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New Award Evaluates Employers from the Job Seeker’s Perspective

June 30th, 2011

Wouldn’t it be great if employers got graded for their part in the job search process too?

Enter the Candidate Experience Awards 2011 – a competition for corporate recruiting organizations operating in North America. The award process evaluates and recognizes organizations that deliver outstanding candidate experiences. Companies that apply will receive confidential benchmark data on how their scores compare to the applicant group as a whole. Companies that meet or exceed the award standard will receive a C&E (pronounced “candy”) award designation. Finalists will also receive special recognition. The C&E Awards ceremony will be on October 4, 2011, at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. There is no cost to apply for the award. (Editorial disclosure: StartWire is a sponsor of this award.)

The C & E Awards are being produced by a non-profit organization called The Talent Board. We sat down with two key players in the project, Talent Function Group co-founders Mark McMillan and Elaine Orler, to get an overview of this new program.

What is Talent Function?

MM: TalentFunction is a talent acquisition consultancy. Staffing leaders hire us to make their teams more effective.  We are known most for our expertise in helping companies get the most out of their recruiting technology. If I’m in an elevator with someone outside our industry, I like to say that “We are the management consultants for the recruiting function.”   

What drives this award?

EO: The genesis of the C&E Award (pronounced “Candy”) was a coffee meeting between Chris Forman and I in November 2010. An award idea was proposed by Chris, and I couldn’t have agreed more. From my perspective, the last 16 years of my career has had a focus in some way on the candidate experience. From my first role of recruiting in a fast paced corporation to the need to constantly evaluate how candidates are being communicated with in regards to their submission. Every consulting engagement has an aspect of thinking about the critical talent needs and the behaviors an organization wants to present in recruiting that talent. How corporations treat those that they are interested in is shadowed by how they treat those that they are not interested in. And the latter is a population of thousands, and in some cases millions to key organizations. Getting that experience right is no longer an optional exercise for organizations, and is now a critical competitive advantage.

MM: If you are a recruiting consultant, you tend to hear about candidate experiences all the time. Your friends, and friends of friends, share their job search experiences with you. For Elaine and I, we have heard too many bad stories over the years. I have also experienced this personally; here is one example of the impact that this can have on an organization’s reputation.

Everyone involved in the C&E Award has a strong conviction that this [candidate experience] could be better.  This is our industry and we all want to do something about it.   Companies need help.  Most recruiting leaders need help making the business case to their management.  We feel that the best way to affect change is to create an award that highlight what companies are doing well.  The goal of the award is to re-enforce a standard of humane treatment.

We are doing our best to design the competition, and we think this will help the market see how leading and forward thinking companies are respecting their candidates. To achieve this goal the survey has three rounds and includes a component that directly approaches and solicit feedback from candidates who have applied to work at the company. If companies aren’t willing to let their candidates be surveyed, that demonstrates they are not that serious.

Another key principle to this award is absolute transparency. Anyone can go review the survey questions. We don’t want to have an award that is subjective, but rather one that is clear in its criteria for evaluation and success. We want to be as open and as forthcoming as we can be. We’re trying to affect a standard on how candidates are treated. We want other companies to see how they can do things better.

The Board Members including Gerry Crispin and Ed Newman are equally passionate about this issue. Gerry Crispin, for example, does his own secret shopper approach to this every year.

How does the award work?

The award is organized in three phases. The first phase is a 45-question survey that is designed to surface how the company designed their candidate experience. The survey is comprehensive and it provides the basis to identify and define and industry standards.   

Companies that meet the standard will qualify for second round of the C&E Award.  In phase two, we survey the company’s employment candidates directly to get a sense for how the company’s approach is actually working. The companies that do well on the candidate survey will go into the third round where a panel of expert judges will review, discuss, and confirm how they are delivering their candidate experience. We expect to find that some companies are really doing some amazing, innovative practices. We expect to give the award to all of the companies that meet the C&E standard. That number will be as large as there are companies that meet the C&E Award standard.   And beyond that we will be offering the award “with distinction” to those companies that are really setting superlative examples. The C&E Award is about highlighting a standard, not about just recognizing a small group of companies.

Are there any simple steps that companies can use to make life better for candidates?

There are several steps that companies can do to address the candidate experience and improve it immediately.

Typically the first line of complaint from a candidate is the lack of information shared about their status and consideration. Corporations can easily and quick reduce this frustration by improving the messaging distributed regarding status. Examples include providing candidates with a timeframe on when to expect to hear. “We are still receiving applications we expect to make our decisions in the next 10 business days” is an example. This sets an expectation and assurance that their submission is still under consideration. In this case the company needs to follow through, which leads us to the second most voiced complaint. “I think I’m being considered then I find out they filled the position. “

Companies can easily improve the overall communications to candidates by messaging them about their status as it happens. If a candidate is no longer considered, giving them that feedback in a timely manner provides them the respect they need for having completed the process that in some cases can take up to an hour to complete. Encouraging them back to the website to apply for another position, gives them a call to action that can be the difference between them going to a site to complain about how bad the experience is, and them following the link back to the site to see what new opportunities have been posted

How will the award help companies to refine their own practices?

Each company that applies will get a comprehensive report that benchmarks how they are doing in comparison with the aggregate group. They’ll know where they stand.  This is a compelling value and we aren’t aware of any place else companies could go to get something like this.

How can companies learn more about your program? 


The deadline to apply for consideration is July 15, 2011.

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