How HR can drive talent strategy through branding

The hiring process is a powerful marketing tool and has the potential to influence candidates and future customers alike, however, most employers are burying their heads in the sand when it comes to measuring candidate experience, according to member-based advisory company CEB.

Recent CEB research found that nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of HR professionals agree that a positive candidate experience is important, yet 60 per cent are doing nothing to monitor the impact of their hiring experience.  

What’s more, findings show that almost half of all candidates (49 per cent) are left with a negative view of an organisation following an unsuccessful application in a traditional recruiting process. One in five of these applicants will complain to family and friends or via social media, exposing the business to significant reputational risks. 

When 64 per cent of companies predict it will become increasingly challenging to hire talented individuals for key positions over the coming year, CEB said there is a distinct need to protect the employer brand and candidate experience with the same rigour as the consumer brand and experience.

“Unless companies invest in actively monitoring candidate experience and improving their hiring processes, the candidates they approach today may negatively influence the people they want to attract tomorrow,” said Ken Lahti, vice president of product development and innovation at CEB.

“A poor reputation – born of bad candidate experience – can stifle the talent pipeline for the future.”

While the majority of recruiters have opened their eyes to the importance of a positive candidate experience, Lahti said very few businesses are actually measuring candidate reactions, creating a gulf between their beliefs and actions. 

Employer brand and business strategy
As talent strategy becomes increasingly interwoven with business strategy, Lahti said there is real opportunity to impact commercial success if companies carefully architect their employer brand in a way that attracts top talent.

“The brand an organisation creates for itself as an employer and the organisational culture in general should trickle down to virtually all HR processes in order to help recruit, identify, develop, and retain talent that can propel business performance,” he said.

“It’s important for HR professionals to understand the lifetime value of a customer, because for many businesses, their customers are also likely to be future job candidates.”

Once employers understand that a bad candidate experience can impact brand reputation, he said improving the candidate experience becomes essential to HR strategies.

In the process, Lahti said it is important for HR to form close alliances with different parts of the business, including communications, marketing and IT to understand how they can ensure customers and candidates share the same positive brand experiences.

“As such, the role of HR generalists is rapidly changing to expand well beyond traditional ‘personnel’ matters,” he said.

“They are indeed brand ambassadors for their organisation and should construct HR processes to positively portray the organisation’s employer and commercial brands.”

Improving the candidate experience with technology
Technology has enabled HR to streamline the application process and expedite identification of the highest-quality job seekers, but it can also be used to enhance the candidate experience too, according to Lahti.

“Technology-enabled realistic job and culture previews provide engaging introductions to the company and help applicants determine their fit for the role and organisation,” he said.

“These can be followed by pre-employment screening assessments to ensure that only the best applicants proceed to the later stages of recruitment.

“Online assessments can include multimedia-based assessments (e.g., video, animation) and job-specific work simulations to engage the applicant and provide a sense of the typical tasks performed on the job.”

Lahti said technology can also be used to improve communication, enabling greater transparency about where a candidate is in the recruitment process, or to inform candidates that their application has been unsuccessful.

However, an automated response doesn’t have to be impersonal, with many systems allowing recruiters to easily customise or tailor responses, he added.

Common candidate hiring pitfalls
HR professionals need to challenge the status quo and look for ways they can to enhance the candidate experience, according to Lahti, who said communication is one of the most common barriers for HR to overcome in the recruitment process.

“Communication should be a two-way process; whereby applicants have transparency of the selection criteria and hiring process, and are provided with feedback on their performance, whether they secured the role or not, to help them learn from the experience,” he said.

“Hiring organisations should also proactively seek feedback from job seekers on their experience in the hiring process.

“This information gives employers a pulse on how the company is perceived in the market and will guide HR on where processes or procedures can be improved to enhance the candidate experience.”