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June 2022

Engage candidates on all four stages of their emotional journey

In our digitally connected world, candidates will search across a variety of sources of information about their potential employers, and their decisions are influenced emotionally by the content that they consume online. As they do so, they form a subjective perception of the company, seeking a meaningful connection to it.

On the other side of the fence, companies that are recruiting often still follow a linear, transactional process when dealing with candidates. This is reflected in the language we use … identify, contact, assess, negotiate, close… How clinical and un-inspirational!

What are the consequences of this mismatch? Two observations:

  1. Today’s candidates will base their decisions on a combination of RATIONAL and EMOTIONAL factors. They seek to be INSPIRED by their potential employers. Relying on the content they see, hear and read, candidates form an impression of companies. They can walk away from the hiring opportunity or move a step closer to it, simply based on their own perceptions, influenced by the content they engage with.
  2. To match the candidate’s emotional journey, the traditional recruitment process needs to be powered up and DIGITALLY ENHANCED at each stage of the process to INSPIRE and PULL the candidate through the recruitment.

In my experience, few companies truly manage to step in the shoes of candidates and engage them at an emotional level. However, it is not that difficult. It simply requires a bit of corporate empathy to act on the four stages of the candidate emotional journey.

Stage 1 Consideration: “What is this opportunity about?”

Not every company has the hiring pull of Google or Apple. Where is the candidate going to get information about the company? I once had a client tell me that they were proud their company only had a skeleton website. Their reasoning? “If the candidate knows the oil & gas industry, they should know us. Otherwise, they are not worth our time.”

Fun fact – 18 months later, they went bankrupt.

What is your company’s plan to make a good first impression? Do you understand how your candidates consume your content, what truly engages them? Do you have a concrete plan to make that first impression last?

Stage 2 Interest: “Why should I look into this?”

Now you have the candidate hooked, how do you build on that initial interaction? This is where leadership comes in. Great employers find ways to meaningfully engage their leaders in the hiring process, beyond merely interviewing. It can be simple but meaningful things like giving timely and actionable feedback to candidates (not as common as you’d think) rather than a vague ‘keep them warm’. In addition, digitally-savvy companies will make concerted use of various multimedia techniques to keep the dialogue going with the candidate.

Stage 3 Conviction: “How would I fit in?”

This is one of the most important question candidates face – yet it is also the hardest to get an answer to. Great candidates will go beyond Glassdoor to do their due diligence. They will speak to current and former company employees and search YouTube, Reddit and Quora to envision how they might fit in. Ultimately, they are trying to get an authentic feel for the company culture, beyond the web site mission/vision/values that inevitably all look and feel the same.

Employers need to pre-empt these questions and have engaging resources to share with candidates on ‘how we do things around here’.

Stage 4 Integration: “How can I make the best possible start?”

Successful candidates are eager to start on the right foot. They are natural leaders (of course, since you hired them), but they are often expected to be a mere spectator of their own integration. On the contrary, the best on-boarding programs are largely employee-led. They are just-in-time, not just-in-case. In my experience, corporate on-boarding failures stem from focusing too much on the WHAT (e.g., job content, training on systems and processes) and not enough on the WHO and WHY (stakeholder engagement, values and behaviours). A lot of these issues can be addressed by asking the new employee to shape, or even design, their own on-boarding plan.

Companies that engage candidates emotionally on their employer brand via tangible and intangible interventions, much like a product brand does in marketing their brand and products, will increase their win rate. 

The good news is that there can be method to the madness. Having a digitally powered talent engagement campaign (and eventually even moving towards a more strategic brand-centric approach towards hiring), much like a marketing campaign, will significantly increase the chance of success and help the company stand out in a crowded and competitive talent market.

Arnaud Despierre
Senior Partner and Asia Region Leader