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.