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Maintaining a positive candidate experience despite Covid-19

Allen Associates, News & Blog

More than ever, it’s imperative for firms to ensure that they are providing a positive candidate experience if they plan to continue with their ongoing recruitment. We live in an uncertain world, with information changing daily and stress levels higher than ever. Therefore, all recruitment campaigns should start with empathy and understanding. Putting the candidate at the heart of the entire strategy could increase engagement and position the candidate experience positively.

But what does this mean in practice? Simply put, its about making sure that your recruitment activities are all designed with the candidate in mind. HR software firm Workable describes the candidate experience as “how candidates feel about your company once they experience your hiring process.” In a time of such uncertainty, understanding the pressure points felt by individual candidates could be the key to developing a positive candidate experience.

As experts in recruitment, we know what candidates respond favourably to. We also know the pressures that clients are facing. Therefore, we’ve outlined a step-by-step strategy that may help clients to make improvements to their candidate experience.

Step 1 – The job description

Clients will be looking to recruit because they’ve identified a skills gap that needs resolving. Some clients may be looking at long-term employment opportunities, whilst others may be focusing solely on temporary workforces. Whatever the case, the first point of contact that an applicant will have with a prospective employer is via the initial job description.

Previously, job adverts focused upon the specifics of the role. Many firms tend to take ‘skills first approach’ to meet specific needs. However, we anticipate that the past few months may have changed the way that individuals approach their job search. Candidates may be less concerned about job skills and capability, and more interested in learning about how employers are supporting their workers during this time. Clients may wish to change the way that they write their job adverts to have a stronger emphasis upon the style of work. Is flexible working encouraged? Will remote working remain feasible long after lockdown? Can employees choose their preferred working hours?

These are the questions that candidates will be asking themselves when it comes to looking for a new job. The quicker they can find out the answers to these questions, the more favourably they will view their experience.

Step 2 – Changes in Communication

The last few months have shown how important communications are. From external content directed at stakeholders through to internal communications with staff, businesses have learnt that taking a clear and cohesive approach to communication is vital. This remains true if firms are looking to improve their candidate experience.

Practically speaking, clients should put themselves into the position of the candidate and look at their existing content from a different perspective. For example, what does their website say about them as a potential employer? Are there any explanations of how the staff have been supported over the previous months? Have there been any changes in working practices, or will they continue to adapt as we emerge from lockdown? Is there enough information on the website and social media pages to allow candidates to understand who the company is and what they stand for?

We believe that clients should ensure that HR and marketing teams are working together effectively to ensure that all communications have a consistent tone of voice. More than ever, recruitment needs a personal approach. Potential candidates may be looking to move jobs because they’ve felt unsupported by their existing employer. Or they may have worked in a sector heavily impacted by the virus. Whatever the case, it’s likely that any new communications will need to make the candidate feel at ease and help to rebuild their confidence, from the start of the recruitment journey throughout the entire onboarding process.

Step 3 – Setting expectations

“Set expectations from the first point of contact. Then, make sure you meet or exceed them throughout the candidate lifecycle. This helps establish a positive candidate experience from which both parties can reap the rewards”

Source: JazzHR

A key element of ensuring any positive candidate experience is focusing upon setting expectations.

We’ve previously spoken about how many clients may be turning to temporary workforces, and this may be new for all parties involved. If a client is turning to short-term contracts in a bid to manage existing workloads how will this be communicated to the applicants? Could there be an opportunity to transition into permanent employment? Or could there be scope to redeploy that candidate into other departments or alternative projects? Setting expectations from the outset will not only provide greater clarity for candidates but it can also aid the onboarding processes. It can also help existing staff members to understand how new recruits fit into the team.

There are many ways in which a client can help to communicate their expectations. It could be through the job description (perhaps a line which makes clear if there is any scope to extend short-term contracts into permanent recruitment). Or it could be through a dedicated employer page on the website. When it comes to recruitment, problems occur when there is a mismatch in communication between a client and a candidate. Therefore, any key client expectations must be set out early on within the recruitment process.

Step 4 – Are candidates supported through every stage of the application process?

The final step of providing a positive candidate experience is looking at what support is given to the candidate at each stage of their journey. This is about tying up the various facets from stages 1-3. It’s also about looking at how the specific ways in which candidates can start the application process.

For instance, how can they submit their application? Is there an online form that they need to complete, and if so, is this form mobile optimised? Can candidates submit their application at a time that suits them? Is there enough information available about each stage of the application process including what to expect from the interview stage? If clients are moving towards video interviews, what support is provided to applicants to help them understand what they should expect? Some candidates may feel uncomfortable talking to a camera. Clients may wish to communicate in advance how they plan to conduct virtual interviews with candidates. This may not only settle any nerves, but it demonstrates a clear commitment to candidate care.

When we wrote about how the workplace could change post-2020, we suggested that companies may start to use marketing tools to demonstrate CSR activities. A core component of this could be specific recruitment-focused pages on their websites. These could outline any potential vacancies as well as provide a consistent space for updates about application and interview processes. It can also be a safe space to showcase career progression case studies or highlight the specific ways that employees have been supported in recent months.

Ultimately, creating a positive candidate experience is about providing that candidate with as much information as possible, in a way that touches on any potential pain points throughout the application and recruitment process. As experienced recruiters, we can advise clients on the best way to improve candidates' experiences. For more information, please get in touch.