What Candidate Experience Means in a Tight Labor Market

A man and woman sit at a large conference table for an interview in a bright office space with gold light fixtures.

The labor market is the tightest in 50 years. While the low unemployment rate is good news for the economy, it means that filling vacant jobs has become a significant challenge across industries. Luring top-notch new hires now takes more than offering tantalizing salaries and benefits; increasingly, applicants are making judgments about which offer to accept based—at least in part—on their experience during the hiring process. For some companies, instead of creating a positive image of their organization, they are limiting their ability to recruit top talent by treating applicants dismissively. But, by taking a close look at your current hiring practices, then making some changes—from process improvement to training—you can help ensure that your company attracts top talent.

Shortsighted Hiring Protocols Could Do Long-Term Harm

One of the most common missteps during the hiring process—and one that generates among the loudest complaints among job applicants—is “ghosting.” In other words, after submitting an application or even completing an interview, they receive no response of any kind from hiring managers—no email, phone call or text. Some job seekers report that after attempting to follow up with a potential employer, they fail to receive any communication, even when that follow-up is a polite thank-you note after an interview. It’s no surprise that this type of behavior creates a negative impression; job seekers say they see this as a window into the company’s culture.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research for Gartner, Inc., warns, “If you treat candidates poorly during the recruiting process, they’re going to tell their friends. You could get away with that in 2009, but you can’t get away with it in 2019.”

A survey by human resources technology company CareerArc® confirms the importance of that advice. They found that 72 percent of candidates who have a bad experience share their feelings online or directly with someone they know. And perhaps even more damaging to a company’s brand, 64 percent of job applicants are less likely to purchase goods and services from a company that delivered a poor candidate experience.

Timing May Be Everything

The hiring process at many companies is taking longer than it did just a few years ago, according to a survey by Glassdoor®, and the time required varies according to both seniority of the position and the industry. FastCompany reports that it takes on average 55.5 days to hire senior vice presidents, while it takes an average of 51.8 days to hire a program analyst. For those new to the workforce, the National Association for Colleges and Employers 2017 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey reports that, on average, the time span from interview to notification of an offer for new college graduates was 23.6 days.

The Glassdoor findings also show that timing between interview and job offer varies by industry: Government (53.8 days), Aerospace & Defense (32.6 days) and Energy & Utilities (28.8 days). The sectors with the shortest interview processes are Restaurants & Bars (10.2 days), Private Security (11.6 days) and Supermarkets (12.3 days).

The lengthy process often means companies postpone or even forget about keeping applicants appraised of their progress – or lack thereof. “I definitely see why there’s frustration in this situation from the jobseeker’s perspective,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster®.

The danger for hiring managers in a tight labor market: Top-tier candidates are almost always being recruited by more than one company. For companies whose hiring teams have streamlined their process and adopted good hiring etiquette and responsive communications, the investment is worthwhile; they are more likely to be the first choice of high-quality applicants.

6 Tips to Overcome Common Stumbles

Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at Chicago-based CareerBuilder®, advises, “A positive candidate experience is a competitive advantage in a job market where candidates have flexibility in their job selection.” She adds, “To remain competitive and create a candidate experience that attracts, secures and retains today’s top talent, you need to determine how your current hiring methods measure up to what candidates are looking for.” To ensure candidates have a good experience—and maybe even spread a positive word—a few steps can make the difference.

Tip #1: Take a Look at Your Website’s Career Portal

Regular evaluation and editing of your company’s career site can be the first step toward competitive hiring advantage; it starts the conversation and can be a window into your culture. According to CareerBuilder, 89 percent of job seekers say they look to the website for information. At the same time, nearly a quarter of companies report that their career site doesn’t accurately portray what it’s like to work for their organization, and only 45 percent of candidates say they can typically tell what it would be like to work for a company based on their career site.

Tip #2: Know How to Train Hiring Managers

Industry averages indicate that only two out of five hiring managers are coached by recruiters or talent acquisition specialists, and only two out of five companies prep their hiring managers specifically on the topic of candidate experience. CareerBuilder says this means only 16 percent of hiring managers overall receive training by specialists aimed at managing the candidate experience.

Tip #3: Eliminate Ghosting

CareerArc research found that 60 percent of candidates say “better communication throughout and after the applicant process” would make the most positive impact. CareerBuilder findings show that “…more than a third of employers (35 percent) say they don’t put time into doing this.” For larger companies, leveraging the communications and status update function available on some applicant tracking systems can be both efficient for the hiring team and effective in building good relationships.

Tip #4: Monitor Employee Review Websites and Social Media

Candidates’ online and social media habits can have a big impact on your company’s brand—particularly if they have been ghosted or had a bad experience during an interview. “Yet, 60 percent of employers don’t monitor their employer presence/brand on social media. Of those who do, 68 percent take steps to encourage positive reviews while 16 percent just react to negative information,” says CareerBuilder. Monitoring what current employees have to say about your company on sites such as Glassdoor or Comparably© is also key to how your company culture and salary ranges are perceived by job seekers.

Tip #5: Train Video Interviewers

Video interviews with candidates from miles away are cost-and time-effective, plus interviewing distant candidates can help add to the diversity of the workforce. But, as the Wall Street Journal warns, “[video interviewing] can reflect badly on the company if its interviewers aren’t comfortable using the gear.” When they fumble the interface it not only creates a bad impression, particularly with college students, but also, “…such stories spread like wildfire across campus…damaging the company’s reputation.”

Tip #6: Attract, Evaluate, and Inspire

A member of the Forbes Human Resources Council sums up: “We first need to attract candidates to consider our opportunity, then we have to evaluate their experience and skills to determine a fit. But then we need to inspire them, regardless of the fit. If you do this right, candidates will always remember the opportunity and talk very highly of your company. They will want to keep in touch and become your external sales/reviewers to attract more.” 

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, National Association.