Should the candidate experience be synonymous with customer experience?

3 August 2021

We’re all online more than ever before. Whether we’re buying a product online, signing up for a service, or simply researching, the customer experience is essential. However, the customer experience is not just online; it reflects all touchpoints that a customer has with your brand, from advertisements on social media to their experience in-store and even the packaging that a product comes in. All of these touchpoints work together to create an experience, and it’s this experience that will define how they perceive you but, most importantly, will determine whether they return. It’s been said that a great customer experience can encourage loyalty amongst your consumers, turn customers into brand advocates, and is critical for the growth of a business. This is why many companies, from startups and scaleups to larger corporations, spend a lot of time perfecting their customer experiences online and offline.

The candidate experience is incredibly similar. Every interaction that a candidate has with your brand forms a perception of you as an employer, from the initial application through to interview and even onboarding. Therefore, to present an authentic brand image that candidates can be excited about, you need to think about every possible time they can interact with your brand.

Because of these similarities, many believe that we should treat candidates, especially engineers and senior tech talent, as customers. To create the best employer brand possible, we need to design a frictionless buying experience for our candidates, which aligns with what we are used to and now expect as consumers. So, do they have a point?

Well, for the most part, the answer is yes.

If you’re a tech business especially, there’s no excuse for having a great customer experience and a shabby candidate one. If you’re going to pour lots of time, effort, and expense into creating a state-of-the-art customer experience, inconsistencies to your candidates will be glaringly obvious. Why should they have to put up with slow loading speeds, lack of responses, and frustrating experiences? Your employees add as much value (if not more) to your business as your customers. Without tech talent, you wouldn’t have a product, to begin with. So, we need to treat the two as similar entities.

Here are just some of the reasons you should put as much care into your candidate experience and customer experience:

1. Firstly, they’re all human

You cannot treat your customers in a better way than your candidates; both are humans who deserve respect. Would you ignore a customer if they had an issue? Probably not, so why would you ignore candidates unless they’re successful? Candidates will remember any mistreatment, and it may tarnish your employer brand and discourage them from ever applying for a role with you again. Meaning you could miss out on top tech talent in the future and limit your talent pool. Plus, just like your customers, they talk. So, if you want your business to be a success, you have to impress your candidates just as much as customers. No person is more valuable than the other. 

2. Your consumer brand and employer brand are becoming more linked (thanks to social media)

Social media has amplified voices in a way that no one could have predicted. So candidates now have spaces to review their experience with you and potentially deter future candidates from applying. Not only this, but they can damage your reputation as an employer in the process. We’ve seen throughout the last year many examples of staff being mistreated and brands being called out for it, which damages their reputation amongst candidates and consumers. Thanks to social media, your employer brand, and consumer brand are becoming more intrinsically linked than ever before. No one wants to associate with a company that mistreats its employees. So, if word gets out that you treat candidates poorly, for example, you may expect many tests and tasks before they’ve even had an interview, you can guarantee word will get out. This could impact how the wider public sees you, damaging not only your talent acquisition efforts in the future but also your chances of business growth.

3. Consistency is key

Your candidate experience is a significant reflection of who you are as an employer and how you value your people; it’s the first window job seekers get into your employer brand. Granted, your employer brand may not be exactly the same as your consumer brand, as you may expect different things from employees to deliver specific experiences for your customers. However, consistency is critical. You can’t have a slick, streamlined customer-facing website and an outdated, clunky careers sight, as the inconsistencies will be glaringly obvious. Similarly, suppose they’ve used your product or shopped with you and received excellent customer service but don’t receive the same treatment as a candidate. In that case, it will damage your employer brand reputation. Consistency is key. If tech talent doesn’t feel they’re being respected or treated well by you, they will look for a job elsewhere, and it will tarnish how they think of you for a long time.

4. It shows you know your tech

If you’re trying to attract tech talent into your business, you need to have a streamlined customer and candidate experience. Using outdated technologies or having slow to load websites will be a red flag to a lot of tech candidates. With so much choice available in a candidate-driven market, it’s likely that they want to work with the most advanced and innovative tech companies. Plus, if you have a state-of-the-art customer experience with attention to every element of the user experience, you need to do this with your candidate experience, as tech talent will spot the inconsistencies. Leaving them with a second-rate experience, it looks like you don’t actually care about the experience of tech candidates, which will speak volumes about you as an employer.

5. It’s a candidate-driven market.

We’re currently in a candidate-driven market, which means that candidates hold power. With more tech vacancies presently being advertised than the number of available qualified candidates, there is a lot more choice for tech talent when it comes to their next employer. There’s more leverage over salary, benefits, and flexible working as employers fight for top talent.

However, if your candidate experience isn’t up to speed, it may prevent tech talent from applying altogether. For example, if you have a lengthy application process that’s frustrating for these candidates, there’s nothing to stop them from abandoning their application and applying elsewhere. With so much choice available, you can’t expect candidates to jump through hoops or go through frustrating experiences. Instead, just like a customer would, they’ll look elsewhere. Tech talent knows that they can find a job easily in the current market and won’t put up with sub-standard treatment or technically frustrating issues to get one. In a candidate-driven market, they can quickly move onto the next.

6. You never know who will help your scaleup

In a scaling tech business, you never know what’s around the corner. As much as you plan, you could need to pivot quickly to remain agile. Therefore, you can never predict completely which roles and skills will help you to scale. Because of this, you can’t risk damaging your reputation with a poor candidate experience. If you deter candidates now, they will remember in the future and are less likely to apply again. Having a strong candidate experience will positively reflect you and help you build a talent pool, meaning you can keep in touch with engaged and interested candidates for the time is right. A talent pool can reduce your time to hire and cost to hire significantly as people who want to work for you are ready and waiting, which means a range of skills can be almost at your disposal. If you have a negative candidate experience, it’s unlikely that these people will want to remain in your talent pool, let alone work for you. They’ll have an image of your employer brand already, which may not be a positive one. Therefore it could mean you’ll face higher recruitment costs in the future as you always have to start from scratch.

You should not underestimate the power of a great candidate experience. From the first touchpoint through to onboarding, the candidate experience sets the tone for your employer brand. In a candidate-driven market, where competition for tech talent is hotter than ever, you cannot afford to lose out on quality candidates because of a slow-to-load careers site or lengthy application process. It’s a rookie error but could seriously hinder your growth plans.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to refine your candidate experience, which is consistent with your employer brand, contact us.

As a tech RPO agency with offices in Northampton, Manchester, and Boston, USA, we’re experts in creating effective talent acquisition strategies. From building EVPs and Employer Brands to direct sourcing and digital attraction, we help scaling tech businesses to connect with top talent in a highly competitive market.

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