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Think Like Your Candidate

Scott Schaffer, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at West Monroe Partners, spoke on a webcast titled Think Like Your Candidate hosted by ERE and sponsored by Talroo. We wanted to share highlights from Scott’s presentation with you here on the Talroo blog.

Scott’s presentation focused on helping companies speak a candidate’s language through corporate branding, employer differentiation and how to set your candidate up for success.

Attracting Talent with Multi-Channel

To kick the presentation off, Scott first spoke to how recruiters can spend their time on different channels to get the best results and attract quality hires in this candidate’s market. Candidates have access to more employer resources and information than ever before. Multi-channel encompasses online as well as more traditional properties and resources that candidates use to gather information before, during, and after their job search. These sites include word of mouth and career fairs as well as career pages, websites, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and the host of other digital resources job seekers use to gather information.

“Our career page can be used to promote the work we’re doing and the day to day of our business. Glassdoor can be focused on two-way conversations. LinkedIn gives us ways to reach out from a recruiting perspective. Instagram shows culture and gives us a way to give a peek into our organization, ” says Scott.

When it comes to reviews, good or bad, Scott recommends using them as an opportunity to start a conversation or feedback loop. He says it is important that our candidates are commenting on review sites, and more important that we’re responding. He shares that we must make sure we’re interacting with our existing employees, but also our potential or future employees.

The most important piece of this is to think about yourself as a candidate and walk a mile in their shoes. Scott adds that “Candidates are extremely receptive to the increase in tools, videos, resources and technologies. However, these allow the candidate to become more familiar with our company prior to submitting an application.”

Scott goes as far to suggest that recruiting leaders sit with their leaders and prioritize what they expect from a hire, to move from the I-would-like-to-haves to the must-haves. Think of this as meeting as the modern intake call between hiring manager and recruiter.

Employee Referrals

Scott says that, at West Monroe, employee referrals are the number one source of hire.

“Referrals in general are critical to the success of hiring. Referrals need to be created and facilitated through a program. If you’re asking your employees to refer friends or former colleagues, how are they able to submit or share that person’s information? Is the company asking the employees for so much information that they feel like they’re going through a job application process?”

At West Monroe, Scott shares the company recently refined their referral process to be a lot simpler and asking internal employees to only provide a name and email address. He says this simplified the internal experience, and the candidate experience allowing them to interact with internal candidates in a different way.

The Value in Interview and Hiring Transparency

Its innovative, companies haven’t traditionally been very open with candidates, but when you consider how much the interview process impacts the candidate experience – hired or not – building some transparency and a feedback loop into the interview process can make your brand stand out from your competitors. Transparency can also increase retention.

“One of the biggest challenges a lot of organizations have is that the interview process can be great, but when the new hire gets to the organization it’s not what they experienced in the interview process. It’s important to talk about the reality of the day to day, to be honest and transparent about what that looks like. For us in particular, it’s helped candidates understand what we look like, but it has also increased retention,” shares Scott.

Candidate Attraction Through Branding Strategy and Marketing

Branding is a critical component of any modern recruiting team. If an organization puts so much effort into hiring and recruiting talent, the best way to ensure an organization’s growth and success is with a stellar employer brand to backup and support their recruiting efforts.

“In the age of full employment, having a differentiated, recognized and appealing employer brand will be crucial to attracting the talent you need.”

“Having a strong partnership with marketing, who understands the views, the clicks, likes and shares, what they can do with campaigns and visuals to support what we do for talent acquisition,” mentions Scott.

Digital Campaigns vs. Persona Mapping Job Candidates

Scott touched on the difference between traditional digital campaigns in the recruiting process and persona mapping and targeting with a talent funnel in mind.

“Digital campaigns are typically targeted X to Y number of years of experience in a specific city to individuals who work in a specific type of industry. We target these through LinkedIn and other sites that are able to bring in potential candidates. It’s a more targeted outreach,” says Scott.

Building candidate personas allow recruiting teams to develop a localized and focused message for each market or candidate group highlighting a culture, role and organization. These candidate personas provide recruiters with a story of how and why candidates should choose us.

Scott says he recommends creating “candidate persona maps” that include regional or local factors so you can narrow your targeting based on specific ideal prospects.

“In turn you can use this data to inform programmatic advertising, messaging and social amplification strategies with your marketing team, your TA and HR teams, as well as the teams themselves that are looking to hire and grow,” says Scott.

How to Improve the Candidate Experience

Scott defined a number of ways any company can improve its candidate experience, specifically with regards to benchmarking data and feedback.

“We want to make sure we’re gathering feedback. It’s critical to our success that feedback is transparent, that we’re able to give feedback up and down the hierarchy as well as to candidates. It shows how the culture is indicative at the job interview stage rather than surprising somebody once they’ve gotten in your door,” mentions Scott.

Feedback for the employer is not the most critical part of a great candidate experience. For your candidates, understanding the feedback that is shared about why the candidate didn’t get the job when they don’t receive an offer needs to be focused on how they can use this process to grow and improve for the next opportunity.

Also important is that the employer works to understand how the candidate wants to be communicated to. At West Monroe, Scott says “the folks that have gone through the interview process know us better than we know ourselves. They’ve seen how we interact, where we’ve struggled, where we’ve gone fast or slow in the process, and they’ve seen how we prioritize. We want to learn, we want to continue to evolve and grow based on feedback.”

Personal Touches in the Recruiting and Onboarding Process

Scott says that candidates have a lot of options and it’s pretty rare in this market for a single candidate to look at a single organization and decide to join that organization without exploring other options. Having well-defined roles on your internal HR team dedicated to the candidate experience and candidate success can take your employer brand to the next level.

At West Monroe, they have a new hire team, and onboarding concierge. This person is also responsible for candidate success and is the new hire’s point of contact ensuring that from the moment they walk in the door, they have someone who can offer support, answer questions, and help them acclimate to the organization and company culture.

“It’s a candidate’s market right now, where they really can choose where they want to go, so it’s important that we are following up. There must be seamless, clear communication going back to those candidates. If we need to reschedule interviews, if we need to provide feedback, we want to make sure we’re providing that experience,” shares Scott.

Those personal touches continue throughout other parts of the hiring and selection process at West Monroe while their recruiting function is also focused on scaling their efforts using other recruiting technology and automation. Another way they differentiate themselves is through providing interview feedback and communication in person or over the phone.

“We’ve found that talking to the candidate via phone and having as much in-person opportunity to provide the feedback has been incredibly powerful. We try to do it as soon as we can and as soon as we have the feedback. It also gives the candidate an opportunity to ask us questions and make sure they understand the reasoning for both good and bad decisions in that interview process and how they can improve, giving them opportunities to grow and build that relationship as we go,” says Scott.

Planning and Developing for the Next Generation of Leadership

Scott talked about how West Monroe sets its employees (from the candidate stage on) up for success.

“We focus on open, transparent communication, on career goals, we make sure our team members know there are opportunities to grow up and across the firm. We actually spent a lot of time talking with candidates about career path and career mapping, opening them up to opportunities that aren’t just upwards. Maybe they have something they’re an expert in a certain area or can bring specific knowledge to the firm and carve out their own niche.”

Scott says that West Monroe does this with current employees in a few ways, starting with increased transparency about career goals. Another way his employer drives transparency and celebrates tenure is with the “three-year letter.”

West Monroe is 100% employee owned. The company culture is committed to transparency at all levels of the organization. Once an employee has been employed 3 years, they are encouraged to draft a letter that tells leadership about your current career goals, future ones, and where they would like to be personally and professionally.

On career planning and the “three-year letter.”

“This is powerful, something that allows me to look both long and short term about where I see my career going. When I was a new hire at West Monroe, understanding how I was looking into the future was important to me. I talk to a lot of candidates today that don’t have career options, a career path, or their current role is so team focused they can’t stand out as an individual contributor and get a promotion. Maybe their boss, and their boss have to leave or be promoted first. For me, seeing a company that offered a career path was different and worth learning more about.”

At West Monroe, Scott says all employees develop something called the three-year letter and talked about the different ways it can be used, from a corporate, candidate or individual perspective.

“We plan our day-to-day activities, we carve out time for chores, but often forget how to plan our careers and position ourselves for success in the long run. We will say I want to be X title or X job but not actually map out how to get there,” says Scott.

The resources and stories Scott shared in his webcast were powerful reminding us that servant leadership can happen throughout an employee’s career and tenure with an organization and not just the hiring process. Time spent being thoughtful and intentional can drive not just great hiring but business results that benefit employees from all levels of the organization.

Thanks to Scott and ERE for outlining how thinking like a candidate can be a game-changer in your recruiting strategy!

As a next step check out our webinar on learning to think like a marketer.