I’ve not blogged here for a very. very long time, sorry. I’ve been busy. Well, to be honest, I have recently been busy trying to be busy, having had a couple of months job searching recently.

Yes, job searching. Looking for work, putting myself in the virtual shop window, being my own marketeer, pimping out my knowledge, skills and experience to a generally uncaring and unwelcoming world.

Now, in a couple of recent assignments I’ve been on the other side of that equation, having managed the recruitment process for some restructures. I have been the one finessing the adverts, reviewing the CVs, chasing the leadership for their views and ensuring there were pens, paper and water in the interview room.

I’ve recruited in the past, usually as a line manager bringing people into my team, but these were much more full-on in terms of the workload. There was a lot to do – a lot of organisation and logistics and, in these days of outsourced HR functions, most of it was on me. Very early on in the  first recruitment project, which was about bringing in a senior leadership team into a new organisation, a very nice chap from the recruitment agency said, almost in passing, “Remember, it’s all about the candidate experience.”

That sounded like good advice. After all, the candidate is effectively the customer of the employer brand, and what brand doesn’t want their customers to have a good experience?

Well, yes, I can think of a few, but usually I think this bad experience is created by ignorance or omission rather than a concerted effort to create a bad experience. Take my broadband provider. I live somewhere which has not yet had its tin-can-on-a-string network upgraded to fancy new fibre. As such, none of the competition will bother trying to flog their alternative to us because the infrastructure is no good. So the existing provider can charge us full whack and put off upgrading us, as we can’t go anywhere else. Nobody is sitting in a bunker somewhere with their finger over the “Slow Down the Broadband” button waiting for my daughter to start the livestream of her favourite YouTuber, but from the end user, the effect is the same – “Dad, why isn’t YouTube working?”

So, candidate experience. Makes sense. After all, what happens if you interview three people, find they are all pretty good, but one just shades it. You offer the role to candidate A, but they don’t work out. That means you need to turn to Candidate B, so you’d better make sure their experience was a positive one, otherwise they aren’t going to be too receptive when the call comes in asking them if they want the job after all.

With this in mind, I endeavoured to ensure the candidate experience was the best it could be. I would chase the recruitment agency to make sure they kept the candidates in formed at every stage – make sure the candidate knows what was happening and, when nothing was happening, why not, and when it would be happening.

I made sure every candidate got feedback, even if it was just a paragraph thanking them for their interest but letting them know that unfortunately their knowledge skills and experience were not as good a fit and others who had applied for the role. If there was any specific feedback, such as how their CV was written, I would try and get that in.

I constantly chased line managers to make sure they reviewed CVs, reviewed feedback, had everything they needed for the interviews, followed up the interviews to review and ensure we had the right offer.

Things didn’t always go to plan – one time a role was withdrawn at the last minute and the recruitment agency failed to let the candidate know the interview had been cancelled. I just made sure I was there in person to apologise and explain when they turned up. Or the time the line manager got so hung up on the scoring process used in the interview they would not make a decision, despite knowing which candidate of two they wanted. They dithered so long they lost both. Both times were despite my best efforts, but both times I did all I could to keep people informed as best I could.

Candidate experience is important. So I will relate my experience as a candidate recently. I had a call one day from a firm asking if I would be interested in helping them out as an associate. I then had a telephone interview, followed by a face-to-face in London (with associated £200+ train fare), followed by another telephone interview. All went well, and before and after each point I had a call from the person who had originally called me to let me know what was going on and how they felt things were doing. I got the gig, only for the budget to be pulled. Hey ho, it happens, goes with the territory,  but it was generally a positive experience because I was kept informed and got some useful feedback.

Another experience: another call from an agency, long chat on the phone and another phone followed by face to face in London. In the meantime had another agency call and another interview was put in, thankfully on the same day, so my outlay on train fares was minimised. Had both interviews, felt they went well, rang the agencies back to let them know, then heard… nothing. For a couple of days, then a week. So I chased. Dropped an email, got a quick call saying they would be having a meeting in the next day or so, and they’d let me know. At time of writing it has been six weeks and one day since the interviews and no further feedback. This experience? Not so good. Clearly I didn’t get the job, but a quick mail to say thanks for the interest and a couple of thoughts on why I wasn’t right for them would have been appreciated.

So, have a think. If you are recruiting, think about how you create the best possible candidate experience. Think about what feedback you can give, how you can offer some constructive advice on how they might do better next time, because next time they may be exactly the right person for another vacancy and, if they are, you will stand a much better chance of bagging them.

And more widely, have a think about how you can create the best possible experience for others. If you are a line manager, how dow you create the best possible experience for your team? For your customers? For people going through change? For people leaving and organisation? In every case, the experience can be influenced by your actions (or lack thereof) – so think it through. How do you create that best possible experience?