5 Hacks for Improving the Candidate Experience During the Research Stage
Changing jobs is a big deal, and great candidates don’t take career decisions lightly. They will research your company and only apply if the good outweighs the bad.
Candidates perform this research at different stages of the process, but mainly:
- Before they apply
- Before each interview
- When you make an offer
Your goal with research projects is to try to curate what they find. This has the dual benefit of setting expectations to improve your close rate and weeding out people that aren’t a fit.
This doesn’t mean you have to lobby review websites — we don’t coach that (nor do recruiting teams have the budget for that).
Instead, the best recruiting processes tell a consistent story. Said otherwise, the candidate is attracted to a specific story, and you need to confirm that story over and over during your hiring process.
Read on to learn more about how you can sell a consistent story and other recruiting hacks to attract the best candidates:
Research Hack #1: Scout the Competition
The concept of scouting, whether in war or baseball, is to gather intelligence on what the enemy (read: competition) is doing. Then, use that information to improve your chance of winning. If recruiting is a team sport, it makes sense to include a scout in your team.
Scouting can help you understand how competitive the industry’s employment market is. Also, you can see what competitors are doing to attract prospects and identify important trends and changes.
Scouting typically involves reviewing assets from organizations you are competing for talent with — especially those to whom you are losing. You can check out:
- The careers page on their company website
- Pictures and videos they share as part of the recruiting process
- Job descriptions posted on job boards
- Reviews on Glassdoor and other employment websites
- Contents of outreach emails sent to candidates
- Assets sent to candidates after they apply (to prepare for interviews, thank you notes, or offer letters)
The goal of scouting isn’t to play catch up. Your team should identify areas where the competition does a good job and places in your recruiting process that could benefit from these practices.
Self-Scout for Areas To Improve
“Self-scouting” is another approach borrowed from sports. Besides watching their competition, coaches and players on professional sports teams periodically watch themselves — to look for issues and vulnerabilities with their own strategies.
The process is straightforward. Search for your company and see what comes up. You might want to open up a new incognito window for a more objective view. The key here isn’t just focusing on the information you find but also how people may perceive it.
You can get other people to join the process. That way, you can collect more information on how candidates see you and turn it into an actionable plan to create the best image for your company.
Remember, the goal is to build a consistent, accurate, and compelling story that improves the candidate’s experience by giving them insights into your values, mission, and culture.
The Robert Walters Group shares ensuring a cultural fit with new hires is vital. Employees that mesh remain happy, work harder, and stay on longer.
The extra work upfront to showcase the image you want others to see is well worth the benefits.
Whether your executive leadership recognizes it or not, your company’s marketing and employment brands are intertwined. Many consumers prefer buying products from organizations they consider great — and a big part of “greatness” is whether great people work for the company, whether they stay, and what they publicly say about working for the firm.
Also, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that investors are looking to job postings to evaluate a company. How many new jobs you have, and how much time they take to fill, tell a lot about your financial performance.
The stories you tell your prospective customers and job applicants will overlap. In other words, marketing and recruiting are interrelated — i.e., you should use your best people in marketing to help out in recruitment.
This makes a case that some of your marketing budget should be allocated to recruiting, particularly if you hire frequently.
Whether through full-time staff or agencies, your marketing department should create advertisements, product tear sheets, videos, and everything else needed to generate interest in both your products and job openings.
The bottom line is that to provide a world-class candidate experience during research, you’ll likely need to do some of the things marketers do.
Job descriptions are like ads for candidates — treat them as such.
Get a member of the marketing team. Their insights on the clean copy and clear-cut storytelling will be invaluable. Try this:
- Ask the marketing manager if someone on their team has the time or would be interested in working with recruiting.
- Call a short meeting with multiple marketers to collaborate on the description quickly.
- Email marketers directly for help.
For example, here’s an email you can send to your CEO or VP of marketing.
Subject: Help Generating Interest in Working for [[Company]]
Hi [[CEO & VP of Marketing]],
I wanted to drop you this note to float an idea for next quarter’s marketing budget. I’ve noticed that marketing has managed to create some awesome materials to help promote our products.
Specifically, I really dig [[promotional video 1]], [[testimonial video 2]], [[product tear sheet 3]], and [[ad campaign 4]]. These assets could really help me out in recruiting since they explain what we do to candidates.
That’s a great start, but we don’t have employment-branded assets of the same quality. We could use a promotional video about why it’s great to work here and share testimonials from employees — basically some beautiful assets that explain our employee benefits and help our job advertisements stand out.
For example, here are some employment branding assets from organizations we currently compete with for talent:
- [[Competitor asset 1]]
- [[Competitor asset 2]]
- [[Competitor asset 3]]
As I’m not a professional marketer, and it seems we are already doing great marketing work, I was wondering if we could leverage our marketing team to create some employment branding assets to help us attract and land great talent.
The idea would be to take a percentage (say 25%) of the marketing budget for the next few quarters to create these assets we’d push people to see.
I’m confident the marketing team can create things more impressive than I can on my own, and they will help impress upon people in our industry that we are a great place to work at. The long-term benefits of this would resonate in every department.
It would be really helpful if you could reply with answers to two questions immediately:
- Does it make sense to create these employment branding near term?
- Is there room in the marketing budget to do this in the next few quarters?
To curate information, you’ll need a lot of it, but you don’t have to write it all yourself. Instead, run a content contest to outsource this content creation.
Reward and recognize employees for their contributions and foster an honest response by ensuring confidentiality.
Make it as easy as possible to participate by setting a formal filming or photo day and allowing employees to use phones.
Not sure how to kickstart the contest? Try this email:
Subject: Enter To Win the [[Company]] Story Contest
Hi [[Company]] team,
We know that the skills and perspectives each of you bring are unique — and we want to hear more about them.
That’s why we’re holding a story contest to collect your personal stories, work anecdotes, and company perspectives.
There’s not a specific prompt as long as the story is related to your career or our organization. The stories will be judged on their authenticity and how well they capture our company’s culture.
If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few prompts:
- How does [[Company]] fit into your goals in life?
- What steps led you to work here?
- What’s your favorite interaction with another employee?
- Which story best represents [[Company’s]] unique offerings?
Note: All submissions will be confidential unless you give us explicit permission to share your story with the wider company or potential candidates.
Submit your story via video by [[deadline]] to enter the competition. The winners will be announced by [[date]] and get [[optional prize]].
Looking forward to hearing your stories,
People review everything now, and their jobs are no exception. Reading reviews from other workers plays a big role in many prospects’ research. Not all the reviews will be positive, but knowing how to respond to a negative review is important.
If you find negative reviews, you can make a substantial positive difference by professionally responding to the criticism. Thank them for their feedback, recognize their pain points, and share relevant, truthful steps you’re taking to improve the candidate experience.
Research Hack #5: Ask Employees To Write Reviews
The online reviews aren’t only to measure candidate experience — they also give you another opportunity to shape it.
Encourage current employees to leave honest reviews online when they receive a raise or promotion by creating an email template:
Congratulations on your promotion!
Since you’re moving up with the company, I thought you might want to share some insight for potential new employees at our [[Glassdoor/Indeed/etc.]] page.
We appreciate your honest thoughts, and your review could help others.
Most review sites will take down directly incentivized reviews, so you should not offer gift cards or other direct incentives for these reviews, and you should encourage employees to be honest. Asking at a positive milestone, however, will likely increase the quality and quantity of positive reviews.
Final Thoughts: Improve the Candidate Experience From the Research Stage
82% of survey respondents said they consider a company’s brand before even applying to a job. You can’t afford to wait until the active recruiting stage to work on your narrative. You need to be proactive.
There are several ways you can “hack” the research stage and improve the candidate experience, from determining what your competitors are doing right to asking the right departments for help.
Having the right software to track all of this makes things even easier. JobScore helps you control your narrative with on-brand, professional landing pages, video sharing, referral incentives, and more.