives much-needed answers to candidates.

    “Also, read articles to get data points that drive home why candidate experience matters,” Woitkowski advises. “A commitment to the candidate experience must come from the top, and the top will be best influenced by understanding how change can impact the bottom line.”