‘Be Human’ and Other Tips for Creating a Great Candidate Experience

Communication, transparency and engagement power the candidate experience at these four Chicago tech companies.
Written by Michael Hines
December 6, 2022Updated: December 6, 2022

A lack of communication and information asymmetry have become hallmarks of the hiring process. Candidates regularly enter interviews knowing nothing more than the names and titles of their interviewers and are expected to wait days — or sometimes weeks — between follow-up emails. 

This is what makes the four Chicago companies featured here so unique: By their accounts, each one has placed a high emphasis on creating a candidate experience based on communication and transparency. 

What’s more, these companies are setting expectations for themselves and not just candidates. In the words of Melanie Scheer, director of people operations at Accelerated Digital Media, “The hiring process is as much an audition for a company as it is for a prospective employee.” 

Scheer’s sentiments are echoed by three other people and talent acquisition leaders Built In spoke with. Each one offered insight into how their companies — all of which are hiring — are working to upend low expectations and provide the best candidate experience.

 

Cara Hurley
Manager, Talent Acquisition • Braze

Braze helps marketers at HBO, Pizza Hut, Delivery Hero, and more better understand their customers and connect with them at the right time with the right message. The company’s customer engagement platform features solutions for data analytics, launching and managing campaigns, and A/B testing.

 

What is the most important thing you want candidates to learn about Braze, and how do you communicate it during the hiring process?

Braze is at an exciting and unique point in our growth and that makes it incredibly attractive to join. In the past year, we’ve hit major milestones such as going public, launching new global offices and surpassing a headcount of 1,300. Braze remains innovative, fast-paced and a place where people feel connected to one another. It’s a collaborative environment that sets the stage for stretching boundaries and honing skills. 

During our interview process, we love to share how we started, where we’ve been and where we are going. Most importantly, we ask candidates, “Is this the kind of place where you see yourself making an impact and being successful?”

One of our values is ‘be a human,’ and that truly sums up our philosophy for the candidate experience.”

 

What ingredients create a great candidate experience?

A best-in-class experience delights candidates, operates with efficiency and provides transparency. One of our values is “be a human,” and that truly sums up our philosophy for the candidate experience. Interviewing can be exhilarating and stressful. A great candidate experience should include authentic moments that show you care. The best ones are efficient, and I’m not talking about a lightning-fast approach for the sake of moving quickly. The most efficient processes are ones that operate with urgency while also being intentional and thorough. 

Lastly, being communicative and honest throughout the process goes a long way. We all know that it feels longer when you are waiting for something and there is radio silence. Keeping open lines of communication is key to driving a strong candidate experience.

 

How has your candidate experience changed over time, and why did you enact those changes?

Continuing to adapt and improve our candidate experience has been a critical component in hiring talented individuals to meet our business needs. We’ve done this through three key initiatives: building out our talent team, expanding our DEI program and investing in technology to support us along the way. By hiring and adding functions across the talent team like recruitment, operations, employer branding, coordination and sourcing, we’ve created a more robust and well-oiled machine to support the candidate journey. 

In addition, one of the most exciting and valuable changes we’ve implemented has been the investment into our DEI program, which drives a more efficient, inclusive and robust hiring process. Lastly, we’ve leveraged technology to enable smoother processes that create positive experiences with candidates. We’ve made incredible strides recently, and there’s a palpable commitment from executive leaders to our hiring teams to drive exceptional candidate experiences.

 

 

Melanie Scheer
Director of People Operations • Accelerated Digital Media

Accelerated Digital Media is a growth marketing firm that helps direct-to-consumer health and e-commerce companies take their search, social and programmatic campaigns to the next level. In addition to quarterbacking campaigns, the company also offers comprehensive Google Analytics audits.

 

What is the most important thing you want candidates to learn about Accelerated Digital Media, and how do you communicate it during the hiring process?

We focus on teamwork and continual growth, and that’s essential to how we recruit and to our enduring success. A great team is more than just a collection of smart people — they have to be invested in the mission. We go to great lengths to ensure our team cares about their work, and a big part of that is knowing that their company cares about them, too. That’s why ADM proudly fosters an open, dynamic and productive environment where expertise and creativity thrive together. 

We’re in the business of growth, which doesn’t just apply to our clients. We choose clients who are focused on making people’s lives healthier and happier, and we work every day to make sure that mission is reflected internally. We invest in our team by empowering new ideas and providing opportunities for continuous professional development.

The hiring process is as much an audition for a company as it is for a prospective employee.”

 

What ingredients create a great candidate experience?

We focus on engagement, transparency and following up. We get to know candidates both as prospects and people. We want to know about their job search and what matters most to their professional growth to make sure that there’s a mutual fit. Our transparency sets us apart from our competitors. We are honest throughout the entire hiring process and allow candidates to meet with multiple team members — often in group settings — so they can learn more about ADM from different perspectives.   

It’s also important to follow up to close out the process. Not every interviewee can receive an offer, but in today’s competitive job market it’s vital to let candidates know our decision as promptly as possible. We let them know right away and welcome the chance to stay connected.  As we grow, new opportunities where their unique skills are a fit may arise.  

 

How has your candidate experience changed over time, and why did you enact those changes?

The hiring process is as much an audition for a company as it is for a prospective employee. To put our best foot forward and provide candidates with a positive experience, we continually evolve and learn from previous experiences. We’ve learned that explaining our entire hiring process during initial screening calls helps keep candidates involved and aware of the expected timeline. We include multiple people in interviews because we want more team members in the decision-making process and for candidates to have a broader understanding of ADM’s culture and how our team interacts.

We also seek feedback from each candidate throughout the process to make sure we are providing them the opportunity to share their perspective so that we can keep adjusting our practices to remain appealing to future candidates.

 

 

Erin Przybyl
People Operations & Talent Acquisition Manager • Wonderlic

HR professionals use Wonderlic’s pre-employment assessments to help make better hires and to identify top performers for promotions. More than 200 million Wonderlic assessments have been conducted since the company was founded in 1937.

 

What is the most important thing you want candidates to learn about Wonderlic, and how do you communicate it during the hiring process?

Candidates should know that as a science-based company focused on how people do their best work, we bring our knowledge into our own work culture. We offer progressive benefits such as the four-day work week, but not just because other companies are doing it. We do it because research shows it improves the quality of life for our employees, and our organization has benefited from it, too. Our team is thriving because we have the flexibility and work-life balance that allows us to do our best work.

The way I communicate this is simple: I’m excited to share it, so I do! All candidates want to trust that they are joining a company that has a good culture, and no one is going to say they don’t have one. Sharing examples of how it has personally impacted me and my family is the best way to demonstrate how unique and special the company culture truly is here.

The three ingredients that make the experience better for our candidates are transparency, consistency and timeliness.”


What ingredients create a great candidate experience?

I am passionate about the candidate experience and am constantly evaluating ours and ensuring it is nothing short of great. The three ingredients that make the experience better for our candidates are transparency, consistency and timeliness.

Transparency is a huge part of the candidate experience. I would rather over-communicate with a candidate than have them feel in the dark. When I am informed of a decision, I let them know, and if I don’t have an update then I let them know I haven’t forgotten about them. While sometimes I can’t share certain details, I strive to be as transparent as possible during the entire process.

Consistency is so important, too. Every candidate should have the same experience, questions and interviewers. All of those decisions should be made prior to even starting to source candidates. Finally, timeliness. Nobody wants to wait all weekend for an update if they don’t have to. There will never be any ghosting from me.

 

How has your candidate experience changed over time, and why did you enact those changes?

Wonderlic is an 85-year-old company but we are in transition, so it feels like an 85-year-old startup! Our people ops team is looking at everything and improving anything that is less than great. In the last six months, we have created a more consistent process, improved our hiring teams’ note-taking to ensure consistency in interviews and are currently in the middle of changing multiple internal systems to ensure the systems and processes we have in place provide the experience we want candidates and new hires to have.

One of the biggest reasons for the changes was due to the volume of incredible candidates. We also were noticing how long the hiring process was taking, which caused a lot of candidates frustration. We have since added more support to our people ops team and aligned on strategies and goals for the timing of feedback and further interviews.

 

 

Colin Kilgallon
Recruiting Manager • Pampered Chef

Pampered Chef is an e-commerce company that sells everything cooking-related, from burger presses to air fryers and garlic and herb rubs. These products are available both online and through its network of consultants.

 

What is the most important thing you want candidates to learn about Pampered Chef, and how do you communicate it during the hiring process?

Our strongest cultural fits have been our most successful hires. We clearly communicate our company culture throughout the hiring process so we can ensure it aligns with the candidate’s values. Candidates with high learning agility can be taught the responsibilities of a role, but behaviors and core values are fostered over time. When candidates naturally align with our pillars, they fit seamlessly with the team and company.

Open and transparent communication is key to the overall success of the candidate experience.”


What ingredients create a great candidate experience?

Open and transparent communication is key to the overall success of the candidate experience, and that starts with managing expectations around the interview process. We also eliminate ambiguity by creating an environment where candidates can openly ask questions and receive a response in a timely fashion. Finally, we provide honest updates and set expectations for next steps.

 

How has your candidate experience changed over time, and why did you enact those changes?

Before the pandemic, every candidate interviewed onsite at our office in Addison, Illinois. We’ve since moved to a hybrid model that has led to several adjustments and improvements in our hiring process. As of today, we do all of our interviews remotely over Zoom and have trained on best practices for evaluating candidates through this new process. It is a continuous learning challenge but one we feel we have excelled at and adapted to through teamwork and communication.

 

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