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3 Tips to Get your Remote Candidate Experience Right

18 November 2020 , by Jomiro Eming

Recruitee’s 2020 State of Remote Hiring report shows clearly that companies that are successful at remote hiring all get one thing right: Candidate experience. Here's why that's so important in a remote world, and some suggestions for improving candidate experience in your hiring process.

This is a summary of the key insights from our podcast with Recruitee’s Community Manager, Monica Cioviça, and Talent Acquisition Specialist, Dominik Grzegorzewski.

COVID-19 forced everyone to take their hiring process online. Some companies were better prepared than others, but now all of us have to take it a lot more seriously, because remote is here to stay. Monica explains that:

“Before, you had a lot of companies being afraid to let employees work remotely, because they might not be as efficient as in the office. But we think the myth of efficiency in remote work has been busted. So, the shift to remote work is here to stay.”

Recruitee’s report surveyed over 500 hiring professionals from various industries, and from all over the world. Around 60% of these were recruiters, and 60% came from the EU region. Of the 70% of companies that said they continued to hire, this survey showed one thing pretty clearly: The companies that are really winning at remote hiring prioritise candidate experience throughout the hiring process.

“That's the challenge: How do you set a remarkable image for your company remotely… and expose yourself among the crowd of other companies”, Dominik explains. “The switch to remote hiring impacts not only how companies are thinking about themselves, but also how they interact with the job market.”

After-all, your hiring process is the first impression candidates have of your company. In a remote world, where candidates have access to more opportunities from more tech companies globally, competing for top tech talent comes down to how well you present your company online and through your recruitment process.

Recruitee’s report unveiled three key aspects of a company’s hiring process that especially affect the candidate experience:

  • The remote hiring and onboarding policy
  • How much time is spent on individual screening calls
  • How well the hiring manager and recruiter work together

Let’s look at these in more detail and what Monica and Dominik suggest on how to approach them in your own hiring process:

Defining a remote hiring and onboarding policy is key

Even though many companies continued to hire throughout the pandemic, more than 50% of respondents reported that they still don’t have a remote hiring or onboarding policy.

Having a remote hiring or onboarding process simply means having a documented, step-by-step process that includes details like: Who is involved at each step, what information needs to be shared at each step, what tools or software does a person need at each step, and what is the ideal outcome for each step.

Monica says it’s important to define these as a hiring team, and communicate it with a candidate, even if your company’s general remote-setup might still change. Giving candidates some kind of an idea of where you’re at, even if it’s caveated with ‘things might still change’, will make them feel supported, which impacts how they imagine what working for you will be like.

For your own hiring team, it’s also going to impact how smoothly your hiring process runs.

“Think of such policies as the foundations for a stable hiring process — and that’s instrumental if you want to hire and engage with top talent. Not having these in place can cause a bad first impression, and you only get one chance.”

Pro-tip for how to think about this in your own team:

Dominik and Monica’s main piece of advice is to ensure that every stakeholder in your hiring process — from internal recruiter and HR team member, to hiring manager, hiring buddies and tech team lead — comes together and maps out, in detail, what your remote hiring and onboarding experience will look like.

Everyone should be able to understand the process in detail, including the parts that they’re not actively part of. This helps create coherence in your process, and makes sure the impression candidate’s get at every touchpoint is cohesive and structured.

For remote hiring, this includes details such as:

  • What tools/software does a candidate need at each step of the process?
  • Who should be involved at every stage of the process, and why?
  • What does the candidate need to prepare for every step?
  • If the candidate has questions about the role or the team, is it clear who answers which questions?
  • Has all of this information been communicated with the candidate?

And for remote onboarding, it includes things like:

  • Does a new-joiner know who to ask questions to in their new team?
  • Do they have all the software and hardware they need before their start date?
  • Has someone spoken to them about their first day before their first day?
  • Do they know what to do on their first day?

“For example”, Dominik explains, “with hiring, someone from the People team communicates with the candidate what will happen throughout the whole process before their first interview. And, for onboarding, we have an onboarding checklist. This way, by ticking all the different points, a new-joiner knows what to expect and what they should focus on. It gives them a clear plan of action, and makes them feel well-prepared and part of the team.”

Without these details in place, and without communicating them to candidates at the start of the process, Monica says that it’s easy for someone to see that a hiring team doesn’t have a remote hiring policy in place. In her experience, that can reflect badly on a company’s employer brand because, from a candidate’s perspective, if you can’t organise a hiring team then what are the chances that you can organise the rest of the company?

The average time for remote screening calls is too short

For Dominik, remote screening calls are about understanding a candidate’s story, and being a curious interviewer: “For me, what’s important is your curiosity about someone’s motivations, what they've been doing before, and why they would like to join a new company.”

When companies expand their hiring range to a global scale, the number of potential candidates and applicants their hiring teams need to screen increases a lot. According to Recruitee’s data, there has been a 200% increase in candidate screening calls that are 15 minutes or less. In Monica and Dominik’s experience, this negatively impacts a company’s employer brand:

“At the end of the day”, Dominik says, “our candidate experience suffers badly. They’ll feel pushed to give short answers, and there’s also no time for the questions about the role or the team. You can't learn the story behind a candidate in only 15 minutes.”

Pro-tip for how to think about this in your own team:

Dominik’s advice is that, “if 15 minutes is the only time you have for candidates in a screening call, don't do it.” He recommends setting aside at least 30 minutes, and assuming that it might get extended to 45 if the conversation is going well.

Monica adds: “We also need to be mindful of the fact that you don't know the reasons behind their application. So, take the time to first check-in, and see how they’re doing.” In her experience, this is really important to create human connection.

For getting the most out of a remote screening call, and improving the candidate experience, know what kinds of questions to ask: “One of my favourite questions”, Dominik says, “is: ‘How would this job advance your career?’ That gives me some idea about what kind of areas this person wants to develop in, and summarises their motivations. This is the story that I want to find out about.”

The relationship between recruiter and hiring manager really matters

Recruitee’s remote hiring report showed that 25% of respondents saw a decrease in the number of people involved in the hiring process. Although this is likely due to a combination of factors — companies descaling in size, or automation and tooling taking over some of the hiring process — Monica says that remote hiring processes need more engagement from hiring teams in order to be successful.

When it comes to candidate experience, it comes down to whether or not a recruiter collaborates enough with their hiring managers and tech teams to know about the role, and answer candidate questions:

“Tech specialists don't want to waste time hearing mistakes from recruiters”, Dominik explains. “One of the most popular examples is when a recruiter mistakes Java with JavaScript — and, if that happens a couple of times in an interview, the candidate might not be willing to talk anymore.”

If fewer people are involved in the hiring process, it’s harder for a recruiter to speak to things that tech talent cares about: “Hiring is a collaborative process”, Monica explains, “and communication is a key part of that collaboration. Especially for tech roles, because you need to have a lot of industry knowledge.”

Pro-tip for how to think about this in your own team:

In Dominik’s team, they have an intake meeting for every position that opens up for all the stakeholders in the hiring process: “We dive deep into the role, and understand in detail the expectations of the hiring manager, and what kind of profile he wants.”

Dominik also says that involving the recruiter in the technical stage of the process helps them pick up things they wouldn’t otherwise know, and gives them a chance to figure out what their blindspots are:

“I've learned a lot while joining the technical stage. I get a much better understanding of the challenges that the team has, and what kind of best practices they use. It means I can sell the job and our company better to a candidate in an interview.”

Good hiring processes come up in conversation, and the people you want to hire will be part of those conversations. In a way, a company’s recruitment process is becoming more like an advert, or representation of that company’s culture, values, missions, and approach to its people operations. By getting candidate experience right, irrespective of your remote policy in the future, hiring teams can increase their chances at successful hires, and improve the efficiency of their hiring in general.


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