Candidate Experience: The more we’re interested the better we treat you. Until we don’t.

Great Hires was a proud sponsor of the 2016 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Awards Research Report.  In the report there are some excellent insights into the end-to-end candidate experience.

One of the areas that intrigued us here at Great Hires was the relative candidate experience of the selection/interview process compared to the other stages of the recruiting process.  Candidates were asked to rate their overall candidate experience from one to five stars and the same question for each individual phase of the process.

You can see from the chart below that candidates get treated better the further they move down each stage of the recruiting process with the negative ratings (1-star and 2-star ratings) going down each phase.

It shouldn’t be surprising that candidates get treated better as they progress down the recruiting funnel and the company gets more serious about wanting the candidate to join their organization.  What is a surprise is how much the negative ratings spike after either the company or the candidate decided they aren’t right for each other.   The report suggests candidates are looking for better ways to be told they aren’t moving forward when they are rejected.  In addition, candidates who are withdrawing cite their time being wasted for appointments/interviews and the process taking too long as their primary reasons for taking themselves out of consideration.

What is even more surprising is the self-perception gap between how companies think candidates rate their recruiting process vs. how candidates actually see the process. Across each stage of the recruiting process there is about a 10 point difference between the companies self-evaluation compares to the actual candidate feedback. By far the biggest disconnect is in how candidates rate their experience in being told they are no longer in consideration for the job: 23% negative via company self-assessed vs. 50% negative from actual candidate ratings.  The data suggests that most companies need a little reality check.


In our next posting, we will consider where talent acquisition teams are currently investing their resources/dollars in the candidate experience and why.  We’ll also propose how they might want to shift these allocations based on a holistic view on the impact of a bad candidate experience.

5 reasons why it’s hard to solve the recruiting tools conundrum

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of recruiting tools to help improve the end-to-end recruiting process.  The solutions are out there, but why does it have to be so hard to be able to use them? Why do enterprises only leverage a fraction of the excellent offerings on the market to optimize the full hiring and candidate experience?

Here’s why:

  1. Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators hate friction in their tools
  2. For better or worse, the ATS is the data engine that drives the recruiting process.
  3. ATS companies have traditionally been slow to innovate and resistant to 3rd party integrations
  4. Point solutions can innovate faster and solve more recruiting workflows than the large ATS companies
  5. Point solutions/3rd Parties need to prioritize who they partner/integrate with


  1. Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators hate friction in their tools

Recruiters and coordinators have more than enough to keep them busy, the last thing they are looking for is one more thing to do or tool to use. Adding another step to their process without a significant improvement to their productivity or business results will be met with significant resistance.  Unless it is drop-dead easy to see the benefits, adoption will not happen.  Here are the pet peeves that drive recruiters and coordinators nuts and cause unnecessary friction in their daily work process:

  • Needing to sign into multiple systems to manage the hiring process. Tools need to be one click away with single sign on (SSO).  Don’t make them sign in to each tool and ensure ease of access to an application via a simple click on a button, tab, link, or icon.
  • Double entry of data that already exists elsewhere. Information that already exists in your ATS should not need to re-entered or copy/pasted. As will be discussed in #2, integrating data between tools can be non-trivial.
  • Poor usability. Given the overhead burden put into the process due to compliance, traditionally, usability has been compromised to make sure that all the ‘cover your butt’ features have been crammed into each step in the process. The latest generation of ATS companies have included the consumerization of recruiting tech into their design, but still, there is a long way to go to make most tools easy to use and mobile-friendly.
  1. For better or worse, the ATS is the data engine that drives the recruiting process.

For nearly every company the ATS is the central database for all job and candidate information.  While some larger companies have created their own master HR database, they are more the exception than the rule.  Nearly every significant task for sourcing or selection uses information from the ATS database as the content source. As mentioned above, recruiters and coordinator know what information already exists for a Job or Candidate and they have no interest in re-entering data that they know already resides in another system.  Doing so is frustrating and naturally causes frustration and increases adoption issues for new tools. Thus not being able to easily synch data between tools can be a deal-killer for recruiting teams.  Given the importance of the data stores in the ATS database, ATS companies exert tremendous power over what is possible for your team to adopt.  The constraints your ATS puts on your capabilities and the implications of access to job and candidate data are something to seriously understand for your hiring and candidate experience process.


  1. ATS companies can’t build everything themselves and they traditionally have not been open to 3rd party integrations

Taleo and other first-generation ATS companies started as products to apply supply-chain management operational efficiencies to recruiting. Furthermore, government-required compliance reporting acted as a catalyst to accelerate large enterprise adoption.  While these systems had appeal to HR executives by focusing on organizational productivity and keeping themselves out of jail, they did not focus on the real ATS customers and users:  candidates and recruiting teams.

Given these design priorities, the end-user experience primarily focused on work-flow management and exhaustive data capture – none of which resulted in a great user-driven experience. In recent years, much of the focus has been on getting some of the table-stakes such as a decent search function to treat the database like a CRM tool.  Also, basic performance issues and creating mobile-friendly tools.

If job or candidate related information needs to be used or updated by a 3rd party tool, then it requires some integration to allow for data exchange.  The challenge with first-generation ATS systems (e.g. Taleo, Kenexa/Brassring) is that they are pretty much closed system with poor (non-RESTful) APIs to allow for easy integration. Even worse, these incumbents charge multiple tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being an integration partner, deterring any small or medium sized company from working with them.  Newer ATS companies (e.g. Workday, iCIMS and Greenhouse) are much more open, simpler to integrate with and trying to become ecosystems, but the challenge for developers is the effort needed to create custom integration points for each platform integration (similar to creating an app for both iOS and Android). Aptitude Research Partners just published a phenomenal review of the current prominent ATS systems and details the strengths and weaknesses of each platform.

  1. Point solution tool companies can innovate faster and solve more recruiting workflows than the large ATS companies

You would think with all the resources of Oracle and IBM, Taleo and Kenexa/BrassRing would be leaders in talent acquisition innovation.  Instead they are not only laggards, but they also seem handcuffed to their old-school enterprise software mentality and business models.  Social, mobile and cloud are not in their DNA which has caused them to be slow in reinventing themselves and their platforms. An easy example of this is the emergence of the recruitment marketing category with companies such as Jibe, Smashfly and Phenom. In recent years as both the economy and hiring have rebounded, a solution for nearly every recruiting task has been created.  Whether it is for job description optimization, big data applied to resume analysis or a new twist on social, mobile sourcing there’s an app for that.  By not having a one-stop-shop platform provided creates the need for a ‘best-of-breed’ recruiting technology strategy and then a plan to figure out how to make all these solutions to work together. For leading edge companies with sophisticated talent acquisition organizations like Google and Amazon, they have responded by building their own integrated platforms to match their unique recruiting methods. However, most companies do not have the resources or skills to build their own recruiting ecosystem themselves.


  1. Tool companies need to prioritize with whom to integrate

 In an ideal world there would common standards that any recruiting tool company could use to integrate into any ATS ecosystem.  While the HR Open Standards consortium is making progress, there is still a long way to go to meet the needs of most recruiting technology companies.

With over 200 applicant tracking systems, none of which have a dominant market share, having a fragmented ATS market is forcing recruiting tool companies to individually choose which ATS company to choose as an integration partner. Without common standards and well supported APIs / partner programs, only a few ATS companies will likely have the scale needed to support a deep ecosystem. Companies like iCIMS, SmartRecruiters and Greenhouse are trying to get there, but there is still a long way to go to make a full suite of recruiting tools as easy as plug-and-play. Until adding any recruiting tool to your ATS is as simple adding an app like your iPhone or Salesforce, there is no effortless solution.

The good news is that recruiters have some powerful tools available to them to solve their acquisition challenges .  However, unless these new technology solutions can overcome the hurdles that the dynamics of the incumbent enterprise platforms create, it will take many years for talent acquisition professionals to be able to fully take advantage of them.

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.

Recruiting Coordinators: The unsung heroes of talent acquisition

If you ask the average hiring manager what a recruiting coordinator (aka candidate success coordinator, talent acquisition operations specialist etc.) you will probably get a perception that they are just someone in HR or a recruiter.  Most people on a job’s hiring team think stuff just magically happens when a candidate arrives for their interviews and are clueless that a talent acquisition coordinator is working behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly. Then the cherry on top is that recruiting coordinators tend to only get noticed when things go wrong.   But the truth is that recruiting coordinators are the secret weapon of hiring success and they do not get enough credit for the value they add in the recruiting process.


Recruiting Coordinators + Candidate Experience = Hiring Success

Recruiting coordinators are focused on giving candidates a concierge-like, white glove experience. Beyond greeting candidates, making them feel comfortable, giving tours, providing water, coffee & snacks, coordinators also set up all the technology whether it is a projector, dialing into Webex, or recording a presentation.  However, that is just table stakes for the role.  Talent acquisition coordinators are like the Chief-of-Staff for a job (Note: “a job”, not the hiring manager, recruiter or candidate).  Their role is to manage all the logistics for the recruiting process, including travel arrangements and expense reimbursement.

It’s very easy to think interview scheduling is pretty simple. But the reality is that finding a date and times when everyone on the Hiring Manager’s interview list is available is non-trivial.  When you factor in how everyone’s schedule appears as ‘busy’ in Outlook or Google calendar and is likely out of date, the battle has just begun.  No one sees the relationships a coordinator needs to build with executive assistants to sweet-talk them into finding a mutually agreeable slot to interview a candidate.  Then factor in that over 50% of interviews get moved, rescheduled, rooms changed, or have last-minute interviewer cancellations…who has to deal with the consequences of each change? You know who.


Of course being a coordinator requires you to strike the right balance for all stakeholders (hiring manager, recruiter, interviewers and candidates).   Coordinators are the front line troops for the candidate experience.   Being thoughtful of putting together an interview schedule where the candidate stays in the same interview room and having interviewers come to them is much more candidate friendly than having the candidate go from office-to-office or building-to-building to find each interviewer.  In addition, making sure the candidate and interviewers have the latest information is no simple task. Between resumes, travel information, interview guides, the latest schedule, company information etc. there is a huge amount of information that needs to be distributed and tracked.  When something gets missed or forgotten, who do you think gets a call or email?  You know who.

 Untold Recruiting Coordinator Stories

Here are a couple of examples of where coordinators go above and beyond to deliver a great candidate and hiring experience.

Kari Scheidt from Salesforce describes the importance of the coordinators relationship with the candidate. She explained how coordinators can be an advocate for the candidate to the hiring manager or interviewers, especially when the candidate has shared something important the team should be aware of in their decision process.  Kari highlighted the importance of candidate empathy with a story of super-hero effort that most hiring team’s don’t see. One winter day, Salesforce was flying in a candidate from the east coast which was experiencing horrendous storms.  The candidate was freaking out that they would not make their interview.  Despite all the flight delays and being oversold, she was able to beg the airlines to find a way to re-route the candidate and get them to the interview on time.  The candidate really appreciated the effort that was taken to go above and beyond to make it all happen. “People forget that the way you are treated as a candidate is how you think you will be treated as an employee.”


John Tran, a Talent Acquisition Ambassador at Yahoo!, takes great pride in seeing someone he brought in as a candidate and then helped onboard, turn in a superstar.  Many times, it all starts with a tour John gives to prospective hires of the Yahoo! campus to help reinforce the emotional bond they already have with the Yahoo! brand.   Once hired, he enjoys seeing their success and relishes the feeling that comes with having helped pave the way for folks he helped hire to accomplish great things in the company.

At a previous company, Phyllis Yoshimoto (currently a talent coordinator at Pharmacyclics) woke up one morning to find out a top candidate had received several offers and her company needed to act fast if they wanted to still be considered. At 8 am she confirmed with the candidate, who was based in Seattle, they could fly to the Bay Area that day for a slate of interviews.  Phyllis was able to both coordinate the candidate’s travel and pull together the full interview schedule to start at 2 pm that day.  In the end, it all went perfect and the hiring team was able to make an offer to the candidate that day.  The candidate accepted and turned into a great hire.

What you can do to help your recruiting coordinator

So now that you understand the importance and value of your recruiting coordinator, here are 5 things you can do immediately to help coordinators be even more successful:

  1. Make sure your hiring team responds back in a timely manner (within 24 hours) to attend an interview
  2. Prepare your interview team on which competencies to evaluate and questions to ask
  3. Provide timely feedback about each candidate
  4. Pass along any insights your learn from the candidate that would help with any information to be distributed to the hiring team or logistics for the interview day
  5. Reinforce to your hiring team the importance of the candidate experience, and that showing up late or being disrespectful to a candidate has a big impact on the entire recruiting team

Finally, if you don’t do so already, thank your recruiting coordinator every time you make a hire.  They are truly the unsung heroes of talent acquisition.

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.

Don’t hire bad hires

In my last article I wrote about four causes of bad hires that I’ve encountered in my career.  Now I will discuss a few ways to avoid making a poor hiring choice during the candidate selection process by addressing each of the causes one by one. While many of the recommendations might seem obvious, it is amazing how many large companies we work with do not employ any of them. Many talent acquisition organizations just let the hiring manager use an unstructured process which relies heavily on personal choice and entropy to evaluate a candidate.

  1. Try before you buy: To address “Lack of technical/functional expertise”

Anyone can claim they are an expert in something and stick it on their resume or LinkedIn profile, but how do you really know they have the specific skills needed for your role.  If it is a deep technical skill requirement there are many assessment tools available from a variety of online and offline companies.  My preference is to have a test drive with the candidate where you create a simulated experience to the actual job they would perform. Ideally it would be an actual task or problem that currently needs solving (or was recently solved).  It is uncanny how this type of exercise can quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.  For someone who is really an expert, the simulation should be a breeze – and it should also quickly expose the fakers. The challenge with these trials is that they take time and (many times) money.  Depending on the situation, paying people for their time is quite valuable and makes them feel that they are being compensated for the ‘work’ they are performing.  In the end, investing a few hundred dollars up front to see if someone really has the technical chops for the role, can save you thousands of dollars down the road.


  1. Pattern recognition: To address “Inability to develop domain expertise”

When you hire someone from a different industry, market or customer segment, there is risk that they are a hammer who thinks everything is a nail.  Therefore, it is important to assess how good they are at pattern recognition and if they notice the differences between industries, markets and customers for the job compared to their past experience.    For more junior level positions you can have a candidate take a pattern recognitions test like Procter & Gamble does for all their entry level positions.  For experience roles it is important to spend the time seeing if the prospect grasps the differences and has the business acumen to appreciate the situation.  How much research has the candidate done into the market, customers, company & job?  Can they articulate the similarities and differences between their past roles and this one?  Do they have the intellectual curiosity to dive deep and appreciate the different dynamics? Without the ability to articulate both the strategic and tactical contrasts, then you risk hiring someone who won’t adapt well to their new situation.

  1. STAR methodology:  To address “Can’t deliver results”

Past experience and results are usually the best predictors of future success.  Even though past roles may not be the same level of responsibility or challenge as your job opening, seeing that someone has succeeded in similar situations or has shown a trajectory of results and expanded responsibility are pretty telling.

Using the STAR interviewing methodology is the most common behavior-focused method to understand what results the candidate was able to deliver.  The key to this approach is making sure the candidate talks specifically about what they themselves did, not the team or the company.  Teasing out the specific results that were directly tied to the candidate’s efforts is not always easy and without peeling back the onion on the unique contributions they made is what’s most important.

Implementing the STAR method takes time and effort to prepare before candidates ever come in the door.  How much time do you spend with the hiring team discussing what to look for when during their interviews?  We have a client who has the entire interview team get together for at least one hour to holistically discuss what success looks like for the role, get alignment on the competencies to evaluate for the job and then divides and conquers the competencies/ questions amongst the team.   This is a big up-front investment, but it is uncanny how it pays off for them.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I received about ensuring someone can deliver results is to show them exactly the results they would be expected to deliver for the role. Yes, the actual targets. And then have a collaborative discussion the strategies and tactics that they would employ to deliver the results. It’s amazing how this can both help the candidate self-select if this is the right role for them and also set expectation & motivation for the a new employee – since they knew exactly what they were signing up for when they took the job.


  1. Self-Awareness triangulation: To address “Lack of self-awareness”

A lack of self-awareness is a killer trait for a bad hire. Someone who is self aware will pro-actively make adjustments to address gaps in the performance and typically will also be open to feedback.  Without self awareness, the opposite holds true. But how do you measure self-awareness?  This isn’t as simple as asking ‘What is your biggest weakness?’.  I recommend using a combination of techniques to triangulate information collected from the candidate, the hiring team and references.


During the interview process, asking probing self-awareness questions about specific projects can be very revealing about a candidate.  Here are some of my favorites:

“Looking back what would you have differently for this project?” –Note: this question can be used for both successful and unsuccessful situations.

“’What skills are you lacking?’

“If I called the past manager that has liked you the least, and what would they tell me about you?”

“What would you do if you realized you were failing in this job?”


References are another way to learn about a candidate’s abilities and development areas.  Asking a reference to compare the former direct report to the best person for the same role they held and understanding the gaps is very telling.

Taking the candidates responses, your hiring team’s probing questions , triangulating them with the candidate’s professional references and your own observations can be a powerful way to assess self- awareness.

If you’ve ever made a bad hire you know that there was likely at least one piece of data captured during the selection process that signaled a red flag for a candidate.  But for whatever reason it was ignored and eventually came back to haunt you.  Being able to recognize the sources of a bad hire and how to spend the extra time, effort and money to tackle them head-on before an offer is essential.  Hopefully these methods will help you learn from the mistakes of others and avoid making a bad hire.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. 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.