“Candidate experience” is a hot topic in talent acquisition. In recent years, this aspect of recruitment has come to the forefront mainly due to the widespread competition for good talent and the impersonalization of hiring, in general, with advancements made in technology. In its entirety, the candidate experience spans from initial communication through the onboarding process. While it’s important to provide a positive candidate experience for all levels within your organization, it is imperative when attracting executives for high-level roles.
It’s easy to understand that candidates who are at an executive level are highly discerning when considering new career opportunities. In many instances, they are not actively seeking new positions and are being recruited through a third-party recruiter or executive search firm on behalf of the prospective employer. They are passive candidates, and therefore, their experience commands much more thought and attention than active job seekers.
According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 78% of candidates say the overall candidate experience is an indicator of how a company values its people. Other research has found that the experience translates to other aspects of an organization, such as its culture, and the efficiency and quality of its internal operations. Knowing CareerBuilder’s results were based on responses by a variety of professionals and hiring managers, one can imagine how important the candidate experience is for executives – and for your organization. If you’re not able to provide a positive experience and attract and secure talented executives, how would that impact your firm’s reputation, growth, and success?
Tom Helbling, President of Helbling & Associates, has been an executive search consultant within the construction, real estate development, and facilities management sectors for nearly 40 years. He says, “Providing a positive candidate experience is imperative for attracting an executive. After all, many executives are passive and not actively seeking new opportunities. These professionals are astute to how an organization handles a recruitment process, and it has a significant impact on their decision. If they are willing to talk and listen, an organization needs to be prepared to begin attracting them at the onset of process, which is the beginning of their candidate experience and spans the course of the entire recruitment process through onboarding.”
When recruiting executive candidates, there are many things to address prior to and during recruitment to support a positive candidate experience.
Senior Managing Consultant Rick Nawoczynski says, “Adding the personal touch is beneficial, especially with an executive-level candidate. After all, he/she is making a career change that can have a lasting impact on their future. Clients are frequently taking prospective candidates and their spouses out to dinner, and getting to know them on a personal basis. If there is a relocation involved, it is a good idea to create a packet of information about the area, real estate, school system, and local attractions. In providing this information, the candidate feels supported, respected, and already valued.”
“When conducting searches, we ensure from the onset that our clients understand the instrumental role they will need to assume in assimilating a new executive,” Nawoczynski explains. “We encourage them to establish an onboarding plan prior to the executive beginning his/ her employment. Openly communicating that the executive has been hired with appropriate team members and even the reasons why he/she was selected is a great first step, and can make everyone feel respected and appreciated. Having an onboarding plan makes the executive feel like they are already a valued member of your team.”
While there are many ways to successfully onboard a new executive, there are fundamental considerations that are essential:
Tom Helbling notes, “Sometimes, there are misconceptions about a newly hired executive. The most common is that he/she will be able to make an immediate impact upon coming on board simply due to the level of the executive’s experience and achievements. While this can be accurate, an organization’s leadership also has responsibility in the executive’s transition process, and typically, they underestimate the amount of assistance, guidance, and support needed early on to ensure the new executive's short- and long-term success.”
He goes on to say, “I've placed hundreds of executives, and those who are onboarded well, in general, outperform those who are not. When a game plan is established that involves other team members, it creates efficiency, communication, and excitement, and it mitigates potential complications. The new executive is able to make a positive impact early on, and the resulting optimism spreads quickly through the leadership team and throughout the organization.”
Just when you think you are done with a new executive’s recruitment experience, it is highly beneficial to gather their feedback on how well you did as an organization. “This is vital, competitive insight that most organizations miss out on obtaining and can impact future hiring initiatives,” Nawoczynski says. “If you’re going to go through all of the stages of implementing what is hopefully a positive candidate experience, obtaining continual feedback is essential."
“As part of the continuation of our services, we contact candidates regularly to see how their transitions are progressing,” he says. “I ask questions about the onboarding process to make sure it’s going smoothly. In
turn, I provide the client with that feedback. Showing respect for a candidate’s experience throughout the entire recruitment process through onboarding goes a long way and helps them feel truly supported in their new career endeavor.”