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Thought Leadership

Candidates Really Are the New Customers

Through the smart deployment of technology, you can ensure that your candidate experience is as good as the experience you provide to your company's customers.

Friday, May 5, 2017
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It sometimes feels like candidates think they're always right and that we, the employers -- the ones offering the jobs -- should be catering to them. It's almost as if we are the ones being interviewed by them, then scored and assessed. If we don't live up, they'll move on -- especially millennials.

But is it worth considering that maybe they're not the problem, but that we are? 

Rather than pointing the finger and blaming some "millennial mentality," inaccurately believing candidates need to change, we need to look at our own practices. Especially as this phenomenon is cross-generational, with 60 percent of all candidates reporting that they've had a bad hiring experience, regardless of their age group.

Smart organizations already emphasize the importance of delivering a positive candidate experience. However, this often ends up as a lofty goal without a clear roadmap. What's been missing is the direction needed to achieve this. Good news! That has already been laid out for every organization: treat candidates the same way you treat your customers.

Easier said than done? Technology, robots and other modern tools and best practices can help us make that a reality.


The Instant Gratification of Video, Social and AI

Perhaps you've seen the TurboTax commercials in which the company offers a video service to answer customers' tax questions? Believe it or not, free social media tools your company is probably currently (under)utilizing can enable you to do the same for candidates.

Through video, you can give candidates a window into your company. Give them a look at the work environment, a slice of the corporate culture, and bring the employee experience to life. Snapchat, with 151 million daily active users, is the easiest way to share these videos, allowing interested candidates to instantly see your business or interact with your teams. Just point your camera and shoot. Thirty percent of all millennial internet users are on Snapchat regularly, making it a powerful channel to reach this allegedly demanding audience. These videos can also be used on Facebook, still the No. 1 social platform with 1.5 billion users each month, encapsulating all audiences -- including older generations.

Social media can help beyond video, of course. Our most recent Global Recruiting Survey, which queried 998 recruiting professionals around the globe, reveals that 37 percent of recruiters felt their primary source for finding talent was social and professional media outlets.

But they're not always successful. That's because social channels tend to be geared towards customers rather than candidates. Even organizations that do use social media for recruitment simply post openings -- the modern equivalent of "post and pray."

Instead, social should be used as an engagement platform. Just as few companies overtly use social media to say "Buy our products," attempts to engage talent on social must be savvier than direct "apply now" messages. Social should provide an avenue for candidates to instantaneously interact with, and get a genuine understanding of, life at your company. For example, Microsoft's Careers Twitter handle rarely posts links to job openings; instead, it shares employee stories, tips, videos and other engaging content. Once they're engaged, candidates will seek out the job site organically.

Meanwhile, the use of chatbots to provide instant feedback for customers is on the rise. Chatbots are a form of AI capable of fielding and answering routine questions, and are designed to do so in an intelligent, empathetic way. The applications for client satisfaction are obvious: Just as your customers demand immediate answers to their product questions or problems, the same holds true for your candidates.

The result of these efforts will be a more engaged candidate pool and a better candidate experience.


Gamification meets Assessment

Predictive analytics are also a best practice in today's selling processes. We use customer data to accurately pinpoint their interests and buying habits. However, few organizations do the same with their employee prospects, who are arguably just as important to their success as their customers are. The trick is collecting and interpreting the data. It's easier with customers, who hand over information by filling out web forms, making purchases online and navigating websites. But talent is harder to capture. Many candidates grow frustrated after completing long, tedious applications only to be expected to then spend an hour or more completing an assessment process. It can be a turn-off.

So here's a solution: Why not turn the assessment stage of the process into a game? It's a more engaging way to collect and evaluate candidates' data while assessing their hard and soft skills.

By gamifying the assessment process, you can deliver a positive, differentiated candidate experience. For one of our clients, we created iPad game content designed to take the players through three rounds of activities. In each, they gained points by sharing their skills and building their knowledge of our client's business, turning what they didn't know about this company and brand into a rewarding challenge, while vetting out their compatibility and cultural fit.

With gamified assessments, candidates can have fun while engaging more intimately with your employer brand. Meanwhile, you've built a stronger pipeline of fully-vetted individuals.


Using Your Website to Treat Candidates Like Customers

However, if you're not at the leading edge of gamification and social media, you're not alone. The solution doesn't need to all be so futuristic, either. In fact, you can use something you've had in place for 20 or more years already: your company website.

Your client-facing site is probably fulfilling most of its promise. If you're selling online, you may even be as efficient as Amazon's "one-click" purchase option. But now, turn to your recruitment page: It probably pales by comparison. Applying via these sites is often a cumbersome process. It may not be optimized for viewing on mobile devices, which is fast becoming a base requirement, as is an interactive Q&A area. And what about offering the chance to read "reviews" or hear on-the-job stories from current employees? You probably feature testimonials on your products -- if it works for engaging a consumer online, it can help engage a candidate during his or her experience as well.

By bringing your organization's careers pages up to the level of its products pages and using the same best practices that engage customers, you can make significant improvements that will result in candidates who are happier and more likely to apply.


The Millennial Reality

In conclusion, it's high-time we started catering to the needs of our applicants and treating them like the customers they are.

The competition for top talent is real. High-quality candidates -- the ones who will deliver value to your organization -- are now in the driver's seat. We can no longer expect them to come to us and be satisfied with whatever we have to offer, just as we wouldn't expect customers to do the same. We do need to appeal to them in unique and authentic ways. Candidates are the new customers. And lest we forget the oldest rule in business: The customer is always right.


Liz Weeks is the head of employer branding and attraction at Alexander Mann Solutions.



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