Treat your candidates right

How to treat a job candidate

Candidate experience is the phrase on many recruiter’s lips at the moment. We’re in a buyer’s market currently but in some sectors of skills shortage, candidates hold the cards. And as we move out of recession, expect jobseekers to get choosier.

Tell them what they want to know

Research carried out by The Guardian shows that jobseekers love to be well informed about the company and every aspect of the recruitment process. In particular they want to know the job they are applying for comes with:

  • Good company/organisation culture
  • Friendly people
  • Attractive location
  • Equality of opportunity

Bear all these factors in mind at every stage when you have contact with candidates!


Online manners

When recruitment first went online, recruiters were as inexperienced as the online tools were crude and candidates were often treated badly as a result. Not hearing back from a potential employer after emailing an application was commonplace. Candidates were also not kept in the loop during the recruitment process as companies struggled to cope with email overload.

Recruiters reputations took a hit and to some extent, they’re still recovering. Nowadays, candidates should expect an automatic response to their emailed application as a minimum. This usually includes some kind of service level agreement: letting candidates know the date of shortlisting for interview and when they’ll be informed, for example. Additionally, a polite note informing candidates who have not been successful and thanking them for their interest and time is an essential online courtesy.


Be open with candidates

Given candidates desire for information, the more, and the earlier you communicate with candidates, the better. This begins with the job advert, where one citing salary will always attract a bigger response. Openness can also extend to sharing information about the selection process and criteria for selection.

A good example of best practice is Turning Point, a social enterprise that delivers social care services. Candidates are offered advice and given examples of how to fill in a high-quality application and personal statement, which is the primary test for shortlisting. Far from ‘molly coddling’ candidates or doing the job for them, this approach sets a benchmark for quality and subtly lets candidates know the standard the organisation is expecting.


Keep online up and running

While you’re doing this high level diplomacy and selling, don’t neglect the basics. The most annoying experience for a candidate applying online is to come across links that don’t work. So in your recruitment section of your website, ensure all links are up to date and functioning. Get someone to do a dummy application online. To spend a couple of hours completing an application and then being unable to send it is the worst kind of PR.


Interview heads up

For candidates who have been shortlisted and have been called for interview, the communication needs to get tighter and slicker. A call from a member of the HR team briefing successful candidates about their success and the timeline for interviews is a must. At this stage, it is a good idea for them to briefly describe the style of interview, and whether it is a telephone interview or face-to- face. This should also be followed up by an email, confirming those details and the time and date.

Advise telephone interviewees to have a quiet space where they can focus and not be disturbed. The communication may also ask candidates whether they have any special requirements that they would like taken into account during a telephone interview. This reiterates an employer’s commitment to equal opportunities. For face-to-face interviewees, include a map of the destination with direction for travellers arriving on public transport and by foot, including distances and walking times.


Telephone interview

Telephone interviews are generally scripted and designed to do some baseline checks on a candidate’s suitability. However, do ensure that the personnel carrying them out aren’t too robotic, even if it’s the umpteenth interview of the day for them.

A couple of phrases of chit chat at the beginning will put a candidate at ease in what is a rather artificial situation. And it’s always good to provide a bit of reassurance at the end, even if it’s a “thanks for taking the time to talk to us” variety. Unlike a face-to-face interview, the candidate has no body language to interpret and may be left hanging in the air after a telephone interview.


Face-to-face interviews

This is the big opportunity to sell what you have to candidates: once at your offices, they will be able to literally hear, see and smell what you are really like. Your employees are the greatest ambassadors of your employment brand. Set up practice interviews with internal recruiters and hiring managers, and survey applicants to get their feedback.

Some employers also use this chance to introduce candidates to the future team: make sure the team is pepped up and welcoming with enough time to chat, otherwise this could backfire. Again, don’t ignore the basics. Ensure candidates are met in a friendly and professional way and offered a drink while they are waiting. If the interviews are running late, make sure you tell them and apologise!


The deal

When you’ve made your selection, don’t mess up by losing momentum and keep communication crisp. As soon as you’ve made the offer and have a verbal agreement, make sure the written contract is winging its way to the candidate.

Follow this up with a welcoming pack that literally starts the induction and, that dreadful word, the ‘on-boarding’. If your company has a buddy system, introduce the buddy now and make sure lines of communication are open. Include details of where the candidate should report to on day 1, the line manager and the induction plan.

Get all these in place and you should have a positive relationship in place by the time the chosen candidate starts work. Clued-up recruiters are becoming experts in candidate experience and, as awards such as the Candidate Experience Award and best Place to work proliferate, expect candidates to use these as a benchmark.


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