Jobseeker? Actually, I’m Here for the Candidate Experience

September 25, 2015

I remember when I joined Southerly I actually applied about half a year prior to getting the job. They told me the position I’d applied for was filled but they’d ‘keep my details on file’. Naturally, I dismissed this as the standard fob off and just got on with my life.

Then another position opened, but before I had chance to stumble across it I’d had a phone call from our CEO Shelley. She explained that she’d thought of me specifically for the role, felt strongly that I’d be a good fit and asked if I could pop in for an informal chat. Needless to say, I was impressed at this level of personal attention and the rest is history.

So, that was one very tangible, very pleasing example of the ‘candidate experience’. It created and cemented a great impression of Southerly and I enthusiastically took the job.

This sort of feeling applies to all areas of recruitment, of course, and it needs to start with the content you create to draw in candidates.

The similarities between marketing and recruitment

We’ve often touted the many parallels between content marketing and the modern recruitment landscape, and it seems the trend deepens still. If you’re looking to acquire and retain the top talent in your industry, top of your to-do list has to be addressing the candidate experience, in a similar way that marketing looks at the customer experience.

You want to add value such that they develop trust in your brand and are less inclined to look at competitors

Last week, Netherlands-based recruitment tech specialist Textkernel reported on its survey of over 10,000 employees, recruiters and HR managers from 62 different companies, revealing much about how important this candidate experience really is:

  • 94% consider the candidate experience a priority
  • 87% think their company should invest more in the candidate experience
  • 79% aim to improve the candidate experience in 2015

What is the candidate experience?

Essentially, the candidate experience is recruitment’s version of UX design. UX or user experience applies to website architecture – i.e. how easy a website is to navigate, which parts get the most clicks, how striking the graphic design is and how that reflects the way people use it, and elements like SEO – and it’s ultimately about how usable and pleasurable the interface is. A web designer will adapt and improve performance according to how users behave, so the needs and habits of the typical visitor dictate the look, feel and functionality.

This is the cornerstone of good content marketing, backed by the content that really resonates with and provides value to the user. It’s helping to lock-in and engage a passer-by that’s interested in your business or brand, but isn’t yet in the ‘buying cycle’, i.e. they like your stuff but they’re not quite ready to make a purchase. You want your web content to keep them interested, to add value such that they develop trust in your brand and are less inclined to look at competitors’ offerings. When the customer is ready to buy, they come to you first.

The same is true for potential candidates – there’s the physical experience of visiting your site or HR portal, but there’s also that holistic element of providing them with the content that ties them to you, that makes them think, “Hey, these guys speak my language”. They want to build an impression of your business and company culture before they think about applying for a job.

Now, of course, there are other elements to the candidate experience, such as how you interview and follow up afterwards and how the person conducting the interview communicates with the candidate – see my aforementioned foray into Southerly – however, I’m going to focus purely on the content side of things.

Keep them content

What is particularly interesting about recruitment content marketing is its 360-degree effect on brand strength. Seven out of ten in the Textkernel survey believe that an improved candidate experience attracts more candidates, and six out of ten believe it attracts better candidates. Six out of ten also believe that an improved candidate experience leads to an improved employer brand overall. So the strength of a brand is directly related to the quality of candidates it attracts, and a workforce of strong employees makes for a strong brand, creating a virtuous circle.

An improved candidate experience attracts more candidates…and better candidates

We’ve written before about how brand strength is all about emotional connections, and it’s easy to forget is that people looking for a new job will be feeling a complex range of emotions. They might be frustrated with their current position and keen to move. They may be excited about stepping up a level and finding the next opportunity. Equally they may be on the hunt for that excitement – not yet convinced about the idea of changing jobs but willing to be impressed. This gives recruitment marketers a range of opportunities to stand out.

How do we establish those emotional connections? One way is by giving potential new recruits somewhere to belong – a little taste of exclusivity.

Passers-by might not be in the ‘applying cycle’ just yet, so give them something to be immersed in. One of our clients is Shell’s Recruitment Marketing team and we’ve worked a lot on the Shell Talent Community. As well as providing a smooth and convenient candidate experience in terms of submitting applications, this community offers links to areas of importance for jobseekers, such diversity and inclusion policies, and showcases the range of opportunities in specific areas of interest – everything from engineers to IT innovators to lawyers.

Case studies play a major role in defining the candidate experience, and the more creative the better really. The most powerful emotional connection you can create is to allow candidates to see themselves in their potential role.

It’s good to create a whole package in one easy-to-locate place that’s professionally and enticingly designed. Combine these elements with a few content extras – perhaps you could outline the company perks, add some videos about why you love to work in your part of town, how good the schools are, what the apartments are like, and why the café round the corner is God’s gift to lunch. Create that emotional connection.

The little things in life

You want to avoid letting something trivial scupper your chances with a great candidate who might be feeling frustrated. It’s the little things in the candidate experience that cause problems – how long the application process takes, the time for a page to load or an ugly interface, how many steps there are between registering interest and submitting your application or a lack of interesting, useful content.

Get these things wrong in the world of marketing and you could lose a potential customer. In recruitment marketing, you could be missing out the perfect employee – the one that could have transformed your brand.

Recruitment marketing is as much about creating an emotional connection with a potential employee as it is about advertising a job. One thing that connects jobseekers is that they are on the hunt. Give them a candidate experience to sink their teeth into.


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