Optimizing Every Candidate’s Experience
By Angela Hunter, Talent Advocate for Time Warner Cable, Talent Acquisition & Movement

A talent acquisition survey from Jibe and Kelton Research recently revealed that "more than anything else, optimizing candidate experience was identified as the top recruiting trend." In truth, candidate engagement has always been a key differentiator. How we make candidates feel about our brand as an employer and how candidates are treated during the application process majorly impact one’s recruiting success. As a talent advocate, I focus on optimizing the candidate’s experience during the hiring process.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A candidate’s first impression is going to be formed long before he or she is contacted by a recruiter or someone like me. Candidates see our commercials on TV. They hear the opinions of existing customers who are their neighbors and family members. They “hear” about how we treat our customers before they decide to become one. With that in mind, the first step in candidate engagement requires branding your company as an employer of choice. You want to position your company so that it is known, respected and considered to be a great place to work and have a career. To do so, you must stake a claim to a proven identity, widely communicate it and ensure that your company remains authentic and true to it.

Communicate Your Brand
Once you have your brand image firmly established, it’s time to communicate it. Such communication requires casting a wide net. You cannot simply focus on current job seekers. After all, how many of those hard-to-fill positions require recruiting actively employed individuals? You want everyone to know that your company is a great employer as you never know who might be a future applicant or a person influencing a job candidate. That includes building brand awareness among your current employees.

Every time I think about a company’s brand and its ability to expand its identity outside of its normal market, I go online to see who’s doing what and how well. Business Insider does a great job of researching trends. The business web site recently published an article titled, “The 20 Most Valuable Brands In the World, that spotlighted the unique and courageous methods performed to heighten the companies’ value in the marketplace. Amazon, Google, Apple and UPS were among those featured in the article. All of these top companies had one commonality: they expanded their customer base outside of their normal market. For example, Amazon saw that most of its customers were spending time reading articles and news stories online. So it went from selling and shipping books to making it incredibly easy to download one on a phone or tablet. Today, it's almost impossible for brick and mortar shops to compete with Amazon's wide selection, low prices and mastery of the mobile marketplace as the company makes it easy and simple for consumers to buy nearly anything from anywhere with a few clicks of a button. Recent acquisitions of Audible.com and Goodreads also show Amazon’s determination to dominate all aspects of mobile book consumption and sharing. As another example, Time Warner Cable recently made it possible to watch TV on a phone or tablet. Why? Because it’s convenient and connects the company to its customers no matter where they are.

In addition to enhancing convenience and accessibility for their customers, these companies increased their overall brand awareness as their efforts garnered a lot of positive attention from the media and consumers. On the flip side, a negative customer experience can dramatically hinder your company’s image as an employer of choice. A company’s image in the marketplace directly impacts individuals’ perceptions about it as a potential employer.

Promote Internal Awareness
In addition to ensuring a strong, appealing image in the marketplace, employers also need to focus their attention on branding internally. According to Jobvite, studies show that candidates with an internal recommendation make up just seven percent of most companies’ candidate pool, but account for a whopping 40 percent of the hires. By starting within your organization, each and every employee can become a spokesperson for you as an employer.

Building brand awareness about your company as an employer requires communicating your identity consistently and often. There are several cost-effective ways to keep your image in front of your audience. You can have your recruiters establish Twitter accounts so that candidates, customers and potential applicants can follow them to learn about the newest opportunities that are available within your company. Your recruiters can also share resume tips and insights into the application process that are likely to help build a following. People will appreciate the gesture and will be more likely to want to come onboard with a company that engages its customers and job seekers in this way. By building a network on social media, you can help engage potential applicants and make them feel as though they are “part of the family.”

Personalize Engagement When Hiring
Once your company’s identity as an employer is established and well communicated, it’s time to focus on how to engage candidates during the hiring process. You want to give each of them the ultimate experience, whether you hire them or not. So take care to respond promptly to each and every candidate, and whenever possible, personalize your responses. If you want applicants to know that as employees they will be recognized and treated as more than just a number, your actions during the hiring process need to reflect this. You want to avoid having any candidate speak negatively about her experience such as, “I never heard from anyone,” or “After I interviewed I never got a call back.” Even if you choose not to hire a person, she or he can impact the perception of a candidate you do want to hire. After all, the Internet and social media allow one person’s comments to quickly reach a large number of individuals. So the best approach is to treat each and every candidate with respect and courtesy.

A great way to engage candidates is to host a live or in-person event. Last year at a Time Warner Cable Diversity & Inclusion event that was held offsite, several people approached my GVP of Talent Acquisition with questions about the various departments within our company. They were all recent grads, some of whom had just earned an advanced degree, and they really wanted to know more about our company’s culture. Because we had so many inquiries, we decided to host a breakfast meet and greet so they could visit our campus and talk directly with recruiters and hiring leaders during small information sessions. It was a hit! We were able to establish a rapport with some incredible candidates, expand our talent pool for current and future job openings, and ultimately we hired some of the attendees.

Promote Online Talent Communities
Another idea is to invite job seekers, customers and candidates to join an online Talent Community that gives them a sense of belonging before they are hired. The online talent community then provides you with a forum to share company information, updates, manager profiles, department newsletters and more. You can even segment the talent communities into specific categories or job skills to further customize their experience.

Branding and candidate engagement are not simply items you check off and forget about; they both require constant nurturing. You never know when a customer or happily employed individual will suddenly become a job seeker. If your company is the first to come to mind as a possible employer, you’ve done your job well. So go forth and engage effectively!

HR Pulse is a bi-monthly resource published exclusively for the members of the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association.

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