In the war for talent, it takes more than a slate of workplace perks and a well-designed office space to woo top candidates. It takes making a personal connecting. But how can you systematize that to ensure you’ve got your best shot at wooing each candidate? Try focusing on delighting your candidates.
What do I mean by delight? To delight is to please someone greatly. In the recruitment sphere, that means making the candidate feel, at every step in the process, that they’ve made the right decision in pursuing a position with your company. Sounds easy, right? Well, it can be easy, but only when you’ve got your entire candidate experience process focused on ensuring the candidate’s happiness and delight through every step of the process.
The 3 Stages to Delighting Prospective Talent
Creating a delightful candidate experience is all about consistently making them feel valued through every interaction they have with you and your company. This includes how he or she is able to express interest in your company, you reply to their interest, the interview process itself, and how you handle the offer or rejection at the end of the process.
Stage 1: Application Process and Response Time
In the ideal world, your brand messaging resonates the moment a candidate first hears it. Your delightful candidate experience must include a job ad that encourages candidates to express interest in the opportunity, and continue through each point of contact with your brand. Ensure that when an candidate submits their information, they get a confirmation message and Thank You message.
“First impressions matter. The candidate experience begins the moment a candidate considers working with you,” said SmartRecruiters David Smooke.
A canned email response from a do not reply mailbox —or worse yet, no response—sends the message that the candidate is an unimportant cog in your recruitment machine. And no one wants to be a cog!
This doesn’t mean you can’t leverage some template copy in your replies. Just make sure you’re not sending out canned, generic, bland emails, even to the candidates you’re rejecting; they may be a good fit for another position down the road. If you are interested in moving forward with them, let them know in your follow-up email how excited you are that they’ve taken the time to apply for the position, and that you and the team are looking forward to getting to know them. The sooner you reply, the higher your chances for a happy candidate.
Don’t forget to make yourself or another staffer available to answer any questions they might have, such as about typical office attire or directions to the office. This email is also a great place to share some of that great employer branding content you have, like a video testimonial from an employee in the department to which they’re applying. And don’t forget to send them an agenda in advance of their interview, so they know whom they are meeting with and can prepare appropriate questions to ask them.
Stage 2: The Interview Process
OK, you’ve delighted the candidate enough that they’ve made it in the door for the interview. Now what? Well, in addition to giving them ample space to sell you on what they bring to the table, it’s also your opportunity to sell them on why your company is a place they’ll want to spend 40+ hours per week.
The interview process starts with the receptionist or other staff member who greets them at the door. In addition to welcoming the candidate, they should thank them for taking time out of their busy day to meet with your company, and offer them a beverage. Whether or not the beverage offer is accepted, this is when you should take the candidate on a tour of the office. On the way to the kitchen, point out where the team they’re interviewing with sits. And if some interviewers are encountered along the way, introduce them to the candidate. This sort of hospitality puts the candidate at ease, and helps them imagine themselves as part of your company.
After the tour, walk the candidate to your interview space, and provide them with a copy and/or brief overview of whom they’re meeting with.
The welcome to the office creates a critical first impression. If you leave a candidate sitting in the security lobby for 20 minutes, wondering if you’re ever showing up, the message you’re sending to them is that your time is more important than theirs, and that you’re not very interested in talking with them. So don’t do it! Make sure your interview team understands that being on time, and prepared to talk with the candidate (i.e. reading their candidate profile beforehand) is important to the success of the company.
So who should be on the interview list? In addition to the hiring manager, let them talk to one of their peers on the team, any direct reports, and a business partner or two from other departments. Why is this important? By giving them access to a cross-section of the company, you’re showing them how important this position would be to the company, and again, giving them the ability to more easily visualize themselves as part of the team. With every delightful connection they make with your employees, they get more invested in your team—and more likely to say yes to an eventual offer.
Putting the right interview team together is critical. I know I’ve personally turned down more than one position because I didn’t have the opportunity to meet enough of the team to get a feel for how the position would actually work within the larger organization. And if you think it’s not important for the candidate to meet with potential direct reports, think again. The relationship they have with the folks reporting to them is going to be a serious influence on how welcome they feel in the first 90 days – and how successful they’ll be in the long-term on the job.
Stage 3: Communicating Your Decision
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you can hire every amazing candidate that goes through your interview process. And often, it’s a tough choice between two candidates. If you have decided to go with another candidate, have their primary point of contact with the company give them a personal call to let them know it was a tough decision but that another candidate won out. If you expect you may have another position that would be a good fit in the near future, this is a good time to share that information as well. And don’t forget to thank them for investing their time in the process. It’s a nice touch to follow-up the call with a small corporate-branded gift and a personal note asking them to stay in touch.
Your position offers should follow a similar course. Let them know how excited you are for them to join the company, detail their compensation and benefits, and give them a reasonable timeframe for replying to your offer. If they have any questions or concerns at this point, be sure to be responsive and positive, and help them make their decision.
Follow-up with a “welcome aboard” note from the hiring manager and a gift that reflects your corporate culture and reinforces their decision to join your company. One former employer sent me a fun edible bouquet after I signed my offer letter. You can bet I shared that on social media, and it made a favorable corporate impression on my friends who saw it.
The Delight Shouldn’t Stop at the Offer Letter
Even after they’ve accepted your offer, and completed all your required paperwork, it’s still important to continue to provide a delightful experience, to make them feel they made the right decision. Especially crucial is giving them a welcoming and structured first day, including having someone walk them around the office making introductions, and having their manager or a team member take them out to lunch. Let them know what your onboarding process looks like, and give them some background materials about the company and their new position so they can get their bearings. If you’ve kept up the delight, this should be the start of a long tenure at your company.
What are some of the ways YOU are delighting your candidates? Share your tips in the comments!
Erika Heald (@sferika) is a San Francisco-based content marketing and social media consultant, with over 15 years experience creating content for HR, technology and financial services audiences. Photo credit flickr Jeztastic.
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