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Candidate experience (CX) refers to talent’s perception of your hiring process — and therefore of your org broadly speaking — based on every point of contact they have with you, from the moment they discover you to the moment they receive either an offer or a rejection. Great CX strengthens your employer brand, increases acceptance rates, and reduces time to hire. And while it’s important for all roles, it’s critical for technical roles. 

After all, even at the height of COVID last year, tech occupations saw only a 3% unemployment rate; and data from Workable showed time-to-hire for tech roles globally reaching up to 33 days. The moral of the story? Even in a crisis, technical talent can afford to be selective about where they work. So you’ve got to go above-and-beyond in your candidate experience efforts if you hope to fill your open tech roles. 

Recent research by the Talent Board shows that the winners of the Candidate Experience Awards share four best practices

  1. Listen and communicate often
  2. Set clear expectations about their hiring process, from pre-application to onboarding
  3. Hold themselves accountable for CX and measure it regularly
  4. Offer a fair hiring process 

But what does all that mean in practice? Broadly speaking, we’d say it means treating candidates with the same level of respect, concern, and attention you give your employees day after day. Below are more specific best practices for offering great candidate experience to tech talent:

Know What Tech Talent Wants to Hear About

This will impact the messaging in your job descriptions, your passive talent outreach, your careers page, your social feeds, and more. Tech talent is interested in more than what tools they’ll be working with. They want flexibility (75% of engineers prefer remote work). They want to know what projects they’d be working on and what challenges they’d be trying to solve with you. They want to know how their prospective co-workers are thought leaders, disruptors, and creative problem-solvers. They’re also interested in what growth would look like for them at your company, as 81% of developers are interested in management

To get at these answers, it helps to survey the tech talent currently on your team. Ask them what’s most exciting about their role, about working with this particular team, about their current projects. Use their answers in your messaging to speak to tech talent’s intrinsic motivators. What do you have to offer them that meets what they most desire in their next role?

State of remote work for hiring engineers.
Do you know what engineers are looking for in their next tech role? 

Personalize Your Passive Talent Outreach

Chances are that if you’re looking for technical talent right now, you’re proactively going out and finding (“sourcing”) them. Knowing what passive tech talent wants to hear will inform the content of your email outreach. 

Step 1: Reach out to tech talent via email! 

90% of talent prefers to be contacted by email rather than InMail or elsewhere—plus 40% of tech talent has InMail notifications turned off. Reaching out to talent where they want to be reached is part of great CX.

Maybe you’ll link to thought leadership pieces by your team members, or to a video of the team talking about the projects they’re working on, or to a profile of one of your developers detailing their career path. 

Step 2: Make it personal. 

Prospective candidates want to feel valued as individuals from the very beginning, rather than recipients of a mass email blast. They want to hear how their experience and proficiencies will contribute to what you’re building. Taking a personal approach to your communications will not only increase response rates; it will also build trust with talent. 

Recruiting outreach solutions like Gem allow you to personalize your outreach at scale — with everything from {{reason}} tokens to send-on-behalf-of features that allow multiple stakeholders to express interest in a prospective candidate — and automate follow-ups so tech talent doesn’t think they were just part of a one-and-done bulk outreach.

Describe the Process and Communicate Regularly

Once tech talent has expressed interest in your org, set expectations immediately — and demonstrate that you value their time — by describing what the entire process will look like and showing that you value transparency. Some things you might want to include: 

  • What’s your hiring timeline?
  • How many stages are there in your process, and how long will each stage take?
  • When will they hear back from you after each step, and who can they expect to hear from? 
  • What exactly will be asked and expected of them at every stage?
  • What should they expect from you

Even better, explain to them why this is your process. It will show that you’ve been thoughtfully iterating on, and implementing best practices in, your hiring. What’s more, candidates should hear from you after every step. Thank them for staying with your process, let them know where they stand, and remind them what’s next. 

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Make Sure Your Technical Assessment is Relevant to the Role

Your technical assessment, of course, is different from your technical screening. The latter occurs earlier in the process and is meant to answer one question: can the developer do what they say they can do? The assessment, on the other hand, is more complex. And it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. 

It should be tailored to the candidate and their experience and aligned to the open role and its requirements. In other words, it should look like a challenging workday at your org. To ensure your assessment is relevant, ask yourself these three questions: 

  1. Where is the candidate in their career? 
  2. What projects and problems are your teams working on, and with what tools? 
  3. What assessment will best represent a candidate’s ability as it relates to what they’ll be doing in their day-to-day with you? 

Assessing them on a skill they haven’t used since they were in college won’t earn you the respect of your candidates, and it will certainly prevent you from hiring in alignment with your current projects and goals. On the other hand, a relevant technical assessment should get them excited about the challenges they’re about to undertake with you so that they’re eager to accept your offer when it comes.

So confer with your in-house developers to ensure you create a “non-standard” assessment that reflects their day-to-day work and the skills necessary for success in the role. Your current team will be your best resource for knowing what kind of assessment a technical candidate will value. 

Then, use a platform like Codility to design role-specific assessments. This way, when you inform candidates about the assessment, you can be clear about what useful insights it will provide you about their capacity to take on the role. And they’ll get to demonstrate creative solutions to whatever interesting problems you throw at them with the breadth of the skill set they’re proud to have acquired.

Ready to make your next engineering candidate a job offer?

Then check out part two of this series where we talk you through how to build the ultimate offer and onboarding experience for recruiting engineers. 

This is a guest blog post written by Lauren Shufran, Content Strategist at Gem. Gem’s modern recruiting solution empowers talent acquisition teams to optimize & expand their sourcing efforts while simultaneously reporting on outcomes that inform an organization’s talent attraction & engagement strategy. Gem is a proud partner of Codility.

Lauren Shufran is a content strategist and lead writer at Gem. When she’s not thinking about best practices for talent acquisition teams, she’s on her yoga mat or hiking the North Bay hills. Pre-software, she got a PhD in early modern British literature. Come at her with your favorite Shakespeare quote.

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