Thoughts from #SRSC: What Candidate Experience is Not

SAN FRANCISCO – I spent part of last week here at the Social Recruiting Strategies Conference, where I participated in a panel discussion on one of the most pressing topics in talent acquisition: candidate experience.

It was a fantastic conversation – thanks largely to the passion and range of perspective from panel moderator Stacy Donovan Zapar, CEO of Tenfold Social Training, Sean Sheppard of Tradecraft (and the Candidate Experience Awards), and Danelle Maniscalco DiLibero of Risk Management Solutions (RMS).

While we talked, heads in the audience nodded and folks smiled ruefully as we collectively commiserated on the horrid state of affairs. That’s what’s great about conferences like the SRSC; they tend to attract some of the more progressive companies that are already investing in important initiatives like candidate experience.

But what about the people who weren’t there and who are still stuck in the reactionary recruiting process? There are many of those – 65% of respondents to Brandon Hall Group’s Talent Acquisition Benchmarking Survey don’t measure employer brand and 50% don’t measure candidate experience. What did those people miss last week?

The sad truth is candidate experience remains little more than a buzzword for the majority of employers today. Following the panel, I had a number of candid conversations with conference attendees on the topic, with many of them admitting their business leaders have only just begun to wrap their heads around its importance and implications. Some regaled stories of trying to gain leadership buy-in, and told me how difficult it was for them to explain what candidate experience even was.

Based on these conversations – as well as research I’m currently working on in recruitment marketing – I think the best place to start is by dispelling some misconceptions about candidate experience.

What Candidate Experience is Not

  • Candidate experience is not a short-term game plan. This was one point raised during the panel discussion that many employers still don’t understand. The name of the game in talent acquisition is changing rapidly. Whereas efficiency was top of mind in the last five years, quality of hire is the most important metric for today’s business leaders. But quality talent expects quality process – and few employers understand what quality process looks like today. In fact, more than 40% of companies take four to eight weeks to hire new employees, according to the BHG survey, and more than 20% take more than eight weeks.  

If quality hiring is important to you (and it should be), candidate experience is where you want to invest. But let’s be clear: candidate experience is a long-term game plan. You may have some quick wins (especially if you minimize redundancies and maximize feedback), but the real results come after you have proven your ability to consistently deliver a top-notch process – from first encounter through meaningful onboarding and orientation to the corporate culture.

  • Candidate experience is not a separate, one-off initiative. Many employers fail to understand the elementary truth that candidate experience is the sum total of all interactions between a candidate and a potential employer. And lacking this understanding, they also fail to understand that this includes candidates of all forms (essentially, anyone who encounters your employer brand).

Candidate experience must be approached holistically, as one of the primary drivers of talent acquisition performance.

  • Candidate experience is not a guaranteed win. This is the toughest truth to swallow for employers. Even those companies that have the tightest feedback loops, whose application process is easy and mobile-friendly, can have trouble attracting and retaining talent.

That’s because candidate experience really comes down to engagement. An organization’s ability to engage candidates at the first touch and maintain that engagement throughout the talent acquisition process is a sure sign of quality process. But if all of the momentum built evaporates on a new hire’s first day, the time and resources you’ve spent improving candidate experience is all for naught.

This is probably the biggest and most important misconception to overcome – as it poses the biggest obstacle for a struggling organization to overcome. The good news is that even the tortoise finishes the race in the end. If you want to improve your organization’s candidate experience, and begin attracting quality talent, baby steps are better than no steps.

As I explained in the panel, there are some very elementary things employers can do to begin making headway in candidate experience. I have plans to detail some of these emerging key practices in the coming months. In the meantime, I invite you to contact me with any questions or comments you have on the topic: [email protected]

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Kyle Lagunas



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Kyle Lagunas