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Communicating with Job Candidates
Keep communication lines with job applicants open, hiring process transparent

By Pamela Babcock  2/6/2013
 

Recruiters and hiring managers can do more to fill the void that job candidates often get sucked into when applying online for a position, said one recruitment and staffing expert during a Jan. 23, 2013, webcast presented by BraveNewTalent, a San Mateo, Calif.-based social media platform for job seekers.

Candidates no longer expect that their resumes will fall into a black hole, said Gerry Crispin, SPHR, co-founder and principal of East Brunswick, N.J.-based CareerXroads, during the webcast about candidate relationship management.

Instead, applicants expect prospective employers to maintain two-way communication with them about where they stand in the recruitment process. Today’s job candidates also expect employers to be transparent about how that process works and even what they can look forward to if they were to work for the company.

Crispin helps oversee the Candidate Experience Awards, presented annually by the U.K.-based nonprofit organization The Talent Board, which recognize organizations that “really treat candidates in a whole different way,” he said.

His company has done years of research into what makes for a great applicant experience on employment websites. In the webcast he outlined six things that candidates are starting to insist upon:

Know Candidates’ Value. A candidate’s expertise is measurable, he said. Companies should use candidate data to determine implications for factors such as sales potential, retention likelihood, compensation, candidate quality and hire conversion rates. While admitting this isn’t easy, Crispin said, “It can be done, and more companies are doing it.” The key is having a standard, reliable way to measure the candidate’s professional experience.

Walk in Candidates’ Shoes. Recruiters should know how it really feels to apply for a job at their own company, he said, but data collected by CareerXroads suggest that only about half the companies it has studied examine their hiring process from the candidate’s perspective said Crispin. He applies to about 300 or 400 companies each year, including every one on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. Crispin noted that some companies hire actors to apply for jobs on their employment site and report back on their experiences.

Hear Candidates’ Feedback. Companies should listen carefully to all applicants, even those who aren’t qualified to work for them and aren’t hired. In doing research for the 2011 Candidate Experience Awards, Crispin found that of about 17,500 candidates who were interviewed, only 9 percent were asked at the beginning of the application process if they would be willing to provide feedback. Lockheed Martin does a good job on its military transitions web page, he said. An initial prompt asks visitors if they are willing to answer questions about whether the information available on the site helped them decide whether to apply for a job with the company.

Speak Clearly to Candidates. Organizations need to align communication methods and appropriate messaging to all their intended audiences, too, particularly as candidates shift to mobile technologies and social media. 

“A talent community can be an extraordinary opportunity or it can help define you as a lousy employer really, really quick, so you better be able to share in a way that gives value,” Crispin said. Companies need to talk about culture, as well, in a way that allows candidates to decide if the fit is right.

Answer Truthfully. Crispin said employers shouldn’t hedge on applicants’ tough questions, such as “How frequently does this position come open?” or “What happened to the incumbent?” The best companies are transparent about such matters and answer all questions as succinctly as possible.

For example, he said that TiVo’s employment website answers common questions regarding concerns like the positions that are open the recruitment process, the average employee tenure and where the company gets most of its hires from. In fact, TiVo gets 39 percent of its new talent through employee referrals, which is illustrated by a pie chart embedded in the answer. This suggests that anyone applying “ought to go out and find themselves a referral,” Crispin observed.

Risk Management Solutions (RMS) offers a chat room for potential candidates. “There are some pretty heavy questions being asked,” Crispin said, adding that “top recruiters at RMS are trained and empowered to be able to answer every question fully and truthfully.”

Deliver What You Promise. The Sage job website states that the application can be completed in under 2 minutes. When job seekers submit their applications, they are asked how long the application actually took, and that information is sent directly to the head of staffing, Crispin explained. The company website also states that all candidates will receive an automatic e-mail within 20 days that asks whether they have been contacted by a recruiter.

The end result of fostering two-way communication and increased talent engagement? Companies can build relationships with job applicants who might bring higher levels of skills and stronger levels of engagement to the workplace if—or when—they’re hired.

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.

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