Employer Brand and Candidate Experience. A Match Made in Heaven?

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Bet you’ve heard the term ‘Candidate Experience (CX)’ being thrown about a lot recently. It seems to be the new buzzword in the recruitment industry – and with good reason.

Despite COVID, we are still finding ourselves in a candidate-driven market in many cases. One where demand for talent outstrips supply. This puts the power in the candidate’s hands – the best are inevitably offered multiple roles, and get to choose which they’d like to take. Whether or not your organisation is the chosen one will often come down to the experience you provide the candidate.

What exactly is the Candidate Experience?

In my view, the candidate experience begins the moment a candidate considers a role at your organisation and ends when they start working for your organisation (or when they’re told their application was unsuccessful).

Making sure your systems and processes are efficient and effective, providing regular updates and giving feedback are some of the ‘hygiene factors’ that are baseline critical – no further discussion needed.

A good candidate experience is in the eye of the beholder, just like a good customer experience is. Some people love it when a shop assistant gives them personalised service and advice, while others would rather be left free to browse with their headphones in. The answer will never be one-size-fits-all.

Obviously, there are some of fundamentals that you must get right. Making sure your systems and processes are efficient and effective, providing regular updates and giving feedback are some of the ‘hygiene factors’ that are baseline critical – no further discussion needed.

So what’s our role?  

Traditionally, an employer brand (EB) team would focus on the attraction of talent. While that is still critical, there is much more to convincing that great candidate to join you than just getting them to apply. That’s why I now see candidate experience as just one element of a great employer brand.

Employer branding is about knowing what you want your candidates to think and feel about working at your organisation.

Establishing that gives you a strong ‘true north’ in the form of your employer value proposition (EVP) and brand messaging and allows you to build a good candidate experience far more easily.

Let’s say you’ve recognised diversity and inclusivity as a pillar of your employer brand. You can then use this pillar as a guiding principle when developing or reviewing your candidate experience - a set of checkpoints that your organisation should constantly be challenging itself on.

For example, are your application processes inclusive for those with a disability? How are you making adjustments for those that need them?

Who’s doing it well?

Using employer branding to bolster the candidate experience is something that I think Airbnb does really well. Their employer value proposition focuses on the importance of culture, values and purpose, and their candidate experience seems to truly align to this.

They have brought this into their recruitment experience by being perfectly direct and transparent with candidates in how they will be assessed. Denise Lee Yohn talks about this process in her book Fusion:

Candidates are asked to participate in two interviews reserved exclusively to assess their fit with Airbnb's core values. This process offers candidates their first experience with Airbnb's unique culture. By taking the time to learn about the candidate as a person and their values, the interviewers live out and model one of Airbnb's core values: ‘Be a host: care for others and make them feel like they belong."

This is the archetypal example of the way a candidate experience can be used as a tool to support the employer brand – or vice versa.

Let’s get together

So, how can you use the skillset of your EB friends to help you improve your CX today?

Think about including employer branding experts, whether in-house or external consultants, in projects and discussions that may not seem particularly employer brand focused. You’d be surprised at how great the scope of employer branding actually is, and us creatives can often bring fresh perspectives and a different way of thinking to the table, adding value in areas that may not immediately be apparent.

By taking part in the initial conversations around systems design and process we had a real impact on the outcome.

I’ve found that bringing our team into larger recruitment projects has helped changed the overall candidate experience in tangible ways. When we recently implemented a new recruitment platform, the employer branding team was involved from the start, rather than just sprinkling on pretty pictures and nice words at the end. By taking part in the initial conversations around systems design and process we had a real impact on the outcome.

We found ourselves asking ‘why, why, why’ around a lot of the detail initially included (potentially to our colleagues’ annoyance!) and helped to significantly reduce the length of the application.

The result was a process that was more compact and effective than it otherwise would’ve been.

EB=CX

Employer brand has already become completely intertwined with the candidate experience. I only see that connection becoming stronger. The very best recruitment processes will result in seamless experiences for our candidates, every touch-point confirming who we are and what we’re about. Where to next?

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