The acquisition and development of new skills is a key priority for most organizations. The effective recruitment of new employees and retention of existing talent in a labor market in which unemployment is falling, opportunities are increasing and salaries are starting to rise, provides challenges for all recruiters and HR teams.
For the public sector this challenge is intensified. The most sought after skills are needed by organizations in all sectors and at all levels, meaning that the public sector is competing with others for the same talent, and also fighting to keep the people it has from being tempted elsewhere.
The way that job seekers approach the market is also changing. More searching is done on mobile devices and at all times, not just core office hours. These searches aren’t just restricted to open vacancies but now include finding out what type of employer the hiring company is. There are sites where job seekers can rate their interview experience, sharing some of the questions asked, and also offer views on their employer. Rejected applicants can write about their experiences too. Social media platforms increase the range of channels through which hiring organizations can share the messages showing what type of business they are to work for.
In a competitive recruitment market, where skills are in demand and options available across sectors, first impressions count. The way that organizations go about attracting and recruiting new employees sets an expectation for the eventual employment experience. It can also be a differentiator for candidates with multiple options. Rejected candidates are now also part of the recruitment ecosystem. They are a source of referrals and whilst their background may have ruled them out at present, they could become relevant in the future, so the way we treat them is important. The candidate experience isn’t just about the people we hire but also the ones we reject, whether it’s at application stage or later in the process.
The benefits of a giving a good candidate experience definitely repay the investment in making it happen. It’s a differentiator for those who are in demand and creates advocates of those who aren’t an exact match. The private sector treats job applicants as consumers, knowing that those they reject still purchase their goods and services, so the public sector needs to treat them similarly or risk losing out on the talent it needs.
For public sector employers competing with private sector organizations for key staff, a positive candidate experience can create a real advantage. Here are five ways to make sure you get it right from the start…
Road test your recruitment process
Do you know what it’s like to be an applicant for one of your roles? Find out by applying. The key things here are ease of use and speed of communication. Most candidates are time pressed and want to give just the information necessary at the application stage. They need a quick acknowledgement and some idea of the length and make up of the process. If applications won’t be processed until a certain date make sure they know, and also communicate if they haven’t been successful. And above all else, remember that at least half will be applying from a mobile device, probably during a commute or another time when they may have patchy connectivity, so the process needs to be mobile friendly and concise. Ask them lots of questions, and they’ll probably drop the application.
Well-written job postings
Most job seekers, particularly those with sought after skills, want to know what’s in it for them. They don’t apply to a checklist of competencies and achievements but to an opportunity to be a part of an organization’s vision and values, in a role that will give them new experiences and challenges. Make it a job proposition and use the job posting to paint a picture, portray the scope of the role, how it fits in and what difference it will make. Make it realistic too – successful candidates who find the role not matching expectations may not stay around too long. A well-written advert should also cut down on the number of applicants, by attracting those who are most relevant.
In a competitive market the chances are that some organizations will reduce the number of interviews to get their person quickly meaning sought after candidates are unlikely to be available for three or four rounds of interviews. Hiring managers need to be aware of this and should be investing the same amount of time in preparation as the candidates. Do you know how the hiring manager interviews? Or how they sell the opportunity? Check by having them interview someone in HR or the recruitment team, or sit in on one of their interviews. Job applicants now rate their interviews online so stories of cancelled appointment slots, late starts or ill-prepared interviewers can put many off from applying. The time invested in finding the right person can be very indicative of decision making in the wider business.
Keep them informed
Candidates always want to know where they are in the process and have feedback on how they are performing. They may well be pursuing a few opportunities and will look positively on those that keep them informed, acknowledge correspondence, advise them on the length of the process and always give information on the next steps. Lack of communication, and feedback, is usually the number one reason why candidates think they have had a poor experience so everyone involved in the recruitment process needs to be comfortable communicating. Hiring managers in particular need to understand the importance of timely, constructive feedback and be prepared to offer it.
The process of on-boarding should start when the candidate applies for the role. It may be an email, or application through a third party site, but one of the applications received will be the hiring company’s next employee and possibly one that will be bringing some much needed new skills and experience into the organization. Problems in a new role usually occur within the first few months, and will almost certainly be down to an expectation mismatch regarding either the position or company culture. The best on-boarding processes offer a personal, high touch approach involving the hiring manager and any other employees involved in the recruitment process.
Simplicity, speed, transparency and communication are all crucial to a positive candidate experience that engages and attracts the best candidates.
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