Why a data-driven recruiting solution is critical for a strong candidate experience

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8 mins, 5 secs read time

Greenhouse was recently named a Top 5 Applicant Tracking System by GetApp. We’re thrilled to be recognized this way—we believe our focus on creating an exceptional candidate experience by using data in our recruiting process sets us apart. Here’s how we do it.

One of our six main culture attributes at Greenhouse is being “customer focused.” Although I realize that some of our customers may be reading this post (hi there!), as a recruiter, I have very few interactions with Greenhouse customers on a daily basis. But what I’ve done, along with the rest of the Recruiting team, is interpret our candidates as our “customers.”

We all know the age-old saying, “The customer is always right,” but unfortunately, not every candidate is going to be the right fit for the job. So how do you provide a top-notch candidate experience to every professional you engage with, knowing only a few of them will ultimately be hired?

At Greenhouse, we’re always striving to improve on our candidate experience, but we also recognize that there’s no silver bullet solution. In order to get your team and company invested in the idea of enhancing your candidate experience, consider a few of the statistics below.

According to WorkplaceTrends.com, nearly 60% of candidates have had a poor candidate experience, and 72% of those candidates shared that experience online or with someone directly. Not only that, but 64% of candidates are less likely to purchase goods and services from a company that delivered a poor candidate experience. Therefore, your interview practices directly impact the reputation and financial success of your organization. Hopefully, this will grab the attention of your CEO and C-level execs!

A common next question for individuals outside the HR or People space is, “Well, what exactly is ‘candidate experience’?” I’d like to debunk the belief that it strictly involves coaching interviewers to be polite and offering your candidates a cup of coffee when they arrive at your office. Interpret it more as providing the right platform for candidates to express their skills, talents, and assets as they participate in your interview process.

Once you have buy-in and alignment on the definition of “candidate experience,” how do you begin to actually improve the experience, and how do you continue to use data along the way? After all, if you’re going to make the effort to improve your process, you’ll definitely want to be able to measure and report on the success and positive impact you’ve had!

Before we begin…

… let’s prepare! Creating a structured interview process not only drastically improves your chances of making the right hire, it also forces you to think ahead and determine which of a candidate's skills will be most beneficial to your team in the future. Before a role goes live, you should make sure you have a plan for how all essential skills will be tested throughout your interview process.

Although you may be anxious at launch to get your job posting up, preparing first will actually save you time in the long run. I compare it to the time you save when you outline a blog post before you dive into writing it (true story!). Having all the facts and structure worked out leads to timely, streamlined execution. Not only has the market created a competition for top talent, it has evolved into a race as well! Structured interview processes help you pick up the talent acquisition pace.

Above is a step-by-step breakdown of how to create a structured interview process. Having all this information worked out pre-launch will help make your life so much easier as a recruiter!

  • Preparing Job Info will equip you to answer candidates’ questions.

  • Preparing your Scorecard will allow you to know what you’re looking for.

  • Preparing your Interview Plan will help set expectations with candidates for future steps.

  • Preparing your Approvals chain will allow you to swiftly extend offers.

  • Preparing Email Notifications will help prevent candidates from falling through the cracks.

The ripple effect is astronomical.

Let’s begin…

…shall we? Now it’s time to execute on that amazing candidate experience strategy we’ve carefully prepared for. During this stage, we’ll focus on timeliness and fairness.

Timeliness typically gets compromised when interview fatigue sets in on our teams. To counter that, you’ll want to arm yourself with data. In Greenhouse, pulling historic Pipeline Reports and relying on the Predictive Analytics features can be the equivalent of looking into a recruiting crystal ball. For example, take-home test graders may become fatigued after reviewing a dozen assignments. But if you can motivate them with the likelihood that they’ll only need to grade 15 total, it will increase the quality of their final assessments and the speed with which they submit feedback.

You can also encourage hiring managers not to fall behind on submitting their scorecards if you let them know ahead of time that a search will have a particularly high volume. Using data from these reports can be influential in keeping your team on their toes and providing you with the feedback necessary to update candidates ASAP.

Making the quickest decisions means nothing, though, if they’re not fair ones. Throughout your structured interview process, you’re gathering data points on candidates’ ability to perform essential tasks and embody key attributes. A candidate’s Scorecard tab in Greenhouse then serves as the platform to run a data-driven candidate roundup. By using scorecard data to steer the conversation, you’re preventing biased opinions from creeping into the conversation. Comments along the lines of, “I don’t know, my gut’s just telling me he won’t be a good fit!” hold no merit in these data-based conversations.

The data points that are identified in a roundup can then be helpful to justify an offer to an executive who may be approving this decision from a higher level in the organization. It can also be useful in the less fortunate cases when the data points to more weaknesses than strengths, and you have to justify a rejection to a candidate. Sharing feedback that is specific and constructive can help candidates leave your process feeling that their time was appreciated and well spent, which in these instances can be the best-case scenario!

Before we repeat…

…let’s reflect. As we admitted earlier, there’s always work to be done to create the best candidate experience. As recruiters, we of course want to position ourselves as subject matter experts, but it’s key to listen to those around us and make sure we see the candidate experience through the lenses of others.

The first stakeholders to check in with are your hiring managers. Weekly or bi-weekly meetings with them can be the perfect platform to share observations and discuss iterations. As a recruiter, you may be receiving questions you don’t have answers to. A hiring manager may notice the candidate pool is too junior. You can use this knowledge to update Job Info or Job Descriptions and your future candidates will be more likely to have a better candidate experience.

If no observations come to mind, running a Pipeline Report in Greenhouse can be helpful in uncovering trends. Within the Pipeline Report, you’ll see pass-through rates for each of your stages. If one percentage has a steep dive compared to earlier ones, you’ll want to address this. To dig deeper into a cause, running a Rejection Reason Report can also get to the bottom of the trend and point to areas of improvement. For example, if you’re seeing a 5% pass-through rate on your take-home exercise and you see that the common rejection reason is “Candidate Withdrew from the Process,” it may be time to lower the standards of the short novel you’ve asked your candidates to produce.

Listening to your hiring managers is important, but we would be remiss to not listen to our candidates, the ones we’re trying to appease! If you haven’t done so already, make sure to turn on your Candidate Survey in Greenhouse. You can personalize when you send the survey and who receives it, but it will be key to gathering both qualitative and quantitative feedback from your candidates.

Above are the first two of the eight standard survey questions asked of candidates who have exited your process. By collecting consistent data and actual quotes from candidates, it's possible to point to real evidence that shows what might be holding the organization back from being awesome at hiring.

Checking in on these results on a quarterly basis (potentially monthly if you have a high volume of candidates) by running a Greenhouse Candidate Survey Report will help provide the feedback needed to improve as well as exposure into how your organization matches up against Greenhouse customer benchmarks. Our team values the results of our “candidate satisfaction” just as much as we do our other Recruiting KPIs: Qualified Candidates per Role, Days to Offer, Offer Acceptance, and Hires to Goal.

Let’s wrap it up!

In this post, I shared some best practices we use to plan, execute, and iterate on our candidate experience strategies here at Greenhouse. I hope you find them helpful as you build or optimize your candidate experience initiatives within your companies. As I mentioned, there’s no silver bullet or secret formula to perfecting these efforts, but I’d love to hear from you. Leave us a note in the comments section below to share your tips and best practices!

Looking for even more guidance on creating a structured interview process? Download the interactive structured interview workbook to guide you through the process.