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Customer Experience

 24th May 2022

The rules of the game have changed!  

Employers (and recruiters) no longer have the luxury of sizeable shortlists due to the candidate-driven market we find ourselves in and have done since the pandemic began, therefore it’s of the utmost importance that employers positively differentiate themselves during the interview process.  

If there is a perception that all candidates are 100% interested in each and every role they interview for, it’s incorrect. Whilst you would fully expect candidates to hold at least some interest in said job to apply and attend in the first place, it would be wrong to assume that’s an indication that they definitely want the role. Whilst this might appear to be a subtle difference, it’s fundamental. 

In current times, an interview process is as much about the candidate interviewing the employer as it’s ever been. Of course, however, there has to be balance and both sides should get the info they require in an interview.  

Imagine buying a house – you may like the look from the outside, it might be within budget, a friend may have previously lived in it but you’re not sure if you would be happy there long term and you have a question mark over the local schools and transport links. The same logic can be applied to understanding more about a job. You might initially be keen but you have some questions that would you like answered – which is entirely reasonable and it’s very important that employers recognise and satisfy this.  

A phrase you hear regularly across all areas of the business world is ‘Customer Experience’. In my opinion, sadly, a lot of companies don’t strive to give prospective employees the same experience as they do their customers – but aren’t they one and the same? 

The market has shifted considerably from the recession years of the late 2000s and early 2010s and the immediate period thereafter where the dynamic in the candidate market was one of supply vastly outstripping demand – in effect employers could expect lengthy shortlists of good quality, relevant candidates due to those candidates having a lack of options. Fast forward 10 years and this does not apply, in actual fact, it’s entirely flipped, yet many employers appear to have the same mindset and approach when recruiting now, as they did then.  

Quality talent is at an absolute premium and employers (and recruiters) need to work harder, smarter and quicker to find and secure these candidates.  

There is an ethos in the business community of ‘do more with less’ – this is only achievable by employing the best candidates / resources.  

Invariably the best candidates are already employed in good roles. Therefore it’s reasonable to assume it would need to be an attractive opportunity for them to leave their current role. One thing I think some employers miss regularly is that the application and interview process has a huge bearing on the attractiveness of any given role.  

Whilst I accept employers may want a uniform approach to their interview process to ensure parity and fairness, should that be to the detriment of the attractiveness of the position itself?   

I recently had a call from a client of ours surprised that one of our candidates had declined the offer their business had extended. When I explained that our candidate didn’t feel there was much attempt by the interviewers to build rapport and ultimately didn’t feel any ‘love’ during the interview process our client was taken aback, particularly as they felt it had gone well and they rated the candidate highly. From the candidate's perspective, the interview went something along the lines of: 

Interviewer - “Hi, pleased to meet you, thanks for coming in. Sit down here please and I’ll ask you 6 competency questions. After that, I’ll leave you alone in this room and ask you to complete a behavioural assessment questionnaire for circa 30 mins. We’ll then ask you to talk us through your CV and experience to date. Ok? Let’s begin.  

An extreme example is used for effect, but the premise of the example unfortunately isn’t uncommon. The point I’m making is that for any candidate that maybe wasn’t entirely bought in before the interview, they aren’t going to feel any more so after 2 hours of answering questions. Ultimately if they leave feeling it was too one-sided and / or they didn’t have a sufficient platform to get the information they needed they’re unlikely to want to return for the next stage.  

An interview needs to be a two-way street.  

There is commonly cited logic that the more people feel emotionally engaged in something, the more likely they are to put in more effort.  

Now imagine a different example – hiring company invites candidate into their office or a video call at a time convenient to the candidate. Hiring manager gives an overview of company strategy, team structure, remit of role / department and outlines what they’re looking for the role to deliver and in a candidate. Hiring manager explains why they feel it’s a good opportunity and highlights career progression opportunities and explains about company culture. Then the hiring manager asks the candidate what they enjoy about their work and what they’re looking for from an employer and role. Hiring manager then asks the candidate what questions they have for them. Hiring manager then says ‘take a few days to digest what we’ve discussed and assuming you’re still keen to proceed, we can invite you back for the formal interview stage(s).  

Ask yourself honestly - which example would I rather experience when applying for a role?  

As recruiters, we do aspects of the second example but it carries a lot more weight coming from the employer directly. 

The one word I would use to describe this second example is ‘rapport’ – it plays a huge part in any hiring decision so shouldn’t it be the foundation of the interview process itself?  

I accept that the first example works in certain markets and that some candidates will be 100% interested in a job at application stage, equally screening for skills is very important, however in my opinion this doesn’t apply to recruiting the top talent in the qualified accountancy sector in the current (and foreseeable) climate.  

It’s no exaggeration to say that presently the best candidates have a strong chance of being in receipt of more than one offer at any given time.  

In the same way that it’s important for a candidate to positively stand out in a recruitment process and convince the employer they are the best person for the role, it’s of equal importance that the employer does the same.   

The next time a quality candidate declines to come back for a second stage interview or doesn’t accept your offer, ask yourself what ‘Customer Experience’ did they have in the application process? 

Written by Ross McQuarrie

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