Candidate Experience – A Real Story + Insights From A Practitioner

Recruiters do not have any tangible motivations to work on candidate experience. Does a great CX bring in better candidates? Or more hires from a given set? Does it promise referrals through the roof? There is no profound evidence to answer these questions. Adding to all this, even the KPIs for recruiters do not measure or consider how they handle CX. They are dominantly focused on time and money spent, or satisfaction of the hiring manager.

Then why care about CX? Is CX worth all the hype or is it just a distraction that keeps you away from all the important recruitment-things you should be doing?

Read on to find out!

Providence Health & Services is a not-for-profit Catholic health care system. It operates operating multiple hospitals across 5 states, and is headquartered in Renton, Washington. With 50 hospitals, 829 clinics and hundreds of locally driven programs, they continue to improve the health of communities they serve.

Susan Burke is a Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition, at Providence St Joseph Health. She shares responsibilities with her peer Senior Manager, John Heffron, for Oregon and Northern California. She is Believer in Candidate experience.

Candidate experience
In this interview, we hear from Susan on why she deeply believes in CX and how it really makes a difference at Providence.

What motivates you to take candidate experience seriously while there are no obvious(or direct) benefits?  

While not every organization is in the same situation, Providence St. Joseph Health is concerned with candidate experience for two main reasons.  One is that many of our candidates are also Providence patients and can choose whether to seek Providence services (including our health plan) for their and their family’s healthcare needs.  And, the other is that the market is certainly tight and while we may not select a candidate for a particular position, we may be quite interested in them for a future role and we want their experience to be as positive as it can be so that they will continue to consider us for future employment, say good things about us, and refer their friends.  A positive candidate experience during the recruitment process also helps set the stage for a positive onboarding experience and start to their career at Providence.

Candidate experience
One of the ‘Talent for future’ training sessions at Providence.

Apart from surveys and NPS scores do you think there are ways to measure candidate experience?

Yes. Candidate experience can also be measured through the number of referrals you receive both from internal and external sources and the kind of feedback you receive via Glassdoor, anecdotal stories, and future interest from candidates who were not hired for positions for which they applied previously.

What are some metrics or indicators you look at to measure candidate experience?

Currently, we measure the time it takes from completed application for a recruiter to contact the candidate, how long it takes to complete their screening and get them in front of a hiring manager, the length of time it takes for the interview process to conclude, and the length of time it takes to either extend an offer or notify them that they have not been selected.  We don’t specifically measure preparation level of the interview panel nor the quality of feedback given to the candidate.

Candidate experience
Some of the TA team members engaged in a “Rock Paper Scissors” competition 🙂

You mentioned that you made a lot of changes to your recruiting process to improve candidate experience, can you sharing a little bit on that?

In 2016, Providence recognized that the tight employment market and the need to fill positions as quickly as possible with high quality candidates necessitated a differentiated recruitment approach.  We created an Internal Transfer Team to help manage candidate transfers for positions that the hiring manager was relatively certain would be filled with an internal candidate.  This reduced our time to fill for internal transfers dramatically.  We then reorganized our processes and our recruitment support to High Availability Talent (HAT) and Low Availability Talent (LAT) recruitments.  The primary focus for HAT roles is on sorting and screening.  As a general rule, these are the roles for which a higher volume of candidates are received via job postings.  The key is process efficiency.  Recruiters who support LAT roles are more focused on the need to source candidates.  Recruiters have been given additional training and tools to help them source candidates for these positions, and our centralized sourcing team often also assists them.  A higher-touch model is required when working with candidates for LAT roles.  Having a HAT/LAT split allows our recruiters to primarily focus on one area or another.  This has proven to be more efficient as they aren’t constantly shifting processes.  And, while, in some cases, this means hiring managers may work with multiple recruiters, they understand that this is the most efficient way to fill their roles as they are working with the right expert to help them do that as quickly as possible.

You had mentioned that you had primarily focused on candidate experience in 2017. Was there a specific reason your firm decided to do that?  

Providence spent most of 2016 working to improve the hiring manager experience with the recruitment process – enhances the services that Talent Acquisition could provide to them and removing work from their plates.  2017 then became the year to focus on candidate experience.  That isn’t to say we weren’t already working on the candidate’s experience in 2016, but it became the larger emphasis in 2017.  This meant ensuring our process was as efficient as possible, adding in some realistic job previews where possible, ensuring our communication with the candidate was top notch, and that we stayed engaged with them throughout the entire process through their first day and beyond, even following up with them 30 days after their hire date to check in on their experience, and, of course, ask for referrals.

The TA team hit 3000 filled positions in a month in 2016 and each team member was given this custom pin.

In your opinion, does candidate experience affect the quality of hire?  

I’m not sure if it directly affects the quality of hire as I don’t have metrics to directly correlate that, but I would say that it ultimately does.  People who have a good experience with us will tell others about their good experience and that leads to stronger applicants.  The opposite is surely true – if people have a negative experience with their recruitment process, word certainly travels and that can prevent great candidates from applying.  In addition, a good candidate experience, as mentioned earlier, certainly provides a great start to their career at Providence, which likely also reduces 90 day and first year turnover, indicating a higher quality of hire overall.

Is there an instance when a candidate, who didn’t fit the role, was impressed with the experience and became a mutual benefactor in some way?

Absolutely!  This happens all the time!  We often receive referrals from candidates who have self-selected out of the process but know someone who would be good for a role.  In fact, when we were hiring recruiters and coordinators last year, we had that happen.

I asked my team members to share a few examples of how positive candidate experience led to either a referral, a positive review, or, ultimately, that person getting hired.  

And, one Senior Recruiter shared a story about a Chaplain who actually flew to Portland 3 different times for 3 different positions over a one-year period.  She was the second choice for 2 of the 3 positions, but had such a good experience with Providence that she persisted and ended up being hired with us for the third position.

We often receive thank-you notes from candidates who were not selected for the position expressing their gratitude for the way their process went. Here’s one!

Candidate experience review

In 2017, Providence went on to receive the Elite Honor Roll award from Lean Human Capital  specifically centered around their Candidate Experience scores.

Candidate experience awards
The “Oscar Selfie” was taken of the team while celebrating our Lean Human Capital awards.

Freshteam wishes Providence continued success on their mission and lots of sunshine each day! We hope their story gives you all the inspiration you need to create impressive candidate experiences at your workplace, and when you are at it, we believe you will attract amazing people to join you on your journey.



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