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Recruitment is like modern dating.

We screen and meet a bunch of prospects, until we finally feel like we’ve found what we’re looking for.

But dating isn’t just about finding the right person. While that may be the ultimate objective - the reputation we leave behind in the process is equally important.

We’ve all heard stories of the douchebag dater. They make movies about these people. When someone mistreats, disrespects, or deceives us, we talk about it. We let our friends and family know what they did until soon enough, everyone in your circle knows this asshole by name and is armed with an unfavorable opinion.

The big difference between finding a romantic partner and finding a candidate is that the dating pool in the employment world is skewed in favor of the applicants*. From a candidate perspective, simply “not being an asshole” won’t cut it. You’ve got to be a stand-out catch.

And here’s where most companies miss the mark. While focusing heavily on strategic sourcing and marketing their benefits, perks, and values, many companies overlook a VERY important factor - the candidate experience.

If you’re concerned about your brand – here’s a fun fact. A study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board Company (a subsidiary of Gartner) found that after a negative recruiting experience, 33% of job seekers told others about it; 12% shared their experience through social media; 18% stopped buying from the company.

5 ways to level up your recruitment game:

1. Respect your candidate’s time.

Can you imagine dating someone who only wanted to see you during work hours? Probably not. Yet for some reason in the employment world, the expectation is that candidates call in sick, or move around other priorities to accommodate a recruiter’s schedule.

Simply put, limiting candidate interviews to standard business hours will exclude potential candidates who can’t take time away from existing jobs. Having the ability to take time off and/or move personal priorities to accommodate an interview is a privilege. Interviews come at a cost. The more interviews your company requires, the greater your candidate’s sacrifice. As you extend invitations to interview, inquire about your candidates’ work/life schedule, provide options that stretch beyond standard business hours and offer remote interviews when possible. Lastly, consolidating interviews and other processes avoids multiple visits for the candidate. This show of sensitivity by the company goes a long way.

2.   Be open and transparent with your applicants

High hopes and wasted time are a recipe for disaster. Don’t be that person who says they want a serious relationship until they realize it’s more fun being single.

Be certain that you have permission to hire for the role and disclose salary information upfront. Job seekers will question a company’s integrity, employee pay parity, and more when a position is posted without a salary range.

Give your candidates the time and space to ask questions and get to know what your company is all about. After all, employment is a mutually beneficial relationship.

3.   Don’t exploit your talent.

Picture this. The person you’ve been seeing invites you over to their place. When you get there, they’ve got the vacuum cleaner out and groceries on the kitchen counter. They’re looking for someone who is tidy and can cook a great meal and want to see your skills in action.

The latest craze in modern recruitment, particularly within the tech and start-up industry, has been candidate assessments modeled after tech giants like Google and Amazon. Even at the individual contributor level, companies may require candidates to develop presentations or complete case studies and assignments. Assessments do provide a great deal of insight into the way your candidate thinks and the potential value they will bring to your company; but if your “assignment” requires more than an hour to complete, and/or if the assignment could yield feedback or input on real business problems, compensate them for their time and contribution. Your candidates know the value of the time and intellectual property that they are gifting your company at this stage of the process.

4. Prioritize personal and regular communication over automation.

“Dear [Name]. It was lovely dating you. At this time, I’ve decided to pursue someone else. Wish you all the best.”

Listen, I know that personalizing communication is a time-consuming exercise, especially if you are interviewing and engaging with multiple applicants (which you should be). What I’ll say is this – automate when necessary but communicate personally when possible. Unless you’re using some sophisticated AI, your candidates likely recognize the difference between an automated response and a real person. A personal connection will go a long way – especially with those you’ve met face-to-face.

Also, keep in mind that ghosting your candidates or leaving long lags of time between interviews will indicate a lack of interest. Your candidates will start looking elsewhere (if they aren't already doing so). If your process is taking longer than normal, reach out to your candidates. Keep them engaged. It’s okay to tell a candidate that you appreciate something about them and let them know you’re still interviewing others. Positive feedback and open communication keep bridges intact.

5. Be inclusive.

“Wow. You’re sooo exotic”

Diversity and inclusion are all the rage right now – but your applicants will easily sense if they’re just there to represent a check-box. One size doesn’t fit all, so it’s important to reflect on your biases, amend processes and offer accommodations. To get you started, consider the language in your job postings, your “qualifications”, the formats of your interviews, the salary you’re offering, your shortlisting and hiring metrics, and the experience of your company’s marginalized and aging workforce.

With all that said – the best feedback is your own data. If high performing employees are leaving for opportunities elsewhere; if external applicants exit the process before an offer is made; if your candidate pool looks homogenous or too small – there is an opportunity to reflect and seek to understand what may be happening. Keep in mind, the candidate pool isn’t exclusive to external applicants. By taking the time to develop candidate personas and understand the candidate journey, you’ll have the information you need to design for a kick-ass hiring experience.

*Disclaimer: An acknowledgment that the candidate experience differs for folks with diverse intersecting identities. Job prospects and opportunities may be reduced due to discrimination, bias, racism, sexism, ableism etc. I write this article in a generalized manner to highlight the importance of understanding the candidate experience, as research points to a talent shortage with increased automation and demographic shifts.

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