5 Things My Vacation Can Teach You About the Candidate Experience

cruiseI recently took a cruise on Royal Caribbean with my girlfriend. It got me thinking about the services we provide as HR and agency recruiters. Some of these may not be a total surprise to you, but realize just how effective these five points can be if you truly invest time and energy into accomplishing them.

  1. Personalization. Probably the biggest thing that blew me away was how the staff remembered my name. This was a ship with about 5,000 tourists and 1,000 staff members. These crew members work in 4-6 month intervals, meaning they spend months working on the ship before they take breaks or go home. That’s a lot of trips with a lot of different tourists, yet each time I came to dinner or grabbed a drink at the bar, the staff knew my name. Because of that I’ll always use this particular cruise liner, and there’s no reason you can’t get that type of dedication from your candidates as well. Obviously remembering names is much easier in our line of work, but there’s no reason you can’t put some time into having conversations with your clients or candidates and following up on those conversations on your next meeting with them. This creates a certain feeling of commitment on your part to being the recruiter who genuinely cares about the people you work with, and that’s valuable. I promise you, it will stick with them.
  2. Surprise people with little touches. When boarding our cruise they had glasses of champagne waiting for us; they folded our towels into fun shapes; and the dining crew wished us well on our final night with a group song. These were all small things, but they were unexpected and made me feel like we got a little something extra out of the experience. The recruitment process can feel the same way. In HR and headhunting you have a lot of companies you probably compete with in the talent war, so whatever you can do to separate yourselves is extremely valuable. Sometimes swag isn’t a bad idea, but it can go further than that. Email candidates personally with a note after meeting with them; it doesn’t have to be long, but in a world where some people feel recruiters and HR people look at them like cattle, it could be the little thing that makes you stick out.
  3. Invigorate your staff. One of the things I couldn’t get over the whole week on our cruise was how polite and friendly the staff was. Literally everyone I walked by — waiter, maids, engineers, everyone — asked me if I was having a nice time on my vacation and to let them know if they could help in any way. They didn’t seem like they were forcing it, or it was one of those things they’re required to say. It seemed they genuinely wanted to ensure my experience was a good one, and it really impressed me. There’s no reason candidates can’t feel the same way about your experience as well. If you’re able to provide an experience where people can walk out feeling like they are in good hands, regardless of whether you’re able to get them hired, count on referrals.
  4. Elevate the experience. I personally had never taken a cruise before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. What this cruise liner did was highlight what made it different and made sure it reiterated it each and every day. This is more for the agency staffing firms, who need to find a way to differentiate themselves. Think about what makes your firm unique and make sure to play it up whenever possible. Do you have a different recruitment model? Are you a small firm that’s dedicated to client experience? Are you a huge staffing company that can offer its clients more contacts and connections? There’s always an angle; figure out yours and take advantage of it in your marketing.
  5. It’s OK to be shameless at times. Anyone who has been on a cruise before will tell you that the tipping situation is a little different. The cruise I was on literally told you how much they expect you to tip each person, and they even provided little envelopes on the last day of your trip. At first I was a little taken aback by it; I’ve always believed a tip is an extra gesture of thanks for a positive experience, and the amount given was up to the tipper. Regardless, I still tipped, the service was great, and the staff was awesome, and I was happy to do it. There’s no reason you shouldn’t feel the same way about asking for referrals. People know the hiring market is hectic right now. In the IT and healthcare departments, there are a ton of open jobs but limited qualified candidates, so you need any edge you can get! Asking for referrals shouldn’t be something to feel self conscious about. You helped someone and you’d like to do the same for their friend or family member!

As I’m writing this, I’m back in my office in Boston, where the current temperature is about 35 degrees. I’m already thinking about my next trip, and can’t wait to start planning. If done right, you can leave people feeling the same way about coming to work with you on their next career opportunity. In short, the best marketing you can ever do is to provide a top-notch experience and the results will follow. I know, I’ve seen it.

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12 Comments on “5 Things My Vacation Can Teach You About the Candidate Experience

  1. Interesting post! When you think about vacation you don’t exactly think about hiring great people, but there really are plenty of things you can learn about candidate experience. Personalization is a particularly important one. There are many times job seekers show up for the interview, whether in person or through online video, only to discover the hiring manager or recruiter has no knowledge of their candidacy at all. Take the time to really read up on the candidate before they come in for the interview so you can form a more personal connection and scoop up the talent you need.

  2. Thank you, Justin. You seem to have had a very pleasurable vacation.
    If I may, a major distinction:

    1) The managers/leaders in the hospitality industry are very concerned about making the customer’s experience as pleasant as possible and hire people to do just that. If they don’t do that, they get in trouble.

    2) The managers/leaders in the recruiting industry are almost totally unconcerned about making the candidate’s experience as pleasant as possible and never hire people to do just that. They don’t get in trouble for overseeing the frustration and aggravation of hundreds, thousands, or (for some companies) millions of ordinary unconnected applicants. They aren’t willing to hire either $2.00/hr Virtual Candidate Care Reps or outsourcing the whole CC experience to a company to make sure each and every applicant has a professional if not actually pleasant experience.



  3. Great points Josh. A job search is a very sensitive for a lot of people, whatever you can do to make it a little easier will go a long way in their eyes.

    I’m not sure I get your point. If anything that proves my point. Yes, hospitality managers are paid to make sure their guests have a great experience, but my point is it worked with me and now I’m writing a blog post about them. If you can be a staffing firm where people feel they had a uniquely great experience, it could very well generate referrals. I’m not saying it’s something you MUST do as a staffing firm, it will just give you an advantage, in theory.

  4. I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise a few years ago, and my experience mirrors Justin. The staff treats you like you are the only person in the world who matters to them.

    Recruiters who can do this with candidates and clients should get more repeat business, and placements in my opinion.

  5. @ Justin. I was referring to corporate employers, as opposed to 3PRs. It was my experience when I worked for 3PRs was that the higher a fee that the candidates could generate, the nicer the recruiters were to them, and the higher the fee that a client could pay, the more attention was paid to them. Hospitality involves sales but mainly service, and recruiting involves service but is mainly sales- i.e., in hospitality you are delivering a service, but in (3PR) recruiting you’re selling a product.

    @ John: ANYBODY who treats you like you are the only person in the world who matters to them is likely to get repeat business, unless you marry them…



  6. If only they served glasses of champagne in interviews too…that would be a nice candidate experience. It sounds like what stood out to you was the service–your needs were anticipated. I think candidates should also have the sort of treatment. One way to do this is to reply every step of the way, as a courtesy. There are many automated tools that can help.

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