The Candidate Experience: part 1

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Recently, I had a rare treat. Because most of our clients are small to mid-sized staffing and search firms across the U.S. and Canada, we usually do all our work remotely. Three of us had the chance to visit a nearby client, and what a great experience it was. Working with people who are 5 feet away is always easier than working 500 miles away, but in this case the site visit was essential in reinforcing a couple of critical marketing lessons, and those lesson are:

1) You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

2) Your reputation is only as strong as your weakest link.

3) The experience you provide must match your positioning.

Let me explain… The purpose of out team’s visit was to help the CEO of this firm brainstorm ways to transform her company from being a mainly industrial staffing into a firm offering more higher level, higher margin services. But within 2 minutes of arriving, I knew we were going to have a problem.

So what was the problem? It was the reception area.

Now unlike some industrial staffing firms I’ve visited, this company did have a clean, corporate reception area. It was attractively painted and had comfortable furniture with seating for 5. So what was the problem?

Well visualize what this reception area might look like 30 days after the CEO begins to reposition her firm. In this rather small waiting area, you may have laborers, secretaries, IT professionals, and executives all sitting together. See the problem?

If not, let me be blunt. Some people don’t mix well. If a candidate feels uncomfortable visiting your firm, he or she won’t come back. While this is not a very politically correct view of the world, bad candidates will drive away good ones. And this can work either way with professional level talent who feel a bit snobish about sitting next to laborers as well as with well-qualified industrial candidates who feel out of place in an environment that’s too corporate.

Your reception area speaks volumes about your firm. So does your website. As does the way you answer the phone. If you want to be seen as a high end firm, every point of contact with clients and candidates has to match that positioning…especially the first points of contact.

My Question to You:
How does your candidate experience match your positioning?

Think about how you want to be seen by your candidates…and your clients. Does every point of contact you have match the message you want to send? Go walk out in your reception area and take a look. Review your website with the mindset of a prospective candidate. And even call in as a candidate and see how you are treated.

Not only should the experience be pleasant and professional, but it MUST match the way you want to be seen. Any weak point can seriously damage your reputation.

So what did we tell our client? We told her that she needed to think about new offices. Either moving to a facility with a larger reception area that could be better set-up to accomodate different types of talent or even creating separate recruiting centers. It was an expensive recommendation…but a lot cheaper than having her repositioning effort fail because of having the wrong candidate experience.

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