Candidate Experience Conundrum

Walking into a mechanic always gives me a sense of dread. See, I don’t know much about how cars work or how often the gadgets and gears need to be oiled or lubed so I feel a bit vulnerable, relying on their recommendations to make decision. It doesn’t help that it seems like every time I go in, they want to do something in addition to the work I actually asked for. It’s never just an oil change or tires. When I go in and have an experience where I don’t spend 5x as much as I expected, I’m actually surprised. That’s not a good thing.

I learned the hard way that there are mechanics out there just trying to make a buck. In college, my car wouldn’t turn on and I had a local mechanic replace my battery and a few other parts, only to have my car die on me again. I finally took the car to a Nissan dealership only to find out that a $10 fuse was broken, nothing more. I was pissed, as can be expected. And broke, to boot.

Today, I’m hyper diligent about knowing what’s going on with my car before I go to the shop. I do my research. I read up on why certain things happen, what fixes should be attempted before the big dollar drop and how things connect. I even started a note in my phone to track what services happen at what mileage so no one could con me into repeating any service.

There’s a reason we’re hyper-critical in certain instances, like the mechanics. That’s because we’ve heard horror stories or worse, been burned before. And I’m starting to believe that this is true for hiring.

The Horror: Work Sucks

The experience of work just sucks for most people from the second they apply for a job. They’re stuck with long apply process, jobs that aren’t mobile friendly, assessments that measure nothing, bad managers and more. I doubt there’s one person reading this who can’t cite a time they’ve been burned at or for a job.

Let’s face it – getting burned at work is ten times worse than a lying mechanic. Of course we’re critical. Yes, we’re going to read Glassdoor reviews and LinkedIn comments to try and uncover some of the company’s secrets. We’re going to join those networks and find people we know because 40 hours a week of bullshit isn’t on anyone’s wish list. The only way to avoid getting screwed is to be hyper-diligent to avoid the terrible experience in the first place, which explains all those stats about candidates doing their research.

The hiring team’s reaction to date has been to make a big investments in candidate experience by shortening the apply and making sure everyone gets a response but here’s my question: would we have to invest so much energy in candidate experience if we didn’t treat people so poorly once they got there? Could better work environments be the real cure?

It’s a bit of a conundrum. We’ve spent the last 5+ years talking about candidate experience and making multi-million dollar investments when, if we’re really considering ROI, we should be spending more money on tactics that don’t burn our current employees. Dollars and sense wise, you lose a lot more money when an employee walks away than you ever spend on a site visitor. Literally at least 1000 times the cost, if not more.

I’m not letting these companies with applications that take 2+ hours off the hook but I am suggesting that we consider what happens after the hire if we really want to make an impact on the candidate experience.

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Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for,, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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