Through their commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement, the Merit America Talent Acquisition team has navigated the intricate landscape of candidate engagement to create an enriching and impactful experience. In this blog post, Merit America’s Director of Talent Acquisition Katie Rakusin shares some of the insights her team has learned to build a great candidate experience.

One of the biggest focus areas for Merit America’s talent acquisition team this year was to create a strong candidate experience strategy – one of our OKRs is “The Talent Acquisition team will design and execute a candidate experience strategy that is positive, respectful, informative, and allows candidates to demonstrate their skills.” Having an excellent candidate experience isn’t unique to Merit America; LinkedIn predicted that having a stellar candidate experience strategy would be one of the biggest levers to having a successful talent acquisition team in 2023.    

To assess and improve our candidate experience, we implemented a candidate experience survey after transitioning our application tracking system to Greenhouse last year. We are committed to being transparent and accountable in sharing our findings – both in terms of our strengths and areas of improvement. By understanding our strengths and challenges, we can continually enhance our candidate experience and build a more robust talent acquisition process.  The three graphs that follow are directly related to three of our main findings:

  • Positive Interview Experience: At least 75% of candidates agree/strongly agree to “Overall, my interviewing experience was a positive one” across race/ethnicity and gender. 
  • Interviewer Preparedness: At least 75% of candidates agree/strongly agree to “The people who interviewed me were well prepared and conducted the interviews skillfully” across race/ethnicity and gender.
  • Respectful Process: At least 75% of candidates agree/strongly agree to “I was treated with courtesy and respect” across race/ethnicity and gender.

🎉What made us proud:

It was encouraging to see us nearly hit all of our targets in the first half of the year, and more importantly, there were no gaps across race/ethnicity and gender. As a talent acquisition team, we review the candidate experience data every month – and it felt good to see some of our initiatives and systems pay off, including:

Job kick-off meeting

Before hiring, the talent acquisition team meets with the hiring manager to align timelines, competencies/skills, and responsibilities. By having these meetings, the hiring manager and the recruiter are on the same page, and this helps us complete the hiring process relatively quickly (we aim for seven weeks or less).

Responsive communication

We know it doesn’t feel great to apply for a role and then never hear back or interview for a position and get ghosted. As all of the talent acquisition team members have experienced this, we prioritized being responsive to candidates and proactively letting them know when we will be out of the office. It was evident from the candidates’ feedback on clear communication – they appreciated not being left in the dark!

💭What made us think:

While we had a lot of positive feedback, there were a few areas where we knew we could improve.

Implementing systems as we grow to scale

May, one of our busiest hiring months, was the only month we didn’t hit all our targets. We found that we needed to be more efficient and proactive when navigating multiple roles and hiring managers. As a team, we also learned that prioritization during the hectic hiring season is critical. At our weekly team meetings, we would align on the different roles and create space for team members to ask for help/volunteer support.

Creating space for candidates

For high-volume roles, candidates may have their first interview as an asynchronous video interview, which can be intimidating as it may be their first interaction with a Merit America team member. To address this, we introduced two optional touch-points:

  • Success Calls: Active candidates can schedule a 15-30 minute phone call with a talent acquisition team member to learn more about the role and ask questions about the interview process. Our goal is to ensure that 90% of candidates who move to panel interviews have a Success Call, and we have consistently met this metric.
  • Office Hours: Prospective candidates can schedule 15-minute calls with talent acquisition team members to ask questions about Merit America, open roles, and the interview process. These calls create a safe space for candidates to seek clarification on any topic, no matter how big or small.

Giving feedback

One common feedback in the candidate experience survey free responses was, “Why should I give you feedback if you don’t give me any?” While there are pros and cons to giving candidates feedback, we started to offer optional candidate feedback calls to anyone who made it to at least our panel interview stage. While we were a bit nervous, we found that most calls have been productive conversations.

Final thoughts

The candidate’s experience can shape an organization’s reputation and success. The impression that potential candidates form during their interactions with us can influence their decision to accept an offer or tell their network about Merit America. The talent acquisition team will continue to share our data and results, and if you are sent a candidate experience survey from us, I promise my team will read your responses and make adjustments. 

Interested in joining our team? Check out our current Merit America job openings!