By Elliot H. Clark
Imagine flying across the country to sit in a room full of strangers and justify every business decision you have ever made. It sounds as much fun as root canal—or more accurately, far less fun than root canal—because in a root canal, only the dentist gets to be judgmental. Imagine that after you have gone through this uncomfortable discussion, you have to await feedback that will either buoy or adversely impact your self-esteem.
I just described the part of the hiring process that will always be unpleasant and can never be fixed: interviewing. So my question to the HR community is why do we make the rest of the process unpleasant as well?
You can’t sugar coat the fact that interviewing is difficult and can cause anxiety. However, so much of the interviewing process is unnecessarily unpleasant. In Turning Insights Into Action, we share the benefits of getting feedback from the candidates about their experience. I get a lot of feedback from the provider community and HR practitioners as well in my job. If I had a dollar for everyone who talked about how good their candidate experience is—but never actually experienced it—I would be so rich, I wouldn’t have to interview ever again.
Let’s start off by discussing the application process. I love when companies talk about how pleasant their application process is. Take the web form. It is often not mobile friendly and asks for every bit of information it can get, up to the weight of the candidate’s own liver or other ridiculous facts that companies don’t need to ask during the initial screening. The harder you make it, the less likely it is that candidates will finish. At one technology conference, I told the audience that the “enemy” in the application process was not competing employers, but the bus stop or train station. In major metro areas where most people work, if the process is not done when they arrive at their stop, they drop out and may never return.
Once someone applies, it is amazing how large companies think that chatbots “personalize” the experience. They don’t. When I talk to chatbots at a bank or an airline, it is at best a hit or miss in terms of helpfulness. But it is clearly not “personable.” Automated responses to resumes are a good addition to the process, but the duration it takes hiring managers (who are most often the worst part of the process) to give feedback to HR is usually unacceptable. Once that happens, the candidate needs to get some communication. Lack of prompt feedback from an interview is most candidates’ top complaint, and I have had companies tell me that “we get back to everyone within the first month.” Really, I wonder why that would feel frustrating.
In defense of HR, sometimes they are waiting weeks for feedback from the TA team. But, let’s say we do everything well enough that a candidate accepts a job. Then, according to a recent CareerBuilder study, 58 percent of candidates will not have any communication with the direct manager between their last interview and their first day of work.
The candidate experience will never be perfect, but if you or a member of your HR team are not “secret shopping” your process, you are missing the opportunity to understand it from the candidate’s perspective. HR needs to get the executive team to ensure hiring managers partner with TA for success. And HR needs to look at technology. The current technology is more about being an electronic filing cabinet (ATS) than building relationships, and the relationship building tools are really geared more toward pre-application. Someone needs to reconsider this entire process and infrastructure with a “clean sheet of paper” approach if HR really wants the candidate experience to be a truly positive experience.