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4 Smart Ways to Improve Recruitment Candidate Experience during COVID-19

4 Smart Ways to Improve Recruitment Candidate Experience during COVID-19

If you’re a little tired of hearing about these “unprecedented times” here’s perhaps something you can do about that if you’re on the “front lines” of a team lucky enough to be hiring and dealing with an inbound flood of applicants.

tl;dr: Skip to the Goods!

Recognizing that, as of this writing, thirty million people in the United States have claimed unemployment and are actively seeking work and that many hiring teams who are lucky enough to still be hiring may also have been impacted negatively in terms of having less help on the team and less tools or resources.

Hiring Teams Have Been Impacted, Too

In this environment of less help, less tools and way more applicants, recruiting and TA teams are faced with a very real problem: How to help everyone when you know you can’t hire them all and that many of them will not be qualified anyway. 

The urge to want to not miss all these people is real, and good and human. There are steps you can take to both help them how you can and not lose sleep or sanity doing so. 

Crank Up the Transparency

Improving the candidate experience during a time of massive inbound candidate flow will require some teams to begin taking a deeper look at how they are actually working, being more honest and open with candidates than they have before and starts with Recruiting and TA getting a better process in place to begin with. 

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were the one that was seeking a new role.  Add on an extra measure of desperation, a little paranoia that all the good jobs are going to be gone, and that job application processes are so unique sometimes that the candidate’s stop reading and just start, well, button mashing until they get the next application in. 

An opportunity to breathe a little and help your candidates do the same will go a long way to improving the job search process a little more human for everyone involved. ❤


Four Ways you can Immediately Improve Candidate Experience

Four ways your recruiting team can manage your candidate experience during COVID-19 times include: 

  1. Better job advertisements
  2. Stated, public SLA updated for COVID-19
  3. Better, more human approach to rejection
  4. Stop lying

I think companies who find ways to do a better job of connecting with applicants and finding how to really and truly express what they want from an applicant and being bold in that will find their applicant pools are actually way more interesting. 

I’ll give some high level explanations below and deep dive into each of these in the coming days. 


First: Better job advertisements.  

Job advertisements today are lame.  

Rewrite them so it is absolutely crystal clear what you are looking for, how you will measure what you are looking for, and what you are not looking for. 

A powerful and moving way to do this is video.  Grab a phone or record a zoom meeting of the hiring manager, team leader or someone doing the role explain some of the key things that are needed and what the business problems are that you are wanting to solve.  

Humans communicate so much more through nonverbal cues. Your video will do wonders for your communication of what the role really is.  

Want to level this up? Some B-roll of how your hiring team works to vet candidates and what the interview process will be like would be a great addition.  Tie it all off with that clip from your SLA (see below) of your CEO noting how hiring is important to them and inviting candidates to reach out directly if they experience problems with the process,.  Please do NOT say “I am the CEO and I approve this message”, but you kindof get the point. 

But really, getting something out there is better than nothing. 

Pro-Tip: Add these two caveats to your job postings to boost applications from a more-diverse background and help people NOT apply but still stay connected with you if they feel this job isn’t right:

  • Encourage people to apply if they are on the bubble and might second-guess their qualifications. 

    Something like “We are interested in people from all walks of life and backgrounds. We can’t guarantee a job to everyone, but if you don’t have every one of these skills, but you’re close and can knock our socks off in at least 2 or 3 of them, then let’s talk. Please.“ And give them a way to actually reach you.  THis will increase engagement as well as a proven way to improve responses from a more diverse candidate pool. 
  • To encourage people to stay connected with you even if this role isn’t quite right yet.  

    Giving candidates some other way to connect with you, perhaps a way to get into your applicant pool that does not involve them applying to a role that they know they’re not qualified for, but one that still gets them to be affiliated with your company and get access to insider tips, jobs or information. 

Have a Public COVID SLA.  Have your CEO introduce it. 

I think it would be a good idea to publish how you will communicate and how often you will communicate with candidates during the COVID crisis.  This should cover specific milestones with deadlines. Perhaps you commit to get to every applicant within 2 weeks from their apply date with either a go/no-go response.  You tell them how you are working through vetting each profile. Don’t overpromise, but follow up on time, every time.

 Post that online publicly.  Link to that in your job postings and have your automated email that goes out when someone applies mention it.  

Even better, have your CEO or head of talent record a video talking about what you will do.  Tell us about the challenges your team is facing as well, but that you are committed to getting people to work and doing this right.  Ask for a little patience as you figure it out, and give candidates as much control over the process as you can. 

Better than that, at the end of the video invite applicants to email you if something goes awry and promise to help make it right without judgement.

Give yourself a way out, too

Finally on this, give yourself a way out, too.  If setting a two-week deadline means 13 days in three hundred people get blind “sorry” emails, that doesn’t work either.  A better way may be to automatically email each candidate who is being considered, even tangentially, with a “we’re taking a look at your profile, but it’s taking longer than expected.”  note.  Perhaps the ones who still have not been touched after a week perhaps get a “Yikes, this is taking longer than we thought” message with an updated timeline and an email at least weekly until their application has been vetted. 

Pro-Tip: Give candidates a way to respond to these updates — to a human.  If something has changed in the candidate’s search, they got a job or want to withdraw their candidacy for some reason, let them. Help them help you. Be real that you may have missed the best candidate you could have ever hired here.  You should loop in any self-withdrawals to your NPS scoring system or some other feedback loop, but that’s for a different day. 


Reject better.  

Here’s how I recommend you do this: In your SLA, you discuss your posture for rejections.  Then, tell the candidate how you do rejections when you talk to them.  Finally, follow your process each time. 

Since you’re moving at scale, something I have done that works is to tell candidates I will do this first, but then I send an immediate, lightly detailed rejection message to the candidate as soon as I know. I told them I would, so I do.  Then, crucially, I invite them to setup a time with me to discuss detailed feedback if they like, with a link to my calendar-scheduling tool. 

Some old-school HR and Legal types will freak out mildly here because I did say that I will gasp give real feedback to the candidate if they ask for it and setup a time. This is something some candidates yearn for and deserve.  This is a small gesture, but people deserve this.  This part should not be automated. 

Pro-Tip: Not every candidate will ask for feedback. This is why the two-step approach helps you move quickly at scale, but it is important that you describe this process up-front. 


For the Love, Stop Lying to Candidates.

One terrible but common behavior in recruiting is we get to be masters at putting someone on “the back burner” or putting them on hold when we know they are not going to make the job.  

Be more honest with candidates.  Tell them “I am sorry to say that you scored about average in our test.  That means you’re not out, but you’re not really “in” at the moment until we do a few other reviews.  I know this is an awkward place to be, but I would want to know if it were me, so I am letting you know as well.”  

This goes over better than you think it will.  Give the candidate a chance to walk away. They will thank you for it. 

Summary

Here are four ways you can improve your inbound candidate flow, treat people the way they would want to be treated and help yourself as well. 

I think companies who find ways to do a better job of connecting with applicants and finding how to really and truly express what they want from an applicant and being bold in that will find their applicant pools are actually way more interesting. 

Let me know what you think!


Photo by Headway on Unsplash

By @AskRobMerrill

I'm Robert Merrill. I am the founder and principal consultant at ConnectedWell Recruiting and Talent Advisors, a boutique recruitment consulting agency. I have more than 15 years technical and professional recruiting experience across the US and fourteen other countries, globally.

Beside my writing here, I am working on helping make hiring more human again, publishing a newsletter, and Helping 1 Million people get better jobs in 5 years. The clock is ticking.

I also write on linkedin and medium, answer questions on quora, am funnier on twitter @askrobmerrill and trying to figure out instagram as well. Give us a follow, if you like.

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