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Ep 462: What’s New In Candidate Experience


This is a special cross-over episode with The Talent Savvy Podcast hosted by Bas van de Haterd and Marlies Farrill. It was a pleasure to join them for a conversation about the latest thinking in candidate experience, undoubtedly an evergreen topic in talent acquisition.

If you’ve not listened to the Talent Savvy podcast before, I would highly recommend subscribing for a great mix of informed opinion and practical advice.

In our conversation, we discuss:

• Why candidate experience isn’t an object to fix

• An automated personalized experience at scale

• Technology innovation and unchanging human nature

• Differing attitudes to feedback in North America and Europe

• Do we have the right tools to provide quality feedback?

• Consistent and regular communication

• Motivation and targeted marketing

• Examples of employers who are getting things right

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.


Matt Alder (0s):
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Matt Alder (55s):
Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 462 of The Recruiting Future Podcast. This is a very special crossover episode with the Talent Savvy Podcast, hosted by Bas van de Haterd and Marlies Farrill. It was a pleasure to join them for a conversation about the latest thinking in candidate experience. Undoubtedly, an evergreen topic in talent acquisition. If you’ve not listened to the talent Savvy podcast before I would highly recommend subscribing for a great mix of informed opinion and practical advice.

Bas van de Haterd (1m 34s):
Welcome to a unique crossover episode, The Recruiting Future podcast and Talent Savvy. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are doing something we’ve not done before yet. We’re having a co-host who is not part of our co-host community, but who is one of the most experienced and greatest podcasters as far as I’m concerned in the TA industry, Matt Alder, Welcome to the podcast.

Matt Alder (2m 7s):
Thank you very much. It’s a absolute pleasure to be here. I always get confused with these crossover Podcasts as to who’s show it is whether it’s my show or your show, but no, an absolute pleasure to be here.

Bas van de Haterd (2m 17s):
It’s both our shows. Could you introduce yourself to our audience?

Matt Alder (2m 23s):
Absolutely. So I’m Matt Alder. I’m the host of The Recruiting Future Podcast. Recruiting future an interview based podcast runs twice a week, and I’ve been working on that for almost eight years now, this feels like longer, but almost eight now. I’m also a consultant in and around the talent acquisition space, focusing a lot on technology and the future. Previous to all of that, I worked in recruitment, marketing and Employer Branding.

Bas van de Haterd (2m 49s):
And the other co-host is Marlies Farril from Canada. Marlies you are very well known to the talent Savvy Podcasts, but probably not as much to Recruiting future podcast audience. Can you introduce yourself quickly as well?

Marlies Farril (3m 4s):
Absolutely. Hi everyone. My name is Marlise and I am a Recruiting leader and founder and day job recruiter. So in my day job I work at Pinterest. I’m also the founder of a woman’s wellness journal and I formerly led talent acquisition teams. I also have a passion for Candidate experience in Branding. So excited to talk about this with you and for anybody in Matt’s audience. Why Don don’t you tell them a little bit about you,

Bas van de Haterd (3m 33s):
My name is Bas van de Haterd, I’ve been on Matt’s podcast a few times now in those eight years, I’m a consultant on both the talent acquisition attraction piece, I’ve been running a corporate career size research here from the Netherlands where I’m from for 16 years in a row now, and I’ve been consulting on basically improving talent acquisition in a broad sense with many things from governments to a few agencies and a lot of corporates, and I’m also a very big consultant these days on selection technology and improving both your candidate pool as well as If you still don’t have too many people applying, getting the right candidates out of there and that’s basically what I do.

Bas van de Haterd (4m 30s):
Today we are talking about what is new and fresh in the Candidate Experience, and is that something or is that absolutely nothing? And this is based on an ERE article by Kevin Grossman, a man I absolutely admire a lot for what he’s done for this industry, and if I’m not mistaken he was on one of the Recruiting future Podcasts as well.

Matt Alder (4m 55s):
I think he’s been on twice actually. Yeah.

Bas van de Haterd (4m 57s):
Those are well worth listening too. Marlise, could you quickly introduce the article on what Kevin states there?

Marlies Farril (5m 6s):
To summarize his article really briefly, although I recommend everybody to go and read it and will link it in our notes, he argues that there have been no drastic innovations and Candidate Experience, but the most important things to Candidate remain frequent and respectful communication, allowing candidates to really understand your company and culture, and then finally providing feedback, which I’m coming from the north American perspective north American recruiters don’t do very well. Europeans do slightly better having worked in Europe as well, but those are the three more important things.

Marlies Farril (5m 46s):
There’s definitely some interesting little insights in there too. He does note that Candidate resentment is down which is nice to see, but he argues that there’s been nothing very new in this area, but I know that not all of us agree, Matt, Bas, what do you think?

Matt Alder (6m 3s):
I think it’s a great article and like Bas, I’ve got a lot of respect for the work that Kevin does. What I think is brilliant is about, is the amount of research that comes with that. Everything that him and his colleagues write about is based on the research that they do and what’s actually happening in the marketplace. Do I agree with the article? I think he’s a bit complicated. The title is obviously provocative mainly to one people like Bas about nothing changing. I think we’ll probably get into the kind of the nitty gritty of some of the points that he raises, and I’m sure that we can all come up with examples sort of, for and against that. I think that the principle here is that when people talk about the Candidate Experience, you get a lot of commentary and discussion that says, why are we still talking about this?

Matt Alder (6m 46s):
Nothing is ever changed. Everything’s still the same. It’s still terrible. Why have we not fixed it? Which is kind of not what Kevin is doing in this article, but that really sort of looks at this very kind of black and white thing. That’s either wrong or it’s right and it can be fixed, and it’s really easy. Certainly when I was talking to. Interviewing Kevin last year, we were really talking about it being this continuum, it’s continually change. It’s not a thing that you can fix. There are, there are lots and lots of constituent parts of it, obviously during the pandemic, things changed after the pandemic things have changed but I think in the article, he’s talking about the core principles that sit behind and is perhaps arguing that they remain the same.

Matt Alder (7m 27s):
In that sense, I do broadly agree with what you’re saying. However, I think that one of the things that the article part doesn’t cover is the amount of innovation that we’ve seen in technology and the way that organizations can use that, and I’m really interested in terms of how people can offer an automated, personalized experience at scale, and I think that for me is a real sort of focus of discussion over the next couple of years, in terms of how can we improve the Candidate Experience by using some of the tools and methodologies that we now had that we probably didn’t have 10 years ago.

Bas van de Haterd (8m 16s):
I totally agree with you on that Matt, and actually, when I was reading the article, I was thinking of a lecture I once saw from Linda Gretton, who is one of the most amazing professors in the London business school, as far as I’m concerned, and she described the situation she had with the Sinai, one of the nomad people in Africa, where she said things change and nothing changes because every morning they still go out with their goats to look for water in this vast desert yet now that when they found it, they actually call each other up on cellphones. So human nature doesn’t change. There’s still nomad people looking for water in a really deserted area yet the means of communicating and getting your brother over there with his herd of goats has been vastly changed because it used to be not possible.

Bas van de Haterd (9m 11s):
That’s actually what I felt with this article as well. Human behavior, human need, human desires do not change. So when he writes, people want honest feedback, people want frequent communication. People want information, which is relevant for them, that’s basically what he’s saying. That is absolutely true but what has changed is our ability to deliver on this at scale, and I actually remember the very first time, and I think you remember this Matt as well, when Keith Robinson, who was of course a big proponent, he actually launched a very first Candidate Experience.

Bas van de Haterd (9m 53s):
He was the first person to ever coin the term, if I’m not mistaken back in the day. He was talking about it on one of my events in the Netherlands and we actually had somebody standing up in the audience saying, but if I don’t put a no reply email address to my candidates, they’ll start emailing me. That’s not what I want. That was the mentality back then, because there was just no idea, and this was of course, early days in digital recruiting, and now we have scalable technologies to actually give those frequent updates and help people with that.

Bas van de Haterd (10m 33s):
So that’s why I agree and disagree with him. Marlise what are your thoughts?

Marlies Farril (10m 38s):
What really fascinates me though too, is that this isn’t a new idea, but yet if we look at some of the stats in this article, so many people don’t do the basics. So many candidates don’t get a response. Although you’re saying nothing is new. I even worked at an organization five or six years ago that when I started, they told me, we don’t email candidates. We just ghost them. That’s not gonna be how I operate here because that’s just not with my ethos. Although I think ultimately this all boils down to treating people with respect and treating them kindly, and now we do have the benefit of technology. It’s shocking when you look at some of the numbers of this report, how few candidates get that feedback, hear from somebody, even though we do have this technology, and I think there’s so much, that’s changed to help recruiters deal with this volume, deal with all of these things, but yet so many talent teams, aren’t doing these things, and I think that’s why this continues to be a topic of conversation because although there is so much out there so many don’t use it.

Marlies Farril (11m 46s):
I’d be curious, why do we think that is?

Bas van de Haterd (11m 52s):
I’m really curious too, because you just said something interesting, and I just related it to the recruitment flex podcast from Canada, from your area of the world Marlise, and search actually said, one of the reasons we do not provide specific feedback in rejection emails is because of legal issues, we might get sued, which is something I think completely North American because it’s impossible within Europe as far as I know. But do you think that’s one of the reasons why in America there are so little feedback?

Marlies Farril (12m 28s):
I think in Canada, I I’ve heard that feedback too. In university at a part-time job at home Depot where they said we don’t provide references due to legality, but the reality in Canada, I think it’s actually very difficult to sue unless you say to somebody I’m not hiring you because you’re a woman or something like that, a discriminatory reason. Yes, you could be sued, but actually to give somebody like honest feedback, you’re very unlikely to be sued and they’re even less likely to be successful. In the United States It’s a lot mukier, and I think people can win in Canada we don’t have the same concept of like the civil trial where you’re gonna win like the millions of dollars but a lot of Canadian teams have been founded by X-Americans who I think are bringing this American bias into it, but I did find that too, because I worked in Amsterdam and I really loved the honest feedback teams gave, and that’s something I brought back when I went back to North America, is to start giving a lot more honest feedback.

Marlies Farril (13m 35s):
The one thing I do, which takes an extra step is because Candidates in Canada and the States are a little bit more sensitive as I do ask for an opt-in, would you like some feedback? Because I do find unlike Europe where I found everybody wanted it, I had a lot of candidates in Canada tell me, I don’t really wanna hear, but I would say about 80% do, but I just ask them, in my automated email at the bottom, it says, I would be happy to provide you with some feedback provided that you would want it, and I think if they opt into it, you should be fine.

Bas van de Haterd (14m 11s):
All right. Really interesting. Well, what I wanna do next is because of course, a major difference between the Recruiting Future Podcasts and Talent Savvy is, Recruiting Future looks more to the strategy and we try to be more actionable to operational tactical. I’m really curious, Matt and Marlise of course, as well, to get some specific examples for how we have changed both the frequent and respectful communications. If you see some really interesting implementations of technology, you heard some great case studies of companies doing that really well, some insights into your company culture and work play, and the feedback system.

Bas van de Haterd (14m 52s):
If we have some examples of companies doing either one of those really well. Matt, have you seen any interesting cases on your Podcasts recently?

Matt Alder (15m 8s):
I’ve had a couple in recent episodes and I think it’s interesting the way this article is split down, it talks about communication and regular communication, and then it talks about feedback as a kind of a separate thing. I think that one of the interesting things is that there is that, What do lots of candidates actually want? While feedback is important to many people, I think Marlies is interesting there, you’re saying that people are actually opting out of getting that the consistent and regular communication through the process, I’m guessing is something that would be important to absolutely everyone and that whole kind of recruitment black hole is what we sort of hear about the most often. A few examples from recent Podcasts that sort of speak to things in this article, the bit about that kind of level of communication and feedback, and it also struck me when you were talking about not wanting candidates to kind of get in touch, and that really comes from almost likey the old methods of recruitment marketing, where we could only put out sort of very untargeted newspaper adverts and companies were genuinely terrified by getting thousands and thousands of irrelevant applications, and that happened in the early days of the internet as well.

Matt Alder (16m 13s):
We live in an era where we can do very targeted marketing now, in terms of the amount of people coming through the process and how we manage that and a company who does this in lots of really interesting ways is HubSpot the technology company, and it’s not really surprising because marketing and personalization and recruiting and CRM is their corporate DNA but the one thing that they really focus on, I think helps them throughout this process, in terms of knowing how and when to communicate is the work they do understanding their audience. Who are we recruiting? What are their motivations? How do they like to be communicated with and spoken to? Because certainly if I’ve been going through a recruitment process, I’d prefer some regular friendly emails than someone calling me all the time to tell me what’s going on and other people might be completely opposite.

Matt Alder (17m 3s):
I think that worked to understand the audience as much as you can, obviously not potentially as individuals, but just in terms of the sort of lightly groups of people applying to different roles and different things like that. I thought that’s a great example of being able to properly tailor the communication by getting as much information upfront as possible to give people that great experience. The other thing about exposing people to the corporate culture and communicating about the culture of the organization, rather than just focusing on what the job does. A couple of examples, again, from recent Podcasts, I did a podcast on Onboarding with a company called Live Ramp. One of the things that they were talking about is how they consider their Onboarding process that actually starts in the very first part of recruitment marketing and Employer Branding because at that point they’re starting to communicate their culture and they’re doing that via stories of their employees, and they saw that Onboarding Employer Branding, all these things completely linked, and they have statistics about on average successful candidates that are exposed to stories about our culture five times during their recruitment process where they need to sort of touch in with us three or four times before they’re likely to apply and that level of understanding about how that process worked again, I thought was great, and then another sort of culture example, I was talking to a guy called Kevin Dewalt from a consultancy that helps Fortune 500 companies implementing AI in their business, and they just released a report on how to recruit data science professionals, and it went back to what HubSpot were doing.

Matt Alder (18m 37s):
They understood that the thing that really focuses on the success or failure of someone in that role is their line manager and who they work for, and for that audience, that is the most important thing. They want to know that they’re working for someone who actually understands what they do and is gonna help them develop their career. Their advice for companies that they were working for were actually including biographies of the line manager in the actual job description. I thought that was a great way of understanding the audience, getting your culture across and just really setting out a great Candidate Experience from the start. I suppose they’re the examples that I’ve come across most recently of slightly different thinking in this area.

Marlies Farril (19m 41s):
The company that stands out the most and I’ve stolen their idea or borrowed, their idea is a Canadian company called Ecobee that does smart thermostats, and they write when you apply to a job, they provide a really detailed thanks for applying email that lays out the interview process specifically for that role accurate timelines and when they’ll get back to you at every stage of the process a little bit about who will be reviewing your application, what they’re looking for, it’s a very detailed email, but what I think it does so effectively is it tells candidates what to expect it lets you know, and they stick to it about what your application experience will look like.

Marlies Farril (20m 23s):
One of the biggest things I hear from candidates is you don’t know if your application’s going anywhere. You don’t know when you’ll hear, and I think Ecobee did an exceptional job in this email, which is scalable. It goes out to every Candidate, they just customize it per role, in really setting those expectations which I think is a good foundation of the Candidate Experience is telling people when to expect what, and if your team can stick to that, even if it’s not as quick as you’d like, that’s something that’s actionable and scalable that I think sets your team up for success.

Bas van de Haterd (21m 0s):
Absolutely, and one of the things which I actually just thought about, because what Matt said about ways of communicating. One of our biggest insurance firms, genuine old school corporates, and they now have a question in their application form. How do you want our recruiter to reply to you by WhatsApp, by email? Or do you want us to call you? When they started this, I asked, how did you ever get that within your organization? He’s said, I’m the head of TA. I just tell them to do it, and by the way, most do not want phone call conversations but those who do want, we are now in strong better touch with, and we are tailoring basically our responses to their preferred methods.

Bas van de Haterd (21m 54s):
I genuinely thought that was amazing as well, to my surprise. I expected a lot of others to follow suit, but they haven’t chat, and If you you’re talking about, plenty of feedback, there are two companies which I have seen do that really well, and it wasn’t as much plenty of feedback, but the quality of feedback and one was actually many years ago already where they simply send out and they use an assessment tool, of course, because else you can’t do that but they literally gave, and that’s almost mandatory in the Netherlands. It’s not law, but the Dutch Institute for psychologists demand it.

Bas van de Haterd (22m 36s):
Everybody who does assessments does that. They give the candidates a response and they simply say this is the bar. For example, this was for contact center job for ear hand coordination. You need to be at 75%. You are below that and that’s why we’re rejecting you. Based on their test and they’re like, this is our bottom level, and there were auto rejecting.The most amazing thing I saw from that was I saw some emails from candidates who said, this is the most humane rejection I’ve ever had and that was the only rejection they probably ever had where no human was in the loop, which just comes to consider Candidate feedback.

Bas van de Haterd (23m 18s):
Another one, which I really love was from Australia where they based on another test very early on in the process. They would tell people, I’m sorry, you are not gonna qualify for our traineeship in investment banking, but actually you will be able to qualify for our traineeship as an auditor, because for example, your way too risk averse, which is a great talent to have as an auditor, but investment bankers are the ones taking the risk. So your profile doesn’t fit and they were actually able to give the really quality Candidate feedback and have people basically go into the areas of their company where they were experiencing not enough applicants.

Bas van de Haterd (24m 6s):
They were able to increase the numbers for their audit traineeship, which had never been able to hit targets to target level. It’s not about plenty of feedback, but also the quality of feedback, and I think that might actually be something we need to think about as well. Do we actually have the tools to give them quality feedback, Matt?

Matt Alder (24m 33s):
I think that’s a really interesting point actually, because I think that very often a lot of the conversations around this is like companies must give feedback, and they don’t do it because the too lazy, the too busy that probably all these, all these kind of things, and it reminds me of a really interesting conversation I had with an organization that for obvious reasons will have to remain completely anonymous and nameless. They were just introducing assessment tools and the head of TA. It was kind a weird organization. He was the head of TA, but he didn’t actually control a lot of the recruitment that was going on, and they were delighted because they had this kind of single point of entry assessment where they were able to give people automated, but quality feedback, and previously they’d not given feedback because they were concerned as an organization that sometimes the decisions that hiring managers were making on recruiting people might not actually be logical or defensible, not necessarily, discriminatory, but just actually quite difficult to explain to someone who’d applied for a job who had similar kind of applications.

Matt Alder (25m 40s):
There was a bit about that whole sort of gut feel part of the recruitment process that people sort of talk about. It was actually really difficult for them to explain why they’d made a decision and maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was surprised considering the type of organization that was that they weren’t more structured and appropriate in the way that they’re recruiting, and that kind of made me think that, that maybe this happens a lot in a lot of organizations than we just don’t hear about it,

Bas van de Haterd (26m 7s):
True, and sometimes I remember when I was consulting with a very small legal firm, we rejected a candidate on spelling errors, which is by the way, something I was dead set against because we know that spelling errors have no relevance to somebody’s work quality until they told me but she needs to be able to communicate with our clients as well, and they’re gonna be appalled by spelling errors in client communications. It’s still a difficult one, but actually when we did reject this person, she completely went nuts and actually made us racist because her last name wasn’t originally Dutch and that they were basically putting more emphasis on spelling errors because of her last name, which wasn’t the case.

Bas van de Haterd (27m 1s):
You can still argue that a spelling mistake shouldn’t have been a reason to reject, which I actually did internally, but they were dead set on because of their clients who would be dead set on that as well. So on that note, Marlise any final thoughts?

Marlies Farril (27m 21s):
I was really struck by what Matt was saying around that organization that starts the Onboarding with Employer Branding and those initial Candidate communications is that everything that you put out collateral wise as a company should reflect your Candidate Experience. For example, HubSpot having that personalization given their system, think about your organization, their values, and what you stand for, think about actionable ways that you can utilize technology or even If you don’t have technology, you can create a lot of different email drafts to create points of personalization or that feel personalized throughout your process.

Marlies Farril (28m 7s):
I do think sadly, treating people with respect and communicating frequently providing feedback are in my opinion, the two easiest ways to stand out as a recruiter even without a great recruiter. You can really help yourself stand out and create an excellent experience just by communicating frequently and utilizing either automation or a lot of drafts or templates to help yourself. Help yourself stand out and create an experience that people will remember but you don’t have to do that alone. There’s a lot of inexpensive technology on the market.

Bas van de Haterd (28m 43s):
On that note, I would like to thank you all for listening. Now, If you are listening to this on The Talent Savvy Podcast, check out a Recruiting Future Podcast. If you’re listening to this on the Recruiting Future Podcast, check out The Talent Savvy Podcast and subscribe to the feeds and we’ll be back next week.

Matt Alder (29m 4s):
My thanks to Bas and Marlies, and you can subscribe to The Talent Savvy Podcast, wherever you get your Podcasts. You can also subscribe to the Recruiting Future Podcast, wherever you get your Podcasts, and please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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