The quality of the recruitment process can no longer be assessed only from the perspective of the recruiting organization. It is equally determined by the applicant’s perspective, in other words by how successful the applicant experience is. But how do you go about creating a successful applicant experience? Although there is no single recipe for success, all good cooks use very much the same ingredients.
1. You’ve gotta care
Applicants are just real people, you know. Behind every account of a career, job application and LinkedIn profile is an individual, with all their successes and knowledge, but also with secret dreams and trepidations. The person behind the paperwork can all too easily get lost amid growing mounds of boring-looking job applications and documenting fragmented work histories. The first step towards creating successful applicant experiences is being able to see past these things (whether you consider them to be key or not). Once you’ve managed that, caring about the applicants as people is a lot easier.
2. Know your target group
A few years back summer trainee campaigns were run, in which unsuccessful young applicants were sent a thank you in the form of a movie ticket or ice cream coupon. A nice touch, sure, but what’s the best way to add value for applicants seeking expert or leadership positions?
There is no universally applicable view of what makes a successful applicant experience. But for similar kinds of applicants, the factors relating to feeling appreciated are often similar. With the hectic pace of working life, even just being present and giving time to another person is valuable. This is especially true in the Finnish recruitment culture, where silence seems commoner than active and open communication.
3. Create positive feelings
“Applying for a job is not without feelings”, somebody wrote a few years back. Recruitment, on the other hand, often is done without feelings: certain facts and criteria must be met in order for the applicant to be considered interesting. Bitter disappointment is guaranteed when an applicant has put blood, sweat and tears into getting the application for their dream job just right, down to the last comma, and has sent it off... but never gets a response, ever.
Every applicant seeks a job with their entire personality. Applicants who are often turned down don’t wonder only about why their skills are not valued; they wonder why they are not valued. Creating a successful applicant experience requires the ability to create positive feelings and experiences, in many cases even for unsuccessful applicants. “Even though you weren’t chosen, you are a valued and skilled professional, employee and person.”
4. Inform, inform, inform...
Last spring, a participant in one of my training sessions asked me how much notification is enough. How often should applicants be informed of the recruitment schedule or about how the process is progressing?
The question was a good one (thanks, by the way!), and raised a lot of discussion. Our conclusion was that there is no such thing as being informed too much. No applicant has ever complained about being overly notified about the process (come to think of it, has anyone ever complained about this in any other situation either?). Criticism always arises through too little communication, or lack of it entirely.
5. ... but don’t just keep them informed. Remember interaction!
So, do keep applicants informed. However, don’t leave it at that – keeping notification is not all there is to communication. This might seem contradictory, but it’s really not. One of the most important elements of a positive applicant experience is interaction. What this entails is that during the various stages of recruitment, applicants also have the chance to inquire and get more information, and in general to be heard and taken into consideration.
6. Reserve resources – nothing comes easy
No successful applicant experience comes about by chance. It requires orientation, planning and plenty of working time and labor. In summary, for applicant experiences to rise to a new level at your organization, you need to be investing resources and developing the necessary skills in your organization. Without all that, don’t expect miracles to happen any time soon.