Q&A with Kevin Grossman: Improving the Candidate Experience

January 30, 2020 at 7:35 pm

Kevin Grossman

Kevin Grossman is the President of the Talent Board, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the candidate experience. Every year his organization surveys thousands of job seekers to understand what companies are doing right and wrong when recruiting, then develops benchmarks and guidelines to help all companies improve. We spoke to him about what today’s job seekers what, and what happens when companies come in above or below expectations. 

How do you define a “quality candidate experience?”

We focus on four key data points: overall ratings, likelihood to reapply, likelihood to refer others, and likelihood to engage with the company, meaning to buy their products/services. Candidates rank each one on either a four or five-point scale; then we feed that data into a formula that produces what we call the “CandE Score,” which is essentially our version of the net promoter score (NPS). The formula returns a company ranking between 0-100, and once we’re able to calculate the average for all companies, we can identify the ones that raise the bar.

Your research shows that candidate resentment is up 40 percent since 2016. What kinds of mistakes are companies making?

Let me give you some context first. When we ask candidates what kind of relationship they will have with a company that declined to hire them, we see an increasing number of candidates choosing to sever the relationship completely, which we interpret as resentment. At the same time, the number of candidates who want to increase the relationship is also increasing but at a much smaller rate. So what drives this? We’ve discovered it’s really about the perception of fairness within the process. That means being transparent about what the hiring process entails and proactive about keeping the candidate engaged and informed throughout. Companies that do this well (particularly by quickly informing people when they’ve been disqualified and why) receive high scores, but many companies struggle with communication and feedback.

Does a better candidate experience translate into a stronger workforce over time?

Realistically, companies don’t want everyone they reject to reapply, but they probably want their second- and third-place candidates who barely miss out on the job offer to try again when another position becomes available. Companies also depend on referrals to build candidate pools, and a surprising number of referrals come from candidates who don’t get hired. Companies with a better candidate experience don’t alienate the people that go through the recruiting process, which tends to benefit that process over the long term. There’s also the bottom line to consider. When candidates feel mistreated by a company, they often decline to become customers and advise others to do the same…Or they do the opposite. For example, the paper-producer Kimberly Clark gives everyone it recruits a generous product coupon, which helps preserve goodwill even among rejected applicants. It can go either way, but it really comes down to fairness.

Is there a place for assessments and evaluations within the recruiting process?

Yes, and we already see them playing a bigger role in the recruiting process in the form of skills, personality, or cognitive tests. These used to be applied to pre-screened candidates, but they’re increasingly being used to handle the screening itself at the earliest stages of the recruiting process. But here’s what really interesting – it matters less what kind of test you administer and more than you administer a test at all. We call these “engagement events,” meaning any interaction a company has with a candidate after they submit their initial application. Lots of people submit their application and never hear another word, but when they’re asked to take a test, even one coupled with the application itself, they feel like the company cares to learn more about them. Testing also makes the hiring process seem more objective and therefore fairer.

Do candidates ever complain about having to take tests they feel are unnecessary or poorly designed?

We see that every year. Candidates react negatively to tests that feel arbitrary, confusing, or unnecessarily time-consuming. So there’s still work to be done in terms of explaining why testing matters in the broader context of the position in question. But we also find that when candidates feel the assessment is fair, they’re more inclined to increase their relationship with the employer. It’s not direct causation, but they are correlated.

Have you noticed any trends related to the kinds of testing and assessments companies are using?

Predictive performance is the focus of a lot of today’s assessment. That can be measured in many ways, and we see companies expanding their definition of aptitude. A few years ago, 36 percent of the companies we surveyed said they used personality tests, for instance, but now that number is up to 44 percent. We can speculate endlessly as to why, but I think the conversation around culture fit vs. culture add plays a role. Companies want to assess all that a candidate brings to the table, and a straightforward skills assessment only says so much.

How can companies evaluate whether the assessments they use help or hurt the candidate experience?

Whatever they use, they need to establish a clear context for why. That means explicitly identifying what the company is trying to learn about the candidate and how a particular test serves that goal. Candidates need to understand this too. Otherwise, the assessment seems arbitrary and convoluted. Even something as simple as telling the candidate how long it takes to finish the assessment signals that the company respects the candidate, which should be the overarching goal of any recruiting process.

Narish International partners with companies to find and use the right evaluation and assessment tools to build higher-performing teams. Why not talk with us today?