How do you succeed in HR and recruiting at a time when there are many more open positions than people to fill them? With unemployment at a 50-year low, candidates can afford to be picky.
We looked under the hood of five companies who’ve succeeded in attracting top talent, even when the odds were stacked against them. While they’ve all taken different approaches, there are lessons to learn from each one:
1. Deluxe: Personalize the experience
Hundred-year-old check printing company Deluxe is hardly the sexiest place to work. By making candidate experience core to its HR strategy, the Shoreview, MN-based company has beaten the odds.
The company’s most innovative and successful idea has been its series of job-specific videos. When a position opens up, the marketing team creates a short video.
The video features the hiring manager, who talks about the job, the team the candidate will be working with, and other details. The team then emails the video to potential hires using LinkedIn InMail. They also share it on social media, and embed it on their careers page.
It sounds simple. But the program has gone above all expectations. The videos have had email response rates as high as 100%, and far greater reach and click rates on LinkedIn and Facebook than ever before.
2. Gusto: Treat candidates like customers
Despite being one of many startups in the red hot Silicon Valley job market, HR SaaS company Gusto has managed to grab top talent. How? By thinking with the end result in mind.
The company approaches each phase of the candidate experience as an opportunity to close the deal, just like they do for sales. For starters, when a candidate is chosen to begin the selection process, the hiring manager gives them an agenda. That way, they know what to expect each step of the way.
The candidate journey continues with a product demo. But instead of a generic one, it reflects the candidate's own hobbies or interests. If they majored in philosophy, the demo will feature great philosophers in the role of customers. This surprises and delights even the most jaded candidates.
When they’re ready to make an offer, the entire team joins the call. They start it as a celebration, cheering for the candidate. Then, they go around the room, each person sharing why they're excited to work with them.
Since taking this tack, the company has had a closing success rate of three of every four candidates. This is far above the average for a Silicon Valley startup.
3. Trek: Meet candidates where they are
Waterloo, WI-based bicycle company Trek was expanding its retail presence across the US, and needed to fill positions fast. But good candidates were dropping off and positions stayed vacant too long.
They stood back and considered how retail workers live and communicate. The team realized the problem was that retail workers are on their feet throughout the day, not at a computer. Yet all their communications were by email.
Using a recruitment platform that offers an AI-based texting feature, the company dropped email communications. They used the texting program to schedule interviews, ask quick questions, and let candidates know when an offer letter had been sent.
The results speak for themselves. The response rate was 100%, leading to much faster time to hire. For Trek, thinking from the candidate's point of view made all the difference.
4. Cloudlock: Use humor and a light touch
Cloudlock, a cloud cybersecurity company based in the Boston area, was struggling to attract quality candidates. To deal with this problem, the marketing team tried a risky idea: be funny.
The company revamped its careers page, adding such elements as a kung fu movie dubbed over with lines about the company and its culture. The jokey, insider approach played well with their target market.
They didn't stop there. An employee drew an original comic series, “The Adventures of Bach-Mann,” which highlighted the company culture in a creative and unique way.
The series was posted on the Cloudlock careers site.
After just four months, the results poured in. The company saw a major leap in a highly competitive market. This included a 33% year-over-year increase in hires, a 236% increase in inbound applications, a 24% LinkedIn follower growth, 256% growth in monthly views on Glassdoor, and a 50% increase in page views on its careers site. A year later, the company was acquired by Cisco.
5. Virgin Media: Turn rejection into a positive experience
Virgin Media is a cable broadband provider in the UK. It has 5 million customers, and receives about 140,000 applications a year for just 3,500 open spots.
Many of those who apply are also customers, and that presented a challenge—how to make sure all candidates come away with positive feelings towards the brand, whether they're hired or not.
The company's employer branding team did research and found that rejected candidates were unhappy with almost every aspect of the process. Its Net Promoter Score (NPS) measuring candidate satisfaction was a staggering negative 29.
The team got the attention of their C Suite after showing that the problem was hitting the bottom line. About 6% of rejected candidates were disconnecting and switching to another carrier after a bad experience. This cost the company about $5M a year.
With the top brass on board, the employer branding team began turning the ship around. They designed a system for checking in with candidates each step of the hiring journey by phone. They also gave rejected candidates the chance to get feedback after their interviews so they understood what they needed to do differently next time.
The team also turned their attention to its hiring managers, with a “gold standard” interview program that trained them on how to create a positive candidate experience.
The trainings were a runaway success.
One manager, nicknamed “Les the Butcher” for his terrible interviewing style, turned his own NPS from negative 57 to positive 11 after doing the training—far better than anyone expected.
After making these changes, the new overall NPS was plus 12–a 41 point swing from the original negative 29. The company is now considered a leader in candidate experience.
Finding the courage to change
Each of these five companies took their own approach to improving candidate experience. What ties them together is their willingness to be bold and try new solutions.
It’s also about stepping into the candidate’s shoes.
As social media company Hootsuite puts it, “A job search can be an emotional experience…HR jargon aside, candidate experience is really a barometer of an organization’s empathy.”
In short, building a positive candidate has to do with mindset. It's less about big gestures and more about being flexible and caring. To win the talent war, you have to reach out to candidates in a way that’s meaningful to them. Finding out what that may be can take experimentation, but the results speak for themselves.