Recruiting is hard. The best candidate often isn’t even actively looking for a new role, and yet recruiters are expected to find the perfect match of skills, experience and fit at exactly the right time and somehow convince that individual to leave a familiar role and work community to join a new organization. Those who are already in the market have gone to considerable lengths to ensure their credentials stand out from the competition, from creating new resumes to forging new professional contacts to honing their interview skills. Organizations would do well to remove as many barriers as possible to ensure the top end of the candidate funnel is open and welcoming to as many qualified applicants as possible, and yet many times the process itself is so daunting that candidates will self-select out in favor of easier paths. Creating a positive and engaging candidate experience is critical to hiring success. The following are five strategies employers can use to ensure they don’t lose the best talent to a competitor’s simpler, more engaging recruiting process.
First, organizations must improve their job advertisements. The job ad is often the first interaction a candidate has with a potential employer; it is important to make sure it is engaging and relevant, not just a copy of the job description. Like any ad, its purpose is to attract the attention of the target market and entice them to engage. Candidates want to know more than just what skills and experience are required and what the responsibilities will be. They want to know what it will feel like to work there and what they might get in return for their work over the long term, even beyond salary. The best advertisements for any product evoke an emotional response. So, too, should the job ad.
Next, do not over-engineer the process. Begin by asking for information only as its required. There is no need to ask for a social security number or references at the time of initial expression of interest. For roles where a resume is required, do not also require a retelling of work history on a formal application. If the applicant tracking system won't provide a way around it, it may be time to find a new applicant tracking system. Streamline the interview process. Your applicants do not have unlimited time off, and the interview team also has other things to do. Remember that no matter how much work goes into the selection process, people will still move on from an organization at some point. This is a job, not a life sentence. If a candidate can do the work, get along with others, bring new ideas to the table, and potentially grow their career with you, make an offer. If not, let them go and move on.
This brings me to the next strategy to improve candidate conversion rates: Be transparent. If your newly improved advertisement has done its job and someone has taken the time to engage with your hiring process, inform them at the onset what to expect next and throughout. Confirm the role title and type, the pay range and the work location. If the best place for the successful candidate is on-site, say so from the start. Ensure a candidate understands how many interviews to expect and whether they will be in person or via video. This transparency helps to reduce the inevitable anxiety that accompanies any application process and builds trust between a potential employer and its candidates.
Fourth, it is critical that organizations proactively communicate with candidates. Extending the theme of transparency, regular and open communication with applicants, even those who are unsuccessful, shows gratitude and respect for their time and promotes a positive brand image. Whether a candidate is eliminated at the time of application due to not meeting minimum requirements or deep into the interview process, or even one who has not yet been fully considered, carefully crafted messaging delivered in a timely fashion can be a competitive differentiator for any organization.
And finally, once the process has been improved, configure the tech stack for optimization. Using technology to write and edit job advertisements can reach the best and most diverse audience. In fact, we assert that by 2027, 50% of job advertisements will be written using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like ChatGPT to optimize messaging for the target candidate pool. The application process can be optimized to ensure the best applicants aren't turned off by an unnecessarily lengthy and intrusive first step. Engagement communications can be executed automatically. Interview scheduling can be automated with the right technology. Even onboarding steps can be personalized and automated with the right technology stack. None of these are meant to replace human engagement; rather, they are intended to take over those tasks that can be automated so that recruiters and hiring managers can focus on providing the human touch when and where technology is no substitute for human engagement.