How to Prevent Candidates From Dropping Out of Your Hiring Process

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Written by Nick Pokoluk, Director of Service Delivery

Since the Coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate has dropped to historic lows and competition for the best talent is as fierce as ever. Additionally, job-seekers have developed a new sense of self-awareness, self-worth, and a new understanding of the world around them. Perhaps this is why the Great Recession came on so quickly after the pandemic. When the world around you changes and you want to find more meaningful work, you want to find it now. 

As a result, candidates are looking for employment opportunities that have greater meaning and demand a candidate experience that moves at the pace of now. So it’s more important than ever to deliver a candidate experience that is easy, fast, transparent, and personalized.

I recently read an article from ERE titled “New Research Reveals Why Candidates Are Abandoning Your Recruiting Process” by Kevin Grossman. A few concepts stood out to me on why candidates are dropping out at every stage of the recruiting process include:

Application Process Contributes to Candidate Abandonment: I’ve been in recruitment for 19 years and there are still a surprising number of organizations that don’t understand just how important it is to make it easy for candidates to find and apply for their jobs. Sometimes the simplest things, like applying for a job and uploading a resume, are difficult and cumbersome. The application process needs to be simple, straightforward, and ideally mobile enabled. To make the application process as easy as possible, at Personify we require only basic information and a resume so that it’s not a long and drawn-out process that discourages individuals from completing the process. For instance, on LinkedIn and other job sites, we enable”Easy Apply,” so candidates don’t have to leave the site and take extra steps. We are actively working on getting the most robust applicant tracking system (ATS) to track our applicants and active candidates efficiently so we can respond faster and shorten the processing time. We’ve also added more team members to internal recruiting, which has been crucial in ensuring we all know where applicants and candidates stand in our process at any given time. If we see a dip in overall applicant flow, we get more creative in sourcing strategies while leaning on our internal team for referrals.  

The Interview Process Needs To Be Streamlined And Efficient: Does a hire need three interviews with eight different people spread across several weeks?  Can an organization “flex” on requirements so they don’t mandate that every category is checked “yes” before moving forward with a hire? Candidates will ghost a recruiter if they get dragged through an arduous, lengthy interview process while being asked the same questions repeatedly by different people.  It simply isn’t worth it to them in today’s climate.

At Personify, we’ve been diligent about setting an interview process and sticking to it, so processes don’t drag out unnecessarily. Our average time in process from application or initial contact to offer acceptance is about 20 days. To streamline our feedback process, we’ve partnered with Hiring Managers to ensure we receive post-interview feedback within 24 hours to disposition candidates accordingly and keep the process moving in a timely manner. One of the most significant changes we made to the process was adding a hiring manager phone screen to the process before the in-person interview. While this may seem like an added step, it made our process more efficient because we only bring fully vetted candidates and applicants on-site for follow-up interviews. We refer to this tactic as “slow down to speed up.”  

Another way to streamline the interview process is to attend career fairs virtually or in person. Earlier this year, one of our clients expressed interest in conducting career fairs since their past attempts were not as successful as they hoped. Our recruitment marketing (RM) team organized two successful career fairs for the client by creating a detailed advertising plan that included a social media schedule, website design, email campaigns, landing pages, and flyers. The social media postings and advertisements leveraged our network as well as our clients. We were able to track attendees through the registration form on the client’s branded landing page. The RM team posted to several job boards with PFY recruiters pushing applicants informed and engaged ahead of the event with event reminders. Flyers included QR codes with the ability for attendees to sign up from their mobile devices. Between the two events, our client was able to yield fifty-nine offers extended. Multiple recruiters and hiring managers can attend career fairs to quickly handle applications, screen candidates, and even conduct short interviews.  We also try to recruit heavily for our internship program to have a viable pool of candidates once they graduate.  This allows us to get to know these individuals and enables the intern to understand their career trajectory better. 

The Importance Of High-Touch Communication: High-touch communication is a big priority because it’s important to be responsive at every step of the process so the candidate knows what is going on and where they stand in the process. Our recruiters follow up with candidates within a twenty-four-hour period. We take this so seriously that we survey candidates who have completed working with Personify and report the results in Business Reviews to our customers.  We also track the reasons for candidate abandonment and share them with clients to continually refine the recruitment process and reduce churn. We have identified that candidate contact training is key to making the application process as easy as possible for you and the candidate. 

Given the crazy employment market, high-touch communication is crucial to getting candidates to the finish line.  Things can change quickly with different opportunities, promotions in a candidate’s current role, etc. Therefore, it’s important to have an open line of communication with all candidates so that we can identify and talk through these roadblocks in real-time and not have big surprises throughout the process. To build a personalized customer experience, the candidate needs easy access, simple communication, and quick follow-up. A phone conversation, while not as emotional as in-person, is definitely more personable than an email. You can hear the person’s voice, feel how they act, and respond in an active conversation. It’s likely not the technology itself that serves to turn off candidates, but how that technology is used and whether it aligns seamlessly with the experiences they have with real people. Information that candidates receive via texts, e-mails, and websites aligns with what they’re hearing from HR staff and hiring managers. A personalized customer experience makes the process better, more efficient, and more candidate-friendly. We ensure our recruiting team is accessible to candidates and follow up with any updates as they arise.  Personify hired candidate surveys have an average NPS of 9.2. We’ve set a cadence for regular follow-up with candidates that are “at the ready” stage for new roles that open up in our talent pipeline to ensure we are still communicating with these candidates.  When hiring recruiters was difficult because the demand was so high, our recruitment funnel measures are strong especially since we have hired forty-eight recruiter types in the last twelve months.  

Now more than ever, Talent Acquisition needs to optimize the candidate experience for an organization to have ANY chance of winning the current “war for talent.”  With focus shifting to candidate-employee experience, promoting the uniqueness of your company’s culture is essential, ensuring synergy between what’s important to the company and what’s important to the candidate.


New Research Reveals Why Candidates Are Abandoning Your Recruiting Process

With the nation’s labor shortage showing no signs of abating, talent acquisition teams are under enormous pressure to keep qualified candidates from abandoning their recruiting process prematurely. This is becoming a difficult challenge, as job seekers are increasingly demanding roles that enable them to work on their own terms.

The first step that many TA teams have taken to combat candidate abandonment is streamlining, simplifying, and shortening their application process. While this has chipped away at abandonment rates, studies continue to peg them north of 65% at many organizations.

The fact is that significant numbers of candidates drop out at every stage of the recruiting process, not just during application. A CareerBuilder survey, for example, showed 31% of employers lose candidates during background screenings, and research from the professional social network Blind found that nearly 30% of candidates abandon potential employers during the interview stage.

New data from Talent Board’s 2021 Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Report shows that regardless of the stage at which candidates voluntarily exit, they do so for a few key reasons. Topping this list of reasons in North America are:

  1. Their time was disrespected (especially during interviews and appointments)
  2. The recruiting process took too long
  3. Salary didn’t meet their expectations

These three issues crop up in every region we survey, although the order changes a bit. In Latin America and EMEA, for example, salary tops the list. In APAC, salary drops off the list and is replaced by “poor communication with the recruiting team.” Despite these fluctuations, the top reasons for candidate abandonment remain remarkably consistent globally.

Frankly, salary-related abandonment is to be expected and doesn’t really speak to the quality of a company’s candidate experience or to the efficiency of its recruiting team and processes. But those first two issues speak volumes.

Disrespecting Candidates’ Time

Talent Board has surveyed over 1.25 millions candidates over the past decade from over 1,200 companies. The mix of candidates we survey changes from year to year but, even so, one of their most consistent complaints has been that recruiters and hiring managers don’t always respect their time — a failure that occurs at every stage of the recruiting process.

The most common occurrences include:

  • Overly complex or repetitive applications with assessments
  • Screenings, tests, and/or assessments that take too long or that require unreasonable amounts of time and/or effort to complete
  • Recruiters or hiring managers schedule interviews but never show up (ghosting), or reschedule several times, or are disruptive during the interviews themselves
  • Job offers that take weeks or months to materialize
  • Lengthy and arduous onboarding practices (which get worse in heavily regulated industries)

Another less obvious but no less critical way that employers disrespect candidates’ time is by keeping them in the dark about where they stand during the recruiting process. For instance, just 36% of North American candidates were able to view a progress indicator when applying for a job, and only 29% received a reminder about next steps after completing their application.

Post-interview, 76% of candidates said the hiring manager never explained next steps. And 43% of candidates said it took two weeks or longer to receive an offer letter (6% waited more than four weeks). The results are similar around the world.

All of these missteps contribute to a candidate’s impression that their time isn’t valued. It’s probably not surprising that companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences in our research do better than other companies at keeping candidates apprised of their status throughout their journey, no matter how long or short it might be.

Bottom line, candidates are generally quite patient with the recruiting process because they understand how busy recruiters and hiring managers are (and they want that job). But their patience isn’t unlimited, and in today’s talent market, where the power is shifting to candidates rather than employers, their patience definitely isn’t as abundant as it used to be.

An Overly Lengthy Recruiting Process

Again, candidates fully accept that the recruiting process takes time — time that ultimately might not even pay off with a job offer. However, they also understand their own value, particularly in today’s fiercely competitive labor market. As a result, they’re much less willing to endure long, arduous recruiting processes. Plus, in the current recruiting environment, TA teams that move slowly are going to lose desirable talent to nimbler teams with streamlined processes.

As previously noted, an overly complex or repetitive application can contribute significantly to candidate abandonment. While 54% of the candidates we surveyed in 2021 said it took them less than 15 minutes to apply, the process still took longer for nearly half of them and times varied widely.

Also, our data shows that the longer an application takes — 30 minutes or longer — and then still waiting to hear back after one or two or more months, the less likely candidates are to apply again or refer others to the company. Their likelihood to apply again decreases 73% and their likelihood to refer others decreases 64%. Quite a dramatic drop.

When it comes to pre-employment assessments, there’s plenty of debate around whether they actually lengthen or shorten the recruiting process. In Talent Board’s experience, using the right assessments in the right ways (which varies from company to company) definitely helps employers more quickly determine the best possible candidates for a role.

But assessments do lengthen the process for candidates, which may be an important consideration, especially when there’s little to no context as to why they have to take them, and when they get no feedback from the results, which is usually the case.

What constitutes a “reasonable” amount of time and effort for completing an assessment is also a source of debate, but one thing is sure: While candidates don’t generally object to assessments, they have their limits.

According to a survey by assessment provider ThriveMap, 47% of candidates don’t like pre-hire assessments because they take too long; 37% are unclear about why they’re taking the assessments; and 30% feel the assessments don’t relate to the jobs they’re applied to. All of these issues lead to higher candidate abandonment, and they contribute negatively to candidates’ perceptions of an employment brand and its candidate experience.

Looking to Tech

The good news is that employers are taking steps to streamline and speed up their recruiting processes. One key way they’re doing this is by investing in AI-based recruiting technologies such as resume-screening software, chatbots, online assessments, video-interviewing solutions, candidate-survey systems, and recruitment marketing software, to name just a few. These technologies handle many of the repetitive, labor-intensive tasks that make up recruiting — and they hasten the process for both the TA team and candidates.

Indicative of this investment in recruiting tech, Talent Board has seen a 40% global increase in the use of chatbots since 2019 and a whopping 380% increase in mobile text messaging campaigns since 2018. In addition, AI-based video interviewing and assessment rose in the U.S. from 48% in 2020 to 58% in 2021.

It’s worth noting that companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences are more likely than their competitors to be using some form of AI-based tech to improve sourcing, candidate communications, and their overall support of recruiters and hiring managers. Indeed, most of the top CandE Award-winning organizations around the world last year used some form of AI-based recruiting tech.

Obviously, recruiting is a complex process, and the time and effort it demands varies across job types and industries. Also, not every candidate who enters your talent pipeline has the same value or is a potential fit for your organization. You actually want a certain amount of voluntary abandonment (aka, self-selection) to occur.

But retaining qualified candidates — those with a comparatively higher value — is imperative, especially in a labor market as tight as the current one. It’s also crucial to hang onto candidates with future-fit potential — even those who’ve been rejected — as they have the highest value to filling your pending talent needs.

By making sure you respect candidates’ time and by streamlining your recruiting process, you’ll not only hang on to these high-value candidates more effectively, you’ll also boost the overall impression job seekers have of your employment brand and candidate experience.

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