What is a candidate?
The dictionary defines a candidate as: “a person who applies for a job or is nominated for election,” but also, “a person taking an examination,” and “a person or thing regarded as suitable for or likely to receive a particular fate, treatment, or position.”
This is an election year, but the candidate that you’re interested in is the kind who works for you, not the kind that promises to work for you in Washington. However, just like the person who you choose to vote for, the candidate that you choose to hire has to be up to the job.
We’ve all thought about what it would be like to be the President at some point, and, no matter what you think of any particular US President, there’s no denying that it’s a highly demanding job. Besides being commander in chief and leading the free world, the President must also be proficient in shaking hands, kissing babies, throwing opening pitches, pardoning turkeys and making viral videos.
When we think of someone who is “presidential,” we like to think of someone who was born to lead, someone who has spent their whole life preparing for this defining moment. We expect them to behave and dress in a “presidential” way, following the candidate conventions that we’re used to them following.
We expect this behavior of our presidential candidates, but we also expect it of job candidates. Each candidate has a unique history and an individual career path, but most companies ask them to apply like it’s the last job they ever plan on doing. Additionally, though candidates are treated with similar scrutiny as presidential candidates, none of this scrutiny is applied to practices that irritate or offend them. Personalized applications have become par for the course when applying to jobs, and yet many companies have failed to reciprocate with a personal, enjoyable application experience. Applicants are routinely over-interviewed and mismanaged, waiting for extended periods of time to learn if they’ve advanced in the selection process. Even worse, candidates routinely never hear back from jobs that they took great care to apply to, despite the rise in automated applications and candidate management technology.
Candidates are used to this double standard, but that isn’t a good thing. Just like the public is sick of multi-year presidential campaigns, candidates are sick of painful application processes, and the proof is in the pudding. A study has shown that top candidates are being hired off the job market in under 10 days, while the national average for filling a job sits at 27 working days. According to the same survey, 60% of candidates have quit an application process simply because it took too long.
Right now, if you’re providing an “average” application experience, you should expect to make an “average” hire. Just like you probably wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t customize their cover letter, candidates aren’t going to jump at your job if you’re providing an unpleasant, unprofessional or uninspiring application experience. If you want your candidates to campaign for your attention like it’s a presidential race, then you’re going to give them what they want.
Stop providing an “average” application experience. Break the mold, and start treating candidates like people. Failing to do so, just about guarantees that you won’t be able to hire your top choice for the job.
Treating Candidates like People
Treating your candidates like people means treating them with respect. We have been talking about this issue for years, and have summed up our position in the Candidate Bill of Rights. Some of this stuff should go without saying. Some of this stuff should really go without saying. Feel free to debate us on this, but there won’t be room for debate much longer. All the signs are pointing to the growing necessity of a candidate-friendly hiring function, and early adopters will be able to stand out from their inconsiderate competitors. If you can follow the guidelines listed below, you will be on your way to providing an candidate-friendly application process.
The Candidate Bill of Rights
Individuals are entitled to the security and confidentiality of their personal and professional background and data. Any decision to make that data available to others must be at the specific request of the individual.
All advertised positions must be verifiably open and available to job-seekers, with the intent of the hiring organization to make any and all efforts to fill the open position.
The description of an open position should accurately and specifically identify the unique attributes of that position as they relate to the Hiring Manager, organization, geography, work group, work to be completed, and performance measurement criteria.
All interested candidates, from all available sources, should be considered for an open position based upon their ability and aptitude, and that consideration should be free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance.
Hiring decisions will be made based upon on a set of specific and defined criteria that is relevant to the position, consistent across all candidates and applied objectively.
- Follow Up
All applicants are entitled to consistent communications regarding the status of their candidacy, regardless of the outcome of their application.
Each individual should expect that they will be provided with all relevant information about the organization and Hiring Manager in order to best prepare them for success during the interview process.
Scheduling of interviews will occur in a manner that connotes respect for the candidate, their time and their efforts.
Every inquiry regarding the status of candidacy or application is worthy of a response.
All applicants will be provided with the necessary information about the company, hiring manager, compensation, performance expectations, and other criteria in order to make an informed career decision.
These are the conditions that your candidates should be experiencing. Unfortunately, most companies don’t devote enough attention to the candidate experience to create these conditions. When you leave this stuff up to chance, it rarely ends well.
Show this Candidate Bill of Rights to every hiring decision maker at your company. No matter who they are, if they have some say in the hiring process or will be sitting in on interviews, they need to be on the right side of this trend. Soon, even exorbitant salaries won’t be enough to make up for hiring practices that candidates feel disrespected by. In order to make the hires you need to going forward, you must provide a candidate-friendly application process to every person who applies to your company.
Provide a Candidate-Friendly Application Process
The first step in providing a candidate-friendly application process, besides following the Candidate Bill of Rights, is writing a candidate-friendly job description. There can be a tendency to over-jargonize job ads with the aim of being more “professional,” but what’s really professional is providing a great application experience to your candidates. Skilled candidates will appreciate a job ad that uses technical terminology in a compelling way, but will be wary of job ads that sound like they were written by a robot.
The job description exists as a way to communicate specific information to candidates, but it should still be engaging. It may describe your job, but it is a “job advertisement” when you post it online, and the last thing you want an advertisement to do is bore, confuse or annoy the person who sees it. The amount of information that is required in a job ad will vary by position, but even the most technical job can still be presented in a creative, personal way.
Personalizing your job description can be done in numerous ways without sacrificing the crucial information that needs to be provided to candidates. For instance, a creative sub-title like ” Sales Manager – Fight for the Winning Team” will appear for candidates who search for “Sales Manager”, but will stand out from ads that don’t have that personalized touch. Besides grabbing their attention, this ensures that a candidate’s first impression of your company is unique and positive.
Just be sure that you don’t get too creative. Inventing a job title might be very personalized, but it will absolutely kill your search engine rankings. Additionally, you should never sacrifice the informational content of your job description. At the end of the day, candidates need to be able to tell if they’re qualified for the job they’re looking at, so don’t make it complicated. While having an creative introduction to your job ad is a good idea, taking creative liberties in the “required skills and experience” section is never advisable.
A candidate-friendly job description is one that engages the reader, but also communicates all necessary skill requirements to candidates. We recommend striking this balance by segmenting your job description by content type. In the introduction, discuss the job in an appealing, descriptive, top-down way that gives the reader a feel for the broad objectives of the position. Then, in a body paragraph, summarize how the day-to-day tasks of the job will build into the completion of these broader objectives. Finally, have all of the indispensable information (required skills, years of experience, etc.) in a bullet-ed list so that, after being engaged by your creative introduction, candidates can see if they’re qualified at a glance.
If you can balance engaging language with the information that your job ad has to get across, then you can create a candidate-friendly job description. When you create a candidate-friendly job description, then you’re taking your first step away from making “average” hires and toward hiring the candidate that you want for the job.
Once you’re sure that your job description is personal and professional, it’s time to examine the structure of your application process. Now, the structure of the application process will always depend on the demands of the position being hired for. If the job is highly technical in nature and requires highly technical know-how, then anticipate the screening process being longer than usual. In general, the more information you need to vet, the longer the process will take.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can take your sweet time.
A candidate friendly interview process is one that moves with the greatest efficiency possible, while still providing all candidates with the same shot at your open job and respecting their time. Some interview processes will take longer than others, so you should always evaluate the screening demands of your open job before deciding on the structure of your interviews. After you’ve evaluated the screening demands of your job, you can start to design the structure of your interview process.
The golden rule here, is to make the interview process as painless as possible for your candidates. You should always design the process to take as few interviews as possible, and these interviews should always be scheduled close together. You should also make the interviews themselves as painless as possible and refrain from springing unexpected technical evaluations on your candidates.
Some roles will require candidates to prove their coding abilities or other advanced skill-sets, but this should be one of the first major screening hurdles for your candidates and should not take up any actual interview time. Many best-in-class companies are keeping these skill tests from slowing down their interview process by having candidates complete these tests on their own time. By assigning candidates a task to demonstrate their skills, and giving them a day or two to do it, you take the pressure off of them to perform on the spot. Additionally, you get to screen out a huge selection of your initial candidate pool without conducting a single interview!
You should never make candidates come to a physical interview unless it is absolutely necessary. Many companies only conduct the initial “get to know you” interview over the phone, which is loved by hiring managers and candidates alike for its time saving nature. By keeping the initial meeting and qualification processes remote, you can save your candidates a trip to your office and greatly improve their overall application process.
One last thing. You should always update candidates on their status in the interview process as soon as you can. Failing to update a candidate leaves them open to doubt in the best case scenario and an offer from one of your competitors in the worst case. Candidates hate not knowing where they stand and you don’t want them hating anything that has to do with your company. From the very beginning of the interview process, and through to the end, all candidates should be well oriented and prepared for the next step they need to take. If that step is another interview, great. If not, then you should let them know as quickly and politely as possible. There is no place-holder for this.
Candidates are people. You want your candidates to bring their best to the interview, so you should aim to provide the best application experience possible. If you aren’t providing a great application experience, then you should not expect great results from your candidate sourcing efforts. Highly skilled candidates can get a lot done, which gives them many options to choose from. In order to be chosen, you need to adopt the Candidate Bill of Rights and give candidates everything they need to decide that your job is right for them.