Our interview subject
To learn more about candidate experience, Live Recruiter sat down for an interview with a senior-level project manager. The candidate has 15 years of experience in their field. The conversation below details their experience during their last job search, which was in 2019. The topics we discussed include candidates curating their resumés to appeal to AI, best practices for communicating with candidates, the importance of the human element in hiring, a realistic look at company culture, and the power of employee advocacy in a recruiting context.
How much time on average did you spend per application?
The time varied, but usually it took around 30-40 minutes. The more time consuming applications required me to re-enter information from my resumé into the company’s own form, which I found tedious. I also spent a lot of time tailoring my resumé and cover letter to best match the given job descriptions. I made sure to include key terms word for word so that the software which initially screens resumés would not overlook mine. For instance, if my application said “I am good at managing my time” but the job description said “effective time management”, I would paraphrase my resumé to exactly match the verbiage in the description. I did this even though the meaning was the same.
What was the follow-up like from companies that did not want to continue with the onboarding process? Can you think of an experience that was particularly positive or negative? How did these experiences make you feel?
Being ghosted (receiving no follow-up whatsoever) is always a negative experience. Receiving an automated message, for example something along the lines of “thank you for applying, you will be contacted if you’re selected” feels very impersonal. This is a neutral experience for me. This feels even more impersonal when there is no follow-up and the employer drops communication altogether after this initial message. Timing is important as well. In the past, companies have contacted me 6 or more months after my application date, which I almost find funny. At that point, I would have already assumed that that prospect did not work out and that the employer had ghosted me.
I find that receiving a message from a person is always a positive experience regardless of the outcome. I appreciate it when employers get back to me and provide specific feedback and reasoning as to why my application was rejected. The more specific the feedback, the better. For example, if an employer says that they did not select me due to a “skills mismatch”, I would like to know what specific skills gap they are referring to. This lack of clarity can be especially frustrating after I alter my resumé to highlight how my skills match the job requirements or if I advanced past the application stage of the onboarding process. Regardless, a timely and personal response is never a negative experience.
How many applications did you send out before you received an offer? Were you considering multiple offers or did you accept the first one that you received?
I applied to 242 positions. I received 15 interviews, and for four of them I had to do multiple interviews. Ultimately, I received two offers. I made an objective decision by analyzing the value offerings of the two companies. I compared salary, benefits, commute, job security, pension, and vacation. When I consider health benefits, I look at how extensive the coverage is (does it go beyond dental and cover chiropractors, physiotherapists, etc?) as well as what amounts the employer covers.
Did you develop an accurate understanding of your employer’s company culture during the onboarding process?
Since getting hired, I learned that my company began investing in HR and culture after a period of high turnover. However, I did not perceive this emphasis on culture during any stages of the multi-step onboarding process. In fact, upon doing my own research on Glassdoor, I discovered that the company had not received a lot of positive feedback from former or current employees. I decided to investigate further. I reached out to an employee on LinkedIn to ask for his insights. His account of his experiences with the employer was positive. This made me less hesitant to continue with the onboarding process and played a significant role in my eventual decision to accept the offer.
Having worked at this company for many months, do you feel that the employer effectively communicates their values to inform a positive company culture?
While I am happy with my experience working with my team, I cannot speak to how consistently that holds across teams and departments. Mid-level managers have a huge impact on employee experience. I have found that culture can vary within one company across departments or even units. It is important for companies to implement culture from the top down and avoid this variance in culture across departments. For international companies it is even harder to standardize and communicate their company culture, but I have seen firsthand how important it is to make that effort. All employees deserve a consistently positive experience regardless of their role or department.
The candidate expressed that overall, the most positive experiences during onboarding are from human interaction. They were frustrated by the time-consuming process of trying to appease an AI with their resumé, as well as the impersonal nature of automated responses from employers. Interestingly, they observed that their company did not have a strong company culture, despite having increased their spending on human resources in response to high turnover. The company’s culture and values were not effectively communicated during onboarding, which was reflected in the day-to-day dynamics in the workplace. Moreover, the interviewee’s account of a variability of culture across departments and teams speaks to the employer’s lack of a strong vertically integrated culture strategy. Efforts to strengthen the employer brand should come from the top down to ensure that every employee has a consistently positive experience at work, regardless of their department or unit.