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Candidate Experience

Imagine you’re reading your favorite book. It might depict a grand and epic quest, ala Lord of the Rings. It might be an easy-reading adventure, like the Harry Potter series. Or maybe it’s a heartfelt romance, like The Notebook.

No matter the genre of your favorite book, its plot follows a common pattern: 

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The exposition gives you a taste of the situation and characters. Then there’s a conflict. This is what drives the characters to do what they do. Following the conflict is the rising action. The series of events in the rising action leads to the climax: the turning point in the plot.

The climax is the most important part of the story. It’s when the murderer is finally revealed, when the romantic couple finally joins hands, when the hero confronts the dragon.

Then comes the falling action, which quickly gives way to the resolution.

It’s no secret that even the most widely-acclaimed novels and stories have their dull moments. While these parts of the story are critical for advancing the plot, they’re a bore for even the most voracious reader.

Now imagine you’ve finally convinced your best friend to read your favorite novel (aka, The Best Novel In The World). You’re excited for them to finish: you could talk for hours about the subtle nuances of character development, the crazy twists and turns in the plot. Finally you’ll have somebody to talk about this stuff with.

A couple weeks later, you check in. And your worst fears are realized: your friend stopped reading at the boring part. Chances are, they left with a pretty poor impression of your favorite novel. Worse, they’ll probably never pick up The Best Novel In The World again.

This is exactly what happens if your candidate experience is bottlenecked by a single bad step. 

Candidate experience (and its close sibling, employer brand) have emerged as critical aspects of an organization’s success. The best organizations have the best people, and the best people make those organizations the best.

Hiring and enabling the best people creates a virtuous cycle, where top talent helps build a brand of excellence, which in turn attracts more excellent people (assuming, of course, you give them the freedom to succeed). 

With this in mind, talent acquisition departments have learned to build business cases for their candidate experience. A great experience doesn’t just attract the best candidates - it has the potential to turn candidates into customers (even those you reject). More money than ever is being funnelled into making the candidate’s experience a great one. 

But as in the case of the Best Novel In The World, the impression a candidate forms of your brand is only as good as the last step they experience. 

Here are some examples of candidate experience bottlenecks that can corrupt your whole system:

  • A job application that takes 30+ minutes to complete.
  • A phone screen with an unamiable recruiter.
  • A multiple-choice assessment test that takes over an hour to complete.
  • An interview with a disagreeable hiring manager.

This is not to say that something like a lengthy job application is bad by necessity. If a candidate finishes their journey with an offer letter, or ends their experience on a positive note (like receiving personalized feedback after an interview), they might be inclined to forget about a long application or sour phone screen. 

But for a large number of candidates, that lengthy job application, unpleasant phone screen, or hours-long assessment will inevitably be their last interaction with your brand. That’s just the way screening and dropout work.

Those candidates are putting down your carefully crafted story at the dullest possible moment - and they’ll never get to the part where the hero slays the dragon.

If a candidate’s journey is brought to an abrupt end, make sure they’re at least left with a great impression of the experience.

Unilever recently made headlines for transforming their graduate recruiting process.

Recruiting Millennials: How Unilever Transformed its Graduate Hiring

Here's how they made every step of the candidate's journey a great one.

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