Recruiting Trends Panel: Building a More Candidate-Friendly Experience
The panel discussion featured talent-acquisition leaders from four Candidate-Experience-Award-winning companies.
By Andrew R. McIlvaine
A lousy candidate experience can be costly to your organization's bottom line, regardless of whether or not its business is selling products or services directly to customers, said Elaine Orler, CEO and co-founder of Talent Function Group, during a panel discussion at this year's Recruiting Trends Conference at the Hilton in Austin, Texas.
"Even if you're not a consumer-facing business, the comments we've seen from candidates will hurt you -- things like 'I will tell my community of scientists to never apply here,' " said Orler, citing research by the Talent Board (of which she is also co-founder), the nonprofit organization that's behind the annual Candidate Experience Awards. During the panel, moderated by Orler and titled "The ROI Realities of Improving Candidate Experience," talent acquisition leaders from four companies shared what they've been doing (and continue to do) to make the process of applying to jobs at their companies easier, more informative and less intimidating. Â
The panelists included Glen Johnson, director of talent acquisition at Delta Air Lines; Stefanie Thornton, head of talent acquisition for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Cindy McGregor, solutions manager for talent acquisition at pharmaceutical distributor and healthcare IT company McKesson; and Chris Marquardt, senior HR specialist with Belgium-based engineering company SWIFT. All four companies are current or past CandE winners.
At Delta, which receives more than one million job applications per year, one of Johnson's first initiatives was to revamp the style of its messages to job candidates, which had been filled with legal jargon that left many candidates feeling cold, he said.
"When I arrived at Delta five years ago, I was getting 20 to 30 letters a week from candidates who felt disenfranchised," he said. The sheer number of candidates who apply to jobs at Delta each year represents about $300 million in potential airline business, he added, "so we needed to change what we say."
"[Our candidate communication] was originally written by lawyers, so we had to kind of 'de-criminalize' it, so to speak," said Johnson.
At Fiat Chrysler, the company typically hires only 9,000 of the roughly 300,000 applicants who apply there each year, said Thornton. "That means the vast majority will not have a positive outcome, so we focus on making the experience a positive one so at least they won't say 'I will never buy a car made by this company ever again,' " she said.
Like Johnson, Thornton has made improving her company's candidate-communication efforts a priority. "We're still early on in the process, but we believe we've stopped the bleeding," she said, adding that Fiat Chrysler audits its candidate communication on at least a quarterly basis "to ensure the experience is fresh, and not cookie-cutter."
At SWIFT, the company helps hiring managers provide direct feedback to internal candidates who weren't selected for the jobs they applied for, said Marquardt. "They advise them on where the gaps [in their experience] lie and what they can do to be successful next time, and I think it's working well."
Similar to Fiat Chrysler, Delta has far more applicants than available jobs, said Johnson. The airline tries to encourage candidates to "self-select out" by creating videos that give realistic previews of what its jobs actually entail on a daily basis, he said.
"We want to make sure they understand that these jobs -- flight attendant, ground mechanic, ticket agent -- may seem cool but they also have downsides, so that candidates are better prepared to understand whether they really want a particular job," said Johnson. The company has also created a video that coaches candidates on what to expect during a job interview, he said.
McKesson also creates videos designed to give candidates a "feel for a day in the life" of various jobs at the company, said McGregor. "Videos help a lot, because you can have a message targeted to candidates, whether the job's in corporate or in distribution."
Whittling down the amount of time it takes to apply for jobs has also been key, she said. "We took our mobile application process down from 20-plus minutes to two-and-a-half minutes."
At Fiat Chrysler, the automaker tries to give candidates as much transparency as possible into its hiring process "to take some of the frustration out of it," said Thornton. This has even extended to giving candidates the contact information for the recruiters who will be reviewing their application, she said.
"It may sound a little shocking, but the candidates get an auto-response from us [with this information]. We did not see a spike in the number of candidates reaching out to recruiters -- instead, we think [doing this] helps them understand that someone's actually working on their application."
Delta is also focused on making its application process much more candidate-friendly, although it's still a work in progress, said Johnson.
"If you went and secret-shopped our process, you'd wonder why we're up here on this panel," he said, adding that he is currently working with "ATS technology from 2005 combined with an HR system from 1978." The airline is upgrading its system, however, with the goal of "one-click apply." "We believe that if we do it right, we'll create an engaging process that will narrow the [applicant] funnel without taking too much time."
The airline also plans an easier application process for internal candidates, who "are demanding we pay attention to them, too. We believe our new system will help with this."
Among the most important things companies can do, said Orler, is to treat candidates with dignity.
"One of the positive comments we've seen from candidates who applied to a company is, 'The recruiter rejected my application but did not reject me as a person,' " she said. "Try to say 'no' with as much respect as possible."
Candidates appreciate efforts to keep them in the loop, said Marquardt.
"People always want a response, even if it's 'no thank-you,' because it closes the loop," he said. "Candidates have actually written to us saying 'Thanks for letting me know.' "