Build an Army of Candidate Advocates for your Staffing Firm

According to CareerBuilder's 2014 Opportunities in Staffing report, 90% of candidates will encourage others to work with your firm if they had a positive experience, while 72% of candidates will discourage others from using your firm if they had a bad experience.

Not only is your reputation at stake, so is the future of your firm. It's easier than ever for candidates to make their opinions of your firm known, far and wide - and those opinions can sway those of other candidates, clients, and even your potential employees. So, if you want the best candidates, the biggest clients, and the most amazing recruiting team knocking down your door, it's time to focus on your candidate experience.

Even if it's already a priority in your firm, it may not be enough. Careerbuilder found that most firms believe they're providing a good candidate experience, while only half of candidates agree. Candidates don't feel that recruiters care about them because recruiters don't get to know them and their career goals, present job opportunities that match their interests, or follow up in a timely manner (if at all). So, what can you do to provide a candidate experience so great that candidates not only feel the love - but also actively tell others about it?

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Hold your entire team accountable. During your onboarding process and regular reviews, make great service a key priority - for your entire team, from the front desk staff to the recruiters, and even your CFO. This will ensure that everyone is focused on your candidate and client service at all times and will prioritize it over all else. Reward team members who provide exceptional service with public recognition, a monetary reward or small gift, and correct bad service through coaching and team trainings.
  2. Build real relationships with your candidates. During candidate meetings, make sure your recruiters are getting to know the candidates and that they understand what their candidate wants in their next role. By building a relationship with your candidates, they will feel that your firm is looking out for them and are more likely to have a positive experience.
  3. Keep your candidates informed. Candidate frequently complain about the lack of communication during their job search, which gives your firm a huge opportunity to stand out by simply keeping your candidates informed. Follow up after a candidate is submitted to a client to let them know whether your client was interested or not. Keep on top of your client with next steps in their interview process and communicate those to your candidates so they're not left wondering. If, at any point, your candidate is no longer being considered for a position, break the news to them gently, but promptly and try to provide them with some feedback that will help on their next interview.
  4. Respond to your candidates. Make it a point to respond to candidate outreach as quickly as possible, regardless of whether they reached out by phone, email or social media. A one hour response time is best, but you should never go more than 1 business day without replying.
  5. Be a resource to your candidates. Offer career coaching, resume reviews, and interview preparation as an added candidate resource - these things not only help your candidates, they also improve your client experience with the candidates you submit to them. Even if you have limited time, you can curate some good tips and automate a weekly or monthly newsletter with more valuable information about hiring trends, industry news (if you've verticalized), or tips for their specific job function.
  6. Gather candidate feedback. Send an annual or quarterly survey to all of your candidates to ask their opinion about your firm, and whether they'd recommend you. Provide a space for open, unstructured feedback as well so they can really share their thoughts with you. Respond to dissatisfied candidates to offer a solution - you might just be able to turn their whole experience around and make a detractor into an advocate. Then, use your feedback to continually improve your candidate experience. If you see common complaints throughout your feedback, a team training may be in order. Otherwise, individually coach your recruiters with the feedback related to their services.
  7. Celebrate exceptional candidate experiences. When a satisfied candidate responds to your survey, share your win with the team during an all-hands meeting or company-wide email, and create a space in your office to post great feedback. Positive reinforcement can be a great morale booster for your team, and will encourage others provide great candidate service as well. 
  8. Address online reviews. One third of candidates and 1 out of 5 clients use online reviews to evaluate your staffing agency, so it's crucial that you monitor and address them to maintain your reputation. If you can respond publicly, either thank the reviewer for their kind words, or address negative reviews with an apology and an offer to correct the problem. If you cannot respond publicly, but can see who the reviewer is, try to send a private message to correct the situation - you may just be able to turn their experience around.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it's a good place to start to ensure that your candidates share their positive experiences via word of mouth and online reviews. Taking the time to focus on your staffing firm's candidate experience will have a long term effect on your reputation so you can build an army of advocates which actively encourage both candidates and clients to utilize your services.

Do you have any other tips to add?

Views: 336

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on November 22, 2014 at 12:49am

Great article.   Well written, thoughtful and kind-hearted.  I liked it.  

Nonetheless, my opinion is somewhat opposite:  I think recruiters should create an army of client advocates, instead.  Of course, candidates can turn into clients, too, so they should always be treated well, and just in general, Immanuel Kant's statement that people are 'ends in themselves' (i.e. not means) implies that people should always be treated well and fairly, in any case.

Still, I have always found that business usually doesn't come from candidates, and that every search requires finding new people with different skills.  I am more inclined to believe that candidates will come if you offer a good enough job opportunity, and that is what I focus on, much more than 'candidate experience'.  If you will indulge me, my feeling is that the 'best candidate experience' is to be kept informed of the best career opportunities and to be treated fairly and with respect if they apply for a specific position.  But the emphasis is on the Client.

At the same time, I would not ever be deliberately rude to a candidate, but instead of calling them to tell them that they are out of consideration for a position, I ask them to call me and check in if they haven't heard from me for a while.  I want to be available to them, but my job is not to cater to their needs or 'hand-hold' (unless they are a great fit for a position I am working on)...

I am making these comments because I see such an overwhelming tilt lately towards 'What the candidates want', rather than 'What does the person who is paying me want?'.  Candidates are clearly valuable, but they are not in a position to call the shots, unless there is a close enough match and mutual interest.  Even then, the working relationship dictates that they report to someone else, so they still aren't as important a focus as clients.

I guess that it would be fair to say that I treat candidates as well as I can, while focusing on the essentials of my work, rather than being mostly concerned about how they feel.

Comment by Jen Dewar on November 23, 2014 at 8:06pm

Thanks for the comments Andrew and Nicholas!

Andrew - yes, building relationships are key! Even if you don't have something for a given candidate right now, you might in the future - so it's worth the time to follow up with them and build their trust.

Nicholas - I don't think your opinion is necessarily "opposite," because I think there's room to provide great service for both clients AND candidates... this article just focuses on the latter. The point of the article is that candidates share their experiences with recruiters, both good and bad, and that you're better off on their good side because their opinions can sway those of your other candidates, your clients, and even your employees. Nobody wants to do business with a company that has a bad reputation.

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