Creating the right talent experience is critical to tap into the competitive edge of right talent. Post the pandemic, organizations have started actively hiring across multiple sectors. At the core, our candidates are our consumers, hence, the “word of mouth” of consuming and engaging applies to both. Today, candidates expect the same level of experience and support that they get as a consumer. Thus, a great candidate experience goes a long way in creating a talent edge.
Organizations must understand that even before being employees, candidates are people. Timothy Ho, VP & Head Talent Acquisition states, “While we are interviewing our candidates, candidates in this current market are also interviewing us as employers so it is important to have a positive experience representing the company brand.” Hence the criticality of keeping candidates thoroughly engaged in a journey as they carry themselves through as employees.
A Live Case of Hi-Tech-Hi-Touch Candidate Experience
The financial services sector presents a high-churn, high-volume, continuous hiring scenario. Jay from UOB shares, “Out of 5000+ applicants for a Personal Banker role, only a fifth may be found suitable”. The pipeline of recruiting activities from screening resumes, to calling candidates to scheduling interviews leads to around 500-600 offer rollouts. Rejection rates at 50%, leads to 250-300 hires. The key challenges are - “How to save time spent on screening and interviewing?”, “How to increase acceptance rate?” and “How to tackle competition from tech companies who provide environment and perks?” All these questions were answered at UOB by prioritizing the candidate experience through:
- Pymetrics, a standalone assessment tool for CV screening.
- JONUS (aka JoinUs), a Chatbot to conduct initial screening of candidates. Paradox provided technology integration with video interview capabilities, ensuring a first touchpoint to be human.
Initially both the above systems did not talk to each other. So the team had to create a seamless process flow adding a more humane element. This is where the concept of “Assessment Day” emerged at UOB.
UOB Moved from a process of daily interviewing to consolidated interviewing i.e. 30-40 interviews in a half-day “Assessment day”, in a fun and personalized experience. Recruitment would invite the Head of Personal Banking to share experiences around a “Day in the Life @ UOB”. Candidates would play a racing-car video game and the winner got to decide the order of appearing for the two interviews. Such a fun element added competitive thrill. Meanwhile, recruiters were computing candidate scores in real-time to decide on accepts and rejects, ensuring prompt and humane communication. Rejected candidates were personally thanked for their time and “gifted” a grab-voucher. Selected candidates were doled out an “Intent of Offer” document then and there, with a promise to provide the formal offer letter within 2 days.
The results were seen soon. While the tech integration addressed rejection rate of candidates, the 2-3-hour live session helped candidates learn about the culture of UOB by enhancing the personal interaction. As a result, TAT reduced by 50%, and the acceptance rate increased by 25-30%.
Thus, UOB leveraged the Power of Stories to get candidates to relate to life in the company. This continued during the pandemic too, albeit virtually. Most importantly, virtual conversations were initiated with senior level executives such as Wealth bankers and Senior bankers, sharing and talking virtually, creating a strong connection between candidate and company.
Pandemic as an opportunity to reinvent the hiring strategy
As the pandemic brought about immense upheaval in both personal and professional lives, a candidate’s journey became very core to his or her wellbeing. As Kartik from Paradox shares, “When I was looking out for a job, there were so many questions in my mind. As I became a part of the candidate journey I truly wanted to know answers related to aspects like culture, diversity, and even personal questions such as “What does the company think about the pandemic and what it means for me or my family”.
He says- “The gap lies where such key questions are left unanswered.” Companies may go radio-silent for months, leaving candidates questioning themselves. What became more relevant to candidates in such an environment was rejection feedback and responsiveness. Candidate experience is less about technology; many clients are alleviating technology, but the real experience is drawn by leveraging the power of senior executives to aid human conversations. Organizations must always curate the hiring strategy around “What candidates feel”.
Lawrence Chua, Head of Business Operations and University, International Markets, ByteDance, talks about how to minimize the gap in employer-candidate communication in a virtual setup, “At Lark and ByteDance, we use Lark to communicate and provide a better candidate experience. Both the interviewer and interviewee will be on the same platform Lark. Before the interview begins, you can create a group with both the interviewer and the candidate. To start the interview, the interviewer can click Video Call within the group to begin the remote interview. We will have all pertinent information available so there's no need to switch back and forth different software”.
The Role of the Hiring Manager in Creating the Right Candidate Experience
While feedback and responsiveness remain the crux of great candidate experience, as Ainij, Petronas points out, “The greatest pain point is sometimes to get feedback from the hiring manager. In the pandemic we became more digitally connected, and hence established the concept of the “Reverse SLA” i.e. an SLA that hiring managers have to meet to help achieve a quick TAT for the hiring process”. Petronas also talks about how hiring managers were enabled to take on the role of salary negotiations with candidates. This shift meant holding hiring managers accountable, and recruiters started organizing weekly update calls for business partners to track progress in conjunction with Heads of Businesses. Also, hiring KPIS were included into performance reviews. This is important to drive hiring accountability across business, and not just HR.
Humanizing the candidate experience is a change management exercise, people should be made to understand the reason behind hiring process changes. Empathy should form the core of the recruitment strategy.
Shaheen Lakdawalla, Head of Talent Acquisition, Qi Group, rightly mentions, “We need to be curious to see how we can create Empathy and build connections with our candidates in these trying times. As we move into areas where technology is overpowering our every action, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are still connected with humans and that not only are we assessing candidates for our organisations, but they are assessing us as well”
Organizations need to elevate the hiring ecosystem to foster diversity, equality, and inclusion. Recruiters must don the design thinking perspective to humanize the candidate experience. Candidates want to feel real by talking to real people through real conversations, not just with chatbots. Shaheen also states, “Addressing questions on the culture of the organisation, work life balance are key areas that candidates are now looking for answers to as they want to be connected to the bigger sense of purpose. It is crucial that we, as leaders, make ourselves available to these, as no technology can help humanise these relevant areas”.
The future of talent acquisition lies in the right blend of tech and touch, coupled with intensive change management to bring about a mindset of “candidate-centric” hiring. Hiring is not just a talent priority, but a business priority. As Susan Cheong, Managing Director, Talent Acquisition Group Head, DBS Bank says, “Great to see the interest around enhancing candidate experience”.