Candidate Empowerment – Candidate Experience 2.0 (Part One)

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The candidate experience is something that many companies have been working to perfect over the last several years. It’s a relatively new phenomenon, one that was basically non-existent even 20 years ago. In times past, job seekers were at the mercy of employers, many of which played the role of benevolent benefactor to candidates who accepted that a bad hiring experience was not just possible but expected. My how times have changed. The candidates of today have more access to job and company information than ever before and are, in many instances, in the driver’s seat of their job search instead of just along for the ride. Companies and recruiters are adapting and working to create a better experience for these candidates, spanning from the time they’re a passive job seeker until they’re hired and fully integrated in the company.

As a whole, organizations are making great strides toward creating positive experiences. To see evidence of this, you simply have to look at the adoption of talent networks that help foster relationships, the use of social networking to engage prospects, the employment branding that spans multiple channels and the overall attitudes of recruiters who have come to understand the value of a positive candidate experience. We’re making progress, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s still a disconnect between our efforts and candidates’ impressions. Talent Board’s 2012 Candidate Experience Report revealed that to be true, reporting that 10% of candidates surveyed believed the companies they applied for positions at were interested and listened to them in the candidate attraction phase. That means that the overwhelming majority of our candidates aren’t happy with how they’re being recruited, and it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to make room for candidate empowerment, or as I like to call it, candidate experience 2.0.

The good and bad of traditional candidate experience

The way we’ve focused on candidate experience in the last several years was necessary and productive, if not complete. Yes, it has left us with gaps, but we wouldn’t be where we are without the wave of change the trend brought in the last decade. It shifted our thinking and made the candidate, not the job, the center of our universe. It created a positive peer pressure that pushed employers to adopt candidate experience and engagement programs, and that’s certainly a good thing. However, we’ve seen traditional candidate experience falling short for many prospective employees in one way or another. For some, it’s the recruiting phase, for others it’s the actual application experience and for many, it’s what happens when they don’t get the job. In each situation, there’s a lasting impression made on the candidate that will be tough to ever get away from. There’s a crucial piece that’s missing from even the best traditional candidate experience strategies.

Picking up where candidate experience left off

What’s missing from the typical approach of candidate empowerment is that there’s not enough emphasis on the role the candidate plays. In a way, we don’t give them enough responsibility or trust. We focus so much on what we can do and neglect the fact that engagement is a two-way street. Both parties have a responsibility to engage but often times we don’t empower candidates to do so. We focus on our duties, our assessments and our decisions, when we should be looking at it as a collaborative effort. It may be tough to let go of the reigns and empower them to be part of the process, but remember that they have just as much skin in the game as you.

You’re making a hiring decision, they’re making a career choice. You’re evaluating their skills, they’re assessing whether or not they are equipped to do the job. You’re looking for a company culture fit, they’re wondering whether or not they’ll fit in. Trusting and empowering candidates to build relationships, make choices and engage their potential employer will lead to a more satisfying candidate experience, better hires and a more engaged workforce. Candidate empowerment is the future of the candidate experience.

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