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How Does a Contextual Candidate Experience Impact Hiring?

“Give the candidates the information that they want, in the right format at the right time. Make them curious so they want to know more, so they always have a good feeling and know why you’re the right employer — or not.”

It’s as simple as that says Florian Schrodt, Employer Branding Leader, at Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ). With over 1 million passengers a day, VBZ keeps the citizens of Zurich on the move with their tram and bus services.

However, the VBZ recruitment team found that bus and tram “pilots” as they call them, are difficult to recruit. With 1500 applications usually resulting in just 70 new hires. Not to forget that they also need to hire engineers and digital talent to keep the company evolving.

“We are not just a transportation company. We are engineers, architects, developers and so much more. So we try to show a multifaceted big picture of our world of work – in combination with our living world. The key is the context, why we are concentrating on giving information that is full of facts and emotions as well. Storytelling is the key. In our job postings, but also on our website in general, that is a storytelling hub and centerpiece of our activities.”

When Florian Schrodt was given the goal of improving hiring, he set his focus on applying a Contextual Candidates Experience to the VBZ candidate journey. He set out a plan and evaluated what needed to be done to generate better hiring results. Barriers in his way consisted of a strict application process, due to the cognitive and behavioural aspects of tram and bus pilot required for those positions. In addition to a strict time frame to attract and hire new recruits.  

“Our application process is still a bottleneck where we try to improve our conversion. Because of our complex job landscape we still have a lot of media breaks. “

Looking at the entire candidate journey Florian made a list of which candidate touchpoints needed optimization. Looking at the definition of a contextual candidate experience, he knew more transparency was required on the role expectations and an instant communication experience. VBZ’s careers website was completely redesigned and streamlined, his team began publishing videos that showed the day-to-day life of VBZ employees, they even held career fairs on the VBZ trams.

Now that candidates were getting a better understanding of what was expected from the job, they still couldn’t always get an instant answer. At this point Florian set out looking for communication solutions, the idea of using a chatbot came up. 

To be honest, I had not been a big chatbot fan before because I hadn’t seen one that worked before or I was satisfied with. When the idea of implementing a chatbot at VBZ kept coming up, that’s when I turned to jobpal, who I saw doing exciting things with Deutsche Telekom. 

Taking a critical look at how a chatbot fell into Florian’s contextual candidate experience philosophy, he began to see how the technology could work. Implementing a chatbot meant that candidates could get instant access to educational information whenever they wanted. 

A chatbot also provided an additional communication channel to engage with customers and tap into a new potential employee base. All while offloading the task of answering repetitive questions from candidates and giving more time back to recruiters. 

As conversational AI and machine learning is still a new technology, jobpal held a workshop with Florian, the recruitment and marketing teams at VBZ HQ. For two days, they looked at the entire candidate journey and put together a roadmap. The goal was to ensure the chatbot would not just improve the candidate experience, but also impact hiring results. Once the roadmap was laid out, jobpal started implementing the chatbot onto the VBZ careers website

How Does A Contextual Candidate Experience Impact Hiring?

Now that their candidate journey had undergone a massive transformation, what results were they seeing? Interestingly, the team saw fewer applications but more quality hires. This shows the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to recruiting for VBZ. By providing role transparency and an instant communication channel with a chatbot, candidates can decide whether or not an open position is for them within minutes instead of further along the pipeline. 

Additionally, Florian was able to tap into a whole new set of talent insights thanks to the chatbot on their careers website. Thanks to the FAQ automation feature, this is when the chatbot asks and answers questions from candidates, he could get an authentic insight into what candidates cared about, what their desires were and who they were.

It’s amazing how good you get to know the target groups because of their input and the possibilities to improve the answers in real-time. Especially through the Corona crisis it was a great plus. That’s contextual candidate experience at its best.

Overall, contextual candidate experience can have a huge impact on who you hire, how you hire and the quality of hires. Another point that Florian’s story validates is how a contextual candidate experience strategy that includes a chatbot can improve your talent communication strategy. 

Florian is continuing to bring new ideas into VBZ’s candidate journey, which includes expanding the responsibilities of the chatbot that will save even more time for the recruiters and implement new features that will help candidates apply faster.

Catherine Munnelly

Catherine Munnelly