Candidate Experience Part II – The tip of the iceberg

Part I of this series focused on the people aspects that drive the Candidate experience. Now we will discuss the processes that drive the Candidate Experience.  Managing the processes to deliver a great candidate experience is a balancing act of competing needs where you try and strike the right balance between the candidate and organizational priorities.

The most fundamental question to ask yourself is:  ‘Is the candidate at the center of each of the recruiting stages of your candidate experience?’.   What does it mean to put the candidate at the center?  It means that you are optimizing for the candidate throughout the process by either  a) finding creative ways to meet both the candidates and your needs or b) you are making a tradeoff that prioritizes the candidate’s needs over your organizational needs.

Here are some of the top complaints by candidates about their experience:

  • Your career site isn’t mobile friendly
  • You didn’t provide all the information I want to know about the job (e.g. salary range and benefits information) before I take the time to apply
  • Your application is too long
  • Did you get my application?
  • When will you let me know about your decision? Is the job filled?
  • How long will it take to get me the offer, because I need to give an answer to another company?

caniddate waiting

Great – we’ve identified the most common sources of negative candidate experience. Whoop-dee-doo.  These are well known complaints. But why do these things keep happening?  No one intentionally wants to create a bad candidate experience, do they?  What is driving these outcomes?

Well… it’s complicated, right?  At least that is how it can be rationalized.  What the candidate sees is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what is actually happening during the recruiting process. Beneath the surface company values, compliance, talent acquisition philosophies, the job details and hiring team behaviors drive what the candidate sees and experiences.

Candidate Experience Iceberg

Why would you collect more information than you really need during the application process? Is it for compliance reasons? Is the data being collected just in case it is needed during the screening stage you would want that information already available? Is it to help your recruiters do less work during the screening process – then you are shifting costs that your recruiters could absorb to the candidate.

For example, if you click on the ‘Apply’ button for a Fortune 50 company, this is what you will see:

What a great way to begin the candidate experience with this company. Or not.  Creating an account with a company just to apply for a job seems doesn’t seem like it solves for the candidate.

As a recruiting organization, does your company prioritize cost-per-hire and time-to-fill over quality of hire and candidate experience, then very likely you have a large range in how candidates will be treated because you are more focused on making filling the role quickly and making the hiring manager happy. As a recruiter, how much time do you spend keeping candidates informed on their status.  Do you make yourself readily available and respond to their inquiries in a reasonable amount of time?  Or do you just invest your time in the most promising candidates and ignore the ones on the backburner until it suits your needs? One well-known technology company we work with aims for their rejected candidates to have the same Candidate Experience Net Promoter Score as those they will make an offer to.  This mindset and measurement dramatically changes recruiter behavior and the process they follow to engage every candidate they bring in for an interview.

So how can you take a systemic approach to your candidate experience process?  To start, map the end-to-end candidate experience. Specifically only look at the world from what the Candidate sees, by stage, and by decision status (yes, no, maybe, not reviewed).    Look at each activity (or inactivity – e.g. not following up with every candidate).

How much of the process that candidate’s experience is due to the internal demands of the iceberg?  How much is due to limitations in the tools you use?

hiring process

Once you have mapped the process look at all the sources of friction that the candidate experience.  Whether forms to fill out, periods of ‘where do I stand’ or gaps in information required to be well prepared for an interaction.  Collecting data on each of these sub-experiences allows you to apply lean manufacturing principles to the candidate experience.  Basically, evaluate if each one is adding value for the candidate and how can you only focus on activities that add value to the candidate experience and reduce candidate experience waste.

Finally, many aspects of the candidate experience are driven by the tools you have available.  Part III of this series will dive into the details on this subject, but in a nutshell there are two ways to look at tools. The first are the set of tools that enable the process which both candidate and hiring teams work with. The reality is that all tools have their limitations and they may not have the flexibility to perfectly align with both candidate and your organizational needs. So figuring out where automated tools fall short and how to the hiring team can close those gaps is key to candidate success.

digital tools

The second is to look at the tools which measure the process. Whether it is something as basic as measuring your candidate experience Net Promoter Score or more robust, like applying digital marketing techniques to measure abandon and  conversion rates at each stage of the application process.  Without measuring the process effectively you cannot optimize and improve.  Instead you are working with anecdotal data and cannot properly apply lean manufacturing principles to reduce friction in the end-to-end process.

Once you examine you candidate experience from the candidate’s perspective and understand the internal and externals factors the drive the each activity in the process. From there, you can begin to making optimization trade-offs.  With the tidal wave of recruiting tools now available, next up we will explore how to deal with all the noise to ensure that the ‘people’ and the ‘process’ align to your technology choices to deliver a great candidate experience.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Interviewing Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams.  Great Hires was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant Companies of 2016 where it was ranked #2 in Business Tools.  Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Candidate Experience – Do You Really Care?

Recently I met with the head of talent acquisition at a 200-person startup with about 40 open reqs and asked him how important the candidate experience was to him and his company.  He said it was important but not high on his list of priorities because they already do a good job on the candidate experience. I asked him what measurement he used to make this conclusion. He told me the main source of feedback was by asking new employees about their hiring experience soon after they started at the company.   This made me realize that there is a large spectrum of what it means to really care about the candidate experience.

I have spent quite some time analyzing the Talent Board’s Candidate Experience 2014 report.  As you probably know, the survey compiles very detailed, behavior based data from 95,000 candidates who applied to approximately 140 companies.  It is clear these companies are trying to transform their recruiting process to be more candidate-centric.  Like any business improvement initiative, in order to have a great end-to-end experience, a company must successfully align their people, process and technology.  However getting each of these components to effectively deliver for both candidates and the company is no easy task.

This is the first of three part series that focuses on each of these factors which drive a successful Candidate Experience capability for your organization, starting with ‘People’.  What is clear from the CandE report, that behind the numbers are all the people involved in each stage of talent acquisition that drive the bus – and without whom, process and technology don’t really matter.

The question is, when you start peeling back the candidate experience onion, what are the key components to set your regular employees and recruiting teams up for success?  From what I have seen the major drivers are:  company values, empathy, rewards and being tech savvy.

why I should care

If your company doesn’t really care, why should you?

Many companies state that “people are their greatest asset”, but is that reflected in their behavior? If your company has a high unwanted turnover rate, then it is not easy to sincerely tell a candidate that the company is a great place to work.  How involved in the selection process are the leaders of your organization?  How do they measure recruiting success beyond financial metrics?  The companies who truly care have Quality at the top of their recruiting Key Performance Indicators with Cost-Per-Hire and Time-to-Hire a fair distant behind.  As a result, these companies understand the importance of the candidate experience starting at the top of the funnel.   All you need to do is go to the Zappos , Capital One or Enterprise career pages to see how much they care about their people and who they hire.  An excellent contrast would be Mass Mutual , a Fortune 500 company, who is ranked #1 for the least loyal employees.  It is impossible to even see a list of job postings on their career site unless you complete a form with your personal information.

It is apparent which companies who have ‘attracting and retaining great talent’ in their DNA from your first experience with them.  If you are a recruiter who works at a company where people are secondary to other priorities, then you are probably facing challenges getting the leadership focus and resources you need to be successful. It is hard to expect a recruiter to a deliver great candidate experience if their company doesn’t truly support them in their efforts.


Empathy: Do you feel like we do?

Do you treat candidates as you would want to be treated yourself? That is essence of a recruiter who really cares about the candidate experience.

Here are some basic questions to compare yourself to some of the best practices of CandE award winning companies:

  • Do you pretend that you are a candidate and apply to your own job to see how easy it is to apply?
  • Do you set expectations (whether directly or indirectly through via your job posting) and meet those expectations – such as calling a candidate when you said you would.
  • How much time to do you spend with a candidate helping them through the interview process by either explaining the end-to-end process or prepping them for the people they will be interviewing with?
  • Do you decline candidates who came in to interview directly by phone or with a form email?  Do you provide any feedback?

Displaying these types of behaviors really differentiate top candidate experience recruiters from those only focused on filling job reqs.

The effort required by recruiters requires a significant time investment and tremendous attention to detail. If you have 30 open reqs assigned to you, it is nearly impossible to give the attention needed to all candidates. So, either you care and are willing to go the extra mile, or you are going to skip steps and short-change candidates so you can focus how you are measured and rewarded.

say do ratio

Rewards – aligning the Say/Do ratio

The bottom line is, what gets measured gets done.  Recruiting metrics need the right balance between short term operating metrics such as Cost-Per-Hire and Time-to-Fill and long term balance sheet metrics like Quality of Hire and retention rates.  If companies aren’t measuring and rewarding quality metrics related to the Candidate Experience, then they are ignoring the impact it can have on both recruiting KPIs and corporate financial metrics. The latest Candidate Experience report states that 24% of candidates are more likely to buy from a company if they have a positive experience while CareerBuilder found that 69% of interviewed candidates are less likely to buy if they had a bad experience.

However, let’s not forget that recruiting costs time and money. A recruiter with the right incentives can’t do it all themselves, they need the right balance of workload, tools and cross-functional support. Companies that measure and reward both talent acquisition and hiring managers based on quality of hire may have above average candidate experience metrics but they typically also invest disproportionately more in their recruiting and retention programs.


Tech Savvy – Your personal competitive advantage

There are a lot of great tools to help recruiters and the candidate experience – some need to be implemented by the company, but there are many point solutions any individual recruiter can use on their own. Whether it is as basic as Google Docs or using email tools like Tout or Yesware to improve your candidate management – the options are out there, but it requires you to figure out which ones actually work and have real candidate impact.  Your company probably already has tools that you can use to help you be more successful, however there is a good chance they are not dead simple to use and require you to invest in both getting set-up and learning how to use the application in a way that works for you.  Your average recruiter would just give up and stick to their existing behaviors.  A recruiting innovator (or even an early adopter) is comfortable learning new technology and testing what works best for them so they have a competitive advantage in converting top prospects.

When it comes to the candidate experience, it all starts with people.  Without an engaged recruiter with the right incentives, no fancy process or tools will magically make your company a CandE award winner.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Interviewing Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams.  Great Hires was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant Companies of 2016 where it was ranked #2 in Business Tools.  Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Four career paths to financial success


Recently I’ve been asked career advice by both recent college graduates and experienced workers still in the early stages of their professional life.  Since I have had broad experience in different types of companies and roles, these young guns are either seeking insights into a specific industry (or company) or starting their own venture.  Almost every one of them is very ambitious and is trying to find a way to make a lot more money than they do today.  To frame the conversation, I begin the discussion with a simple framework which postulates that there are basically four routes to make a lot of money in your business career.  Here are the four options I discuss and the implications for each one:

1.       Work at established companies and work your way to executive level roles

While this may sound a little old school and take several years, working your way up the corporate ladder is still a great way to make a lot of money. Note that I used the word ‘companies’ not ‘company’.  This does not in any way endorse or recommend working at a single company for your entire career (although if you find the right fit that can help accelerate your progression to the executive ranks).  It just means that working in established companies gives you the opportunity to be financially rewarded as you climb towards the top.  Staying focused on a particular industry like packaged goods, technology, defense, financial services etc. can lead you to the executive level faster . All you need to do is read a public company’s annual report to see the kinds of compensation packages the executive team earns.

As I compare myself to my peers with whom I started my career, so many of them are now VP level or higher at well known companies (such as GE, Pepsi, Kraft and Viacom) with tremendous compensation packages. The key is that they became functional or business experts and either stayed in one industry or had transferable skills to adjacent industries. Most importantly, they stuck with their career path and did not jump roles at the drop of a hat. Instead, at one point in their career they stayed at a single organization for many years, climbing the ranks to reach a level with large responsibility and scope. This dedication and commitment pays off if you are a solid performer throughout your career. Even average to slightly above average performers tend to keep climbing over the course of several years as they become expert specialists in their function for their industry.

2.       Work as a professional service provider

Examples of these would be as a management consultant, investment banker, lawyer, accountant, real estate agent, doctor etc. In these types of professional services roles, if you are good at what you do and work very hard you will get paid very well.  The tradeoff is of course the lifestyle you lead and the dues you need to pay when you are first starting out.  Most of these roles require very long hours each week and many require travel. In addition, you typically start at the bottom of the organization and it typically take 7-10 years to achieve a level of success  where you can finally have a some control over your work life and the financial rewards start to scale. On balance, if you are willing to put in the years and accept the lifestyle, this is probably one of the best risk/reward choices to make if you are focused on the financial benefits of your career choice.

I have several friends who are lawyers, management consultants and accountants who after many years working for companies like McKinsey, pwc or Accenture left to start their own firms. While it took time and persistence for their practices to take off, they now run successful firms of their own and are reaping the financial rewards.

3.       Become truly world-class at something  for which there is real market demand

This can be anything: a scientist, a mathematician, a public relation manager, a designer, a software developer, athlete etc.  If you are one of the best in the world at something – you can make a lot of money either working for a company that specifically needs your skills in order to succeed or creating your own invention that you can sell directly as a one-person company.  You can also make additional income as a professional speaker or writing books in your field of expertise.  The obvious challenge is you need to be truly world class at what you do, and typically this takes years and years of dedication and passion. And it is very possible that the financial reward will be uncertain until there is confirmation that there is indeed a market for your area of expertise or you are viewed as truly world-class. But once you are considered world class there are many ways to monetize your abilities.

4.       Try being an entrepreneur.  

As a rule of thumb this is the biggest risk, biggest reward option.  There is a lot already written about what profile makes a good entrepreneur and various types of companies an entrepreneur can pursue (small business, franchise, tech startup etc.).  Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur based on personality, risk profile and skill set.  Given the large standard deviation in possible outcomes and the commitment required to have a reasonable chance of success you really need to know if this path suits your competencies and mindset.

My general advice is to only pursue starting your own venture when you have some level of expertise in a specific area that can be applied to your venture. Really having some unique skill sets combined with understanding the market, customer need and how to solve them usually requires some deep knowledge of a function or domain. While there are some very notable exceptions (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook), this is by far the exception and not the norm and experientially knowing how to solve a problem better than what already exists should be your starting point.

As I tell the folks I talk with, you don’t have to make a commitment to any of these options. You are not necessarily locked into any one, but there are tradeoffs as your career progresses and you close some doors to opportunities.  You can still do quite well financially trying out two or three of these options, but in order to be on track to a certain level of expected wealth, picking a lane will enhance your chances. What is most important is that you understand the trade-offs for each one option.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.