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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Candidate Experiences

Candidate's interview experienceTime and again, research has shown that providing a good candidate experience is essential to today’s business strategy. And that’s a claim to which companies like Pinstripe, Shell Oil, Baptist Memorial Health Care and MB Financial Bank can attest. CareerBuilder recently recognized these four companies for Excellence in Applicant Experience and their understanding that every interaction they have with a job candidate counts.

These companies know that treating candidates well is more than just about trying to recruit new hires (although that’s a large part of it); they also understand that creating a positive experience for job candidates can effect the company’s employment brand as well as its consumer brand (not to mention its ability to recruit future candidates).

In various interviews, representatives from each company shared what they know about creating the experiences that set them apart in the eyes of candidates – and why it matters.

1. They focus on the first impression.  

At Baptist Memorial Health Care, the old adage that one never has a second chance to make a first impression rings true. “I believe retention begins when candidates first look at our website,” says Lisa Mack, director of talent acquisition at Baptist Memorial. The company makes a conscious effort to present a professional image on their website and making the application process user-friendly. This attention to quality, after all, is a reflection of the overall organization. “If our website is easy for candidates to use and navigate, it contributes to a positive experience.  It’s imperative we give an excellent first impression,” Mack says.

Knowing that job postings are often the first introduction a candidate may have to their company, Shell Oil starts there. “At Shell, providing a good candidate experience means everything from having clearly written job postings, an easy to find and navigate careers site, an efficient application process and then positive interactions with all key Shell personnel in the interview, offer and onboarding processes,” says Anita Lamarche, recruitment marketing advisor for the company’s Americas region.

2. They think from a candidate’s perspective. 

Understanding that searching for jobs can already be an emotionally exhausting experience, MB Financial seeks to take as much burden out of the process as possible for candidates. “Searching for jobs can be difficult, and we want to make that as easy an experience for the candidate as possible,” says Erika Mitchell, PHR, assistant vice president.We work with candidates throughout the recruitment process to make sure everything about the position and the parameters of the role are truly understood.

At Pinstripe, they know that thinking like a candidate isn’t just a good recruitment strategy; it’s a good business strategy. After all, good candidates are still hard to find, and failing to provide a good candidate experience could lead to losing in-demand talent their clients need to move their business forward. “We put an outside-in approach to the candidate experience and say, ‘If I’m a really tough candidate, I need to have action, I need to be responded to quickly. Otherwise, I’m going to move on,’” says Erin Lange, executive vice president.

3. They know that candidates are customers, too.

“We recognize that, at the end of the day, every candidate with whom we interact can always be a customer,” Lange says of Pinstripe, where they’ve modeled their recruitment strategy on Zappos’ customer service strategy, part of which focuses on ‘one-call resolution’ – working to meet a customer’s needs in just one phone call. With that in mind, Pinstripe works to ensure whenever a candidate calls in, whoever is on the end of that line has the sufficient resources and knowledge to listen to that candidate’s concerns and answer that candidate’s questions.

MB Financial has a similar philosophy about its recruitment process. “We want people to understand what our company is all about, from the very beginning of the application process. And that continues into our onboarding process,” Mitchell explains. “We look at it as customer service: when they’re candidates, they’re also customers; however, once they’re not candidates anymore, they can still be customers.”

4. They constantly revise the process.

Recognizing that technology can sometimes get in the way of a good candidate experience, Shell Oil focuses on ensuring the online user experience is a seamless one. “We continually seek to improve our website content and provide information about career opportunities, sustainable development and community initiatives and general company information to help candidates in choosing to apply for work with Shell,” says Lamarche of Shell’s focus on keeping the technical aspects of the application process as clean as possible.

With so many stakeholders in the recruitment process – not to mention the constant changes in the market and technology available – the need to regularly reassess the application process is a given at MB Financial. “We work to understand the recruitment process from recruiters, candidates and hiring managers,” says Mitchell. “We take into account their pain points and their individual needs [when looking at our process]. We look at how we can provide the best possible experience for all involved.”

5. They treat the candidate experience as a business strategy.

“Our approach to the candidate experience is very strategic, and it’s not by chance,” says Lange of Pinstripe’s approach to recruiting, which is unique in its model at the time CEO Sue Marks founded the company in 2005. She sought to create a “dedicated model”, that allows for clients to really get to know their recruiters and develop personal relationships.  “We’re a service company first. What you see in our results is a very hardwired and designed approach to how we do the work we do for all our clients.”

At Baptist Memorial Health Care, creating excellent experiences is part of the culture, says Mack, and the application and recruitment experience is no exception; therefore, they treat it as they would any other business initiative. “Baptist is committed to excellence in everything we do, and we continually evaluate our practices – across the entire organization – to make sure we maintain that level of excellence,” Mack says.

6. They empower candidates to make the right decisions.

“All applicants get a screening questionnaire, which gives them more security in deciding if they are really a match for this opportunity,” says Mack of Baptist Memorial’s application system. The company recently underwent an initiative to redesign its website in a way that made sense for interested candidates. “We streamlined the overall look of the site and made it easier to determine where to go to apply. We wanted to create a user experience that enables job seekers to easily find the information that’s important to them.”

At MB Financial, they recognize that the recruitment process is a two-way street. “Sometimes you’ll find people who say, ‘This process is a one-way street. The candidate should tell us why they deserve to work for us.’ And that’s just not the case here,” says Mitchell of their approach to the recruitment process. “It’s just as important for us to have candidates tell us why they should work for us as it is for us to tell them why we think they should work here.” That openness with candidates, Mitchell says, ultimately leads to a more positive experience – and a better decision – for both candidates and the company.

7. They look at the big picture.

Shell Oil recognizes the potential for positive candidate experiences to make an impact on the overall business. “Providing a good candidate experience– from application to onboarding – contributes to a positive mindset and affirmation about the candidate’s decision to choose a career with Shell, increases their likelihood of recommending Shell as a great place to work, and increases their likelihood to refer talent for future vacancies,” explains  Lamarche.

At Baptist Memorial Healthcare, they know their treatment of candidates is a direct reflection on the way they treat anyone else who interacts with the organization – including patients. Therefore, if individuals are treated well as job candidates, they can be confident they will be treated just as well as if they were to come in as patients “because we’ve already set the precedent that we are the best – no matter what service Baptist is providing,” says Mack.

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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