The Candidate Experience: Changes Brought On By COVID-19

People’s views on their careers, future plans, and lives have changed significantly throughout the global pandemic. This shift can be clearly seen through the widespread wave of resignations and complete over-hauls of careers.

However not all changes have been radical, but more subtle such as candidates expecting different thing from potential employers throughout the hiring process. Businesses need to make sure their candidate experience mirrors this new reality to not miss out on talent.

While faced with the ever-changing realities of the pandemic and their impact on business, organisations may not be prioritising the candidate experience. This is understandable, however taking the time to re-evaluate and adapt your candidate experience now will make hiring easier because you’re telling potential hires that your organisation cares about them and understands their needs

Here are the five ways the pandemic has changed candidate expectations, and what you can do to adapt your candidate experience.

Flexible interviews

If there’s anything that the pandemic has shown people, it’s that face-to-face interaction isn’t essential to get things done. With virtual meetings and interviews now the norm, candidates will be far less understanding of rigid requirements for on-site interviews that will see them having to find childcare, take time off work or travel.

If you’re offering flexible work arrangements but are inflexible when it comes to on-site interviews, candidates will doubt your commitment to a benefit you’re proposing as part of the job. According to a recent LinkedIn report, flexibility when it comes to work arrangements is becoming the number one priority for candidates quickly.

To adapt to these new preferences, you should try to limit your on-site interviews to the final stage. Not only will this save both parties time, but also side-step scheduling challenges and minimise expenses as well. If your role is completely remote, there is no reason to have face-to-face interviews at all.

Communication is More Important Than Ever

Communication has always been key to a positive candidate experience, however it has become even more important throughout the pandemic. With most people working from home, the ability to be constantly connected through video and messaging platforms has become the norm. Due to this potential hires may not be impressed with businesses that aren’t as communicative or responsive as has become expected.

This doesn’t mean that you are expected to reply after hours, or instantly, however it does mean that responding in a timely manner and communicating often will help in winning candidates over.

This is backed up by the findings from a survey by Talent Boards 2020 Candidate Experience Research Report. Candidates reported a positive experience increase of 58% in Europe and the Middle East, 52% in North America, 68% in Latin America and 49% in Asia-Pacific when HR professionals and recruiters followed up in agreed timeframes and informed them of post-interview steps. Candidates appreciate simple gestures such as sharing resources before interviews, touching base afterwards, and giving them regular updates. This lets people know you appreciate the effort they’re putting into the process for your business and that you also respect their time.

Candidates may also be extra sensitive to communication, as some may have been let go or made redundant during the pandemic. Replying to every candidate regardless of where they are in the process will certainly set your business apart.

Giving a Feel For Your Culture

While on-site baristas, snacks, and the Xbox corner may have been a way to entice talent to your business before the pandemic, businesses have been forced to re-think ways of keeping their employees satisfied and engaged remotely.

With the trickled return to the office, an important realisation occurred during the days of full-blown remote work will certainly stick- culture is key, while perks are nice. When starting a hiring process it’s important you start having conversations about your organisation’s culture early in the process. This will show potential new hires that you want to help them find the right cultural fit.

A way to do this, could be by sharing examples of manners in which your organisation kept your culture alive in a fully remote environment. If you plan to have a hybrid or fully remote workforce this is particularly important. Make sure to include the voices of your employee in your hiring process as well. You could share testimonials on your website or involve colleagues in informal conversations about culture throughout the interview process. This will help in giving your potential new hire a sense of what it will be like to work for your business.

Mental Health and Well-Being Support

Mental health in the workplace has been a hot topic ever since the start of the pandemic as anxiety and stress became a common theme amongst employees. A lot of candidates will be casting a net out into the job market because they feel their current or last employer didn’t support their well-being, or because they’re burned out. If you make mental health and employee wellness a key point of your hiring process, you’ll be able to add to the creation of a fantastic candidate experience.

You’ll need to be able to showcase how you create a healthy work-life balance for employees. However, employee wellness doesn’t just stop at work-life balance. If your business can offer extra resources that support financial and physical health, you’ll be onto a winner and show candidates that your company cares.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts

While we were at the height of the pandemic, the world was shaken by the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others. This translated into a renewed focus on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in the workplace.

Candidates are still very vocal about wanting to work for businesses where DEI is valued. The Talent Market Drivers report found that the second fastest-growing priority for candidates is an inclusive workplace.

It doesn’t matter if your company never made a public commitment to improve DEI, your potential hires will still want to hear what you are doing to nurture a sense of belonging for employees from all backgrounds. You and your hiring team therefore should be ready to discuss this from the initial conversation with a candidate all the way through to the last.

If you’re still working on this aspect, don’t sugar coat things to candidates. Be honest with them, telling them what you’ve done so far, what you’re doing, and where you want to be. Being authentic and honest from the start will ensure a higher retention and no reputational damage.

Candidate expectations shift all the time, and the pandemic has augmented the changes in needs and desires potentially for good. As a business you need to be aware of shifting expectations and adapt your hiring process around them to create a candidate experience that’ll leave candidates, whether hired or not, with a great impression of your business. If you show potential hires that as a business you’re dedicated to looking after your employees, then candidates will want to be a part of your journey.

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