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Winning the First Impression: Why a Great Employee Experience Starts Before the First Day

Apr 21, 2022| Reading time: 9min

BY BrightHire

2021 was a historic year for open roles, with nearly 2X more job openings than the historical average. This reality, combined with shifting employee expectations about flexible work opportunities and higher compensation, has made it harder than ever to fill open roles. While one option to attract top talent is to “throw money at the problem” and drive up pay, that’s not necessarily a sound solution.

Instead, an increasing number of People leaders have shifted to prioritize company culture over compensation. But even if your company’s culture is already an asset to attracting talent, that doesn’t automatically give you a leg up. This emphasis on strong culture should begin even before an employee is hired. Candidates who are considering taking the next step at your company must see that culture first-hand, and their first window to it is through their overall candidate experience.

Candidate experience consists of every interaction a candidate has had with your company, and it’s increasingly important to help employers stand out in a crowded field. More than just a nice-to-have, a good candidate experience can be imperative to your hiring success: with 58% of candidates saying they’ve recently turned down a job offer due to a poor candidate experience, there are huge risks to not prioritizing this part of the hiring process across the entire organization.

Everyone involved in hiring plays a role in painting the picture – including People teams and recruiters, hiring team interviewers, and even other current employees who might network with a candidate. Achieving the best outcomes starts by prioritizing company culture in everything your company does so that all of these colleagues see it and live it every day.

Creating an optimal candidate experience is an ongoing process, but there are three crucial components that every People team should consider: communication, respect, and bias reduction.

1. Communication

Most of us have likely had the experience of excitedly applying for an open role, only to never hear back from the company. Or even worse, being ghosted by a recruiter even after participating in a round or two of interviews.

Job-hunting can be an overwhelming experience, and it’s important that potential employers do all they can to reassure the candidate throughout the process. This means communicating with candidates often, even if there might not be anything new to share. These frequent check-ins don’t need to be formal. A simple message saying, “Hey, still waiting on a few things from the hiring manager, I’ll let you know when I have an update,” can actually be tremendously reassuring in showing a candidate you care about them.

Creating this level of transparency also requires effective communications across your company’s teams. Hiring teams should proactively help recruiters understand their needs so they know what roles need to be filled, what those roles entail, and what logistics like timing and compensation look like. Housing all of this information in a single source of truth, like an org chart with clear profiles for each role, can help keep everyone aligned and ensure each team has the same information.

ChartHop open roles on org chart

ChartHop shows open roles on the org chart that link to a profile with more information about the role. All of this information gets synced directly with your applicant tracking system.

Reciprocally, recruiters should regularly check in with their hiring teams to understand how their needs are evolving and where they stand in the decision making process. When there is transparency and open communication across internal team members, recruiters can easily pass information to eager candidates and keep them invested in your hiring process.

2. Respect

Signaling respect to candidates can take many forms, including frequent communication as discussed above. Ultimately a good test is to ask, “Am I offering our candidates the same experience I would want myself?” This simple version of the golden rule is a great way to inject empathy into the candidate experience.

This principle is especially important for fast-growing companies, because it can be challenging to properly train employees who might not have substantial experience participating in interviews. Leaders should be intentional about how they organize their teams, and how different team members will play a part in the interview process. For example, make sure that the potential for growth among existing team members includes the opportunity to provide input on hiring decisions.

One way to make sure your team is being respectful of a candidate’s time is to streamline your interview process. Candidates can feel frustrated when they are asked to answer the same questions repeatedly in each interview round, or even worse if an interviewer mixes up details between two candidates.

The principle to avoid this is simple: every stage of the interview process should be unique for the candidate and surface new insights for the hiring team. Including an interview intelligence platform in your recruiting tech stack is a great way to better align across the hiring team and remove repetitive steps in the hiring process, as is collaborating ahead of time to identify which interviewer is asking which unique questions.

3. Bias Reduction

Biased hiring is a concern that all People teams should address head-on, and not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s clearly established that diverse teams are more creative, happier, and more productive. Reducing hiring bias requires being strategic about everything from job descriptions to benefits, and it’s well worth the effort to help candidates feel like they are being judged based on their own merits and qualifications, rather than feeling like implicit bias might be playing a part.

To reduce the likelihood of potential bias in interviews, leaders should be intentional about creating a structured process where every interviewer knows which questions to ask, what they should avoid saying, and clear criteria for evaluating candidates after the fact. The evaluation step, for example, can be aided greatly through the use of an interview intelligence platform like BrightHire. The software integrates with Zoom and Google Meet, automatically creating interview recordings and transcripts so teams can review how different candidates answered the same question, rather than relying on incomplete (and potentially biased) note-taking. This is just one way that increased rigor can reassure candidates they are participating in an unbiased interview experience.

It’s also important for teams to remember that fighting workplace bias doesn’t end at the hiring process. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) should be an ongoing effort as employees build their careers in your company. People analytics can provide insights throughout the entire employee lifecycle, allowing leaders to better understand the composition of teams, trends in performance reviews, and opportunities for better equity in compensation.

DEI data on ChartHop dashboard

ChartHop makes it easy to overlay DEI data against factors like compensation and performance to identify and take action to correct any biased practices.

Continue Making Progress

Providing a top-notch candidate experience takes work, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t need to happen all at once.

By focusing on the three components in this post, and then making constant, iterative improvements, you can make sure that the experience you offer to candidates will increase the likelihood of them accepting an eventual offer and contribute to building a strong overall company culture.

Interested in learning what these efforts look like in practice? See real results from ChartHop’s 2022 People Pioneers, who have invested in improving the employee and candidate experiences to help scale their teams.


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