The Candidate Experience in the COVID-19 Era: A Recruiter’s Perspective

Recruiters face remarkable challenges as of late.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, most sectors and industries are experiencing changes in how they operate. Everything from manufacturers creating products outside of their core offerings, to trading floors shutting down, it seems like every intake of information from the news cycle is upending our standard ways of doing things.

The recruitment industry is no different, and like everyone else, recruiters must adapt how they operate not only to survive this crisis but also, to set themselves up for success when things start getting better across the board.

One place recruiters can start improving upon is their policies and practices regarding the candidate experience. This is the perfect time for us to look internally and ask ourselves:

Are we doing the best we can to ensure a positive candidate experience?

The candidate experience is a place where as recruiters, we have more control. It is here we can individually (and collectively) go back to basics when it comes to treating candidates with the professionalism and respect, they deserve, as not only candidates or talent, but as people.

So, let’s explore some tips and best practices to do right by our candidates.

TIP #1: Never ghost candidates. Especially now.

One of the things I was stupefied to discover about the recruiting industry is how many recruiters ‘ghost’ candidates. Unfamiliar with the term? Think of going to a party with someone and they simply leave without letting you know. That’s ghosting, cutting off communication and interaction just because it is more convenient for you. I soon learned ghosting candidates is a standard industry practice. I quickly asked more seasoned colleagues about this phenomenon.

I learned this practice is largely due to the volume-oriented KPI aspects and revenue models of the recruiting industry, putting recruiters in the position of trying to achieve high volumes of candidate sourcing, review, interviewing, and coordination. As a result, some recruiters feel it is not worth their time to reach out to candidates and ghost them as a result.

Now here is my concern. As somebody who fundamentally likes people, this seems to be a pretty big problem.

It is a problem because candidates are people too, and let’s face it — no one likes to be ghosted. In some cases, we might expect it, but we still don’t appreciate it when it happens to us. It erodes the potential for building a long-lasting and substantive relationship with candidates.

The remedy: Always reach out to candidates, no matter how much time has passed. The sooner you can communicate with your candidates, the better. At the end of the day, candidates largely appreciate some form of communication versus none at all, whether it is positive development such as making it to the next candidacy stage or a rejection notice, or even what I like to call, a ‘non-update’ update. These can be simple messages thanking candidates for their patience in a prolonged candidacy, sending an article or resource giving them an edge in the next candidacy phase, or simply check-in on how they are doing. I think checking-in on how people are doing in these times is more important than ever. This type of communication is a great opportunity for rapport building, which forms the building blocks for a healthy, long-term, recruiter-candidate relationship.

Many of us have been there. Ghosting is frustrating, and it erodes trust. So just reach out. Later is better than never.

TIP #2: Get personal with your candidates.

Building rapport. We do it all of the time in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally.

Asking a colleague how their weekend was? Rapport building.

Ordering a coffee and asking the barista how their day is going? Rapport building.

Connecting with someone who is a fan of a sport, team or club you support? Rapport building.

Giving or receiving a media recommendation? Rapport building.

As a recruiter, building rapport with candidates has numerous benefits, such as enhancing the quality and frequency of communication, building the foundation for a long-term relationship, and also if done well, it just feels good for both the recruiter and the candidate, providing a well-deserved mental health break.

I always try to plan for 3–5 minutes out of a 30min call solely to rapport building. This involves getting to know candidates, asking about their well-being, nerding out about an industry trend, or chatting about common interests. It’s amazing how much positivity you can generate in 3–5 minutes. Healthy rapport building is more important than ever given the current COVID-19 pandemic, where moods and mental health among people, in general, are quite strained. This positivity manifests itself not only in good vibes but may lead to stronger communication norms with the candidate, and the ever so coveted ‘referrals’ we appreciate as recruiters. Strong candidate rapport forms the bedrock of positioning yourself as their champion throughout their candidacy.

We can distance ourselves physically while building rapport socially. Technology enables us to do so, so we should take advantage.

TIP #3: If you're a champion for your candidates, they will become a champion for you - in the present and the future.

Becoming a ‘Candidate Champion’ entails you, as a recruiter, is a constant source of support for your talent throughout their respective candidacies. This is no easy feat as it requires an optimal balance of communication, rapport building, and arguably the most important trait, trust, between you as a recruiter, and the candidate. To maintain this level of support while adhering to the realities of scale within the recruitment industry, can be too much to ask from recruiters. Yet, if you go the distance, the benefits can be profound. It inspires candidates to be the best they can be, over-performing in screening, interviews, and eventually, placements.

Consumers tend to remember times they have experienced exceptional customer service. It is a key driver of building brand equity, and in turn, more sales and conversions. In the world of recruiting, there is a tendency to see this level of service on the client-side of things. Remember though, we’re in the business of facilitating new opportunities for talented people, who in turn, become the very people who work with our clients. The recruitment industry has positioned itself to build a robust and cyclical value-system, where people drive value for the benefit of recruiters, talent, the firms we work with, and the industries we support. Creating as many positive customer service interventions as possible should be of paramount importance for recruiters. If we nourish this value-system, it will give back in the form of referrals, goodwill, a reinforced network, as well as a positive recruiter marketing brand.

As a new recruiter, I am still figuring out how I can be the best Candidate Champion I can be. One practical tip: Detailed and nuanced notetaking during screening interviews, capturing rich information and data about candidates. I believe capturing as much information as possible about a candidate is an important first step in becoming the best champion for them throughout their candidacy. Strong notes capture technical prowess, culture fit, and nuance about a candidate’s personality and profile. Armed with such data, recruiters will have a stronger footing in being able to showcase candidates to internal account directors and external client hiring managers.

It is ok to start small as a Candidate Champion. Try to nurture, invest, and grow your capabilities to be the best champion you can be. Photo by Hammonds on Unsplash.

Do you have any other candidate experience tips for recruiters? If so, I would love to hear about them. Let us know by joining the RebootWork Slack community here: www.rebootwork.org

Until then, take care, stay safe and be the best recruiter you can be. You’re going to be amazing.

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