I’m Tired of Hearing About Candidate Experience

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If you’re like me, you tend to grow tired of the latest buzzwords in the talent acquisition community. Over the last 1-2 years, candidate experience (or CX) has been one of the most well-known trends. People talk about it, they write about it, they say they care about it, and they do nothing meaningful to impact it.

My frustration lies in a dark place that has grown over the last two years. Don’t expect this write-up to grasp you in the first paragraph … because it probably won’t. If you’ve bought into this idea that CX is simply caring about candidates, you are wrong and you should read why it’s wrong.

So I urge you to join me as I take you through our story regarding this thing that, apparently, many people care about … that thing called candidate experience.

A Long Time Ago …

Nearly two years ago, our recruiting team embarked on what has turned out to be a career-changing journey. While treating those who apply to our jobs with respect was a part of that journey, it certainly was not the main focus in the beginning. You see, we wanted our recruiting process, our applicant flow, our speed of hire, and all of the metrics we tracked to be the best in the industry. We started by looking at “speed of hire.” Instead of focusing on time-to-fill, or how long it took to fill a job, we focused on how fast we could do it.

Here’s the scene: Our recruiting team sat down in the San Diego conference room with the bright spring sun beaming through the windows (OK, that’s a lie. There are no windows in the San Diego conference room — major design flaw). Anyway, we sat in the poorly lit conference room and I asked the team to outline all of the areas that took too long in the recruiting process. I was to the side writing those items on the whiteboard as our recruiters listed the aspects of the recruiting lifecycle that make their daily life difficult. It didn’t take more than 20 minutes before we realized that all of our headaches were more than likely the same areas where job candidates had similar frustrations.

These pauses in time within the applicant flow were as obvious as the time you tripped over your shoelace and turned it into a small jog to cover up your clumsiness. The pauses happened when candidate resumes that fell into a “maybe” category and after they were submitted to a hiring manager. Worst of all, the last pause happened after a candidate interviewed for a job. I won’t go into detail as to why that is, but if you’re in the talent acquisition space, take some time and think to yourself the following:

“Self, I’m pretty great and obviously an amazing recruiter who can do no wrong, but … If I happened to unknowingly create a black hole of candidates in my recruiting process, where would that black hole be? Further, and knowing how awesome I am, is it possible that I have two or three black holes in my recruiting process?”

I’ll wait while you think on that for a second …

I assume you’ve come to the conclusion that you do, in fact, have areas of your recruiting process or applicant flow where there are lapses in time; where good candidates (that you may want to hire now or five years from now) are treated with a lack of follow up and respect.

More importantly, what are you going to do about it? You can see what we did about it at Cumming Corporation by reading the blogs on my LinkedIn page.

This Thing Actually Works?

Fast-forward to last year, 2015. We had been using the new applicant flow and process for approximately eight months. In those eight months, every single recruitment KPI at Cumming Corporation improved and, some of them, by a very large margin. So when Todd Raphael from ERE Media put out a call for speakers at the ERE Recruiting Conference in the spring of 2015, I humbly (you should read that as arrogantly) raised my hand. Todd granted my request. He obviously didn’t realize at the time that I was going to ask the hundreds of recruiting leaders in attendance to stand up and say, “I suck at Candidate Experience.”

At the ERE Recruiting Conference last year, I approached Gerry Crispin, one of the kings of candidate experience in my opinion, and asked him to watch my presentation — to tell me what was good, bad, and everything in between. After I got off the stage, Gerry informed me that what we were doing was good, but now it was time to fill in everything else. I remember thinking to myself, “What do you mean everything else? We did it! It’s done!”

About a month later we applied for a CandE (The Candidate Experience Awards) and guess what? We actually won a CandE. Not only that, but we ranked #14 out of approximately 250 participating organizations and The Talent Board nominated our small but mighty organization as one of ten companies with a Story Teller designation. To put all of this into perspective, we had kicked this entire program off just a year prior. We finally had proof that a better candidate experience is not only a good business decision for recruiting efficiencies, but candidates (via surveys) appreciated our straight-forward, matter-of-fact, and transparent approach. It wasn’t about fluff. It was about respect between a job candidate and a company with the goal of information exchange so that both parties can make an informed decision about employment. That’s it.

Look at Me! I Care!

I thrive on proving to others that with a candidate-experience focused recruitment philosophy, recruiting efficiencies will improve.

At the beginning of this article, I stated that I was tired of hearing about Candidate Experience … and that’s true. Here’s why: recruiters and recruiting leaders continually espouse the virtues of how they treat candidates when, in reality, they do not have a structured system in place to tackle this issue. If you want CX to impact your recruiting and business operations efficiencies, then caring, alone, will not get you there. A recruiting leader asking a recruiter, “Did you treat everyone well?” prior to closing out a requisition will have close to zero impact.

In the short time that I’ve been a part of this candidate experience community, I’ve learned something daunting, yet extremely exciting. The companies that are focusing on CX as their recruitment driver are beating the companies who don’t. The organizations who strategize and build competencies around CX are beating you for talent. Caring is not enough. Caring is merely the seed. Most recruiters care, but they lack the structure to grow that seed into anything meaningful. Check out the list of the CandE Award winners linked above. They represent almost any industry you can think of. They’re winning and they represent some of the most forward-thinking recruiting strategies that I’ve ever seen.

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2016 ERE Recruiting Conference

Here we are, two years after Cumming Corporation kicked this whole “CX” thing off and, once again, Todd has mistakenly asked me to return and speak again at the Spring ERE Recruiting Conference in a few months.

***Spoiler Alert***

Here’s what I’m going to talk about: Remember when Gerry told me that I needed to do “everything else” in relation to candidate experience? We finally figured out what he meant. You see, CX is not just CX … it is recruiting. For example, when a potential candidate first sees your job advertisement, company website, or recruiting video, what does that person think and feel? More to the point, what does that person experience? Are they driven to apply or reach out? Is that branding, marketing, or candidate experience? I’d argue that it’s all of the above.

That said, I’m going to show you how to build a CX program within your organization. I’m going to show you the metrics and the data to not only track it, but to prove that it’s improving your recruiting operations. We’ll discuss the role the entire recruiting team needs to play (you won’t be able to do it without them). And I’m going to show you why candidate experience is better stated in its most simple form … recruiting.

Finally, I hope to motivate you to take action. Whether it be a CX initiative or something else, we can all do better. I hope that you will join me in that journey.

About the Author

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Scott Weaver is the director of talent acquisition and development at Cumming Corporation, an international project and cost management consultancy with more than 20 offices worldwide. Possessing over 10 years of experience in talent management, he specializes in leading recruitment strategy with predictive data analytics, passive candidate sourcing, and developing scalable talent initiatives in line with corporate strategy. He has been leading Cumming Corporation’s talent acquisition team and strategies for eight years and started his recruiting career within a staffing environment where he was the top revenue producer for his position nationally.

He is based in San Diego with his wife Francesca and their daughter, Juliet. He enjoys time with his family, the San Diego craft beer scene, and cheering on his Alma Mater, the Crimson Tide.

  • http://www.medievalrecruiter.com/ Medieval Recruiter

    “If you want CX to impact your recruiting and business operations efficiencies, then caring, alone, will not get you there.”

    100% agree, but caring costs nothing, whereas putting a structure in that actually addresses the issue can have major costs, not the least of which is many people in the hiring process cashing in their egos when they realize they are most definitely part of the problem, even if they have good intentions. Couple that with the dominance of this industry with all the Sales! types who never, ever want to tell the Almighty Client that they’re wrong about something for fear of losing their business, and you get an industry hell bent on talking and caring about this issue to the hilt, but never really doing anything about it. It’s the difference between stated vs demonstrated preference; what people say they prefer and what they actually do are often two very different things. Everyone in this industry is great on stating their desire to treat candidates well, on the demonstration side, they’re still treated like crap by most companies.

    • Scott Weaver

      I don’t disagree with any of this. Success is realized when you make the decision to do something about it even with all of the negative factors working against you and also understanding that you won’t be able to make everyone happy.

      I did want to make it clear, however, that we have NO budget for CX. We originally built it out through our recruiting process and applicant flow within the ATS. Its simply a matter of pushing the technologies that you do have to their full potential and in a way that optimizes efficiency versus just adding more red tape.

      • http://www.medievalrecruiter.com/ Medieval Recruiter

        Did you take time and effort to modify the system? That’s money spent, a specific budget isn’t required, what’s required is the willingness to expend resources toward the end in question, whether it’s an actual line item in the company’s ledger or not isn’t really what I was getting at. If you made the changes you mentioned and they took time away from ‘normal’ work that your superiors didn’t approve of, trust me, they’d see it as money spent and wasted.

        Frankly I think the reality is CX is driven by how much companies actually value their employees; it’s demonstrated value vs lip service. Most don’t value their employees, which is why CX sucks at most, and concurrently why salaries have stagnated for so long. If employees are seen as largely disposable, candidates for employment are worth even less.

  • Sherri Bliss

    Nice post Scott. We look forward to learning and growing with you and the other companies who are looking to do this better. And of course to competing with you for top spot on the CandE list. 🙂

    • Scott Weaver

      Ha! I’d be happy with a top 10 finish. For everyone else reading, Sherri and her team at Sonos we’re #3 at the CandE’s if memory serves correctly. 😉

    • Scott Weaver

      Ha! I’d be happy with a top 10 finish. For everyone else reading, Sherri and her team at Sonos we’re #3 at the CandE’s if memory serves correctly. 😉

  • gerrycrispin

    Great article. We are ALL tired of talking. We need to act…and then we have the responsibility to get others to act. And even now we can (collectively) show the value of acting. The future doesn’t just happen. Its a community of people who create it and sustain it by helping others who have not yet heard there is a better way. You are helping the industry move from common opinion to data driven specifics and standards of practice. Oh my, we might warrant status as a profession soon. Glad you are having fun with this.

  • Gareth Cooper

    Scott, I went on your career page and I think you have differentiated your candidate communication approach from anything I have seen lately but more importantly your own individual style as a leader. Good stuff. Now that I know that you are trying to walk the talk using iCIMS, I have 2 questions: To what extent are you actually capturing the voice of the customer through your process mapping? Also, how does the recruitment team (on an individual basis) address the voice of the customer? In other words, what are inputs and outputs from the Cummings Corporation recruiters that differentiate their actions from the competition? Good post by the way.

    • Scott Weaver

      Thanks Gareth. Outstanding questions and probably questions that would take an entire article to answer.First, you should go to the ERE conference and I’ll touch on every aspect of this. (I’m sure Todd will appreciate that plug) 😉

      Second, feel free to reach out… I’d be happy to talk it through. Cheers.

      • Gareth Cooper

        Very interested in further discussions. Will definitely reach out.

  • http://mattcharney.com Matt Charney

    This post was awesome when I wrote it 6 years ago. Here’s hoping this one makes a bigger dent…

    • Scott Weaver

      Thanks Matt. I would’ve just copy/pasted yours, but there was too much bad language.