For Recruitment Agencies, providing a great candidate experience is the key point of differentiation in today’s market.

But the awkward truth is that most don’t know how to measure how well they’re doing it. 

It’s not always easy to face the awkward truth, as I discovered after asking for some honest feedback on my first draft of this article. Our Commercial Director, Andy Daniel, said: ‘Ken, you might actually be right about the challenges facing today’s recruitment leaders; but do you have to be so negative about it, it’s depressing’. Message understood Andy and when you get out of hospital, I hope you enjoy reading this final version.   

At TALiNT Partners we engage with a huge range of different employers and it is becoming increasingly clear that candidate experience is becoming the critical battleground in the war for talent. Whilst it could be argued that ‘Employer Brand’ is more or, at least, just as important, in a competitive landscape where every employer has some degree of awareness there is little evidence that it substantially improves recruitment. But there is a ton of evidence to demonstrate candidates pulling out of poor processes – in some cases you can almost see it in real time. 

Which brings us to Recruitment Agencies. Specialist agencies have long recognised that they have a USP in their ability to identify and engage with hard-to-find and/or passive candidates. The best of them make sure they follow this up by treating candidates well through a recruitment process, whether they get the job or not. 

Encouragingly, this was one of the clearest findings from our 2019 Agency Benchmark programme.   

The Benchmark Report, supported by our partners Access Group, is available here.

The key elements of a good candidate experience are: 

  • Initial engagement: is this a relevant, interesting opportunity given their career aspirations? Even if it is, does the role deliver on a ‘hygiene’ level (location, salary and benefits, and – increasingly – flexible working)? 
  • Understanding and preparing for the recruitment process  
  • Providing timely updates (yes, even if it’s to say ‘I haven’t heard anything either’)  
  • And, of course, offer negotiation and support during their resignation and notice periods or rejection and feedback 

A lot of consultants might think this is where the process ends. But being a point of contact during the onboarding process, and even for the first 3-6 months in a new role, doesn’t just help to avoid having to pay a rebate, it’s a brilliant stepping-stone to cementing a long-term relationship with the candidate. It can also ensure you are their first port of call if they are referring their contacts, hiring themselves or when the time comes to consider their next move.   

Another key advantage agencies have is that they will often be working on fewer roles than their in-house counterparts. Roles will also be much more focused in a particular function or sector which in turn should allow them to deliver a better service to candidates. 

And, of course, the application of technology, when deployed effectively, is enormously powerful in supporting great engagement with candidates.   

From our perspective, this is where the other dimension of our Benchmark programme can help: by giving agencies an insight into how well their candidate experience efforts compare to their competitors. Our objective is to help agencies that participate in the Benchmark programme to raise the bar both in terms of the service they provide to their clients and to be that little bit better than their competition.  

Because the reality is (sorry Andy) that it’s tough out there and it’s not going to get any easier anytime soon. But those agencies that put Candidate Experience at the heart of their operations will not only survive but thrive. 

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