Written by: by Kate Baird and Jo Van Riemsdijk
As specialist Customer Experience recruiters we’ve dealt with many sectors across the UK over the last five years – among them financial services, utilities, publishing, education, health & wellness and facilities management. In all these sectors, the process of recruitment provides a surprisingly clear window into a business, capable of leaving a lasting impression on candidates, successful or otherwise.
The recruitment process ‘window’ is a potential point of vulnerability in terms of perception and branding of a business to the interested outside world. Customer Experience is a relatively small world, and reputations of both individual practitioners and businesses are often shared. It is important for a brand to take the opportunity offered by the recruitment process to present a well run, proactive, appealing view of an organisation to the target talent.
It helps if the whole business can view the hiring process as one of the key touch points in the colleague engagement journey and behave accordingly. This means making sure that the hiring managers have got a clearly briefed job description signed off with the relevant stakeholders, and the budget to pay for the level of talent they are looking for. With this firmly in hand, the hiring manager needs to be able to allocate the time to spend with the in-house resourcing team (and where relevant the specialist recruiter), to take them through the brief and explain exactly what their perfect candidate ‘looks like’, as well as how the new talent will complement and be supported by the existing team. It sounds simple, but it’s such a crucial process and it’s surprising how many businesses, large and small, get it wrong.
There are ways of being the most attractive option in the candidate’s eyes. Most obviously, there is a huge budget! But it really is by no means the only driver, particularly when recruiting for Customer Experience professionals. Flexibility is increasingly important – you will be attractive to a much wider geographical pool if there are one or two home working days a week available, for example. A generous holiday entitlement will compensate many where a salary is not top whack. Additionally there are some really obvious common sense behaviours – treat candidates with respect in terms of providing feedback, give them information providing real insight into the role which – including what their targets and KPIs will be, other deliverables expected, existing team structure, historical percentage of typical bonus paid etc. These add hugely to the candidate engagement with a new role and help drive the best talent available to sign up with you rather than a competitor.
Nearly all Customer Experience candidates ask to work for an organisation where there is buy-in from Senior Stakeholders in Customer Experience. If the recruitment process runs smoothly and the colleague engagement begins with the Recruiter or when a candidate first contacts an organisation – it indicates strongly how committed a business is to Customer Experience. Colleague engagement and experience is widely understood to be a pre-requisite to an organisation getting their Customer Experience right and if you get it wrong – it can suggest something else!
During the recruitment process, the most important aspect is to maintain momentum – there need to be timelines visible and agreed at each stage. Initial feedback on cvs, time to first interview, more feedback, not too long a delay until subsequent / final interview, offer made and negotiated. All these periods can be set by the company at any reasonable interval, but by sticking to them, candidate expectations are managed, and candidates remain engaged in the process.
The single most significant bugbear in the recruitment process, is that of faltering momentum. Generally speaking if strong candidates are looking to move, they are considering several companies at any one time, and if a process with one business is too slow, that company will lose out on talent to competitors who are moving more quickly. Hiring managers are always too busy – that’s part of the reason they are hiring in in the first place and it is hard to prioritise recruitment amongst so many other real time demands, but it really is a crucial requirement for the Brand. Candidates for all roles, even very senior ones, can be treated badly by the process and come away with a poor view of the company – and this is one that lasts as it is personal to them. A bad recruitment experience with a company can lose you that customer, who may then tell others about their experience – a negative customer experience initiative!
In addition to a process losing the talent it wants because the process has taken too long, there is another potential pitfall. Businesses that can’t commit to any candidates for a particular role after long periods of looking, need to take down their adverts, rethink, rebrief, bring in a specialist recruiter if necessary, and come back to the process after a break. Like a house languishing on the market for too long, a company with a high profile vacancy which remains unfilled, starts to appear devalued and unappealing.
Here is the flipside! The recruitment process also has the power to provide a really impressive introduction into a well run business, leading to happy and enthused new starters who bring high expectations and are fully engaged with their new companies from the start. It can also give the wider community a tantalising glimpse into the workings of a successful and streamlined operation with strong brand values which are properly embedded into its’ processes.
In short, be clear about the talent and experience you need, be realistic about the package you’ll need to offer, and be prepared to commit the time internally to keep the process on track – and real brand value can and will be added through recruitment.
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