Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal, a Skillsoft company, discusses the importance of a positive candidate experience during the recruitment process

Applying for a job has moved from a paper-based experience to one that is guided by digital processes.  These days, candidates can apply for more positions than ever before and with greater ease – starting an application process is just a mouse click away.  With so much choice at their fingertips, candidates are becoming more picky about the roles they accept.

This is why it is important that HR teams create impeccable candidate experiences for potential employees.  If a candidate finds the application process disorganised, too long or thinks the interview experience is poor, it is unlikely they will accept a job offer.  Below, we take a look at what makes for a five star candidate experience.

The first hurdle – the application form

Most application processes now start with an online application form. Candidates want employers to invest and build career sites loaded with candidate focused, user friendly content that is optimised for search engines. They also want concise application forms. It is unnecessary, for example, to ask candidates to fill out their job history for the last 20 years within the form – these details can be discussed during the interview stage.  The online application form should be intuitive to navigate, and not take longer than twenty minutes to fill out.

The application form should also be streamlined and avoid repetitions.  These days, applicants get disgruntled when forms allow them to upload their CV but then make them fill out their job history manually, rather than pre-populating the form.  Little glitches like this can leave a sour taste in applicants’ mouths, so it is important to address them.

It is also critical that your application form is mobile-friendly.  Job hunting now often takes place on smartphones.  If your application form cannot be accessed via these devices, you are likely cutting out potential candidates before the process has even truly started.

Using a talent management system can be very helpful in creating an optimised career website. For example, these systems can streamline application forms and make them scalable from desktop to mobile. Next-generation talent management systems are even incorporating artificial intelligence to these help candidates find the best fitting opportunities, by analysing and comparing their CVs to the requirements of the available jobs.

An interview to remember

To avoid appearing disorganised, use an applicant tracking system – which should be built into your talent management system – to automatically schedule the interview, provide key information and confirm with the candidate.  These systems take the burden out of the process. They ensure that each candidate is provided with the relevant information they need in advance of the interview, such as who they are meeting with, where they need to go and what will be expected of them.

The face-to-face part of the candidate experience is a chance to showcase your company’s culture in its best light.  It should be positive, organised and consistent.  The HR team should devise questions for each role that all candidates answer in the interview, rather than taking the general chit-chat approach.  This creates a professional atmosphere and ensures that, by the end of the interview, all of your key questions are answered.

These questions need to be drafted with the help of someone who has experience with the role and is focused on finding the right fit culturally.  Research shows that vague questions such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?” deliver no benefit to the organisation in terms of determining the best candidate for the role.  Instead, questions should focus on uncovering candidate’s attitudes, and personality traits to make sure they are a cultural fit for the organisation.

Next steps

Once you have interviewed an applicant, it is important to make a decision within a one to two week period.  Taking two to three months to decide will mean you miss out on the best talent because they’ve accepted an offer elsewhere.  If the decision needs to take longer than two weeks, it is vital that you keep candidates informed so that they do not lose interest.  Your talent management system should automate this process. It requires little additional effort, but creates an efficient and positive impression for applicants.  When it comes to making an offer, the system should deliver these directly to the candidate.  It should ideally support e-Signatures so that an offer can be accepted easily and quickly online.

Ultimately, by creating a streamlined and efficient candidate experience, organisations dramatically reduce the risk of a candidate turning down an offer, and they can choose the best candidate for a role.