Today’s job seekers behave like consumers. They tend to seek out the presence of an employer before applying, and treat the entire experience as something to be considered, evaluated, and — most likely — reviewed for others to see. Given this intensely tight talent market, candidates are also well aware that they can pick and choose the employers they want to interact with.
The challenge is how to attract the top talent, and then engage them to actually take the big step and apply for a position, and keep them moving through the application and screening process as well. Hiring being an ongoing effort, a talent pool needs to be developed and tended as well. And at each stage, it’s key to shape a meaningful, positive candidate experience.
While companies of all sizes need to address these points, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may have a distinct advantage. They can stand out as more cohesive and more responsive, and infuse a clear message into their more compact organization.
We’re innovating more sophisticated tools, from generating powerful data to communicating and tracking in real time, which is great news for smaller companies. It doesn’t take a vast array of different tools or personnel to shape a great candidate experience, it just takes a commitment to being consistent and leveraging best practices. And it starts with these three anchors:
Employer Brand Counts.
Experience is a matter of perception — and perception is not limited to active communication. Smaller companies should evaluate the presence of your brand as an employer, and do what they can to step into a candidate’s shoes. Particularly Gen Z and Gen Y assume that every aspect of an employer they experience is part of that brand — all your materials, the reviews on job sites, how well job openings are described, every piece of information and whether it’s consistent across platforms. Can they apply via mobile? Can they text with a recruiter? What about reviews from candidates and employees on job sites? We live and work in a culture of relentless social sharing.
An SMB can’t often compete with a larger company in terms of basic brand recognition, but that also means you can shape the reputation of being a great company to apply to — and work for. Line up employees who are willing speak to candidates and convey the nature and culture of your workplace. Invest in an ATS that is responsive, flexible and scalable. Work with great digital, mobile and social apps that give you the reach and the access you need and enable you to offer a positive candidate experience
Work the Data and Ask Questions.
It’s not counterintuitive to leverage analytics to get better at dealing with people, even on a smaller scale. Data-Driven recruiting and hiring paints an accurate picture of the hiring process, exposing any your weak points. Candidate experience surveys also help to provide honest feedback.
In a recent case study by the nonprofit Talent Board, a hospital took a good look at its hiring process to find out why it wasn’t pulling in more applicants. By assessing the data generated, it found that attracting candidates wasn’t the problem, the application process was. The number of candidates plummeted at an early phase in the application process tied to a complicated online assessment tool. Essentially, prospective applicants were led into a cumbersome obstacle course, a surefire disincentive to continuing the effort. Combining the data with a review of candidate experience surveys, the hospital was able to revise the process to be more streamlined and candidate friendly, and successfully increase the ratio of “candidate desire to candidate hire.”
Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate More.
Job seekers are sometimes imagined as stick figures on a conveyor belt: some drop off, some keep moving towards an application, some move through that phase to a job offer. But that’s an old picture, and this is a new environment — in which assuming the process is automatic could cost a company dearly in applications. Again, consider a candidate’s expectations, from how long it takes to review an application to whether they can experience the workplace firsthand — and communicate.
There are countless reasons to maintain close contact with your prospective hires, and there are also many tools to allow you to do so. Here, mobile is vital. Assume your connection to prospects will be frequently disrupted by not only competitors, but other information, by the general noisy nature of the digital environment we all live and work in.
And stand by your message: if you’re going to purport to value your people as individuals, you need to treat your hires like individuals as well, which means addressing their individual concerns in real time. It’s one thing for a large behemoth of a firm to take days to respond to an application; it’s another thing for a smaller firm. While this is not necessarily based in reality, candidates will assume that smaller means faster.
Again — for SMBs, candidate experience is a realm they can win in. The sheer scale and complexity of larger firms, along the volume of applicants and jobsite feedback (which won’t all be good), have a way of blurring a clear message for prospective hires. But smaller firms can craft a distinct and positive impact with the right tools. Consider a candidate creating a kind of “portfolio” of all their experiences with your company, and you’ll be able to see the big picture. You have far more tremendous control over what goes in it than you’ve ever had before.