The Candidate Experience Awards UK #CandE (White Paper)

I’m proud to have been a judge for the UK version of the Candidate Experience Awards, and a member of the steering committee. it is a topic I’m passionate about. It is free for companies to take part in. Sign up is in 3 parts:

1) Expression of interest
2) Complete a questionnaire (45 Minutes)
3) Give access to candidates to survey (conducted by the #CandE’s.)

Awards are given to ALL companies who achieve a benchmark standard, and all are interviewed by the judges to determine which companies are awarded a distinction.

Sign up is as simple as CLICKING HERE

This is the white paper from the 2012 edition, with all the data from the candidate questionnaires and conclusions. Enjoy!

The UK Candidate Experience. Part 5 #CandE UK

This is the final part of my series reviewing the data from the Candidate Experience Awards, known as #CandE’s UK.  You can order your free copy of the official report HERE. Please sign up to take part in the 2013 competition, it’s free, and you get a full benchmaek report.

Candidates acknowledge use of assessments.

44% of responding companies use 1 test or instrument for assessing candidates in areas like personality and fit, with 27% using three or more in the selection process. Half of the candidates reported completing assessments during the selection process. Candidates accept this as part of the selection process that is consistently applied to everyone, creating a sense of fairness. The results from these assessments present hiring companies with the opportunity to give the candidates  valuable feedback that will be of use to them in the future, by enabling them to get to know themselves better. The number of companies who provide candidates with the result of tests and assessments where a candidate is unsuccessful is nominal, and this should change.Hiring companies that employ additional background checks to mitigate risks, such as credit checks, must make this clear and transparent pre-application, to prevent those who think they might fail such a check to opt out. It is a long process to go through to discover a condition of employment that the candidate was never going to get passed. This is why transparency of the whole process and all requirements should be clear at the pre-application stage. Managing expectation is critical to candidate experience.

Employer communication follow through.

57.5% of the responding companies reported that they follow-up with finalists no longer being considered or updates on the next step, with the remaining 42.5% are advised that they will only hear back if they are successful, and no updates after the notified cut off date means that their application is no longer being considered. In this case, no news is not good news. Whilst this reduces the time pressure on recruiters to give feedback, the benefits should be compared with the negative impression this will potentially create with candidates who have invested time in the process and are waiting for an answer. The growth of review sites like Glassdoor in the UK makes candidate reviews over process available to potential candidates. The data from Glassdoor from the US indicates that candidates are checking individual companies for reassurance before hitting apply, and next to salary levels, selection process is the most visited area of a company profile. Feedback is a critical part of a positive candidate experience, and should be an area for serious consideration in the selection process. The distinction winners set KPI’s for feedback on progress, and the reasons for rejection. Good practice and fairness to candidates dictates the need for timely and efficient feedback.that has a future value to the candidate even if they are unsuccessful.

Candidate as a decision maker.

Candidates choosing to opt-out during the selection process with 42% of candidates deselecting on the grounds of salary not meeting expectation, 28% due to being unqualified to do the job and 28% due to a bad relationship with the hiring manager and the recruiter. The first 2 could have been avoided with greater transparency at the pre-application stage. The solution to this might well lie in the low volume of respondents who were given access to the job spec before applying (25%). Making minimum requirements and job descriptions transparent at the pre-application stage allowing candidates to choose not to apply, providing a better candidate experience and saving recruiter time courting unsuitable candidates. it is unsurprising that half the candidates who chose to withdraw reported a poor candidate experience. This affects the probability of candidates reapplying for future positions, the feedback they may post on sites like Glassdoor and what they may tell friends.

Candidate selection.
The managing of the offer process is usually the responsibility of the recruiter, although increasingly this responsibility is moving to the hiring manager. It was interesting to note in the winners interviews the different views hiring companies held over when a candidate is a candidate, and when they are an employee. The answers varied from offer stage, to the completion of on-boarding through to the end of the probationary period. Whilst this might seem like a minor issue, it has some bearing on how the hiring company views candidate experience. The turning point seems to be the point at which the candidate moves from the responsibility of the recruiter, to the responsibility of HR. It is easy to see how the recruiter, having built a relationship with the candidate throughout the process, could be the best person to manage the transition from candidate to employee. What is clear is that the candidate is most likely to have second thoughts during the offer period, where efficient and timely communication, administration of the process and accessibility mitigates the risk of a last-minute change of mind, and is a key stage in candidate experience. The better the relationship between the recruiter and the candidate, and the better the candidate experience, the smoother the transition to employee.

Would the candidate reapply?

All of the winning companies interviewed reported that they were operating either a talent network or talent community where an ongoing relationship is maintained with candidates regardless of the outcome, An increasing number of hiring companies are adopting CRM (Client relationship management) technology for maintaining relationships, and are adopting a methodology of sourcing from previous candidates for all new, open positions.

Only candidates who have had a good experience with the hiring company will be willing to engage again. The question “would you reapply?” is an important one for monitoring the change in perception of the employer, and how it might change throughout the process. This provides valuable feedback and data for improving the hiring process, and should be asked of candidates in real-time at every stage. In the research, 36.5% of candidates were left with a negative or neutral impression of the company as a result of their candidate experience. This should be a concern for hiring companies, and a key metric in candidate experience, particularly to those companies looking to re-engage candidates at any time in the future, manage reputation on sites like Glassdoor, and increase the possibility of getting recommended as an employer to others.

Thanks for sticking with the series. I hope you found some of the data and recommendations useful. Candidate experience needs to be a priority. It’s not hard to get it right.


The UK Candidate Experience. Part 4. #CandE’s UK

This is part 4 in the series looking at the data behind the candidate experience awards in the UK. This research gives a unique insight in to what actually happens when people apply for jobs, and the picture is not all that great.

You can get a copy of the official report HERE, and apply to take part in the next round of research. It is free to take part.

Candidate evaluation and selection.

The lack of information indicated in the pre-application stage means a high volumes of applications for most jobs, with unqualified applications are at an all time high. This makes automation in the selection process essential, with a heavy reliance on the ATS to do the work. Only 8.4% of applicants responding had any kind of selection conversation before applying. It may well be that these conversations are the result of the direct approaches reported in the winners interviews as being increasingly adopted. Of all the candidates applying, only 11.6% completed a structured interview, with the majority of candidates being discounted before this stage. Questions should be asked as to why such a large volume of unqualified candidates feel an application is worthwhile, and if the minimum qualifications are made clear to potential candidates at the pre-application stage. Hiring companies should look closely at the information and content they are making accessible to potential candidates, and if the driver in their recruitment marketing efforts is geared to increasing the volume of applications rather than encouraging opt-out from those who are either unqualified, or don’t have a culture or values match.

A reliance on the ATS for selection means much of the messaging will be automated as notifications or rejections on “do not reply” mails rather than personal feedback. With the importance of the ATS in the process, hiring companies need to collect on-going feedback from applying candidates to ensure that the application process is user friendly, intuitive, relevant and as short as possible, with clear instructions and on-line help.

Preliminary screening resources.

For the most part, the ATS is used to present screening questions of varying detail and complexity, from the yes/no qualifiers through to those requiring a more detailed response. Due to volumes of response, the process for the most part is designed for deselection in order to present recruiters with a manageable short-list of candidates for selection and interview. Selection within the ATS is based on qualifiers like eligibility to work, experience etc, with more detailed questions over aspirations, and confirmation of the information submitted at interview stage. Due to volumes, hiring companies have been increasing the amount of questions asked, and the time it takes to complete an application. This has been evidenced by increased abandonment rates during the process.

This is an important figure for hiring companies to monitor, in order to identify if there are particular stages where candidates are bailing out, soliciting feedback at the point of leaving to identify the reasons behind it and adjusting the process accordingly. Examples of best practice within the survey included limiting the application process to seven clicks, CV parsing for speed and convenience, issuing clear and simple instructions at every stage and the opportunity to engage with recruiters throughout the process.

The objective now for hiring companies should be to reduce the volume of applications by greater transparency and access to information at the pre-application stage, encouraging opt-out from those unqualified or a poor values or culture match. In demand candidates will have less tolerance for a lengthy, complicated or confusing application process, the more likely they will abandon it. Hiring companies should be concerned with who is abandoning their application, as well as the volume.A lengthy application process presents real problems for the increasing number of candidates looking to apply by mobile.

The job interview.

The technology application process and telephone interview (averaging 35 per job) is designed to deliver a short list of 10 – 12 candidates to interview on a face to face basis. 75% of responding companies conduct telephone interviews to arrive at the short-list. A number of the winners commented at interview that they are now replacing the telephone interview with automated video selection (17%), in order to improve efficiency. What is clear is that employers are looking for more than the ATS to shortlist candidates for interview. All of the winners train their recruiters in interview techniques, and most extend this training to the hiring manager. The interviewer, whether recruiter or hiring manager is the face of the company with the candidate, impacts candidate experience in that the applicant is looking to be given a fair chance to present their case and the relationship formed with the hiring manager at interview plays a big part in their decision making when it comes to offer. 25% of employers conduct 5 or more interviews (including phone interviews), Each of these touch points present an opportunity to select candidates and to create a positive impression, by the same token each touch point throws up the risk of creating a poor impression by poor delivery.

Process and training for everyone involved in the hiring process, from recruiter to hiring manager is a critical factor in candidate experience, as evidenced by the practices of the winners. It is also worth noting the practice of giving feedback in a method that matches the mode of screening, once voice communication is initiated, feedback by voice is expected. Candidates are expected to invest an increasing amount of time and effort into applying and going through selection. The time and effort committed to feedback on each stage by the hiring company needs to reflect this.

Interview preparation

Interview structure and format should not come as a surprise to the candidate. Candidates want to prepare for interview by researching the company, the opportunity and the people conducting the interview. 29.9% of the candidate respondents received an agenda of what to expect before the interview, and 10.2% at the interview. 63% were given the names of the interviewers before the interview. This means 60% went in to the interview blind without any agenda, and 37% had no opportunity to research their interviewer before the event.

Giving the candidates the opportunity to prepare is essential for candidate experience. The candidates need to feel that the hiring company gave them the best opportunity to present their case in the best way. They don’t expect to always get the job, but they do expect the chance. 51.1% of candidates report being required to attend a panel interview as part of the selection process. This experience can be nerve racking enough for a candidate looking to make a positive impression, but the pressure is intensified when the panel comes as a surprise. Candidates do not expect to get a job, but they do expect to be given the opportunity to present themselves in the best light. The opportunity to prepare is a big part of this.

The survey results indicate that few candidates were advised that a panel interview was going to take place, and the negative impression this can create on the candidate. 54% of candidates were advised on the next step, time-scales and expectations, which means 46% were left in the dark. Co-ordinating candidates in a timely and informed way should be an essential part of the selection process. Care and attention paid to the candidate at the critical selection stages, indicates the care and attention that will be paid to the candidate if they transition to being employees. The attention to detail in the selection process can play a big factor in the candidates decision making process when it comes to the offer stage. Hiring companies should be mindful of this when designing their hiring process.

If you have stuck with this series, which concludes tomorrow, I hope you are getting the picture of what really happens when people look for jobs.I urge anyone involved in the recruiting process to get involved in this years research and awards. It’s free to take part, and will get you a free benchmark report on how you are doing. I ask my fellow bloggers in the space to help promote this far and wide. It is important, and through real research we can make a difference.




The Candidate Experience In The UK #CandE UK

This is part 3 of the Candidate Experience, based on the research conducted as part of the judging process. You can get a free copy of the official report HERE.

Assessments and testing questions

Candidate experience is greatly  impacted by how well the individual is briefed and prepared for what is going to happen in the hiring process, and what they are going to be asked to do, from questionnaires to detailed behavioural assessments. 38% of the candidates were presented with no explanation of what will be expected of them. Hiring companies need to consider how well they are communicating process and types of questions/assessments, with clear guidelines over time and method of completion. The next step instructions can be included in all on-line content, and as a pop up whilst completing each stage of the on-line application process.

Applicant feedback on the application stage

The majority of candidates are not being asked for feedback until much later in the process. 55% of candidates were not asked, and it is clear from earlier answers that where feedback is solicited, this comes by way of questions from the recruiter, rather than data collection during the process. The respondents to the questionnaire paint a picture a great reliance on recruiters for communication and feedback, whilst time available to do this is restricted due to volumes. A candidate who has been successful at this stage and is further in to the recruitment process before being asked will probably have a more positive view than a candidate who has failed at this stage. Only soliciting successful candidates later in the process may well hide problems in the process. Feedback needs to be collected in a consistent way, and in real time at every stage of the process to bring about improvement in candidate experience. Without meaningful feedback and data, companies can only work on gut feel and guess work.

The evolution of the black hole.

Unqualified candidates either receive no feedback (notified at application by a cut off date: “If you haven’t heard from us by …..”, an automated rejection notice triggered by the ATS, or 33% of respondents are required to give direct feedback. 39% give automated or no feedback to unqualified candidates. The rule of thumb amongst the distinction winners was that voice contact was instigated, then feedback should be by voice.The “black hole” experienced by many candidates can be avoided by setting clear K.P.I.’s and expectation for recruiters, and line managers at every stage in the process, as well as making progress visible on-line, so that a candidate can check in and monitor their progress at any time.
The volume of unqualified candidates creates communication challenges for companies in rejecting candidates at point of application, hence the increase in use of “killer questions” and automated rejection. The solution to this lies in transparency of minimum requirement pre-application, to make it easier for people to opt out if they are unqualified, reducing volumes and improving efficiency, a key to improving candidate experience.

Feedback to qualified candidates on progress.

30% of rejected candidates received an automated “do not reply” e-mail to close off the process. Whilst this is better than nothing, it has little value to the individual candidate who will have already committed considerable time and effort into the process. 24% received a call from the recruiter to give feedback, reaffirming the belief that once voice contact has been instigated, then feedback should be by voice.
It was interesting to note that when hiring managers had received training in giving feedback, and were required to give feedback to the candidate directly within an agreed time-scale, attention at interview, selection and feedback, the quality of the whole experience greatly improvedThe more involved and accountable for candidate experience the hiring manager is, from start to finish, the better the candidate experience. Whilst the number of candidates receiving a call from the hiring manager with feedback, 3.2% of candidate respondents, this demonstrates a move in thinking as to who should be responsible for delivering in person feedback.
Qualified candidates go through a series of assessments before being called in for face to face meetings, which range from telephone interviews, video screening (commonly referred to as video interviewing), to tests and assessments. This is the second vetting stage after the application, requiring additional commitment. 50% of the company respondents had measures in place to make recruiters or line managers available for feedback if required. A concerning result from the candidate respondents is that the majority received standard, non-specific feedback notifying them that they were no longer being considered. Some notification is better than the 11% who heard nothing and were left to assume they had been unsuccessful, but given the effort, time and commitment candidates are expected to make getting to the interview stage, do they not deserve more specific feedback for next time?
As more hiring companies move from transactional recruiting based on one job, and move towards continuing relationships with candidates through talent networks, (as operated by all of the distinction winners), and talent communities, extra attention will need to be paid to how the rejection message is delivered. The message should be “Not not right, just not right now.”

Active listening before the finalist stage.

A continuing theme throughout the research was the lack of measurement and feedback at each stage of the hiring process. 76% of candidates were not asked for feedback after they had been rejected, This misses a real opportunity to get a real understanding of how well the process is working and the feedback is being received. As companies look to maintain relationships with candidates beyond the job stage, revisiting their skills, experience and qualifications for future opportunities, then managing rejection in a positive way will be critical for on-going relationships. Without feedback and data, this critical stage is left to chance, with no real opportunity to evaluate and improve on candidate experience.

Candidate disposition before the final stage.

According to the responding candidates, this is the critical stage for candidate experience where they report being less satisfied. 43.6% reported a negative experience at this stage, and 38.5% reported a neutral experience, neither good nor bad. Candidates clearly have an expectation of better (or more personal) feedback at this stage, having invested time and effort in the process. The lack of feedback and data collection at this stage means that most hiring companies will be in the dark as to this sentiment, and the reasoning behind it, a good illustration of the need for a formal feedback process, as hiring and feedback procedure is clearly not in line with candidate expectation.