COVID-19 has brought many challenges for companies and HR departments as they seek to manage remote workforces, consider restructuring, managing furloughs and generally seek to work with their current employees but there is another cohort: active interview candidates who are being left in the dark. How can companies seek to deliver a positive candidate experience during this crisis and safeguard their employer brand and hiring for the future?
Candidate experience is an integral part of employer branding and hiring success for companies. This is only enhanced during times of crisis as how companies treat their stakeholders now will have a lasting impact. Talent-Works explains “in uncertain times, when tensions are already high, the candidate experience has never been so vital…candidates need to have more confidence in a future employer than ever before.” 
HR Technologist  defines Candidate Experience as the perception of a job seeker about an employer, based on the interaction during the complete recruitment process. This includes all points of contact during recruitment – job search, the application process, interview process, and onboarding. Companies need to ensure they are excelling through all interactions with candidates to ensure they can attract the talent they want.
COVID-19 has seen many companies have to either reduce or completely halt their recruitment processes and with candidate experience becoming more and more important for companies looking to secure top talent , pauses such as this need to be handled correctly. Across all industries. companies are having to pull back from hiring plans and slowdown on recruitment but how can companies try to deliver a positive candidate experience and retain the trust of these candidates for the future.
In April 2020, Verify Recruitment conducted a survey of the technology industry in Ireland to understand the current candidate experience and how this could be improved from the perspective of those candidates themselves.
It all begins with transparency as 98% of workers agree that companies should be more transparent than they already are when it comes to disruptions in a hiring process such as a hiring freeze or an application pause. Candidates don’t feel companies are forthcoming about when pauses are occurring, expected timelines for these pauses and additional contextual information about the pause. Companies need to give confidence to these candidates through clear and transparent communication on the cause, length, and features of a hiring freeze.
Secondly, how news of a hiring freeze is broken is vital in securing a high-quality candidate experience. Of those we surveyed who had previous experience with an application pause, 50% had been contacted by a 3rd party recruiter rather than an internal resource from the hiring company. The method by which they were contacted was predominantly via email with a slight leaning more towards a personalised message compared to a generic one. This was leading to 63% of candidates who had been satisfied with how their application was being handled by a company becoming either dissatisfied or neutral about their candidate experience and opinion of the company. This shows how companies are currently failing to correctly handle the engagement and messaging with candidates in this situation and the huge opportunity for those that know how to meet the expectations of talent.
Every interaction a candidate has with a company during a recruitment process can be highly impactful to an employer’s brand and it is no different for hiring freezes. 33% of respondents said that how a company deals with an application pause would have a great deal of an impact on their opinion of that company while an additional 46% said it would have a lot of an impact. Combined with 72% expressing that they are likely to inform their network of their experience with an application pause, this is an area that employers simply cannot ignore. The type of experience a candidate has, either positive or negative, has the ability to prove immensely beneficial or detrimental to the chances of securing ideal candidates in the post-COVID talent market and to a company’s employer brand.
Small changes to a company’s candidate experience strategy can have a real influence on the type of talent which ends up working there . When candidates feel they are being treated as individuals and see investment from the company in them they increasingly have confidence in the company and enjoy a more positive candidate experience. Companies have an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over the current poor candidate experience during hiring freezes and application pauses and to leverage the willingness of candidates to share their experience with their network. With transparency and the right communication medium and tone, companies can deliver a positive candidate experience in challenging times and gain invested candidates and future advocates.