TESTING THE BOUNDARIES OF CANDIDATE TREATMENT: LINKING A QUALITY EXPERIENCE TO A QUALITY HIRE

by GERRY CRISPIN

Gerry-Crispin

Gerry Crispin is a life-long student of the recruiting, recognized internationally for his views and commentary on employment strategy, hiring process and staffing technology.

His passion is to understand how firms design and build recruiting processes, the technology to enhance them and the systems to manage them.

After completing his undergraduate Engineering degree, his Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and 3 years postgrad research all at Stevens Institute of Technology, Gerry served in increasingly responsible leadership roles in the Human Resource function of Johnson and Johnson for 10 years. For another decade, he was General Manager of one of the largest private advertising agencies in the US devoted to recruitment, Shaker Communications, where he pioneered the use of technology applications while the firm grew from 40 million to 200 million

In 1996, Gerry co-founded CareerXroads (www.CareerXroads.com), an international consulting practice that facilitates a dialogue between company recruiting leaders. This peer network of more than 100 large corporations (CareerXroads Colloquium) meets 8 times a year and serves a community of recruiting professionals dedicated to improving their business’ performance through a sustainable staffing function…and sharing what they learn with their peers and professional colleagues.

Webinar Transcript

Scott: Joining us now is Gerry Crispin. Gerry is a lifelong student of recruiting, recognized internationally for his views and commentary on employment strategy, hiring process, and staffing technology. Jerry co-founded Career Crossroads, an international consulting practice that facilitates a dialogue between company recruiting leaders. He later formed the non-profit Talent Board, which conducts the annual Candidate Experience Awards. Their goal is to define, measure and honor the firms who have an exemplary candidate experience. Welcome, Gerry.

Gerry: So, thank you, Scott, and thank you to Hire Vue for having me on. I love this whole subject area, and I really would like to take everyone who's here today on an adventure, share with you some of my opinions, some observations, and a little bit of data about an area that I am totally passionate about, which is recruiting and the candidate experience, how we treat candidates.

And so, I'd like to kind of explore some of the boundaries out there, but to do it in relation to not only the quality of who we hire but also some of the data that we've been collecting over the last four or five years.

And so let's get started. From my perspective, I will tell you that today I think, within the time frame that we have, I'd like just briefly set the stage, just one or two slides, a couple of comments about what our common definition is for candidate experience, and then get right into a couple of things that I think are really important. I'd like to share with you four things I think all great candidate experience has in common. And to do so, I want to illustrate that with some stories of actual companies who have been not only heavily engaged in trying to improve their candidate experience, but who can demonstrate that they have the data to prove it. And I think that's a critical issue.

And then finally, I'd like to talk a little bit about kind of the moneyball of candidate experience and that is how do we arm ourselves with the information that allows us to calculate what the cost of a bad experience is, as well as the reward of a good experience to not only our function in recruiting but also to performance of the companies that we work for.

So that's kind of the story. If you're in the right page, if you're on the right plane for this conversation, I look forward to it. And I want to promise you from this point on, if you want to contact me and ask questions further, I'm happy to share. I will respond. Not a problem in relation to that.

So let's take a look at candidate experience. And you can't do it really any longer without thinking about customer experience. This is really my favorite slide because really it forces us to think about standards and what we really think about when we talk about either candidate or customer experience. This slide demonstrates that we have in our minds the kind of expectations about how we would be treated.

You see this in ... most people just sit there and they laugh a little bit, but think about it for a moment. If we went into any kind of store or a restaurant, whatever, and we literally waited for 30 minutes without anybody coming to ask us how we are, what we would like, or anything else, we'd likely leave. And if there were somebody standing outside of that store and said something like, "Would you refer others to go there," the answer on an 11-point scale, which by the way is being done for the last 10, 12 years, is, as they say, net promoter score, would obviously be in the very low numbers. You would not be rating the service very, very high.

A couple of problems here. One is if you abandon right from the beginning, you don't even know this information. So all of those people who come to your career site but never go any further, never even begin to apply, are people that you really have very little information about. And so that's one of the problems with the candidate experience, is that we really don't know if we're creating problems before they even become candidates, while they're still prospects. So that's a big issue.

Secondly, really what are the expectations for candidate experience? Do we really know what the expectations are for the average candidate that comes to our website and might be interested in applying in terms of how long that application should be? Do we share that information in advance to set those expectations? Or do we just assume that they will plow through and do whatever we ask in relation to them? What do you think the expectation is in terms of a candidate waiting to be acknowledged that you even got the application, or more importantly, what the status is of that application? Or  eventually, whether or not you hired somebody and informed them.

So we're learning more and more about this information. And what we started on in terms of our journey about five years ago was to begin to ask companies, employers out there whether or not they are ready to really engage on this issue, and that has exploded in the last five years. What you're seeing is a picture in 2014 of some 40 to 50 companies that were honored for the fact that they not only improved their candidate experience but their candidates told them that, in a consistent way with a kind of data that shows that they are different in terms of how they treat candidates than most companies in the United States. This is from North America.

We know that every company has a story, but it's only those stories that are supported by evidence that we can really start to think about what that means and what the common elements are. And we've been collecting that data now for the last, as I said, four, five years. Last year, 2014, we had 95,000 candidates from about 120 companies complete a 40 to 60 minute survey. I think that's unbelievable, and it tells you how strongly your candidates feel about telling you about their experience out there. They really are dying to tell you how important it is for them to be able to get up to bat and then kind of engage you. And if you listen carefully, you'll know everything you need to know about how to improve your candidate experience.

The companies that won this past year in 2014, you'll see a lot of logos there that you know and a lot that you don't know as well. And as I said, every one of these companies has a story, and that story is supported by data. And I want to go through a couple of those as we go through this. But even more so, this year, we have about 150 companies participating in North America. And I will tell you that we just closed the candidate portion of that, and we now have a 130,000 completed surveys that we can add to the database of the last three to four years.

In Europe, we now have a hundred, more than a hundred companies registered, and so we're going to be in a position to compare some of the cultural differences in terms of how candidates perceive that experience across a number of boundaries, including countries. We also launched in Australia, and we're putting together a team in South America this year for next.

And all of this, by the way, is being done by a non-profit talent board, and no company has yet paid a single dime. And the reason for that is because there are number of great sponsors, who've gotten up to bat and helped us with all of these, including HireVue, which has done an extraordinary job in helping us out.

So what I want to do now is to talk about the stories, and I'd like to talk about four of the critical things that if you are going to do anything, these four things are really at the base of what's the most important thing to do in improving candidate experience or identifying whether or not your candidate experience is likely to be good or bad.

So the first of these, and by the way none of these is rocket science and yet some of it is a little more subtle than you might think. Seeking feedback and listening. We asked those 95,000 candidates last year and 130,000 this year, "Were you invited by the company that you applied to, to provide feedback about your experience?"

So I want you to think about that. What percentage do you think said yes? And the answer is 5%. Five percent of the candidates out there believed that they were asked about their experience in the recruiting process, which tells us that most employers really are not gathering data. They may be getting data from other places, but they're not actually gathering data from their own candidates.

And the act of doing that impacts their attitudes and their behavior. So the reality is, unless you are seeking feedback in a way that they know you're seeking it and that you are listening to it, you're not impacting the ratings and rankings that they are giving you and the impact that that has on you.

Companies that do that ... I'll give just a couple examples. Lockheed Martin built and participates in a community of veterans. So they gathered literally all of the candidates who are applying to their technology, their engineering and other types of jobs, they gathered them all into and invited them to participate in a community in which they can talk to each other, advise one another, and which is supported by a number of experts from Lockheed to help with that kind of conversation, and that's where they are going to listen.

There are number of companies that are gathering data in a variety of different ways. Probably the most interesting one from my perspective is RMS. It's a small, modest company in Silicon Valley. Risk Management Solutions is what RMS stands for. They hire PhDs in mathematics, so very technical. Those PhDs build interesting algorithms to examine risks that they provide then to companies in the insurance industry. They have one of the coolest chat rooms that goes on every single day, whether or not one person comes or 20 people come. They have a tag line at the front of that chat room that says, "You bring honest questions. We'll bring honest answers."

And they fundamentally have empowered their recruiters to answer every single question. So if I, for example, went into that chat room as I've done and I asked, "Well, how many female PhDs in mathematics have you hired in the last five years and where are they now?" I will tell you they will give you that answer. And it's that kind of transparency that is going to be an essential for that kind of conversation to take place. When you are listening to the candidates, you are increasing the likelihood that they will perceive that they've been treated well as opposed to poorly.

A second key and fundamental characteristic of a great candidate experience is setting expectations. We get it that when we asked the question, "Was there anything you wished you knew about that company that you applied to or the job before you applied?" And it's in there that we really see the level of transparency that takes place in most corporations. We do know that most companies do not supply, for example, any information about salary data before people apply.

In worst cases, we sound a lot like used car salespeople who, instead of answering how much the car is worth, they ask you how much money you have to spend, and so leave you with the impression as a candidate that you're being played. And that's not a good way to start off in terms of creating an engagement level in the candidate process that will fold over into the employee process, and we know that that impacts performance long-term.

So answering this question is a critical issue, and transparency is increasingly important. Ask yourself whether or not you supply information to candidates in advance on your website about everything, from what they might expect in terms of the application process to the kind of interviews that would be taken, whether they would be individual interviews over the course of several days, or would they be panel interviews, etc.

So there's a lot of information about the recruiting process where we could be setting expectations. We could even be saying, "Look, on average, we have 185 people applying for a given job." That would be kind of cool. That would set the expectation that maybe you'd not guarantee they get it even if you do in fact have all of the given requirements.

Some companies are doing some really cool stuff in terms of setting expectations. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, for example, has on their career site a clear promise that if you would apply to us, this is the experience you can expect to get. Accenture developed an approach to set expectations for the interview by creating a mobile interview app that they customize, the recruiter customizes for candidates so that they can prepare more consistently for the interviews. And Genentech actually requires every candidate to go through interview training so that they are very clear that they're on a common platform in terms of their skill and capability of taking an interview through interview training.

I think that's powerful. One of the things that HireVue does, for example, for its clients is being able to help to set up for the candidates their capability of using that platform and that tool. Again, that kind of consistency, the kind of expectations that are set, help the candidate perceive that they fairly got up to bat, and that becomes a critical issue.

And it's also what we're measuring as the single most important correlation to whether or not you as an employer are rated by the candidate positively or negatively. Is the answer to this question, "How satisfied were you with the ability to present your skills, knowledge and experience during the application interview process?"

You've got to think about this. The answer to that question absolutely correlates to whether or not you're going to be rated positive or negative. And in a few moments I'll tell you a little about the implications of being rated positive or negative. But this perception of fairness, the perception that I got up to bat, is so essential that it is really the crux of candidate experience, and we find it in a number of different ways.

So, for example, Jet Blue is kind of an extreme example. I like to use it because they actually spend, they have a pipeline literally that goes from ... anywhere it's from five to eight years, in which they are working with and building relationships with their prospects who want to become pilots, and involve not only boot camps and assessments but a lot of these is feedback that helps to create an understanding on the part of the candidate whether or not they are qualified for the kind of job that they would have at Jet Blue.

That's very unusual. Most companies do not provide that level of, if you will, feedback. And they're probably not going to from a compliance point of view. But on the other hand, there are some things that we can do to make sure that candidates do feel that they fairly got up to bat and that they were able to share what they believed was important for them to compete effectively.

Intel is a great example of a company that has spent a good deal of time building a candidate care team that listens to, has collected a good deal of data, and based on that data, they learned how to build co-relationships between the candidate and the recruiter, and the candidate and the hiring manager. And their ability to do that helps them to have that kind of constant communication.

Now I will tell you there is one simple takeaway that I would like to share, that if you were to do this, you will have the most impact on that perception of fairness. So just imagine that in your application itself, the last question had the phrase, "What didn't we ask you about your skills, knowledge, and experience that you would like to share with us now that would help you compete more effectively for this job?"

And the reason I say that, and I'm sure you can put it in your own terms even better than I just said, what you are doing there is you're giving the impression that not only are you trying to satisfy your needs to learn something specific that you think is important to select the candidate, but you're leaving yourself open to the fact that the candidate may in fact have some aspect of their background that would lend itself to be considered to compete for this job, and that is a powerful thing that you can do. And you can do that in the screening, phone screen. You can do it in your HireVue interview online. You can do it if they come in for a face-to-face.

But at each stage of the recruiting process, the phrase, "What didn't we ask you that you could tell us now," should be a pivotal question that allows candidates that you do not hire to perceive that they fairly got up to bat. If you do that, I can assure you your ratings are going to go up.

And the last of the four is this one. The question is how is the candidate experience and recruiter performance aligned in your firm? And this is not a question to the candidate. This is a question to the companies that are trying to improve their candidate experience.

And what we've learned is that if you have no connection between the recruiter and candidate experience, the ratings are going to be low. And about 18% of the companies that participate in candidate experience have no connection, no accountability at the recruiter side. And about an equal amount, about 16% have a total connection. That's not only formal reviews built in but also monetary incentives are connected as well. And that's a key issue.

Some examples of companies that are doing some things there, CH2M Hill has built teams that drive performance really. End-to-end, they really look very carefully at measuring it through net promoter score, NPS score, which is a whole different issue. If you go on Wikipedia, you can get a clear, not only history of the 12 years that's been assigned to or been developed for customer loyalty issues in terms of metrics, but for the last two to three years, we've been doing an NPS type questions about referrals to candidates, all of the tens of thousands of candidates, and we can see that there is a clear differentiation of companies based on a similar NPS score.

And they can see increases year over year that they're measuring based on the changes that they're making. Capital One probably has the most comprehensive that I have ever seen as they, by and large, ask every single candidate, which is about 10,000 a month, so everyone who applies questions about their treatment, and they get about a 50 to 80% response rate. Those ratings are then sliced and diced not only by level but by facility and also by recruiter. Every recruiter is stacked, ranked, and on a monthly basis, the top ranked recruiters from candidate experience conduct a webinar on how the company can improve. Their NPS scores are at the top of the 120 companies who are involved so far in looking at the candidate experience.

So those are the four issues: listening skills, setting expectations, providing a perception of fairness, and accountability within those pieces. Almost every story of every company looks at one of those four issues, and that has really become the key area that we are looking at and digging into increasingly.

So we look at the moneyball. Here are some of the things that if you do it, you will find that you can connect some dollars to the cost of treating people well or poorly. This question, "How likely are you to refer someone in the future?" Your recruitment operations probably are attributing referrals, at least from employee point of view, to maybe 10, it's anywhere from 10 to 30% typically, and the number of companies are between 40 and 50%. There're not too many companies I know of that are over 50% in terms of attributing referrals from a hiring point of view.

On the other hand, referrals probably get involved in way more when you consider the fact that the candidates themselves, those that have positive and negative, may in fact be referring others or potentially dissuading others from applying. And what we've learned is that if you had a positive experience, about 78% of the candidates who had positive experiences will actively encourage others to apply. Only about .8 would discourage others from applying based on what they know.

And conversely, only 4% would actively encourage others to apply when they've had a bad experience, and 40% would go out of their way to work against you to basically say, "Do not apply" to their friends and others who may be qualified. There is a distinct cost if you look at the cost of a referral or the reduced cost in having quality referrals coming in. And this impacts not only quality of hire. It impacts significantly your cost of replacing those referrals that you would normally get. So that's powerful.

How about applying again? Candidates that you did not hire either because they may have been qualified but weren't the best qualified, who may want to come back at another time and be encouraged to come back in another time. The issue is would they in fact re-apply. Sixty two percent who had a positive experience would, which is basically almost all of those. Obviously, the ones in the middle are the neutral. If they had a bad experience, 5.7% are extremely likely to apply again, and a quarter of them will definitely not ever apply again, qualified or not. And if about half of them are qualified, that means you're losing about 12% of your future hires just as a result of that single issue.

We can also look at the fact that for retail companies, a quarter of all those who had a bad experience basically state that they would take their business elsewhere. So for some companies, they can do some interesting calculations in terms of identifying the cost to their company's bottom line in terms of lost future sales.

And then you influence others. How likely are you to share with your inner circle? What we're finding here is that 82% who have a positive experience will share it, 65 who have a negative experience will share it. That's double what it was two and a half years ago. And publicly, the numbers are 51% and 34%, which again is also double what it was two, two and a half years ago. Interestingly enough, we think that boomers are more likely to share publicly than millenials because millenials have had better coaching about not burning your bridge while the boomers don't care anymore.

So in summary, I have to tell you we are the fork in the road. We have had for a hundred plus years that we formally looked at how we organized recruiting within organizations, we focused almost entirely on who we want to hire rather than the entire group of people who we touch. And we know that only about 1% of the people who applied to our organizations and are interested in us end up being hired by us.

So the future really is we need to think not only of the quality of the people that we do hire but the quality of our communication to the 99% we don't, and the experience that they have of us in how we listen to them, how we set expectations, how we give them the perception that they are treated fairly.

And so those kinds of issues are going to be increasingly a critical pathway for us. We need to think about those communications, how they're written, how they're delivered, and whether or not we set those expectations in the beginning. A lot of people are now still involved heavily in this.

As I said, HireVue has become an extraordinary sponsor for us, as well as about a dozen other major firms. One of the things that we, that I particularly like about HireVue, to be honest with you, is that with their asynchronous interview, the potential for going back to candidates, a hundred candidates let's say for a job, and being able to say to them, "Listen, normally, we would not be able to have a hundred candidates come in and share everything that they think is important for us to know, but given the tools that we have, we have the ability for you to go straight from an application to an interview that's asynchronous."

And so if you click on this link, you can do that. So some variation on that theme in my opinion can enhance the ability to create a positive candidate experience. I think all technology tools have the potential to be used for the positive and also can be screwed up just as badly as anything else. So integrating that is going to be a key issue for everybody.

This is a group of people who are involved from the employers' side, these are the companies that have in fact won the Candidates Experience reward multiple times. So I just want to congratulate all of them, and I'd love to see among the audience in listening today a number of other companies who might be making multiple winners over the next couple of years. So I look forward to that.

We also have a number of companies, consultants, and other organizations who are devoting time, literally hours every month, to examining this data, sharing the data, and basically distributing it as well. All of the data can be found on the Candidate Experience, thecandes.org website, and it's all free. On that basis, I want to wish you all a good hunting. There're couple more links here that you can find to not only get to thecandes.org, but also some of the reports that we have that share this data in a little bit more depth than our 30 minutes. But I want to thank you very much for coming. I want to wish you well, and again, I would like to thank HireVue for sponsoring this webinar.