The ATC Hub would like to acknowledge that this interview was conducted by Lucy Fisher, who is no longer with us. This was one of her final interviews.
Please Note: The audio interview has been presented in full, and is 24 minutes in length
My name is Elaine Orler and I am chairmen, and one of the co-founders of the talent board – which is the non-profit organisation that manages the candidate experience awards. Also as well as predominately benchmarking and research data for organisations that are trying to improve their recruiting.
Why are you bringing the CandE awards to Australia?
We’re bringing the CandE Awards to the full globe because candidate experience matters to every organisation regardless of geography. We chose Australia and New Zealand predominately because of the larger organisations that exist there, and the appetite for improvement. For us, with the benchmarking and the research work that we deliver, it was a great gravitational pool for us.
Can you explain the problem and the appetite now to improve it?
Candidate experience has been something that has been on the mind of recruiters since the beginning of time I’m sure. As we’ve moved into more of an information age, and really what I call more of a social and collaboration age, candidates are more vocal about their experience, today more than because they have more avenues to share that experience. So organisations are being hard pressed to make sure that they don’t upset the good candidates that they might want in the future, or those candidates that might have a voice or a position on that company’s future revenue. So as we think about candidates today, we’re moving into an economy where they really are customers of our organisation. Whether they are a direct consumer, or whether they are a knowledge worker that is critical to future business development. So in those capacities it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a direct consumer product, if you think of pharmaceutical organisations or even high sales intense organisations, in those capacities there is a limited amount of people that are experts in those fields. You frustrate one of them in the recruiting cycle and they’ve likely told three or four others to avoid you. That can have huge ramifications on your business.
More and more companies are taking notice of the Candidate experience, is this being reflected in your uptake on who wants to participate in the CandE Awards?
It absolutely has. We’ve seen year over year major growth in the North America region. In fact we saw double digit companies from Canada, and then over two hundred organisations from the U.S alone participate. We had one hundred and thirty thousand candidate responses this year which exceeds our responses last year by forty thousand, which exceeded are responses the year before by thirty thousand. So we’re definitely seeing organisations pushed as their candidates respond to the surveys, and candidates wanting an opportunity to have a voice. Our U.K program shifted to a full EMEA launch this year, we had over two hundred companies participate from Germany and other countries within all of EMEA. So we’re seeing a huge uptake in Europe and those regions, we’ve already seen multiple companies, I think we’re over 24 companies that are starting to participate from Australia and New Zealand just in our first year alone.
So how does the data collection and the judging work?
So the data collection is actually driven by each of the companies independently. We provide the employers with a survey that they need to complete. After they complete their employer survey they’re provided unique links so they can send those out to their candidates. We work with each employer in the process to make sure that they’re sending out the surveys to the right population of candidates. This is done because we’re looking for a true candidate experience, not just those we hired, not just those we interviewed, but all candidates in the life cycle. So the employers sends out the links, and then we collect survey data from the candidates. We promise anonymity for the employers and the candidates throughout the process. Once an employer wins we tell everybody that they’ve won, because we think that it a prestigious award for them.
The judging process is actually two-fold. The initial round of a company that is designated a winner is based on a completely blind analysis. We pull all of the candidate survey data, and we look for markers and scores across eight different fields. From those values, we derive a number that basically creates our stacked ranking. Then we say “okay from the stacked ranking, what is the top 25% of the stacked ranking.” The percentage numbers differ by region, as an example in North America we had fifty companies that won out of the award process. In the EMEA region we will expect somewhere around thirty companies to win. In APAC I’m not sure yet, depending on how many participate. We’re looking at the candidates overall scores, once those scores are derived and what equals a positive experience, then we reveal the names of those companies and they’re the winners.
So it is completely blind, we aren’t subjected to knowing a company or even having any kind of variable in, but we know they’re trying hard so they should get it. If they won it’s because much like the people’s choice award, their candidates said they deserved it. The sector factor comes in when we do have some judges, and they actually look for what we call “Winners with distinction or special designation”. That’s looking at the employer practices and the candidate scores, and really pulling out where there are some best case and best practice stories for that organisation that should be shared. That tends to be anywhere from three – ten companies that might win with a “winner with distinction”. But we celebrate all of the core winners because again it’s much like the people’s choice award, the candidates made that decision themselves.
So you’ve got five years of data under your belt, what are the trends you’ve seen and what can companies learn from this?
The trends we’ve seen thus far in the past five years, one of the key ones that we continue to watch for is that we truly are in a workforce of five different generations. We still have traditionalists and baby boomers in the workforce, and thriving. As well as millennials, but we’re now calling the generation Z, which are those that are just barely turning eighteen and nineteen this year. In those generational differences we’re starting to finally see a little bit of a pull in the difference and what attracts them to organisations. This is research data that many companies have gone out and looked for, tried to analyse this data, and tried to understand it internally to themselves. But with the trends that we now have, we can actually start to say what the preferences are by generation. So depending on which type of candidate you are trying to recruit, there are some huge variables. I would say the largest one that I look at today in our data set is that over forty eight percent of the candidates state that they already feel like they’ve already had a relationship with the company. So often we start recruiting the assumption that the candidates don’t know anything about us. In the information age today, they’ve done as much research on us as organisations as we have on them as candidates. So we have to recreate our thinking when it comes to recruiting, and not just assume that the candidates don’t know anything. We have to really start to think about what path we should be guiding them through when they come to our front door or the website or the Facebook page or the twitter account that we have. There are some opportunities to think that every one that show up has already done some research and is already somewhat interested, how we treat them in the process vs. those that truly are just starting their exploration. I think what we are finding is that there really are two avenues, and two types of primary candidates coming to the websites today.
The different generations, are they all coming knowing a bit about the company now? Or is it just more the younger generations?
Actually, every generation is doing their research. It’s not generational on the research perspective. I’d say one of the key differences has been in last year’s data, and we’re looking at this year’s data now for North America and EMEA, and predominately all the generations were doing the same things. Everybody has these assumptions that millennials have unrealistic expectations and huge differences in what they want in work, and in fact they all just want respect. It makes common sense but on the same vain, we found that the baby boomer generation and those a little bit more into generation X will gravitate towards wanting to know if a company’s performance is stable. Whereas millennials are looking for values as number one, hands down. So its only difference by a few percentage points, but at the end of the day those two are flip flop – ones first, ones second between the two, and then everything else falls down the categories. When you think about the generations in which everyone’s grown up in, it makes a lot of sense. But, core values are the number one most important thing to millennials today.
So this isn’t about avoiding the negative press, it’s also about trying to get candidates to champion your brand isn’t it?
There are huge data points that we have from that aspect as well. We collect data from the candidates on things like “how likely are you to apply again”, which would mean would you go after this whole process with this organisation again if they didn’t get it. “How likely are you to refer somebody”, so from a recruiting perspective getting a candidate that you turned down to refer somebody because they thought that experience was great and it was a good opportunity for the other person, is a huge testament to your organisation. The third is, “How likely are you to change your customer status or your relationship with the company”. For those companies that are consumer brands and products this is a big marker, for those that aren’t it’s a marginal marker. We look at the candidate scores from 1 meaning I will go out of my way to discourage people from applying, to a 5 meaning I am a strong advocate, and will actually submit people to the job. So when you think about that range of scale and that difference, any organisation that’s trending towards the high end of the 5’s is doing something really well. When you think about the financial implications and the recruiting challenges where you are seeing a lot of those 1’s and 2’s, it’s getting to point where you can actually financially measure recruiting performance just based on those scores.
For a company that is participating in the study, what do they receive back and how can that help them improve what they do?
We have a lot of different things going on for the employers that participate. As a non-profit we give as much back as we can. So as an employer participating first and foremost they get their full benchmark report data, which is access to their own data around the candidate experience, their employer survey, and all of their entire candidate surveys where they’re sent to be anonymous. They can actually see quickly what the candidates said by question, by generation, by demographic. The next step after that is that they also receive access to the winner pool set. So compare and contrast. For example, “Our candidate scores on question number five were 3.8, but the overall winner set was 4.6”, maybe we should think about doing something in this category. So they can do compare and contrast on those categories as well. Beyond that, and going forward into next year, we’re also going to be levelling in the data from the years before, to allow companies that have been participating and will continue to participate year after year, multi-year trend data to compare and contrast. The goal is data access at the base level for every participate. The secondary aspect and opportunity is that any participant gets complimentary access to our symposiums, which are our candidate experience conference events. That’s because of their participation, so the ability to come and spend time with other organisations that have participated and those that are interested in the topic. Beyond the benchmarking, they get access to our research reports and other research data as needed.
Have you had companies that have submitted their data each year that you can see getting better and better in this?
There’s a variety of companies. We can actually layer trend data for several companies that have done this all five years now. A couple of them who have scored well in the first two years have actually scored worse in the last couple of years. They can actually attribute their changes to some of the things they thought they were doing to improve the process, and in fact didn’t. They now have that data to justify some of the changes they have to make within the organisation. We can actually see that trend information year over year. Some companies toggle on which and how they are inviting their candidates to participate, to see if they can get even other data. So, a lot of organisations have opened it up to all candidates to respond. They may have started with a few just to be on the safe side for the Year 1 and Year 2, and they’ve moved into just publishing the link on their website and we hope everybody responds. This is because they really feel confident in the data they are getting.
So for companies that have received their data back, and want to change and they want to estimate the ROI on working on their candidate experience, how do they calculate the estimated costs of a negative experience?
We have a negative candidate resentment calculator, which we’ve published with HireRight as one of our platinum sponsors, and you can get to it on our website any time. HireRight has created this simple online tool, you just enter the number answer the questions by entering the numbers and it tells you the percentage numbers. The resentment calculator is really based on the candidate that is really gone sour. It’s important to recognise we know that not all negative candidates have resentment, in fact majority wont. From our program designs we think that less than 8% overall would have a resentment factor. And that resentment factor means that they’re going influence at least one other person toward your organisation in a negative way. So when you do the calculations, again if you’re an organisation who has a financial footprint or direct consumer base product or consumer retail based model, having one customer walk away and having them take one with them can have serious implications. So the calculator is designed to help organisations factor in what those costs are. We’re working on some new numbers for next year as well, because we think there’s a huge opportunity to actually showcase the revenue generation from a positive experience. If not just the revenue generation, what we can do to adjust recruiting costs overall for critical talent if we were to have more candidates refer better candidates to us. So that’s focusing on that referral relationship and how that can drive a stronger talent acquisition financial footprint overall.
Looking at your data are you able to identify apart of the application process that seems upset candidates the most? Is it too long to get a response, it is poor careers website where they can’t figure out how it works? Is there some critical point that is the biggest pain point for a candidate?
I think there’s probably two major points we hear in regards to seeing the candidate frustration level peak. So firstly, the apply process still needs to be fixed. It’s getting better but in many organisations there isn’t an ability to collect all the information from the candidate where we haven’t made the products mobile friendly yet or mobile enabled, or we’re asking 75 questions just in order for them to be a sandwich maker. There are some things like that, where the candidates are definitely expressing their frustration. When the skills to apply far exceed the skills you need to do the job, we have a problem. So there are some of those areas that absolutely need to get fix.
I think the other area that we see the most amount of candidate frustration is actually around the interview and post interview activities. Just because now there’s more of a formal relationship – you’d be surprised about the number of candidates that are vocal about the manager being late to meet them, nobody greeted them, or somebody no showed for the interview. Even that they came in a suit and the whole company was wearing jeans. Its common sense but it’s the question of how do we set the candidates up for success in our corporate interviews? It seems to be an area we’ve under engineered and completely missed the mark. I think candidates are eager to present themselves well, and we’ve not done a good job as organisations to give them what they need in order to do that. The second aspect is obviously the feedback after interview. The time delay between – all their efforts to get them in to do an interview, the time that they took off from their other jobs and life and family etc., and the lack of courtesy that happens most times where candidates are left on the hook for 2-3 weeks just to find out that they did not get the job. I think in some cases it’s actually quite cruel. Those are the two areas they vocalise the most about. Candidates have a need for some more real time, or instant feedback. It’s not necessarily right in the interview, but shortly thereafter the ability to know whether they really are the top candidate or not. This gives them the ability to make plans; it’s the right things to do.
What are your Quick tips on how our audience could easily improve their candidate experience?
One of the first and foremost things I would recommend anybody to do if you’re focussed on candidate experience is to walk a mile in their shoes. Go through the processes of a candidate for your own organisation, external and Internal. What are you doing with the employees, how are they being treated? Submit a resume; time yourself on how long it takes to apply to your organisation. Not just with the computer, do it with your phone and see if you can even get through the process. This is what people are going through in order to make themselves available to you. After that step eaves drop on a couple of interviews. When was the last time you sat in on a couple of managers interviewing candidates? Sit outside the room, or sit across, so you can see the interaction and behaviour. Get a feel for what the candidate is going through with the organisation from start to finish. I think the output of that, including the white boarding sessions that companies have been able to do, promotes a lot of thinking in regards to what companies can do to improve.
The simplest things can go a very long way. For example, adding thank-you cards at the end of the interview process or sending them the LinkedIn profiles they’re going to interview with. These are very basic and simple things that could be enhanced very quickly, where candidates really notice the difference. They notice that attention to detail. That would be my first and foremost in any organisation, definitely self-awareness. The second is to compete for the Candidate Experience Awards! If you don’t win, you get all of your benchmark data back regardless. Nobody knows you participate apart from you as an organisation. We never publish the names of the companies that participate, except for those that won. You will have foundational data to build your business case for improvement for the next year!
How did you end up in this area? How did you become such an advocate for candidates?
I am not super sure! I’ve been in the recruiting space for 22 years now. I started as a teacher before that. As I became a recruiter, one of the hardest challenges for me was balancing the needs of the candidate and wanting to get the right person in the organisation quickly, and the needs of the manager. What I found was I actually was better at enabling other recruiters finding ways of taking off the stress they had on their job, so that they could spend the right amount of time with candidates and managers. From there it really became that recruiting is not just about the recruiter, there are three important people in the whole equation – the recruiter is the broker of the relationship between the right candidate and the manager to fill the job. It just means that we need to serve both of our customers. I became passionate about making sure that candidates had a voice. We started this effort five years ago, it was started on the premise that organisations didn’t care and I believe that they did but they just didn’t realise how bad it was. So in order to do this, we decided a non-profit was the only way to go about it. We didn’t want to create another competitive for-profit company that would sell services around candidate experience. We wanted an opportunity for the industry to have a benchmark where we could self-measure and improve. That’s where we’ve come to.
When you’re at a party and someone asks what you do, are more likely to tell you their horror story or about an amazing candidate experience?
Right now it’s probably 40/60, forty percent tell me a good story, sixty percent tell me a bad story. Every party, every event, somebody always has a story to tell. The bad stories are always about the interview event and how poorly executed it was. The good stories are always about the personal touch, for example just last week I was told the following story, “I received a thank-you card from the manager, it was hand written, I don’t know if he or his assistant wrote it, but I don’t care, It’s the only time I’ve received a thank-you card for an interview.” The personal touch makes a big difference. They could probably have the worst apply experience ever, but if somebody called them by name and said something specific to them, or provided them something that was more personal, it made a big difference.
Join Elaine Orler along with other leading sourcers and social recruiters including Shannon Pritchett , Chris Hoyt, Bill Boorman at Sourcing Social Talent #SST15 in Auckland in November. Register for the event now.
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