The truth about the candidate experience

By David Lawrence |

Gerry Crispin has been in the recruitment industry for over 50 years and knows a thing or two about candidate experience. We got to speak to Gerry from New York about his career and about CareerXroads which he founded in 1995. CareerXroads is a premium, peer-to-peer community of talent leaders that share unconditionally what keeps them up at night and what they are doing about it now. He also helped to launch TalentBoard which is to oversee the candidate experience awards. This 'open source' movement is to define, measure and honour the firms who are committed to treating candidates as partners in the hiring process. In this episode, Gerry talks to David Lawrence about what it means to companies and brands to provide great candidate experience. 

David:                 I'm absolutely delighted this afternoon to have Gerry Crispin on the line. Gerry is based over in New York and Gerry's been in the recruitment industry for many, many years, a little bit longer than myself and I'm really excited to introduce Gerry.

                             People don't know too much about Gerry, or may not know about Gerry, so I'm going to get him to tell you all about his experience in the recruitment industry. It's vast, it's wide, he's got a huge amount of knowledge and one of the subjects I really wanted to speak to Gerry about today is about the candidate experience. It's a hot topic.

                             A lot of candidates are still complaining about the experience they are getting with both agencies, but also, end customers where they are just not getting feedback, particularly after the interview process and it's really damaging organisations' brands. Gerry, thank you so much for being on the show. Gerry, perhaps for our viewers you could give a little bit of an introduction about yourself please.

Gerry:                 Well, thank you David. It's a pleasure being here for sure and yes, it's probably pretty obvious to your listeners, anybody who's watching that I'm not a millennial. I've been around a few years, enjoy life very much, and I've probably been in some form of recruiting for nearly 50 years, now.

David:                 Wow.

Gerry:                 So, that's a long freaking time for sure and I still have a ball. That's just the reality of it. I view myself as a life long student of recruiting, I study things. I do actually make a living, I have a company called Career Crossroads. In the '90s I wrote eight books about the coming changes in recruitment and human resources as related to merging technology. In 2001, I started a group of community of talent acquisition leaders, who wanted to engage each other and as peers help each other pull up their boot straps a little bit. There are now 100 companies participating in that. They hire about 3 million people a year, globally. The talent acquisition leaders from those companies talk to each other, either online or face to face almost every day.

                             There's two other things that I'm just passionate about in getting so much involved in. One, I started a new talent acquisition, a professional organisation this past year. It's been five years in the making. A bit behind the scenes on it, it's called ATAP, Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals and is the website. People want to get involved in that. I think recruiting should be a profession not a craft, and as a result it needs to have a professional association on a global basis that covers that.

                             I helped to found Talent Board, which is what you wanted to talk about, six years ago. Talent Board is a non-profit that is dedicated to collecting data that helps define what the candidate experience really is and its impact on corporations. So, for the last six years, it has been collecting data. This past year in 2016, about 350 companies participated on a global basis and more than a quarter of a million of their candidates completed extensive surveys about the experience that they had, and that data is all available and free at a website called 

David:                 Gerry, that's great. Thanks for sharing a little bit of that. Just to touch on that part in a bit more detail, obviously people can go on to the website and have a look at it. What would you say the highlights, the organisations are getting from that feedback? What's the things that people are noticing and what are you seeing is the trends with the candidate experience at the moment?

Gerry:                 Well, obviously this is a very long term, long tail issue. Candidate experience is not going to improve significantly unless there's a clear and defined and measurable outcome of either doing it very well, or doing it poorly and so, part of what we want to do is collect that evidence, if you will. We have enough really, to demonstrate that there is a series of five different buckets that co-relate extremely highly to how  a candidate will rate a company. None of them are surprises, but the fact that we can so clearly define the outcome of not doing it well, or doing it well, means that we are now in a position to offer to companies the ability to now measure the cost of doing it poorly or the reward of doing it well.

                             Those five buckets are, not in any particular order, but setting expectations and delivering on them. It's not a surprise that the better you are able to tell people about the job that they are going to be in for, the better off you are. It's not just the job, it's also the process of getting that job. The failure that many companies have is not being able to explain or assuming that a candidate understands or has expectations that are similar to yours, about how long it would take for you to get back to them once they've applied, for example, or what's going to take place in the day that they come in for the interview. Or, how long is it going to take before, after you tell somebody, "Oh, I'll get back to you in a week we are trying to wrap this up right now, there's only two more candidates to come in", and then no one ever calls them back. Those are the kinds of things that go to the heart if you will of the pain that a candidate will go through.

                             That's one of those issues. If I, as a candidate, and let's say I'm a great candidate, and I see that great job that you have, but I want to ask a question about it, who do I ask? So, the ability to listen to a candidate, respond to them, is also a major factor these days, in terms of how a candidate will rate that experience. Third issue is something kind of weird. It's this perception of fairness that after I've experienced what you got to offer, do I think that I've been treated in a fair way? That I've been on an equal platform with other companies, with other candidates, or do I feel that you've kind of singled me out to get rid of me because of who I am, because I'm older or because of my name or because of something else? What is the message that I'm getting from you that suggests that this is fair or not?

                             One of the examples of this, that we've seen done as an AB test and change the rating, is simply to ask a candidate as the last question in the interview process, or the last question on the application, or the last application even on the phone screen, is what didn't I ask you about your skills, knowledge, and experience that you'd like to tell me now that you think will help you to be competitive for this job?

                             What we tend to do is, get so full of ourselves in terms of the things we know we want to know about that individual, that we fail to think about what the individual believes is the reason why they became interested and why they think they are competitive for the job. That helps to set the planning field. Another company for ... Like Genentech, which is part of Roche by the way, does, is they make in the requirement that anybody who comes in for an interview, take an interview training programme that they offer prior to coming in. With the intent of telling the candidates the reason we require it, is so that everybody is on the same platform, if you will, and that we can evaluate you and you can evaluate us based upon, all being able to interview and not create that halo of who interviews best gets the job.

                             It doesn't eliminate totally but, it least makes that effort in terms of that fairness issue. Finalising, telling somebody,"Hey, you didn't get the job." You've got to be able to do that, and the longer it takes to do that, the lower the rating you will get. It's those kinds of things that we understand, if they basically are not taken care of, your net promoter score, which is one of the ways that we are now measuring a candidate experience an ongoing way, is going to absolutely be lower. Without a doubt.

                             The last, by the way, the fifth bucket, is holding that recruiter accountable for candidate experience. It's one of the more obvious ones. If you measure it, they will attend to it.

David:                 Gerry, you made some good points there and one of the challenges of being an external recruiter is how you get buy in from that hiring manager to agree to the feedback. What's your view on that?

Gerry:                 I think that the critical issue is first of all the measurement. So, if you are holding a recruiter accountable, he will build the skills that will engage that hiring manager, and if not, if he's not able to do that, he's going to challenge you as the boss to get somebody else to support that hiring manager because I can't deal with it and we should either drop that sucker, or we should find somebody who can slap him upside the head.

David:                 I totally agree, and you know, moving on to that, changing a culture of an organisation who is particularly poor at giving feedback, who's not good at giving feedback needs to come from the top. How do organisations change? Because there's a lot companies out there, I can name lots of them right now Gerry, that are terrible.

Gerry:                 It's easy. It just takes a long time. You have to be old like me to see the change. But here's the point, the point is, you have to translate into the dollars that it's going to cost the leader. If I can sit down with a leader of the organisation and say to them, "Listen, if we don't do this well, here is the cost to us. That it goes from 60% of the people willing to come back when they're ready, when they got more skills and knowledge and automatically apply for a new job, to 5%. The cost of finding another 55% of all those people we've invested this much on, is going to be X, and it's tens of thousands of dollars per job, to be able to accomplish that." You now have to find more new people each and every time for those critical jobs, rather than be able to cherry pick all those people you've gotten engaged, and gotten fully interested.

                             It's telling them how many people they are going to tell, and what percentage of all the people including the person who experienced it, is going to stop buying your product if you're a retail person, and what the cost is of losing that many customers over the course of the next year. It's those kind of things that the data's there.

David:                 You're so right, and again, just a real word example as a recruiter, I could name a number of people who, if you call a candidate, they will just say, "I'm not interested in that because I heard from a colleague they had a terrible interview experience, and I can't be bothered to go through that process." The damage it's doing to their potential candidate pool, is massive.

Gerry:                 Generally, where a half a million candidates, a half a million candidates have completed surveys, 1/3 of them, who had a bad experience, will stop buying product. I'm just saying, that's a lot of money.

David:                 Scary, scary numbers. Again, another big challenge I hear a lot, especially this week, it's so easy to apply for jobs now and there's so many ways to do it and its easy to apply, and I'm not saying everyone is suitable for every vacancy, but how do organisations manage? What's the next steps to managing sheer volume of CV's/resumes being sent, to keep that candidate engaged but with a human side? Obviously, I don't know what your view is on recruitment bots, and AI coming, and there's some staff already out there, but what's your view-

Gerry:                 There is some stuff already out there, and yes, I think recruitment bots that will appear as human as you and I, will be more consistent than you and I, in being able to help a recruiter say to each and every single candidate, the 99 that did not get the job, that they didn't get the job and I'm sorry we're not going forward with you. But here are some of the things that you might want to consider in terms of improving your skills, knowledge, and experience so that next time you will be able to compete effectively. And-

David:                 That's it. Absolutely-

Gerry:                 If I could do that, and I could do that in minutes, with simply pushing a button on a computer and putting John, or Amy, or Olivia, or somebody else as a chat bot into that mode, I'm going to start seeing some new shifts in how I operate, because right now, you're overwhelmed if you got hundreds of candidates and only a couple of those that you've done. You have very little tools at your disposal to be able to tell each and every person in a kind of customised way, that they didn't get the job, but you still have to do it.

                             Most employers don't hold recruiters accountable and most recruiters do not, even today, respond to all those candidates that didn't get the job by at least telling them, "I'm sorry, we're not going forward with you. We have filled this position at this time." We don't like to do that. We only like to tell the person who got the job, we don't want to tell anybody else, but that's so short sighted and its simply because we don't require that as a fundamental basic component of who we are and what we do.

David:                 I agree and I think there's so many other factors in perhaps why people don't get back to candidates after they've been rejected, obviously apart from that human element of not enjoying letting people down, but-

Gerry:                 Yeah, we're not sure the other person's going to show up at the last day, so, we're going to hold off to the side-

David:                 That's right.

Gerry:                 Those two or three best candidates, best candidates, that we're going to keep in the dark as long as we possibly can. That's such bullshit, I got to tell you. That's such a bad, old fashioned 20th century ... 19th century, approach to recruiting.

David:                 I love what you said about Roche, I know the company and the pharma sector talking about interviewing training programmes for employees, but what do you see is the next thing the organisations are going to need to do, to create that culture of giving amazing feedback and seeing the value from that? What are organisations going to need to do in the future?

Gerry:                 So, the companies that are moving the needle, are systematically looking at the journey that a candidate takes from the point at which they begin to research the corporation. The first moments in which a sourcer is engaging them, and getting them interested, and looking at each touch point, in each segment of the recruiting process, all the way through on-boarding. On-boarding becomes as critical as the research, but looking at those.

                             Actually, there are dozens if not hundreds of touch points along that journey, and map them out and look at for each of those touch points, what in fact is the reaction of candidates to that particular process. Because world has been shifting, the technology is changing, and so to assume that each touch point has the same power that it did years ago, or that it does going forward is to make a serious mistake. We need to rethink and reorganise our practises to be candidates centric, and if they're not, we're missing the boat in terms of competing downstream, for sure.

David:                 Gerry, I'm sure you can speak for hours about it. Thank you so much for coming on the show, and I know that we're going to have people asking questions, who'd love to have some feedback. I'd love to have you as a guest in a later edition if that's okay?

Gerry:                 Not a problem.

David:                 I'll put a few links up for how people can get in touch with you. Look, thank you so much again, and we look forward to speaking to you again soon.

Gerry:                 You bet David. Thank you.

David:                 Thanks for your time



You can listen to the original podcast on iTunes.

David Lawrence

Written by David Lawrence

David is the founder of Vine Resources.