A human resource professional’s best tool is his or her ability to experience empathy. Empathy creates an opportunity to step into the shoes of others to see a company from their perspective. It also paves the road for viewing the employee and candidate experience in a proactive way, to inform best practices.
In fact, there may actually be danger to an organization whose human resources department doesn’t use the empathetic approach. Disregarding the candidate experience negatively impacts one of the most important aspects for any company: hiring.
Hiring, of course, starts with the application -- which, for a hopeful candidate, is the employer’s open door. The application can be engaging and simple, attracting strong talent, or it can suffer from various issues, repelling any and all types of professionals. A September 2014 study from Jibe found that a poor application experience deterred 25 percent of the 1,000 job seekers surveyed. Right off the bat, one in four people had lost interest and gone off to search elsewhere.
While this study might be dismissed as inconsequential, the scenario it describes is, unfortunately, common -- yet not given the weight it deserves: A 2015 study by Careerbuilder, for instance, found that 82 percent of the 2,002 hiring managers surveyed said there was little-to-no negative impact on a company when a candidate had a bad experience during the hiring process.
And that is just the kind of opinion that severely underestimates the message communicated during a negative candidate experience.
For example, if a company's application process is riddled with technological issues and poorly designed, what's being demonstrated is a lack of interest in making the hiring process convenient and simple for the job seeker. If the application takes a lot of time and requires tedious, repetitive input, the message to the applicant is that the company runs inefficient processes.
Here are a few ways companies can use the candidate experience to make a great application process:
1. Ensure that career resources work.
The September 2014 study from Jibe found that 37 percent of the 300 recruitment professionals surveyed were concerned that their company’s application process was deterring quality hires. That hunch was legitimate: Almost 23 percent of job seekers surveyed agreed with the statement that if they had issues filling out an online application, they’d never apply to that company again.
Specifically, job seekers were most likely deterred from completing online applications if they encountered technological issues (60 percent), failed in their efforts to upload their resumes (55 percent) or couldn’t track their application’s status (44 percent).
Empathy with "the candidate experience" can help organizations prevent such issues. Run through your company career site to get an idea of the experience the candidate goes through and ensure all links are live and operational. Question if the application is engaging enough to maintain interest and clearly communicate what's needed for a correct submission. Consider administering surveys for feedback on how to improve.
2. Make applications mobile friendly.
Mobile devices have dramatically changed how job seekers execute their hunt. A November 2015 study from Pew Research found that 94 percent of the 2,001 job seekers surveyed said they had previously looked for and researched jobs online using their mobile device.
Nearly half of smartphone job-seekers surveyed, however, had had problems accessing job-related content because it wasn’t displaying properly on their phone; or else they said they had difficulty reading the text in a job posting due to poor mobile design.
And more than 33 percent said they had struggled to enter a large amount of text or had had difficulty submitting files or other supporting documents needed to complete their applications.
Invest in making the application process mobile friendly to enable candidates to complete a full application for a position on their device. Here, there are several things to consider when designing the mobile side of the candidate experience.
One tip is to keep things simple yet effective. If the application is complex, people will lose interest. That's why, to effectively vet talent, the company should know exactly what information is needed. Test how the application functions on personal devices, and run additional technology tests to identify what works. Find out where the bugs are.
3. Communicate expectations.
Candidates hate long wait times and being left in the dark about the process. The 2015 study from CareerBuilder found that 84 percent of applicants surveyed had expected a personal email response, and 52 percent had anticipated a phone call after submitting an application. Some 25 percent expected to hear back even if they were not being brought in for an interview.
It’s important, then, to keep communication lines open because that courtesy illustrates a respect for the candidate and his or her time, and expresses gratitude. These responses can be automated and should convey pertinent information about when the candidate might expect to hear back, plus details about the next stage in the hiring process.
Even if applicants are disqualified, provide feedback about why. Providing a response shows respect and provides candidates with information about their qualifications. The advantage of this is two-fold: It deters talent who lack needed experience or skill sets from applying to subsequent jobs, and it engages with good talent who may be strong fits for the future.