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.