Let's face it: even in times of ChatGPT and AI, job hunting can be a bit of a slog. Sending out resumes, filling out endless forms, and waiting to hear back from employers can feel like running a marathon with no finish line in sight. As a recruiter or hiring manager, it's crucial to remember that your hiring process isn't just about filling a position; it's also about creating a positive candidate experience.
Too often overlooked, the candidate experience is actually a crucial aspect of your employer branding. And it’s particularly important when it comes to hiring students and recent graduates!
🤔 What is the candidate experience?
It’s the candidate’s entire journey with your company, from reading the job ad right through to their very first day at work. In addition to any operational measures that need to be put in place by the company, candidate experience is above all about a feeling – their perception of your company and their interaction with you.
Why is it so important?
There are several reasons to look after your candidate experience:
🐝 Because there’s always a risk of ‘bad buzz’
In today's hyper-connected world, a bad candidate experience can travel faster than a cheetah on Red Bull. With social media and review sites, candidates can share their experiences with millions of people in mere seconds, potentially damaging your employer brand and making it tough to attract top talent. So, it's crucial to ensure that every candidate interaction is a positive one, from the first contact to the final decision. Remember, your candidates are your potential ambassadors, and a good candidate experience can go a long way in turning them into loyal employees and enthusiastic brand advocates.
I would rather not read this on my Glassdoor page..
“My worst memory as a student? Once, I had an interview at a company and heard absolutely nothing afterwards. I’ll never apply there again”.
Juliette, Master's student in Communications
🔎 Because transparency is crucial to the new generation
According to our study, “Generation Z: how to recruit them?” ,90% of today’s generation think it’s very important to receive a response to their application, even if they haven’t been shortlisted. Faced with a generation that needs reassurance throughout the recruitment process, reflecting on the candidate experience we give them has become essential.
🤝Because you need to keep top talent engaged
In a highly competitive job market where the fight for top talent is fierce, creating a positive candidate experience can be the ultimate differentiator. Candidates are more likely to choose an employer that values their time, respects their needs, and communicates clearly and effectively throughout the hiring process. A positive candidate experience can lead to increased candidate engagement, higher offer acceptance rates, and a higher likelihood of candidates referring their friends and network to your company.
But no need to reinvent the wheel
Webseries, ephemeral spaces, escape games... some companies have the means to put in place a huge variety of wonderful tools to impress potential candidates. But before reaching that point, there are a number of simple, effective and quick solutions that need to be firmly in place to take care of your fundamental candidate experience.
Step 1: Remember the candidate experience begins even before the application!
📋 Job ads: your primary communications driver
A least half of GenZ applicants want to see more transparency in job ads. So, you could ask yourself:
Have you clearly defined the objectives of the role and the specific tasks involved?
When reading your job ads, candidates should be able to easily picture themselves working at your company.
Have you properly explained the various stages of the recruitment process?
Wherever possible, if you know they’ll be meeting with operational staff, managers or even required to carry out roleplays and practical exercises as part of the process, explain everything that’s involved to give your applicants more oversight from the get-go.
Have you stayed true to your corporate identity?
Don’t write your job ads in a very informal tone if that doesn’t reflect your corporate culture. Similarly, don’t give students and recent graduates the impression they’ll be working on a whole host of strategic issues if, in reality, they’ll be working on the more operational side of things.
Check out our ultimate template on “How to Write the Perfect Job Ad”.
💻 Make sure your employer branding is on point
80% of candidates look into companies before they even apply. To ensure your applicants have access to all the information they’ll need, ask yourself the following questions:
Is the information on your business easily accessible and up-to-date?
Your JobTeaser page, your corporate website and your page on Glassdoor, for example, should all provide the same information and key figures about your business.
Brownie points🍫🧁 : do you have any content available that specifically targets students and recent graduates?
Use videos on social media to your advantage to connect with this generation of ‘digital natives’. To help them picture themselves working at your company day to day, you could also provide testimonials from your existing employees. Little touches like these all help candidates feel more confident even before they’ve sent in their CV!
Step 2: Cover all bases between the application and the decision
Once candidates have sent in their applications, there are still a few key things to keep in mind:
💬 Be transparent
Create a simple and fluid candidate journey
A CV, a six-page form, a cover letter, ten references, relevant qualification certificates... There seems to be a misconception that only the most determined and motivated candidates will make it through a lengthy and complex application process. Today’s candidates are actually looking for simpler, ‘mobile first’ pathways as a priority: 3 out of every 4 candidates use their smartphone to look for job ads.
Communicate with candidates all throughout the process
Even if it’s just an automated response, the students and recent graduates of today think it’s very important to receive some kind of acknowledgement of their application. As far as possible, let them know:
- that you’ve received their CV
- that their application has been forwarded to your operational teams
- that you’ll get back to them within X days
Applicants you communicate with frequently will be more likely to keep you informed of any changes to their situation and will arrive at their interview much more confident.
🕵️ Remember that in interviews, candidates are assessing you too
Interviews are a ‘two-way street’, where applicants are also deciding whether or not your business is a good fit for them! This checklist will help you guarantee that you’re giving the best impression of your company and your employees:
Give them a warm welcome
A few small touches here and there can contribute massively to putting applicants at ease. Make sure you’ve booked a room in advance, offer candidates a cup of coffee or a glass of water, and then take them through the format and structure of the interview that’s about to take place.
Communicate your culture and team organisation
Convey your corporate culture in what you say and your attitude to candidates. If the interview is taking place on your premises, make sure to give them a tour of the facilities. At JobTeaser, for example, we’re particularly proud of our campus-style cafeteria, which we often visit with our candidates on interview days.
Respond accurately and transparently
As interviews draw to a close, candidates are often invited to ask some questions about the role. This moment is crucial. You shouldn’t hesitate to address any of the issues worrying applicants, and never appear to be vague. In your responses, be sure to be transparent and, above all, don’t ‘oversell’ the role! Finally, as far as possible, continue to give candidates a good overview of the next steps to come, i.e. when can they expect you to get back to them? Will there be anyone else to meet before a decision is made? Can they contact you with any further questions about the role or the company?
Step 3: Be firm and fair in your response
Once you’ve had the chance to debrief with your operational teams and a final decision on the successful candidate has been made, now comes the delicate moment of announcing it! There are two things cases in points here:
👍If the answer is no, try to turn rejection into a constructive experience
Things may not have worked out this time, but the conversation doesn’t have to stop there. Remember, the candidates you have to turn down today may be the ones who can meet your needs in the future. Our advice for leaving things on a positive note with candidates, despite turning them down:
Notify candidates within a reasonable time frame
There’s a balance to be struck between rejecting a candidate the moment they submit their CV, and waiting several weeks to respond even if you know they’re not going to be able to meet your needs on this occasion! Focus on efficiency, transparency and respect for candidates who have after all made the effort to apply to work for you.
Give suggestions for improvement if possible
Wherever you can, justify your decisions. Maybe the candidate didn’t have the right qualifications for the role, not enough relevant industry experience, or perhaps they just didn’t perform well enough in your practical exercises at interview. This kind of specific feedback will help them work on these points for future applications.
Invite candidates to provide feedback
Don’t shy away from asking applicants how they found the candidate experience themselves and be sure to ask them to leave a review on your Glassdoor page, if possible. This will help you constantly adapt to the needs of students and recent graduates, whilst at the same time building a fantastic showcase of your company (according to a Textkernel study, only 8% of HR departments collect feedback - a great way to stand out from the crowd!).
👌 If it’s a yes, onboarding begins now!
Found that special someone? There are a few rules to follow to ensure your candidates are as enthusiastic about the decision as you:
Notify them as soon as possible
It’s all about timing. We’re not saying you should chase them down the street or wake them up in the middle of the night to share the good news, but try to inform them of your decision as soon as it has been made. This will allow applicants to put their job search on hold and start picturing themselves at your company.
...but give them time to think!
Once you’ve contacted the applicant, it can be counter-productive to demand an answer right there and then. Students and recent graduates don’t have a great deal of experience in the world of work yet, so give them at least 24 hours to speak to their family, friends and teachers, so they can be certain they want to join you.
Keep in touch until they start work
Once an applicant has accepted your offer, keep in touch to reassure them before they make a start with the company. If their start date is still quite a way away, don’t hesitate to begin integrating them into your teams, for example, by sharing the plan for their first day, sending some onboarding documentation over, or perhaps even inviting them to an after-work event!
A positive candidate experience signals the beginning of a quality employee/employer relationship. By taking care of their journey and welcoming candidates to your company properly, you’ll be giving yourself the best chances of retaining talent for your success in the long term!