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How to treat candidates like customers

For many people, the experience of finding a new job is dehumanising and dejecting. Companies are falling short, but there’s a proven roadmap from Customer Experience wisdom which will result in more successful hires and fewer demoralised candidates, not to mention potential customers.

In today’s economy, companies are receiving more applications than ever before. With mountains of CVs to process at lightning speed, they are turning to AI to speed up the process.  Eventually, after interviews and assessments, a victorious candidate emerges and everyone keeps their fingers crossed that they are indeed a good match for the job and team.

But what about the other side of the experience? For that one jubilant candidate there are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of people left disheartened and dejected.  In recruitment that might seem acceptable.  But Customer Experience and Marketing leaders would disagree.

“I was a huge brand advocate of [global toy brand] until applying for a job there. I didn’t buy from them this Christmas.”

Experienced Marketer, Job Hunter and Auntie


So what can companies learn from Customer Experience principles?

1. Slash the spin

Nobody likes secrets. Many companies still hide salary bands, the reality of the job or the true culture. Today, candidates appreciate authenticity over polish. How about ‘telling it like it is’ — about the role, your company, and the culture? The right candidate will thank you.

2. Respect their time

People loathe the “black hole”. Many candidates that Zigzag spoke to spent over 2 hours customising a single CV and cover letter, only to receive nothing but an automatic, impersonal email. Find ways to acknowledge their effort and their interest. Or better still, don’t let them waste their time at all unless you’re really sure that your role is right for their next step.

3. Prioritise their career goals

If every candidate were treated as a potential customer, you would start from their needs first. Most people don’t want to repeat what they’ve done in the past. And research shows that past experience doesn’t guarantee future success. Make it clear what growth they will get from this role.

4. Experience matters

You’re not just being judged against other companies’ recruitment experience, but against their expectations of your brand. Customer experience is not just about removing friction but about creating moments that matter. Imagine your recruitment process as a meaningful extension of your brand’s customer experience.

Across all industries, people say the experience of finding a new job is dehumanising and dejecting. And the stakes for them are high – their job is too important a part of their identity to make a mistake, even in today’s tight job market.  Companies are falling short, but there’s a proven roadmap to be followed from Customer Experience disciplines which will result in more successful hires and fewer demoralised candidates, not to mention potential customers.

About the author

Ben Wiseman is co-founder of Zigzag, the marketing talent platform. An expert in customer experience and marketing strategy, he has advised many of the world’s leading companies in Europe and Silicon Valley on creating moments that drive value for businesses and people.

About Zigzag

Zigzag is a marketing talent platform that aims to put human potential at the heart of recruitment. Zigzag matches marketers and jobs based on skills, knowledge and personality traits; reducing the number of applications for candidates and companies, and increasing the quality of the interaction and the success of new employees.

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