How Hiring Managers Can Make or Break the Candidate Experience
I’ve spent much of my career evangelizing the importance of the candidate experience to Human Resources and Talent Acquisition leaders. I’ve concentrated on the 'front end' of the experience: creating employment value propositions for organizations, building recruitment marketing strategies, and optimizing career sites for search engines — all processes that help companies promote and elevate stand-out messages to top candidates.
The Blind Side of the Recruiting Process
However, recently I’ve had a real 'aha' moment. The message I’ve passionately advocated never makes it past these leaders to the most critical group in the candidate experience: the hiring managers.
Now that my career focuses on helping organizations increase the productivity of their internal recruiting functions through our talent acquisition solutions, I’ve seen what will happen when we leave the hiring manager out of our training and communications strategies and its impact on the candidate experience.
To create better alignment, we need to take a page out of Leigh Anne Tuohy’s playbook in the movie The Blind Side.
If you’re not familiar, Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock) was at a high-school football practice, watching her adopted son “Big Mike” Oher (Quinton Aaron) struggle with his defensive game. The advice she delivered to Big Mike’s coach is exactly the advice we need to give our hiring managers to align their actions with our candidate experience: “You need to get to know your players.”
Hiring the best candidate is the end goal; no one would argue that sourcing and interviewing are crucial to moving that candidate down the field. Yet, too many hiring managers have relegated too much of this responsibility to the recruiting team, forgoing any involvement through that part of the talent acquisition process.
Hiring managers will lament their lack of time to engage. Let’s face it, everyone is busy, and the number one resource that everyone wishes they had more of is time; however, time is the very resource that is wasted in the recruiting process because of poor communications when opening a requisition.
Collaboration between the hiring manager and the recruiter can go a long way to providing a better candidate experience. So where does communication often break down in the hiring process?
When we think about our roles in recruitment, we don’t think about the “sales and marketing” aspect of our jobs. But it’s important that we sell both the opportunity and organization when we’re trying to attract top talent, especially to those not actively searching for a career change. The best recruiters understand this about their roles; unfortunately, hiring managers rarely do.
Ways Your Hiring Manager Can Improve the Candidate Experience
1. Think of Your Candidate as a Customer
A recruiter brings in a “warm lead.” They’ve done some selling up-front. The hiring manager is in a position to qualify and nurture that lead. However, suppose they concentrate on qualifying that lead without nurturing it. In that case, there's a chance that "customer" will take their skills and knowledge elsewhere.
In today's talent market, approaching our roles with a marketing mindset is essential to creating a good candidate experience. Hiring managers must take ownership of their sales role for the team to succeed.
If there's one area that focuses on communication that will improve the candidate experience and help ensure a successful placement — it’s a discussion about the job requirements. There's no better way to help recruiters understand the talent profile from the hiring manager's perspective, how the role fits into the business, and, most importantly, what success looks like when this employee delivers.
You may think, “I communicate this quite well via email. However, they don’t understand the role.” This is not a job for email or simply forwarding and restating what’s in the job spec. Think about it: if the position has 10 requirements, how would the recruiter know what's most important in this role without a discussion? Sometimes the act of verbally prioritizing the expectations and responsibilities of the role can give clarity about what the role entails. You’ll find the time and effort in doing so pays off exponentially and provides focus to the employment story the candidate will hear and wants to hear.
2. Be Considerate of Your Candidate
Unfortunately, interviewers often don't prepare too often, as they mistakenly believe it's the candidate, and the candidate only, who needs to make a good impression. Candidates today have many opportunities and company options to consider. And what’s more, candidates are doing their own research on your job and your company’s reputation. When hiring manager takes shortcuts with their questioning, interviewers can also short-circuit the most critical purpose of a behavioral interview: interviewing for behavior. Many interviewers focus only on a candidate's skills, asking whether the candidate can do the job but not on the candidate's motivation to do the job.
3. Communicate with Timely Responses
Reaching back to candidates promptly after completing the application and interviewing process can sometimes prove a challenge. Delays in filling the position can only sometimes be avoided, but keeping your recruiter or customer care team members in the loop when it happens allows them to update candidates as the process unfolds.
A timely response is critical because top talent gets snapped up quickly, and a lengthy delay leaves the impression that the company needs to be more serious about filling the role or has moved on to other candidates. A coordinated effort to communicate with your candidates — even when there is a delay — can leave even a rejected candidate feeling good about engaging with your company.
4. Reasoning with the Candidate
Believe it or not, people drawn to careers as hiring managers and recruiters share many of the same psychological traits. They’re organized and detail-oriented; they like to have a plan and execute it well. But life (and recruiting) is messy, and sometimes things go slightly awry. Talking through a candidate's issues rather than immediately slamming the door not only makes for better decisions but can also improve the candidate experience (even if you have to walk away).
For example, you find the perfect candidate for your hard-to-fill position and make an offer, only to have their current employer make a higher counteroffer to keep their talent. What do you do? Stand firm and immediately send your recruiter out to find someone else that’s perfect.
But what if you discussed it with them first? When you look better at the big picture, that candidate might be worth the additional investment. For example, you might learn that the current market for that specific talent in that particular region may make finding another "perfect fit" complex, or you may learn things that validate your decision to move on. Either way, which technique will ensure this candidate — and the next candidate the recruiter talks to—will have a better experience?
When hiring managers and recruiters understand that they have a shared responsibility to keep communication lines open, they can attract talent that truly fits and provide a better candidate experience. It is the key to delivering the best diverse talent for future success.
If you want to learn more about how Aspirant RPO can help your organization deliver better interviews, reduce interviewer bias, make better decisions on candidates, and hire the best people, fill out the form below!
Executive VP of RPO recruiting, Patty solves client talent acquisition challenges through innovative solutions that enable companies to attract top talent. Her experience includes recruitment marketing strategy, employment branding, HR technology implementations, research, and project management. Patty was the visionary for building a talent attraction platform (ACTIVATE) that leading organizations use to improve the candidate experience by transforming career sites into highly effective search engine optimized sites.