HR Leadership Column a Better Experience

Though the winners of the 2013 Candidate Experience Awards won't be announced until next week, an analysis of the materials submitted for this year's competition reveals a number of best practices that can have a huge and positive impact on not only the employer brand, but the HR brand, too.

Monday, September 30, 2013
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If you've worked in HR for any length of time, you've likely had people tell you about a terrible experience with an HR department that either they personally had or had heard about from someone else. I think it's just part of the HR professional experience -- just like all lawyers have been told bad lawyer jokes by their non-lawyer friends.

I'm also willing to guess that the most frequent complaint you've heard about HR involves someone who feels he or she was treated poorly when going through an application process. When people are at their most vulnerable -- unemployed and trying to find a new job -- being treated poorly in the application process is akin to being kicked when you're already down. It's something that isn't ever forgotten.

Of course, the candidate isn't the only one impacted by a bad experience. Such an experience can also harm the brand of the company doing the recruiting -- word gets around.

It also hurts the brand of the HR profession as a whole. What may be the failings of one individual recruiter or a particular policy of one company is viewed as "an HR problem." 

That's why I was supportive when some committed professionals joined together a few years ago to launch the Candidate Experience Awards -- a program designed to help companies benchmark and improve their candidates' recruitment experience while going through the recruitment process. Participating companies respond to a set of questions about their applicant processes and practices, and those with the most impressive responses are asked to permit a confidential survey of a sample of their candidates. Survey participants receive a copy of their candidate-survey-response data and, assuming that core practices are confirmed, are designated as "CandE Award" winners.

By responding to the initial survey questions, companies are given an opportunity to review their application processes and practices in a practical and pragmatic way. Those whose candidates are surveyed receive benchmark information that enables them to understand what they're doing well and where they can improve.

Recently, I had the opportunity to review materials provided by some of the companies participating in this year's CandE  Award competition. While I can't tell you who won -- you'll have to wait for the HRTechnology ® Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, when the winners will be announced -- I can share some of the themes in the submissions from companies that treat their applicants well.

They view candidates as customers - even in non-consumer-products industries. They recognize that such a mind-set leads to better recruitment experiences.

They strive for transparency in all that they do, keeping all parties -- those interviewing and the candidates being interviewed -- informed about the process and expectations for each.

They are determined to ensure that each candidate is treated as an individual. Impressively, some of the companies with the greatest volume of candidates and the fewest recruiters still make it a practice to respond in some way to all applicants. While difficult, they've developed and implemented systems to ensure that applicants don't feel as if their applications fall into black holes.

They "get" social media, and they realize that being present and active on social platforms enables the company to build worthwhile relationships with current and potential candidates. These companies use technology to personalize the application and candidate experience.

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They focus on the issue of consistency. They work hard to ensure that candidates have great experiences whether they're being considered for jobs at headquarters or at distant locations.

They walk the talk. They don't just direct the candidate to complete the application process; they have recruiters complete it as well -- as secret shoppers of their own customer experience. Their recruiters learn firsthand how to improve and streamline the process.

Companies with good applicant experiences understand that candidates want closure -- one way or the other -- and they work hard to provide it as quickly as possible.

They realize that internal candidates are just as important, and often more so, than external ones. These companies take steps to ensure that disappointed internal candidates are provided feedback and learn what they can do to be more successful in the future.

Perhaps most importantly, these companies realize that providing a great candidate experience is not just a nice thing to do. They've done the return-on-invesment analysis and know it's a differentiator that can impact the bottom line in many ways -- from an enhanced corporate reputation, to greater efficiency in staffing and fewer lost opportunities, or attracting a better talent pool.

What impressed me the most in my CandE-application review: The companies that do it right also enhance the brand of the HR profession. That's something I hope we can all applaud.

Susan R. Meisinger, former president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, is an author, speaker and consultant on human resource management. She is on the board of directors of the National Academy of Human Resources.



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