Optimize Your Candidate Experience to Make Higher Quality Hires

May 6, 2015

I’ve been asked to speak to a group of UX (User Experience) design leaders at the UX Advantage conference this summer. The focus of the talk will be on how to hire great UX designers and the discussion will start with the premise that you hire great people the same way you create a great user experience for any product or piece of software. This starts by first understanding the user.

In the case of hiring, the user is an outstanding person whom you’ll likely want to hire. He or she meets all the requirements of the “perfect” candidate. Understanding this “perfect” person comes down to accepting these three foundational points:

  1. Regardless of the job, there is a shortage of the best people in any field. Few are looking for another job and, even if they are, they will have a choice of multiple opportunities. One key aspect of their decision to accept an offer will be the content and quality of the job, not just the compensation package. Another aspect will be the quality of their CX (Candidate Experience) from first contact to final close.
  2. Most of the best people are not looking for another job. In this case, you’ll need to reach out and find them. This will largely be through a referral of some type in combination with the hard work of a recruiter reaching out to passive candidates.
  3. The best will opt out early, unless the CX is first class. The quality of the CX and how the job is positioned will determine who agrees to initially engage in the hiring process and how many remain at the end. The best people in any field opt out in record numbers due to bad CX, even if the job itself is great.

Given these principles, here are some ideas you can implement to improve the quality of the CX and the quality of the people ultimately hired.

6 commonsense ideas for optimizing your company’s candidate experience:

1. Time matters: Hiring the best is not a one-night stand.

More often then not, hiring the best person who applied as fast as possible won’t get you the highest quality hire. It takes hours spread over weeks for a top person to fully understand the career merits of another opportunity and come on board. You need to build these extra steps into your CX and have clear communication about the person’s status and next steps.

2. Show respect.

You need these people more than they need you. An informal exploratory career discussion among equals is how you need to start any discussion with a passive candidate. As part of this, eliminate the application as a prerequisite, including any type of assessment testing. This is bad CX if quality of hire is more important than the efficiency of the hiring process. Add these steps only after the person fully understands that the job represents a great career move and has agreed to become a formal candidate.

3. The Point-of-View (POV) of the process design matters.

Too many HRIS and ATS systems are designed based on the mechanical nature of a job board’s “find and apply” process. Instead, the process needs to be based on how top people find out about jobs, how they decide to gather career information, how they need to be assessed and how they compare and accept offers. A respectful but vigorous assessment process is part of this. They’ll judge the quality of the people already hired by the quality of how they’re being treated, assessed and hired.

4. The job matters most.

The gap between what your job requires and what the candidate has already done represents the career move. If this is vague, filled with boilerplate and blue-sky hyperbole, the best will opt out long before you find out they’re the best. Preparing a results-based job description describing the key challenges when the job is first defined is the first step in improving the CX.

5. The hiring manager X-factor.

The best people accept jobs from hiring managers in their own image. Few managers actually understand this. So if the hiring manager isn’t respectful, doesn’t know the job, doesn’t have a track record of developing people and doesn’t know how to conduct a proper interview, he/she won’t hire any great people.

6. Get the team involved.

Find one or two potential friends to assess and bond with the candidate early on. They can meet, greet, lunch and debrief candidates at each phase in the process. Selected properly, these people will become coaches and advisors, smoothing over any rough edges in the CX or helping create a more personal one.

Final thoughts

Every company, every recruiter and every hiring manager wants to improve the quality of each person hired. But, if anyone in this chain assumes there is a surplus of great talent just waiting to take some ill-defined lateral transfer at less than a competitive wage, they’ll be waiting a long time. Instead, create a CX that targets the best, treats the best with respect and offers a job based on the candidate’s motivating needs. Then apply these same principles to every other candidate. That’s how you create an award winning CX and hire great people, too.

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