Interview | On improving your candidate experience with Diana Dumitrel

Lavinia Mehedintu

Treating candidates as customers is a trending idea. Some companies started looking at the pre-hiring experience, improving all the touch points and adding extra flavours. In this new context, even the recruiter's role is changing, emerging from the assessor and project manager of requisitions to that of relationship builder.

Diana describes herself as "connecting creative thinkers and tech savvy people into positions that enable them to grow, to build amazing solutions, to solve complex problems and to, ultimately, have impact.". In her role as a Director of International Recruiting @Fitbit, Diana holds the big picture of their candidate experience. So it came natural to us to bring her to the table and squeeze out some of her knowledge and share it with our community.

How is Candidate Experience different from Recruitment?

While the two are closely interwoven, they are two processes often in conflict with one another. Recruitment is all about gathering the data one needs to make an informed decision on the best candidates for a specific opening, in the quickest and most efficient way. Candidate Experience, on the other hand, is all about constructing a journey that makes the candidate feel unique and valued. This requires both time and a good amount of energy expenditure, which both come in contradiction with the quick and efficient strive of Recruitment.

Where does Candidate Experience start?

The Candidate Experience can start long before the candidate is in a position to consider you as a potential employer. About half of job candidates said they had previous interactions or relationships with the hiring organisation before they applied for a job. It begins with their first interaction with your brand, whether it is through a job advert they notice on a social media channel, an article they read on your company in media, or an interaction they have with one of your company’s speakers at conference.

I also believe that candidate experience never ends. It carries on beyond the candidate’s first day with your company and while we often call that employee experience, I think they’re one and the same, as you need to constantly re-recruit your employees, making sure they’re still engaged, feeling that their skills are leveraged well and that there’s sufficient opportunities for them to grow. 

What would you consider being the main touch-points in this experience?

There are different types of touch points, ranging from the systems through which the candidate engages with you in the process, the documents or forms they are asked to review and fill in through the journey, and last but not least, the human touch points - every person they get to interact with in the process. While each of them are important and play a role in the overall experience, I believe the human touch points have the strongest imprint. It is due to the high emotional charge that the human interactions carry that they leave a more significant mark in what the candidate feels about their recruiting journey. 

What are the hygiene factors we should work on to ensure an effective Candidate Experience?

I would call out receiving feedback as the number one hygiene factor. Unfortunately it is also the one that often fails to be provided in a timely manner, or at all. The candidates have prepared for the interview, have taken time off and have put a lot of energy in the conversations themselves, only to be left hanging. They expect a return on their investment, even if it is not the positive answer they’re hoping for. There is no shorter path to giving birth to a disgruntled candidate than this.

Having clear expectations on what lies ahead in the process and the timeline of the next steps may seem of little importance, but when left in a blur it can be an important source of frustration to candidates. If they’re interviewing with multiple companies in parallel, it helps them manage the conversations and pace. Even if they’re not engaged in other conversations, knowing what lies ahead helps them be mentally prepared. 

Last but not least, I would mention the interview logistics: from being considerate of the candidate’s commitments & dependencies when scheduling interviews, to sending detailed agendas prior to the interviews, to meeting & greeting them when they come into your office. The interview experience is stressful by nature, even for the passive candidates that don’t have a lot of skin in the game. It is an assessment of one’s skills, so performance anxiety is intrinsic. Being treated with consideration, receiving all the information they need so that their interview day is a little bit easier to navigate, can make it or break it for candidate. 

What’s data got to do with it? How can we use data to improve the Candidate Experience?

Data can tell you a crisp story on how the candidate felt going through your process. It can show you what are the things that are winning the candidates over, while also pointing to the areas that you need to improve, as they are pain points for your candidates.  

Data can help you not only to improve the experience of your candidates, but also to develop engagement strategies for individuals or groups.

I think the bare minimum is to have a survey that you send out to every candidate that exits the process after having experienced at least one human touchpoint. When you collect and analyze data on a quarterly basis, it’s easy to identify and quickly address the issues that have arisen. Mistakes will always be made, but if you are constantly looking for ways to improve, you will ultimately create a great candidate experience.

Can you give some examples of how you are doing this at Fitbit?

In Fitbit we are also into the practice of running new hire focus groups on a quarterly basis. We find that through these conversations we’re able to get a much more nuanced feedback than that coming out through the survey. We wanted to be sure we hear the voice of those candidates that have exited our process, through withdrawing or refusing our offer, we’ve also started running a series of “user interviews with candidates”. We had an incredible learning through this process. In addition to the valuable information we were able to obtain through them, they made a lasting impression with the candidates, whom felt valued and heard. I would encourage anyone to try them out.

40% of the companies out there don’t even bother to measure candidate experience, but over 80% of the candidates say that a bad interview experience can change their mind about joining a company they’ve once admired. I wouldn’t treat this lightly. 

How will the role of the recruiter evolve in the future?

With the war for talent getting increasingly tougher, I think that only the companies and, in particular, those recruiters that will be able to provide an experience that makes the candidate feel that they matter, will win at it. Recruiters will probably spend more time nurturing the relationships with past and current candidates, vs. searching for them. 

Are there any companies in the industry you think they could act as benchmarks of how Candidate Experience should be done?

There’s quite a few, but I’ll call out the first one that comes to mind. I love Shopify’s extremely human approach to the hiring process. Just have a look at their career site and you’ll see why I’m saying that. The new hire stories talk of how flexible and personal their interview experience was. I particularly like the concept of a Life Story interview that is the first discussion that a candidate has with someone in Shopify’s team. The Life Story interview is about sketching the themes of a candidate’s life, both personal and professional. It’s about understanding what makes the candidate the person they are. 

As a final thought, recruitment is growing. We have now additional responsibilities. Partnering with Employer Branding functions to create an attractive organizational brand, improve the way candidates interact with organizations, and strengthening relationships with potential or actual candidates.