With all the discussion around recruitment marketing, and the increasing importance for consumers and candidates to have brand positive experiences, many key difference still remain between the two. In the video below from #HRU in New York, Gerry Crispin, co founder of CareerXroads and candidate care advocate discusses why candidates are not yet customers, and how that is starting to change.
Why Candidates Aren’t Customers (Yet)
Gerry shared with us, they key points on why candidates are not customers, and how that is starting to change.
Customers Aren’t Generally Picked Nor Turned Away
There are important differences between Customers and Candidates. Firstly, the most obvious is that companies don’t get to pick and choose their customer (at least not individually). If they did, organisations might find themselves facing a class action suit despite statements like “we reserve the right not to serve you” (Oh right, that has happened). Additionally, companies arn’t generally able to turn away potential customers.
Sales and Marketing teams spend their time trying to attract and convert as many leads into sales as they can, ensuring that each has an appropriate level of service and a good experience. They accept that they have to win their target audience over- not once, but every time.
A Customer Has Choice
The customer is always in charge, and as such the buying process is forced to have a level of transparency. A customer can go into a store with the knowledge of price, product history, product information and return policy. The customer know what friends and family and other customers think before they decide what to buy and from whom. If a customer isn’t treated fairly, if their experience does not meet the expectations set BY them (from the available information, prior experience, and ‘branding’), they vote with their pocketbooks and wallets. Companies tend to want a good relationship with the largest number of prospects and customers they can manage before, during and after their purchase.
Candidates Don’t Have Choice, They Have To Be Selected
Candidates generally don’t choose a job with a specific employer. They may want one but they have to be offered it to choose it and they have to apply to be chosen. They may be attracted en masse by what they know about the employer’s culture, benefits and reputation but beyond the description of what the employer thinks are the qualifications, they seldom know the specifics about any job’s price, hiring manager, team or their chance to be successful – even if they can demonstrate all the qualifications- at least until after they compete for it.
Employers seldom invest in a relationship with more than a few qualified candidates at a time. The rest? They generally are expected to fend for themselves.
The Covergence Of Candidate And Customer
In the last two decades, the pace of change has accelerated and the emergence of technologies capable of collecting and curating ever larger amounts of data has driven costs down…for everyone. Employers forget that both customers and candidates not just themselves have extraordinary access to information and increasingly the meaning of that information in relation to how they choose to live and work. Coupled with the explosion of real-time communication networks among people having similar (and even dissimilar) interests, the gap between our definition of ‘Customer’ and ‘Candidate’ is slowly narrowing and, if truth be told, the needs/agenda of every stakeholder in the workplace from the hiring manager and the firm’s employees to the recruiters themselves are more visible to all and more likely to converge in the future.
Now, finally, candidates have a choice too.
We tend to refer to the ‘Customer Experience’ or the ‘Candidate Experience’ in a vacuum but really it is the ‘Buying Experience’ or the ‘Recruiting Experience’ as seen fresh from the eyes of EACH stakeholder…including the candidate that is evolving. Even our business leaders and the vendors supporting the business recognize the impact these changes are having on employees’ willingness to be efficient and productive…and to join the workforce in the first place.
Turning The Candidate Into An Educated Customer
The shift of candidates from supplicant to customer-partner in the recruiting process- where each choice is shared is inevitable and nearing its next stage.
A customer centric business environment that treats candidates as educated customers and consumers of work as a rule rather than exception may not be far off. Here are a few key customer/candidate considerations every employer needs to start reviewing today, to attract the top talent of tomorrow.
1. Product/Career Cycle
Before buying a new iPhone, most customers look at where the item is within the product cycle. Even if a new phone has not been announced, they’ll look at past product cycles to determine when a new phone may be release, and if it’s the right time to buy. They’ll read reviews on potential future upgrades and current model flaws, to make an assessment as to whether to buy now, or wait for something else.
Educated Candidates will also want to know the long-term nature of the position they’re accepting. They’ll want to know if what they’re being sold is a shot term or long term prospect. They’ll want to understand changes that may be up ahead, and how this may affect their opportunities in the future. An educated customer will want to understand the career trajectories of their predecessors to assess their future path, well before accepting an offer.
Educated Candidates also want assurance that the career that their accepting has been accurately advertised, and that they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Candidates today continue to ask the same questions: “”how does this job contribute to the firm and how does the firm contribute to communities we live and work in? What is the quality and training of the people who manage people in this job? How accurate and complete is the information about the work they will do?
3. Supply And Demand
Educated Candidates know that their skills are a commodity, and that when they’re in the market to purchase an employment product, the simple laws of supply and demand favor top talent. This market means those with the most in demand skills know that they have options, and if the wait is long, they can walk away. Employers have an increasingly need to keep top talent engaged and actively build long term relationships with their candidate pipeline, because those who are in the shortest supply are going to be right, even if the opportunity isn’t ‘right now.’
Recruiting, increasingly, will be a marathon, not a sprint.
Consumers today are very good at judging marketing as either honest, or propaganda, and build their perception of a brand based on a huge variety of sources rather than taking marketing copy at face value.
Educated Candidates use this same prism to view the world of recruitment advertising. They can gain a much more detailed and realistic view of an organisation from multiple sources, and use this information to inform their decision on whether or not to apply. Candidates are starting to do this, but aren’t completely there yet. That’s why employers have to start educating and providing real value for potential candidates now, so that when they’re actually in the sales process, both sides can successfully close an offer with as little effort (and surprises) as possible.
Improving The Candidate Experience
Today, marketers salivate over every new method to measure customer sentiment and its potential to predict sales. They understand that this data is is ciritical in understanding the strengths and weaknesses in their strategy, and use this data to inform future initiatives. A small but growing cadre of companies are hoping to do the same for candidates and quality of hire. The information of the experiences of early adapters and what you can learn can be found on the Candidate Experience Awards website.
Only a few years ago even discussing candidate experience would have been viewed as silly, impractical and without merit.
Now? Less so. We’re not there yet. There’s still much to be done before candidates are valued as customers, but we’re on the right path.
Gerry and Elaine Orler, Director of The Talent Board will be officially launching the Australian Candidate Experience Awards at #ATC2015. If you believe your organisation has best practice candidate care, and want to be involved in the 2016 CandE Awards, contact the board here, or register for the conference here.
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