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Orchestrating the experiences of candidates beyond the application

In today’s fiercely competitive jobs market, employers need to do all they can to entice top talent to join their organisation rather than that of a rival.

But while a sexy recruitment marketing campaign and competitive packages can attract the attention of potential employees, many organisations are failing to offer a sufficiently compelling experience to turn applications into actual recruits.

This is something global professional services firm Accenture has been focusing on for the last five years. “We are hiring in an increasingly talent-driven global market, where the top talent has a lot of choice,” says Emma Gibbons, global talent consultant. “Why should they choose our organisation? And are they just talking to our firm or also others? It could all come down to the experience they receive during the recruitment process.”

As well as seeking to convert interest into hires, Accenture also aims to ensure all candidates are left with a positive impression, regardless of whether they are made an offer or not.

“Whether working with our clients’ recruitment processes or our own, we aim to treat candidates as a brand would its consumers,” says Ms Gibbons. “We wouldn’t want people telling their friends and family that it was a terrible experience. Some of those people could become our clients in the future, so one of our goals is that they walk away as advocates of the brand.”

To improve the recruitment experience, the business started by gathering feedback from those involved, including hiring managers, unsuccessful candidates, those who were offered roles, but didn’t take them, and people who went on to become employees. “Then we created what we call the ‘candidate happy journey’,” says Ms Gibbons. “We put ourselves in their shoes, using first-hand, end-user insights to identify what a good experience would look like.”

Technology played a vital part in helping the organisation to transform its own processes, as well as its offering to external clients. Accenture worked with Avature’s talent acquisition system to develop relationships and build engagement with applicants, right up to the point of employee onboarding. The organisation also weaved the messages of employer brand and recruitment campaigns into the post-application process.

Dimitri Boylan, chief executive of Avature, says engagement goes a long way and is essential to provide a consistent message, not only to potential recruits, but also to employees throughout the entire recruitment process.

“Candidates have to meet with lots of people when getting a job,” he says. “A company may give recruits various opportunities to connect with different employees, so the recruiting organisation must be equipped to help candidates interpret what they learn about their company and from whom they learn it.”

Mr Boylan adds that candidates often consider inconsistency to be a red flag. To engage the best talent, he says, recruiting organisations must manage the process to ensure candidates receive a comprehensive, accurate overview of the position and company. In this way, new recruits can step into their eventual roles fully equipped with appropriate knowledge.

Being able to engage talent throughout the recruitment journey is becoming increasingly important in areas where competition is at its fiercest, such as in the digital arena, says Mr Boylan, and also where organisations are seeking transformational talent who will fundamentally shift the focus or culture of their business.

“You need a different story for that type of person and this is where your process becomes critical,” he says. “Great processes and technology provide the ability to manage all your different types of recruiting journeys. However, very often the process that works for the general flow of talent is in no way fit for that higher purpose of bringing in people who will really make a difference.”

One of the main benefits of Avature’s platform for Accenture, says Ms Gibbons, is the ability to customise how it engages with prospective employees in line with any feedback it receives. “Just because a process worked two years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to work in 2020, because the internal business drivers, combined with external candidate demands, may change,” she points out.

With Avature, we can create an experience, not just a process

“Over time, we want to be able to listen to real-time feedback coming from the candidates, recruiters and hiring managers, and to adapt to that. To do so we need a tool that can be agile in this approach. Traditional off-the-shelf HR tools can be very rigid, focusing on a process rather than the experience elements. With Avature, we can create an experience, not just a process.”

Through Accenture’s work with clients, it has introduced the use of net promoter scoring – a concept borrowed from consumer marketing – to track how well its post-application recruitment experience is working. “When someone is made an offer and declines, we ask them what the reasons were, and with people who come in as employees, we do a very rich onboarding experience and ask them how they found it,” says Ms Gibbons.

Through focusing on the candidate experience as well as using the Avature platform, the results are impressive. “We’ve seen a huge increase in satisfaction scores, including from people who weren’t even offered a role,” she says. “We’ve also seen an increase in conversions from applications to first-round interviews and in offers to acceptances.”

With an increased focus on the candidate experience now a core part of the recruitment service, the next step is to determine the impact the recruitment journey has had on employee retention, she adds.

Aside from the obvious benefits of being able to bring in talented employees, Ms Gibbons says the engagement process itself has ensured individuals are able to settle in quicker once they have joined.

“Something as simple as assigning candidates a buddy or a recruiter sharing with them the office dress code or explaining where the coffee rooms are can help them integrate before they even start,” she says. “Providing ongoing engagement, access to training and sharing team objectives as part of the onboarding process all helps them to hit the ground running.”

The ultimate goal, says Mr Boylan, is to shift the focus from creating a candidate experience to the experience of candidates. “If you’re not orchestrating the whole thing, it’s a random process,” he says. “That’s when candidates get frustrated. If you can do this well, not only will you improve the baseline quality of your people, but you’ll also have access to the transformational talent. And you will be able to poach people for the things you don’t do yet, but which you really want to.”

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