Best Practices for Every Stage of Employee Experience: Stage 2, Hiring
The employee experience encompasses every touchpoint an individual has with their employer and continues long after the employee has departed the company.
It’s the conversation an interested job seeker has with a recruiter. The 20-question assessment included with the application. The first conversation (and every conversation thereafter) a worker has with their direct supervisor. It's the way management handles a change in direction when the employee departs. And it's the memory of the time spent with colleagues and those who keep in touch.
With today's companies struggling to find and hire the right talent, many are turning to employee experience as a strategy.
According to research from Oracle, 82% of company leaders think maximizing employee experience is very or extremely important. But many are overwhelmed at the prospect of creating an excellent employee experience — especially in the face of hybrid or remote work.
One way organizations can better understand the employee experience is with a method called employee journey mapping.
Employee Journey Mapping: Breaking Down Employee Experience
Employee journey mapping seeks to visualize the employee's journey, or what the employee goes through during their tenure at the company. It's similar to customer experience journey mapping in that it allows companies to assess and better meet employee expectations.
The employee journey — also called the employee lifecycle — breaks down employee experience into seven stages:
By using an employee journey mapping approach, companies can identify friction within the employee experience and make informed decisions on how to make workers happier, more engaged and more likely to stick around.
Last week, we talked about stage one of the employee experience: the attraction stage, when employers promote open positions and seek out top talent. It's a critical point in the employee experience, when brands need to set clear expectations and show consideration for candidates.
This week, we’ll look at stage two of the employee experience: hiring.
Employee Experience Stage 2: Hiring Employees
The hiring stage of the employee journey includes reviewing resumes, selecting applicants to interview, hosting interviews and communicating with candidates throughout the process — whether they’re offered a job or not.
“We don’t often think about employee experience starting in this process,” said Elizabeth Weingarten, head of behavioral science insights at professional coaching and training firm Torch. “But it really does, and it really gives somebody such a flavor for what they’re going to experience if they do join the organization. It tells you a lot about how they’re thinking about their relationship … with employees.”
How companies convey themselves, communicate and interact with candidates can make a significant impact on future employee experience. It also sends an inclusive message to turned-away applicants who might seek out job opportunities — or recommend colleagues — in the future.
Employee Experience Stage 2: Best Practices
Hiring the right new employee is crucial for the success of any organization. But with 19% of workers saying they’ve ghosted a recruiter, hiring manager or company during the hiring process, something must be going wrong along the way.
To ensure smooth and efficient hiring that puts employee experience at the forefront, make sure you’re following these best practices.
Reduce Uncertainty Through Transparency
There can be an adversarial or antagonistic-like relationship within hiring, said Weingarten. But what if we shift that process and create environments and circumstances that enable people to do their best work? What if we reduced the anxiety, stress and uncertainty associated with this stage of the employee journey?
One way companies can do this, Weingarten said, is with transparency.
Companies should be clear about how many steps are in the process, she said. Give candidates the ability to know where they are within that process and when they can expect to hear back from the company.
A 2022 Criteria report showed that 53% of candidates have dropped out of a hiring process due to poor communication from the employer or recruiter. And 35% of job seekers say non-responsive employers are the most frustrating part of the job search, according to Employ.
On the flip side, of people who’ve had a positive candidate experience, 47% said it was due to great communication, prompt feedback and follow-ups.
“Recognizing that means so much to somebody who’s going through the process, just to have that little bit of transparency and be treated like a human,” said Weingarten. “We know that humans really do not like uncertainty — most of the time we try to avoid it.”
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Signal to DEI Priorities
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are crucial elements of hiring and employee experience. In that same Employ poll, 38% of job seekers said they would turn down a job offer if the company lacked diversity or had no clear goals for improving diversity.
Prioritizing DEI in the employee journey, including hiring, is something some do overtly without making enough substance, said John W. Mitchell, president and CEO of electronics manufacturers association IPC and author of “Fire Your Hiring Habits!”
“But there are also things you can do to signal that you’re open without having to sit there and wave the multicolored flag,” Mitchell said.
One simple thing companies can do is include pronouns in employee profiles. It’s a small thing that shows people the organization pays attention and cares.
Another idea is to post pictures of the team. “If you look more like the United Nations than just a homogenous group, that’s a message.” If staff in your company are posting things, said Mitchell, that’s fantastic, because it gives candidates a chance to see and hear from people on the inside.
“There are ways that companies can encourage that without being, ‘We are diversity.’ I look at that and, I don’t know, does anybody rebuild it anymore? I feel like it’s a Dilbert kind of mission statement.”
Essentially, said Mitchell, you really need to live what you’re saying. “Because it’ll come out in the interviews.”
Level the Informational Playing Field
Everyone has had different experiences. And those different experiences should inform every stage of the employee lifecycle, cultivating an overall positive employee experience.
Sometimes, you might come from a background or set of experiences where you don’t learn about things to do in an interview, said Weingarten. That might come from other lived experiences people have.
“How can you, as an organization, give people some guidance on the questions that might be asked or where they can go to find information about your company or brand, and not just assume that people are going to know what these things are, how to do these things,” she said.
For instance, an organization might provide a list of frequently asked interview questions on its website or during initial communication with the candidate. They can also direct job seekers to resources such as industry publications, trade associations and professional organizations to help them research the company and the role they’re applying for.
It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that not everybody has a mentor or parent or peer that’s going to give them the inside scoop, Weingarten explained. “Keep in mind that, using these best practices and creating systems, environments and processes that help to support underrepresented folks, when you end up centering those needs, you end up creating a better process for everyone.”
Look at Experience Beyond the Degree
Mitchell said he once worked with a man with amazing knowledge and 20 years of experience on the job — who never got a college degree.
“I knew him personally, and when I recommended him for a job at a company I was at, they wouldn’t even look at him because he didn’t have the degree, even though he had more experience than anybody who was coming out with a degree would have,” Mitchell recounted.
Some of these biases are part of what companies need to take a hard look at. “Do you really need a degree? Or is experience or a certificate or some other credential just as valid — or maybe even more valid — for the work you’re trying to get done?”
One way companies can tap into experience and degree alternatives is during the interview, Mitchell said. And these interviews need to be done by a hiring team, not delegated to HR. “They need to know exactly what they’re looking to do and be able to ask probing questions."
Some of those questions and prompts might include:
- Can you share with me your experience doing x?
- What was your role on the (previous) team?
- How critical were you to that team?
Still, said Mitchell, there will be times when you can’t find your “pink unicorn.”
“Sometimes we're looking for the person that has all the perfect attributes. But you need to look at the building blocks of those if you can't find the pink unicorn and grow your own pink unicorn out of the fundamental capabilities that go into that," he said.
It’s a longer-term investment, but employees will see you’re dedicated to their training and development in their career path, and they're more likely to show loyalty and higher employee satisfaction in return.
Take Measures to Reduce Bias
Many people hold biases, even unconsciously, but these biases can hold companies back from hiring the most qualified candidates and elevating the overall employee experience, so it's important to be aware of them.
“If you have a process that is biased or is disadvantaging a particular group of people, you’re going to be losing out on that talent, which is a huge loss for your organization as a whole,” said Weingarten.
She offered up a few tips for applicant-seeking companies looking to address bias during the hiring stage of the employee journey.
“We know from research some of the best ways to reduce bias in these processes is to have structured interviews, so have a set of questions," she said.
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She also recommended looking at more than one individual at a time.
Thinking about different groups and designing systems and processes for the candidate experience that aren’t biased sends a signal to applicants, said Weingarten. It shows that you care about them as humans and frames what they can expect in terms of employee experience going forward. “This is the first time they're interacting with you, so you want to convey that you want to have a relationship with them,” she said.
Nevertheless, Weingarten cautioned organizations not to anchor to anti-bias or diversity training to eliminate bias within hiring, as it can't replace redesigning systems and processes and helping people change the way they act.
In fact, a 2019 analysis of around 80,000 people found that unconscious bias training can actually have a negative impact on organizations. Why? Because it conveys the message that unconscious bias is involuntary and out of our control, leading to more discrimination, not less.
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Follow the Rule of 3
Weingarten and Mitchell said looking at more than one applicant at a time is a great way to reduce bias during this stage of the employee journey. In fact, Mitchell has combined this process with two other best practices to make what he calls the Rule of 3.
The Rule of 3, said Mitchell, is 3 Candidates + 3 Internal Groups + 3 Environments. It’s something to follow once you’ve boiled the candidate pool down to those who look like they have the right qualifications.
3 Candidates: You want three candidates. “You can’t ever get down to one because you want to make sure you’re comparing. Because if you just talked to one, you’re biased toward whatever they say, and you may not be aware of somebody else’s capabilities or qualifications," he said.
3 Groups: You want your three candidates to meet with (at least) three people within your organization. This could also be three groups, depending on your process.
3 Environments: And last, you want three different environments. “In today’s world,” said Mitchell, “you do an online interview, and then you might do an interview face-to-face in the office if possible. And if even more possible, take [the person] to lunch, see them in different environments.”
“Three people, three different groups or background people interviewing them, and then three environments is one way to make sure you get some diverse views of the candidates,” said Mitchell.
Communicate Culture and Impact
Culture is king these days, and it must be a good fit for candidates, too. Thirty-six percent of candidates say they’ve dropped out of a hiring or recruitment process due to reading or hearing negative reviews about the company culture, according to the that Criteria report.
Organizations should ideally start communicating culture during the first stage of the employee journey, the attract stage. This is the best time to present a positive employee experience to future employees. But those efforts shouldn’t stop when the company selects applicants to interview and hire.
A quick follow-up note after an interview, said Mitchell, tells the candidate about the company culture, that it’s a place of inclusiveness. You can then build upon that further in the employee experience.
Candidates also need to understand the impact they’re going to make in their role. “People want to know they’re making a difference,” Mitchell said. “They’re giving up a chunk of their life to this corporate entity."
And, he added, your employer doesn’t have to be curing cancer to make a difference. “It just needs to be that that individual, through their participation in your organization, has the power to make change and to have impacts.”
Don’t Forget About Nepotism
If you want to improve employee experience while hiring, nepotism could be the answer, said Mitchell.
It's a word with a bad connotation, he said, but it’s a half-truth — something discussed in a book by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton called “Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense.”
In the book, the authors talk about the various half-truths that exist in the workplace, and one of them is "you shouldn't hire family or friends. And the reason that's the half-truth is because sometimes that's true.” Think of the stereotypical scenario of hiring a brother-in-law who’s incapable but got the job due to being family, Mitchell said.
“That's the half-truth we're used to. But the other half-truth is when you're interviewing somebody, you have, if you're lucky, a total of maybe six hours of time that you've experienced with that person, so you really have no idea who this person is, what they're like or anything.”
Instead, said Mitchell, you have to go off what they’ve told you or maybe what a few references have said. “But if you have somebody in your organization that you trust and is a great participant and contributor to your organization, and they recommend somebody who might be family or a friend, they've had potentially years of experience with that person. And that's something you just don't get in a typical interview situation.”
It can be more than just referrals of people you’ve worked with, Mitchell added. It can also be people you’re close to, including family members. “You just have to make sure you do it the right way,” he said — such as by not allowing family to report to family and other cautionary measures.
Always Follow-Up With Candidates
One best practice during the hiring stage of the employee experience is to follow up with candidates.
Always send a note back to candidates, Mitchell said, even if you’re not considering them — and especially if you’ve had any touch points with them, such as a phone call or interview. “You need to say ’Thank you for your time. We’ve decided to go another way.’ So at least, you have some closure.”
Mitchell said a friend recently told him about an experience where they got a “thanks anyway” email from a job they applied for 18 months ago. “What the heck,” said Mitchell. “That’s ridiculous. At least automate that, say, ‘Thank you for your resume, we’re moving on.’”
Remember, people want clear and regular communication, especially when it comes to uncertain situations. By keeping this process as smooth as possible — even when the answer is not one the candidate wants to hear — they can ensure the (potential) employee experience remains overall positive.
Plus, people talk. Whether they got the job or not, they’ll tell people about their experience with your company. And that talk can dictate future trends in how people perceive your business and seek employment.
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Building on Employee Experience While Hiring
Employee journey mapping, like customer journey mapping, isn't static. It changes as the organization (and the world around it) changes. And the best practices that go into cultivating a well-rounded employee experience might require a few tweaks along the way.
Don't forget to tap into employee feedback as much as possible along the way. Employees are the ones living it, and they can best speak on how to improve your employee experience strategy. There are best practices for soliciting employee feedback, too, allowing you to get honest insights.
Focusing on employee experience during the hiring stage is crucial for any organization that wants to attract and retain top talent, ensure employee satisfaction and strengthen business performance. It signals to a candidate or new employee that you not only care about them now but also will continue to care for them throughout the employee journey.
Employee experience directly impacts customer experience, too. According to Oracle, companies with high employee experience have double the customer satisfaction, double the innovation and 25% higher profits than companies with lackluster employee experience. All in all, it's not something companies can afford to ignore.
About the Author
Michelle Hawley is an experienced journalist who specializes in reporting on the impact of technology on society. As a senior editor at Simpler Media Group and a reporter for CMSWire and Reworked, she provides in-depth coverage of a range of important topics including employee experience, leadership, customer experience, marketing and more. With an MFA in creative writing and background in inbound marketing, she offers unique insights on the topics of leadership, customer experience, marketing and employee experience. Michelle previously contributed to publications like The Press Enterprise and The Ladders. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her two dogs.