The recruiter is often in a position of power over the applicant. Juho Toivola, an occupational and organisational psychologist and labour market strategist, shares his views on how companies can balance the power positions in recruitment while improving the candidate experience.

The importance of customer experience and user orientation for business is more talked about today than ever before. Are these issues also being taken into account in companies' recruitment processes?

–The law of supply and demand still determines to a large extent how candidates are treated. In sectors and functions where it is difficult to find professionals to work, more emphasis is being placed on the candidate-driven nature of the recruitment process. In certain sectors, there are more skilled people available than needed - and less emphasis is placed on the recruitment process and candidate experience," says Juho Toivola, an industrial and organisational psychologist and labour market strategist.

Not investing in candidate experience can be due to recruiters not being able to put themselves in the shoes of the candidate, Toivola says.

–If recruiting managers are not in daily contact with recruiters and applicants, people can easily become just CVs in the recruitment system and faces in video interviews. In this case, they may be thought of as data to be processed, even though common sense tells us that they are real people.


A Good Candidate Experience Increases Interest in the Job

What are the benefits of a good candidate experience for companies and why is it important to invest in it?

–If companies provide good candidate experiences for candidates, whether they are selected or not, word gets out and people are more interested in discussing job opportunities with that organisation. This makes it easier for the company to find the best people for the job," says Toivola.

A bad candidate experience does not reflect well on a company as an employer, but can a bad candidate experience also mean that the candidate will no longer be a client of the company?

–There is a lot of talk that every candidate can be a future customer and that every bad experience can be a lost customer. I think this is being a bit dramatised and I have never seen any data to prove that this is the case. It's important to distinguish that what people respond to a survey and how they actually act are often not the same thing.

Recruitment Power Positions Are Reflected in the Job Interview

Toivola believes that the recruitment process is inherently an unequal set-up, with the employer often having much more bargaining power than the applicant. However, he says that a good candidate experience involves trying to soften the inherent inequality in the recruitment process. This is not easy.

–It is difficult to get to a situation where there is no power structure in the recruitment process, but two completely equal people discussing things. Particularly if a company is recruiting its first employee, in an interview situation the employer often feels like testing the pressure tolerance instead of a nice chat.

When hiring a first employee, the employer may even see the candidate as a threat, because if the employee is not a good fit, it can be a big blow to the company's finances. In such a situation, it can be difficult to make the interview situation comfortable for the candidate as well.

–When I talk to employers, I often ask whether they want to see the candidate at his or her best or at his or her worst in the interview situation. They have quite different approaches.


An Uneven Playing Field Interferes With Getting to Know the Candidate

An uneven playing field in recruitment can create a situation where the employer and candidate cannot really get to know each other. To counterbalance the unequal situation, Toivola suggests gratitude from the employer.

–If the employer is grateful for every step the candidate has taken to get ahead in the process, the situation is much better. It should not be taken for granted that someone will read a job advertisement, apply for a job or make the effort to clear space in their calendar to attend an interview. The employer should also thank the applicant for these things. It immediately creates a nice and relaxed atmosphere.

To make the recruitment process as equal as possible, it is also important for companies to understand the labour market situation in their sector.

–If employers know the labour market in their sector, they know their own position in the recruitment process and can put themselves in the applicant's shoes better.

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