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How the Candidate Experience Can Help Startups Win the Competition for IT Talent

The recruiting process is a sales process, where companies paint a picture of what life is like for those who work there. But it’s a concept organizations often miss: They focus so much on a candidate’s qualifications and skills that they forget the importance of creating a strong candidate experience. 

That’s a dangerous thing to do, especially in a competitive employment market. If you lose sight of how the candidate feels about your company, you might lose the candidate completely.

That challenge is amplified for technology startups, which are under intense pressure to build their business, keep operations moving, and recruit. With limited resources, they face a tech unemployment rate of around 2.1%, which demands they win over candidates using the best strategies.  

Where larger firms might develop a schedule for the candidate’s visit, making sure they meet the right people and get a break for lunch, startups often run interview days by the seat of their pants. The candidate arrives to find no one knows who they are. Interviewers aren’t prepared and have to change spaces three times in the course of a conversation because no one booked the conference room.

That kind of day doesn’t make much of a case that this is an organization where the candidate would want to work. For startups, it should drive home an important point: Details count. People count. Every encounter the candidate has with the company will have an influence on their decision. While someone has to own the recruiting process for each candidate, every employee must help create the right experience.

The candidate experience begins the first time they engage with your company, whether it’s through a website, a Facebook page or a recruiter’s call. The way the recruiting process is organized plays an important role in the candidate's perception. For example, today many firms front-load their process with technical screening, focusing phone interviews on skills and experience and doling out homework assignments. 

As useful as those can be, they delay the company’s opportunity to sell itself. Startups especially forego the chance to highlight opportunities, technology, excitement and culture when they focus too much on vetting up front. They’d be better served mixing it up – conducting a technical phone screening, meeting the candidate to talk about their background as well as the company’s unique qualities, and only then turning to homework assignments and whiteboard tests.

Admittedly, none of this is easy for fledgling companies where each employee juggles multiple assignments and who sometimes, out of sheer necessity, allow recruiting to slip to the bottom of their list. In those situations, it’s important for leaders to face the fact that recruiting is hard and design a process that will work, even amid the daily pressures every new business faces.

Creating a positive candidate experience requires an investment in time and thought, but those are worth making for young firms that depend on each employee to move their business forward in a unique and individual way. It pays off by allowing you to hire the best talent for each job, and by spreading the word that your company is as serious about its people as it is its business. People share their experiences far and wide through social media, remember, so candidates are sure to tell their story to others. Treat them well and even those you decline will say good things about you.

Most important, remember that recruiting is a selling process. Make it clear from the start that your company is engaging, smart and recognizes how important individuals are to its success. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have the chance to qualify candidates and find the best fit for your technical and business needs.