Next Practices Tutorial – Module II

Module II: Re-Imagine the Candidate Experience

Optimizing the candidate experience has taken on a new urgency as employers realize a truism about top talent: they have many choices.  They are contacted by recruiters all of the time.  And, one of the key ways they decide among those alternatives is to evaluate their experience in each organization’s recruiting process.  To achieve the best results, however, don’t just optimize that experience, re-imagine it.

Top talent are often referred to as purple squirrels, but that’s actually a misnomer. Purple squirrels are the individuals who have rare skills.  Top talent, in contrast, are rare performers.  Whether they have hard-to-find skills or more common ones, they excel at their work.  They are more appropriately described as Magenta Squirrels – that singular breed of men and women who perform at their peak every day and thus make an outsized contribution to the success of their employer.

Magenta Squirrels have a number of defining attributes.  Among them is the way they consider a new employer.  They behave as smart consumers.  Just as they do when buying a new car, they first do their research; they evaluate an organization’s features as an employer.  Then, they confirm (or disprove) what they’ve seen and heard by taking the employer out for a spin – a test drive to see how it actually performs.

Unlike with cars, however, Magenta Squirrels can’t climb into an employer’s organization to get a feel for its defining features.  So, what do they do?  They use a surrogate: the organization’s recruiting process.  They believe their experience in that process will provide an accurate approximation of what their experience will be like if they go to work for the organization.

As a consequence, organizations are now scrambling to find ways to optimize their candidates’ experience.  A lot of money is being spent and effort invested to discover and implement the best practices for engaging candidates during recruitment.  That’s all positive and well worth doing.  It is insufficient, however, to recruit Magenta Squirrels.  To achieve that goal, an organization must also re-imagine its recruiting process to deliver an authentic experience.  More than anything else, what turns top talent on is an organization that walks the talk.


Walking the Talk

Magenta Squirrels are almost always passive in the job market.  They never go looking for a job, but they can be motivated to investigate an employer.  What stimulates their interest?  The organization’s employment brand.

When it’s well crafted, an employment brand neatly summarizes what it’s like to work for an organization.  It creates an expectation about that experience by expressing the employer’s culture and values – the opportunity it offers for career growth and advancement – and that expectation is what activates the passive candidate and moves them into its recruiting process.

Once there, the candidate has only one criterion for measuring the quality of their experience: does it match what the employment brand led them to expect.  Was the brand an authentic representation of what they see, hear and do in the process?  If so, the organization and its employment opportunities are likely to get the consideration they deserve.  If not … well, Magenta Squirrels have lots of other choices to consider.

So, here’s the key to re-imagining the candidate experience: create an expectation that comes true.

  • First, develop an employment brand that isn’t a cutsey slogan or opaque declaration written in corporate bureaucratese. It should, instead, be a powerful expression of the key features that define your organization’s unique employment experience.
  • Second, design every aspect of your recruiting process to illustrate and reinforce the features expressed in the brand statement. As much as possible, every interaction and procedure should mimic what it’s actually like to work in your organization.

In a world filled with misrepresentations and half truths, authenticity is the single quality that top talent most value in an employer.  And, the single best way for an organization to demonstrate its authenticity is to create an expectation that comes true.  It makes the optimal candidate experience real.


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