You hear the buzzword "delightful" all the time right now. Every company claims to strive for and/or offer a delightful customer experience. What does that really mean? And, should that be limited to customers or should that be part of the fabric of how they treat interactions with anyone?
In my opinion, it should really be fundamental to every company process and interaction. Here, I will focus on delightful experiences as they relate to candidates
What makes an experience delightful?
Simply put, a delightful experience is one that evokes delight from the intended party. You can't be in a room with a designer, PM, marketer, or founder right now and not hear it thrown around several times. Why is this so important? Well, there are many choices for each and every option out there, and the team is in place to ensure that you choose them over the other options. Having a beautiful and friendly UI goes a long way at making products/services more approachable to the public, and having a stellar customer support team further gives delight throughout the customer lifecycle. Things that make life easier for the user and cause them to feel special often fall into the delight category.
What does this mean for candidates?
Not every company has a clearly defined hiring brand (something I'll get into in a later post), but whether they nurture it or not, they definitely have a brand and it can easily work in their favor, or just as easily work against them. Especially for companies that value user experience and happiness, that is (or at least should be) built into their hiring brand as well. Candidates that have done their research and are interested in their company, will expect a similar experience and will expect that the team also values these things and it would come across in their interactions with them. It generally does if the impression of the company from users is true to the experience within the company. However, some companies do a great job of creating beautiful products, but fall flat in the human interaction department.
What things contribute to a delightful experience for candidates?
I think that it can be easy to forget that hiring is a two-way street where both parties have something equal to bring to the table and would equally lose if one party backs out. From the beginning, leading with empathy and with respect go a long way.
Starting at the beginning, things like the tone and voice from which the job postings are written begins to paint a picture of the team and culture for potential candidates. From here, the process to apply should be quick and easy and clear. I am a big fan of removing any barriers to application as I don't believe the company is yet in a position to ask for more from the candidate than their interest.
On the sourcing side, our industry has a lot of work left to do. However, it is a very easy place to start infusing delightful experiences. I am a firm believer in a few things around sourcing: 1) never cold-call 2) do your research! 3) create human connections. Staying as far away as possible from the salesy/schmoozey messages I'm sure you've all seen, and instead crafting personal and sincere messages goes a long way. Clearly showcasing that you both know what you're talking about as well as why you're talking to them, is something that should always be the norm. In conversations with potential candidates, keeping that human element is wildly important - they are not a number, they are not a means to an end.
Once someone is interested, the way to a continued delightful experience is by timely and appropriate communication. I've seen recruiters go each and every way here from seeming to fall off the face of the world to obsessive over-texting. The balance here is to understand them as a person and go with what is most appropriate for them. Do you know that they are insanely busy with work? Don't call them during the day and/or expect them to call you with a rundown of each interview. Do you know that they've already left and are interviewing all over the place? Then make sure to reach out, even if you don't feel like you have an update, to help ease any anxiety and to let them know that you're on their side. Be their advocate and give them advice.
Make sure that their interview experience is just as delightful as all of your other interactions. Prep them (again in an appropriate way) for interviews. Let them know who they'll be meeting with, any insights you have about what they should know ahead of time and bring up during the meetings. Make sure that all parties come prepared (candidates & interviews) and see the value of sharing their time. Keep things running as smoothly as you can, but be open and transparent if things need to change. I think it is very important for each interviewer to spend a bit of time with the candidate just talking. It's easy, especially in technical interviews, to hop right into their rubric or list of questions. Someone will respond much better to you if you make an effort to get to know them a bit first and share a little bit about you.
As interviews go on, and as candidates get closer to that elusive offer, I think it's very important to make them feel as if they are part of the team. At a minimum, there should be a portion of the interview process that includes lunch with the team, or another type of team interaction that is true to day-to-day life there. Ensure that the offer negotiation portion of their process is open, honest, and fair as well. Remember that you are still their advocate, and should never turn into an adversary. There are times where things don't work out, and that's fine, it can happen on either side. If the experience has been a delightful one, the company is much more likely to be able to bring that person on at a later date, and that candidate leaves with great feelings about the company. This natural evangelism leads to more users and candidate referrals and strengthens the company's reputation and brand.
Real world examples
At Dropcam we called the phase from knowing we wanted someone to when they actually started, our wooing phase. We wanted them to feel like part of the team already so that it would be a no brainer for them. Part of this is swag, because everyone in the industry gets swag, but it goes way beyond this. We had senior members of their soon-to-be team regularly reach out to check in with them, we always sent them a product early and encouraged feedback, we invited them to formal and informal events, and we kept them apprised of any company updates we could share. If some members on the team were reading a certain book, we'd send one to them too, or if we knew they'd have to get up to speed on a certain technology before they started, we would send things around that as well. I sent gifts of congratulations if I found out a candidate had a big life event, and it was always appreciated.
I read on Quora the other day about a delightful experience someone had interviewing at Stripe, which we all know has a reputation for valuing hiring. They mentioned that after interviewing they as a candidate received a handwritten thank you note. Those types of touches, clearly leave lasting impressions. Kudos to them for living up to the lore.