Five Good Minutes With Warren White, SPHR On "The Candidate Experience"

Does your corporate recruitment process put the candidate first? If not, you may have already reached the obvious conclusions that companies that put the candidate last, rarely finish first in the race to recruit top talent. In an age where – now more than ever – your candidate pool and employees have an impact on your client base (and often times are your client base) there are many reasons why it is very important to provide a favorable recruitment process from the application process all the way through the on-boarding process.

Recently, I sat down with Warren White, SPHR – a seasoned HR professional in the Washington, DC Metro Area and we discussed this very topic. Here’s how the conversation went:

Joey V. Price: From your perspective, why should the candidate experience matter to an organization? 

Warren White, SPHR: The best employers have always focused on the candidate experience—that is part of what gives them an edge in recruiting and retaining the best talent.  Now, with the rise in social networking, ensuring that candidates have a positive experience throughout the recruitment process is more important than ever.  The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released a report that estimates that the average American has 634 ties in their overall network.  That means every candidate has significant power to influence behavior, and that can either work for a company or against it.  The more positive the candidate experience is, the more favorable opinion that candidate will have of the company—so there’s a better chance for some positive PR when they communicate with their network.  If, on the other hand, a candidate has a particularly bad experience, you can pretty much assume that they’re going to share that feedback with their network as well.
JVP: Are there any tangible benefits to making efforts to make the candidate experience better during the recruitment process?

WW: I think there are tangible benefits that go beyond the more obvious things like creating positive PR, building a talent pipeline and a positive employment brand.  I believe that when companies take a thoughtful, consistent approach to their recruiting and hiring processes, they actually improve their efficiency and increase the likelihood that they’ll make good hiring choices.  The ideal process creates an environment that gives every candidate the opportunity to interview at their very best.  When that happens, it is easier to make an apples-to-apples comparison between candidates.

JVP: What challenges do you think companies face in trying to improve the candidate experience?

WW: My observation is that companies often tend to get so focused on their day-to-day activities that it can be difficult to take a step back to evaluate their own internal processes.  I also don’t think most companies do a lot of external benchmarking to truly understand where they stand in the marketplace in comparison to their top talent competitors.  I talked with a recruitment manager once who told me that a couple of times each year he would apply for a position at another company.  Sometimes he would actually get called for an interview, and sometimes he didn’t, but he did it to gain insight on their hiring practices, and to see if there was a takeaway idea or concept that he could bring back to his organization to improve their process.  I thought that was in some ways a logical approach—if you think about retail stores, for instance, it is not uncommon at all for one store to ‘shop’ the competition—but it would be my guess that not a lot of companies take this approach.

JVP: Please share an example of your worst candidate experience.

WW: I could probably tell a dozen stories about hiring managers that I’ve worked with and some of the ‘unexpected’ challenges, but instead I’ll share a personal experience that happened when I was interviewing for an opportunity a few years back.  To start, my interviewer was about 20 minutes late.  That happens sometimes, but she was completely unapologetic.  She took at least two telephone calls during our time together, and I recall one of the calls lasting more than a few minutes as I sat there in an uncomfortable silence.  Once the interview resumed, it was not conversational—I don’t believe I was even asked if I had any questions, let alone given the chance to ask one.  The last question I was asked was something along the lines of ‘if you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?’  I know that offbeat questions are popular for some organizations, but given the type of organization and the job I was interviewing for, I thought that was particularly odd—I actually paused for a moment and had to fight back a chuckle before I realized that she was serious.  Given this experience during the interview process, I left the interview thinking that this was probably not going to be the right environment for me.

JVP: Do you have any closing thoughts on the importance of the candidate experience and its impact on areas of HR beyond just recruitment? 

WW: The importance of ensuring a positive candidate experience can’t really be understated.  I think the candidate experience sets the tone for future interaction with HR once that candidate becomes an employee.  The hiring process is usually the first interaction a candidate has with HR, so if that experience goes well and the candidate is left with an overall positive impression, the greater the potential for a positive relationship and positive interactions with the HR team moving forward.

About Warren White, SPHR:


Warren White SPHRWarren White brings more than 12 years of HR experience, providing strategic guidance, coaching and leadership to individuals and organizations in both the non-profit and for profit sectors in the mid-Atlantic region.  Warren’s diverse experiences have provided him with a unique ability to adapt to dynamic environments, to understand and manage complex tasks, to excel in challenging situations, and to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences.  Warren has been an active SHRM member since 2001, serving as a session host for the 2006 SHRM national conference in Washington, DC, and has also been active in the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area (HRA-NCA).

Follow Warren on Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.