What is your internal candidate experience?

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Sure, Candidate Experience is an initiative at your organization. You might even have a specific lead (or team!) focused on candidate experience processes and programs. Here’s a question for you: How are you translating those efforts to your internal candidate experience?

Common Challenges in Candidate Experience

Candidate experience is a topic that comes up at nearly every gathering of the CXR Community. The list of challenges around candidate experience is growing and TA leaders are feeling the pain around:

  • Interview timelines
  • Technology – both selection and implementation
  • Continued lack of feedback after an interview
  • Accountability
  • Consistent implementation of processes
  • Data collection – across the spectrum from simply getting reliable data to real-time data
  • Hand-off to hiring manager
  • Setting clear expectations for candidates and hiring managers

That list likely feels familiar to you and it certainly contains issues we’ve heard year after year. However, we’re hearing these issues in a new context recently: How those challenges are spreading to the internal candidate experience. We recently spent some time talking with CXR Community members who have made internal candidate experience a focus and asked them to share some advice.

[Three exercises to improve candidate experience]

Internal Candidate Experience Advice from the CXR Community

Deane Osner, Senior Talent Acquisition Leader at Shaw Industries, recommends proactively sourcing internally. “We get to know our business, work closely with the Talent Development team and proactively reach out to candidates when we see a potential fit. Really getting to know people has made a positive impact in our internal candidate experience process.” In fact, Shaw’s current Talent Management leader, which includes our TA area, was an internal hire from the business at large – not from HR. “He was always very proactive with diversity and performance initiatives and a great resource for TA and Talent Management when he was a leader in different areas of the business. When this position opened, I already knew he had the competencies we needed and reached out to ask him to apply.”

That brings us to the second piece of advice from Osner, know your internal competencies and use them. When an internal candidate applies, collect data from their current manager, peers and reports then present that to the hiring manager. It helps the candidate present their strengths and improves the recruiting experience for both TA “customers” – the candidate and hiring manager. If the hiring manager decides not to move ahead with the internal candidate, he or she communicates directly with the candidate to let them know why they weren’t selected and on which competencies they need to focus improvement. This performance experience has led TA to work with managers to improve accountability and feedback – the last thing an internal candidate wants is to hear about areas that need work from a hiring manager before their current manager ever brings it up.

Open communication seems to be key in organizations that have positive internal candidate experience. James Ayres, Talent Acquisition Leader – Canada at Intuit, notes three rules they follow for internal candidates. Before application a candidate must:

  1. Be in good standing in the current role.
  2. Have been at Intuit for at least 1 year in the current role.
  3. Have their manager’s blessing to interview for the new role.

Intuit tries to exhaust their internal candidate database before turning to external candidates. They have a goal of filling 30% of openings each year with internal candidates — and hope to beat that this year. Why such a big focus? “We know people are at Intuit to grow their career and we want to help each other succeed in that goal. That’s why we provide such a fast response time and a very open process to all internal candidates. We want our candidates, both internal and external, to have an amazing experience throughout our interview process!”

[A Third Wave of Disruption Challenges How TA Thinks about Candidate Experience]

At Intuit, all candidates must present a case study solution to a small interview team and then conduct one-on-one interviews with members on that panel. At the end of the process, the candidate (internal or external) will learn the outcome shortly thereafter so we try to not have them wait long so they can still have a great candidate experience. They want the candidate to know that their time and effort are valued and if the new team opts not to move forward with the candidate, the candidate gets very specific feedback on how to improve. Other key aspects of the Intuit internal candidate experience process:

  • Once an internal candidate applies to a position a notice is sent directly to the recruiter and the recruiter has a service level agreement to respond within 24 hours.
  • The recruiter verifies that the internal candidate speaks to their current manager about the position so there are no surprises. The recruiter also speaks to the current manager, compiling performance information to pass on to the hiring manager for review before the interview takes place.

Best advice to improve internal candidate experience? Listen to your employees.

When asked what they have done that’s had the biggest impact on internal candidate experience, Intuit responded “We asked our current employees how they would like the experience to work. We want to treat our customers well – both the hiring manager and the employee – so we need to make sure we are listening to their needs and pain points. I would tell any company looking to improve their internal candidate experience to talk to their employees about what the best experience looks like. Then talk to other companies that you aspire to be like and ask about their process.”

Helping your internal candidate experience evolve with your organization

When an organization is in a high growth period, internal candidate experience can easily be pushed aside. Stephanie Gardiner, a Senior Recruiter with Amazon, notes that some business units are more likely to select an internal candidate over an equally qualified external candidate – and are doing the outreach to those internal candidates without involving talent acquisition. “It is very hard for an external candidate to have the same immediate impact as an internal candidate who already knows the culture and business model. Some business units are too impatient to wait for a ramp-up period when they know an internal candidate can do the job.” While this is very dependent on the business unit and type of job opening, it’s worth noting that in a high-growth, high-pressure hiring environment, the recruiter needs to partner with the hiring manager in different ways. In other words, the internal candidate experience isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of process. It needs to constantly be evaluated to make sure it is meeting the needs of your hiring managers and employees.

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