11 Leaders Share Their Insights: How Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding Join Forces to Provide the Model Candidate Experience
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From their very first touchpoint with your business, candidates need attention. Savvy employers know they must do all they can to ensure their candidate journeys are as positive as possible, and most importantly, that they align consistently with the employer brand messaging throughout.
The most effective path to an optimal candidate experience is with a considered and continuous partnership between your two key players in recruitment. Talent acquisition has valuable insight into your particular candidate market and knows just what your desired employees are looking for. Employer branding has the data and expertise to develop messaging that speaks the language of your target audience.
When TA and EB work together as they should, candidates learn to trust you, resonate with your values and purpose, and gain confidence that joining your company is a good move.
We spoke to 11 top talent acquisition and employer branding experts about the synergy between these two teams and how to make it work best for you. Read on for their advice.
To me, it’s about building the foundations of an effective employee journey and inviting employees to join our advocacy program.
Hiring leaders have a diamond opportunity to design and curate the ideal candidate experience. Our Talent Acquisition Brand Partners (TABP) are more than recruiters – they are career coaches, sparking “life conversations” around critical career decisions. We always take the time to respond to candidates.
In my current role at Ritchie Bros. we have shared ambitions with the TA team to build all our campaigns around candidate-centricity. I partner with our HRIS team (analytics teams) to invest quality time leveraging our internal analytics. Data tells an important story. During the candidate journey, we also capture key feedback.
It is not about a process, but about process plus people. This is an important equation. We do not solely focus on deliveries or outcomes but also in the sometimes murky, complex journey to get there.
We clarify complex information by “oversharing” on a daily basis. Team transparency and accountability is important, so we actually use the available data and align all our ongoing activities to our employer branding strategy and organisational needs. Most of our goals have shared KPIs so we can play together, constantly upgrading our strategy. Once we agree upon a strategy, we collaborate and influence the business.
Someone once asked me, “What is the best possible candidate experience a person can have?” My answer was, “Not applying for the job you have no chance of getting.”
99% of the time, recruitment involves rejecting people, an appalling waste of time and money with significant human cost on both sides of the process. One of the most impactful ways to improve this situation is to use your employer brand to help more people self-select themselves out of the process before they apply.
You can start with your job descriptions: I have seen job description enhancements improve the candidate flow at companies by up to 400%. The things candidates would most like to see before they apply for a job are (in order of preference) company values, company culture, employee testimonials, product information, company performance and career FAQs.
The EB team is always on my ‘go-to’ list, specifically when there are recruiting strategies we need their expertise for.
Most recently, our global TA team pulled them in to help drive more female candidate traffic and I also reached out to them to brainstorm attracting non-exempt talent for field service engineers.
When managing a team of recruiters previously, I would share the ongoing EB content and create easy tips on how to share this content with their network so that it doesn't sound so robotic or cookie-cutter. Now that I’m managing our global sourcing team, I'm trying to get them re-engaged with our CRM tool. I am using pre-created templates to send engaging content to candidates to either drive referrals or get candidates interested in the roles themselves.
At the end of the day, candidates are our customers and we, as an employer, should do all that we can to ensure that they have the best experience possible. They deserve attention at every stage.
That doesn't mean always saying "yes" to a candidate but it means being respectful and being responsive to their needs so that they can either be a converted customer (from external candidate to internal hire), repeat customer for future opportunities that are better aligned to their career, or a referral customer who shares opportunities with peers, family, and/or friends.
I've always had an interest in EB, so much so that I completely came out of full-cycle recruiting to take on an EB Consultant role with a small consulting firm. I know the value and the importance of an employer brand, which is why I'm so consciously aware of when and how our brand can be tarnished.
Although I do stay knowledgeable of the market, our EB team really has their finger on the pulse with how things are evolving (and quickly). I frequently use their content to share messaging about not only jobs, but also the culture of our company. I share blog content but put it in my own words so that it comes across more authentic. I also make sure that it shows I've taken the time to read the content, by pulling out nuggets of information I can share with my network. Because of this, I've had people reference things I've shared, which has led them to view Danaher as an employer of choice.
We recently worked on overhauling our EB within one of our key business units. They’ve suffered from an image of being quite staid and a little dull in the marketplace, so I worked with the EB team to map out personas of our key technical members. We then used the results to revamp our EB offering.
We produced a toolkit of positive targeting messages to take to market by the recruiters, and for hiring managers to use through the recruitment process. We didn’t want to just attract more candidates, we wanted to entice quality, relevant ones. Just attracting more candidates who aren’t relevant to the role can mean more candidates to reject and more candidates with a potentially negative view of your brand if not communicated with properly.
For me and my team it means making sure we treat candidates as we’d like to be treated. The key to this is effective, appropriate communication at all stages of the recruitment process, from initial contact (for example, seeing our content or an advert), right through to joining the business and beyond. Sounds simple but it’s all too easy for recruiters to forget it’s a two-way street and that candidates are very much consumers in today’s market. Your communication and actions need to be on point and consistent.
Standing still in today’s market is not an option. We have consistent monthly reviews (using MS Teams) on approaches and monitoring metrics. For example, ratios of applications to interviews and offers, and formal and informal applicant feedback surveys.
We also use EB team channels and weekly recruiter team meetings to share ideas and improvements. It’s all about collaboration and clear communication – enabling input from all parties in the process to consistently help to evolve and embrace new ideas.
Quite simply, I've embedded myself within the TA team and work alongside them; by understanding how each other works, the pressures we're both under and respecting each other’s profession, you can realise real success!
As a recruitment marketing professional, I've always been closely aligned to the TA teams I work with. I make a point of ensuring my work directly supports them, as well as meeting wider recruitment marketing objectives.
The TA team is at the forefront of our business; aware of both resourcing requirements and candidate needs. Their insight and expertise are invaluable for me to deliver value to the business, particularly when it comes to offering the optimum candidate experience.
We place candidate persona mapping at the centre of our attraction strategy and these personas are built via recruiter, member and external candidate research. We take these findings to map out candidate expectations by role profile and the only way we can ensure these insights are acted on, is to gain the buy-in from our TA team in their approach. It's a real collaboration that delivers results and has slowly moved the dial on how we recruit into our business.
The model candidate experience should reflect the high expectations of the model customer experience. This applies in both digital and real world environments.
As potential members of our organisation who will be instrumental to our success, we should afford our candidates the same respect we do our clients and customers from the outset. This serves not only to demonstrate our recognition of their potential value to us, but also to give them confidence in joining our organisation and the way we do business. This means a simple and streamlined online application, acknowledgement of application and feedback at all stages of the recruitment process, engaged and professional recruitment specialists who show a genuine interest in the candidate and their success (if they're not successful this time, they may be perfect for the next opportunity that comes up) and all the information, tools and content to prep a candidate for interview and reassure them about joining our organisation. This also allows them to make an informed decision as to whether we're the right fit for each other.
The experience goes beyond the recruitment process, right through to onboarding and induction. All of these touchpoints and experiences are hugely influential in terms of a candidate building up a picture of who we are as an organisation and how we operate. And it doesn't stop with making an offer – it goes up to those first six to 12 months of employment, which are critical in settling the new employee in and ensuring they want to stay with our organisation. For me, that is the model candidate experience.
I am very privileged to have been given the status of a “cousin from marketing” for our TA team; it is a real and solid partnership.
Naturally, both teams are involved in strategic planning, budget planning, and routine activities. I’m part of weekly TA Leads meetings, and twice a month participate in TA all-hands reunions. This allows me to keep the track of our hiring appetite and forecast major campaigns.
It’s not enough to just make EB resources available because recruiters need guidance – so I have put in place an “open office hour” twice a month. I invite all recruiters to come in and share their questions, problems, concrete cases etc. I’ve also started planning in marketing training sessions for our TA team: we just completed one on ‘LinkedIn posts that actually work’, led by an external coach.
Our new CGI Career Lab provides resources on key topics to support all job seekers, including access to our TA experts. We designed this campaign to broaden the horizons of our candidate AND recruiter experience in a virtual space. We offer added-value and free candidate coaching, elevate our employer brand and create a link of proximity to our recruiters and hiring managers.
There is nothing revolutionary in hosting webinars today, but for some companies it is still a big step to go live, show faces and openly take and answer questions from candidates. In the process, we realised something – candidates simply need answers! The results of this campaign are very inspiring, with over 90% of participants approving of their experience and saying they would return again, and recommend it to their network.
A “model” experience is very different from one company to another, but in my opinion, it starts with winning friends of your brand before they even become real candidates. It is also very important to keep the candidate experience consistent.
Being a candidate is not a job like recruiting or marketing – it’s an experience, and naturally, candidates want it to be great. Our job is to make it great. We need to keep in mind that applying for a job and living through the recruitment process is a very stressful situation, so relieving the pain of it is important. This involves providing clarity on the recruitment process, open dialogue and setting expectations. Every candidate deserves an answer and ideally a debrief so that they can learn and we, as employers, can be accountable for any assessment and decision we make.
Candidates must feel informed and welcomed throughout the application process, with a good understanding of the organisation and clarity about the role. I also think it is important for them to know the key stakeholders and decision-makers in the process to get a sense of the company culture and values.
I work with the employer brand team almost daily. It is very important for me that they feel a part of the talent acquisition team. They need to know the level of activity and feel engaged in the entire process. Only then they will understand the focus/critical level of urgency/candidate flow and quality.
One campaign that stands out is when we were looking at the Java profiles in Montreal. The EB team helped us to manage a survey of our internal members, and we worked together on a focus group to better understand the persona of the Java profile. It helped us understand what attracts this talent and more importantly, what keeps them here. This then helped us create more effective job postings, and learn where it was best to use our advertising dollars to attract the right talent.
My marketing partner is part of my leadership team. She participates in our weekly leadership meeting so she is aware of key initiatives and is on top of key priorities and metrics. This keeps us aligned so we know how to prioritise the work ahead. We share each other's challenges and make decisions together before we execute.
The model experience for us is taking ‘us’ out of the equation and making it about the candidate. We are ‘candidate-obsessed’, which means that everything we do – from the first connection to a candidate (through an ad, social post or meeting our of our recruiters), to their first experience on our careers site, review of job description, application process and so on – is designed to delight the candidate and create a positive impression of PWC.
We want candidates to create an emotional connection to our firm so they can really feel what it would be like to work here and be excited about the process of applying for a role. And that connection happens very early on in the candidate's journey. Therefore, we try to make sure that no matter what the first engagement point is (and for 65% of candidates, it’s the job description), we have thought about our candidates’ needs (what are they looking for and HOW they may want to look) so we can make it an enjoyable experience.
At PWC, EB is embedded within TA. We don't think of TA as our stakeholder, but as our partners. We’re both trying to achieve the same goal but working with slightly different toolboxes.
One great example is our use of content-driven job descriptions. 66-70% of our candidates land on a job posting long before they engage with the content on our careers site. Knowing that, we decided to bring all our great content to where the candidates are meeting us for the first time. We partnered with our TA teams and our agency of record to develop job description experiences that bring to life the actual role, work and people a candidate could work with, and more information about the actual area of our business the role belongs to. These ‘advanced’ job descriptions allow us to tell our story – what it’s really like to work here – through the voices of our hiring managers, recruiters and employees.
It's really simple: we move together under a single strategy, single commitment to results and we always think of the relationship as a true partnership. And this is from the top down.
As the EBM leader, I am connected with TA leadership, sitting on weekly strategy calls and then individual monthly calls with each TA leader of our business segments, to ensure we align on overall demand (including any hotspots or pain points). This information is discussed with my team weekly, and then our digital strategist and campaign manager connect with their TA counterparts to create a campaign or new tool proposal, budget, agreed-to metrics.
From there, our content and brand managers are brought in to work with TA on those elements of the shared work, and we work together to create the final tool collaterals, landing pages, videos etc.
One really important piece that keeps us connected is the agreed-to metrics. Since our operating budgets are ‘owned’ by TA, I want to ensure that we have really strong, realistic and targeted outcomes by which we can measure success. Also, since most of our work is digital, we can continuously measure results and optimise as we go along, quickly course correcting if needed. This keeps the teams naturally connected.
Across different touchpoints, candidates get to 'experience' a piece of the company. It's an accumulating and ongoing journey. A great candidate experience means the employer brand messaging is aligned and consistent throughout the end-to-end recruitment process. And that is not necessarily a linear experience, as candidates often jump from one channel to another.
We must anticipate and manage candidates' expectations by actively seeking out the different ways that candidates might be looking to find out more about the company. Based on the nature of different channels, make sure candidates can easily find useful information, and if the information is not readily available, that they know how to connect with people from the company.
We use a few collaboration tools: ATS with an events management and recruitment marketing function (talent community), online assessment processes, collaboration and project management tools that connect the wider team together across different markets. This includes an online writing enhancement platform to make sure communication materials from all teams are aligned and shared the same tone of voice.
We track all sorts of data throughout the application process. Insights from analytics help us understand how candidates consume content, what triggers a certain desired action, and what frustrates them.
With these metrics in hand, we work with TA very closely to identify all the pain points. Then we can improve the overall experience and continue to keep a tab on TA-specific metrics that could be a sign of positive changes (for example, Glassdoor reviews, application drop-off rate, offer acceptance rate, number of applications completed).
Communication is key. It's imperative for EB to know the hiring plan for the next 12 months in order to plan and align with the wider company communications plan. Using Slack channels to keep abreast of updates and key tasks has been a great tool for us as we can add or remove people depending on their roles at the time.
Working with the employment branding team on employee feedback and sentiment in order to be ahead of any negative communications has also assisted the TA team tackle these questions from prospective candidates. We've been able to provide a toolkit of FAQs for them so they have guidance on things such as questions that arise if there’s been a drop in share price or an increase in attrition.
One of the most successful experiences I've had working in conjunction with my employment branding team was when we were doing project hiring. By joining forces and tailoring an experience that considered the overarching employment brand for the candidate pool while also letting us derive specific personas, we were able to create targeted campaigns. These ensured a hit rate of over 90% with our reach outs, and even those who did not engage directly were recommending multiple contacts to our organisation.
It means considering each candidate and their needs. The candidate experience should be unique and personalised, ensuring the candidate feels valued and respected at every stage. This involves clear communication and always providing next steps, as well as considered and value-adding feedback.
Additionally, if you demonstrate flexibility in the hiring process, you are able to showcase that your company values each individual and their needs.
Our talent acquisition team is truly committed to making the candidate experience exceptional. The University TA team recently held a PhD Symposium where select talent from US universities across the country participated in a virtual, three day event. The team took special care to connect each participant with employees, technical subject matter experts from various fields, and hiring managers at several locations, to better understand ASML's technology and learn more about our culture and values.
Participants were given the opportunity to share their research with ASML engineers and scientists who solve complex problems every day. They were also invited to participate in a video where we reconnected them with managers. This symposium gave participants an opportunity to evaluate how their research, interests and values might fit in at ASML.
This high-touch connection is something we do to enrich the experience for candidates. In turn, their stories help other candidates evaluate if ASML is the right place for them.
Working closely with the TA team is critical to ASML's success. The recruiters who work closely with hiring managers have first-hand knowledge of what benefits appeal to different types of talent, from new grads to experienced professionals.
I am an integral part of the TA team, meeting with them weekly to discuss challenges. I also separately work with key stakeholders to understand their unique site and competency challenges to recruit the right talent. This close alignment allows for proactive planning to achieve objectives and to be able to quickly respond to new challenges as they arise.
We also have global meetings where our market leaders can align, and yearly offsite meetings to work on specific challenges and opportunities that we are unaware of until in-person discussions allow them to surface.
At ASML, it means making sure our employee value proposition (EVP) is reflected at every stage of the candidate journey. We believe at ASML that our EVP truly reflects who we are and that it's important to bring our culture and values to life both externally and internally. Whether you're interacting with ASML via social media, website, campus or virtual event, reading a job description or being interviewed, we want every candidate to have a good experience.
That means a candidate should recognise our key attributes at all stages of the journey, including when they're meeting a recruiter, hiring manager, or being onboarded. Our goal is that every ASML employee who interacts with (potential) candidates, in person, virtually, or on paper, reflects our values. If we succeed we will attract candidates who share those values and will contribute to continuing to make ASML a great place to work.