Creating a WOW in candidate experience

I’ve been lucky enough to hear Mark Robb speaking about creating a WOW in customer experience twice this year. On both occasions I have been knocked out by the lengths businesses go to in order to secure customer loyalty. In a world where it is so easy for consumers to change their buying behaviour just leaving people satisfied is no longer good enough.

On both occasions I was also struck by how bad some of the same organisations probably are at candidate experience. Even though, in many cases, customers and candidates are one and the same. For example somebody applying to a retailer for a job today could easily be an existing or future customer. With a bit of help from Mr Google it is so, so easy to find what you want somewhere else and get immediate, and maybe long term, payback for being snubbed.

So how do you create a WOW in candidate experience? Last week I sat down with some recent graduates to find an answer. To get things kicked off I asked the basic question: if you were looking for a job tomorrow what’s the minimum you’d expect from an employer? The answers went something like this:-

Enough information on the job requirements to make a sensible choice about whether to apply or not.

  1. Details of the salary and benefits on offer – not vague “competitive” type statements
  2. Clear instructions on how to apply – including guidance on what the employer specifically wants to see in CVs.
  3. An acknowledgement that my application has been received.
  4. A clear timetable for what will happen next.
  5. Stick to the timetable you have given me.
  6. Let me know the final outcome – no “if you haven’t heard within so many days please assume…” nonsense.
  7. Earliest possible notification that I have been unsuccessful – allowing me to move on and look at other opportunities.
  8. Some feedback and help on what I could have done better.
  9. Deliver those eight things well and you at least stop most of the complaints. But how many organisations actually could tick all those boxes? If some recent exchanges on the CIPD LinkedIn Group are anything to go by, then not many at all. Not if 75% of candidates are saying they don’t even get acknowledgements to their applications.

(As an aside, I think it is fair to score a point back for recruiters everywhere. It’s this: many, many candidates don’t use email properly. They apply using email addresses they never check. Or have never bothered to set up the spam filter correctly. In either case they don’t see the automated acknowledgements that pop out of every self-respecting Applicant Tracking System (ATS). I’d like a pound for every candidate I have ever spoken to where that has been the case…)

There’s one key question you need ask job applicants: Based on your experience how likely (on a scale of 1 to 10) are you to recommend us to your friends, family and colleagues?” In customer experience it is called a Net Promoter Score. And very few businesses have a positive one.

If all the noise on social media is a true reflection of candidate experience in the UK even fewer organisations would have a positive “job applicant promoter” score.

Of course the vast majority of job applicants are sent away empty handed. The retail equivalent would be a shop with lots of shelves but only enough stock to let one in 100 customers get the product they want. So getting a positive outcome will be tough – but not impossible.

I sent my graduate group away with the question: what could an employer do that would be over and above your expectation as a job applicant? That of course would be a WOW.

It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Some totally impractical and hugely expensive ideas are bound to come out. However in their somewhere I am sure there will be some bright ideas that will go into our product development plan for CareerGift. In a world where delivering poor candidate experience is common, delivering a WOW is still a relatively simple thing to do.


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