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How Psychological Safety Boosts Candidate Experience

Candidate experience has always been defined as the perception of candidates toward your recruitment brand. However, what they don’t discuss as much is the fact that perception is made up of feelings and expectations that ultimately determine the applicant’s final opinion. Integral to all this is the rapport you build and the environment you set: were you able to provide a safe space so they can express themselves confidently without fear of rejection? This is the concept of psychological safety, and it’s a non-negotiable in any candidate experience strategy.   

UNDERSTANDING PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY 

Typically considered in the context of work culture, psychological safety is the belief that an individual who raises questions, ideas, or mistakes won’t be humiliated or suffer repercussions for opening up. This is also known as the “speak-up culture” because it’s specifically meant to foster a healthy culture of accountability within the company. 

In the context of recruitment, it is the act of providing a safe environment for candidates to let their voices be heard without worrying how it will negatively affect their application results. This is the essence of psychological safety, and it’s one of the things that can take your candidate experience from good to great. 

In a book released by Dr. Timothy Clark, he identified four stages to psychological safety that individuals go through to feel empowered in openly expressing themselves. While this is set primarily for employment culture, recruiters can flip this into a recruitment setting and gain the valuable insights they need to understand candidates better. 

  • Stage 1: Inclusion Safety. This level is all about the basic need for human connection and belongingness. In recruitment, it translates to the need for recruiters to make sure that the first interaction is acknowledged and as personal as possible. When this is accomplished, candidates will feel more encouraged to build rapport because you have already communicated that you acknowledge and welcome them. 
  • Stage 2: Learner Safety. This tier is about addressing the candidates’ need for growth. In this stage, recruiters should foster an environment of open communication and organic exchange where candidates can freely ask questions and get helpful feedback. The survey even shows that candidates are more likely to consider you as a recruiter of choice when you provide them with constructive feedback during the application.
  • Stage 3: Contributor Safety. This refers to the innate need of people to make a difference and give contributions. In light of candidate experience strategy, recruiters can satisfy this by being intentional in asking candidates for feedback. Not only will this make them feel heard, but it will also communicate that their opinions are valued. 
  • Stage 4: Challenger Safety. The final stage of psychological safety addresses the need to make things better. During this stage, candidates reach the point of comfortability and confidence to challenge the status quo when there’s an opportunity to improve. This can also be addressed through a feedback loop and letting them know that you are taking actionable steps to address their concerns. 

Satisfying all stages of psychological safety can already bring you a step closer to delivering a better candidate experience. If you look closely, the requirements of psychological safety are relatively similar to what great candidate experience is about: making personal and meaningful connections. 

WHY IMPROVING PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY IN RECRUITMENT MATTERS 

Times are different now, and candidate experience has grown to become something more than just a buzzword. The market is getting tighter and voluntary turnovers are on the rise. This means that candidates take their standards and expectations seriously when considering their recruiter of choice. 

Herein lies your problem: how do you know what their expectations are?  

Enter psychological safety. Recruiters who put in the effort to build relationships founded on trust and credibility will encourage candidates to feel more comfortable expressing themselves because they’re not afraid of being rejected. Those who proactively foster a culture of open communication and authenticity throughout are the ones who are most likely to truly make personal connections.   

Psychological safety is essentially the ability of your recruiters to encourage candidates to trust them enough to take interpersonal risks: opening up and being genuine. As a recruiter, your main goal is to make quality placements. You can’t do that unless candidates are comfortable enough to take the risk of letting you know who they truly are and what they can bring to the table. 

CREATING A PSYCHOLOGICALLY SAFE CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE 

Psychological safety in recruitment boils down to the recruitment strategies that your team builds. To help you promote a more open and accountable environment that can make your candidates feel more reassured, here are three things you can do:  

  1. Monitor recruitment communication. 

We’re just going to go ahead and say it: recruiter ghosting is detrimental to psychological safety.  

If you’re trying to build an environment where candidates would be comfortable to express themselves, taking two working days to respond to their questions or ignoring queries completely will negate what other efforts you’re going to put in. There’s no point in your applicants communicating their ideas if you don’t acknowledge them. 

Because psychological safety deals with communication, it makes sense that your recruiter responsiveness is the first place you improve on. Here are some things you can do to work on this:  

  • Acknowledge applications and provide timely updates. Great recruiters don’t keep their candidates guessing. Instead, they guide them through the next step in their candidate journey. This starts the moment you receive their application until you give the result. You can utilize an applicant tracking system (ATS) to automate your process and make it more efficient. 
  • Communicate your client’s requirements and expectations accurately. Most recruiters tend to either water down or over glamorize job openings and requirements. This can leave room for potential unmet expectations in the future. So, it’s best that you communicate with transparency to let candidates fully understand what the job entails and make informed decisions on their career journey. This includes allowing them to ask questions and answering them truthfully. 
  • Give their application results by call, not text. Communicating their evaluation result through calls instead of text messages or email will make it more personal and add humanity to your interaction. Recruitment is already a highly transaction industry and staffing firms are sending generic rejection emails or texts to candidates. Not only does this negatively impact your relationship with the candidate, but it also reflects badly on your recruitment brand. So, make it a point to set yourself apart and be the staffing firm who treats their candidates as people not just fillers to a position.  
  1. Foster a friendly, conversational interview environment 

It’s no secret that the interview stage is one of the most – if not the most – stressful parts of the recruitment process. It’s exhausting enough that it’s typically done multiple times, but still, some HR teams implore an interrogation-like strategy to question candidates during interviews. 

As a recruiter, you always have to bridge the candidate and your client’s internal HR. This means you need to communicate your recruitment strategies, so your client’s hiring team can understand the value of approaching interviews conversationally. 

Psychological safety isn’t just about openness and organic exchange. It’s about making candidates feel comfortable enough to leave behind their pretenses and highlight their true selves. Recruiters and HR staff used to believe that putting candidates through extreme pressure is an effective way to sift the right talents from the rest. However, research shows 65% lose interest because of a negative interview experience

What that essentially tells us is this: the discomfort they feel during the interview impedes genuine communication from happening. When candidates are not fully confident in introducing themselves authentically, their talents don’t fully come through. As a result, recruiters end up with a roster of candidates who resort to scripted answers that put their best foot forward instead of individuals who are encouraged to engage in organic discussions of their ideals and true motivations. 

If there’s one thing we know, this can be the start of having a bad hire.  

  1. Implement a candidate feedback loop 

A feedback loop is one of the best ways for your recruiters to measure the quality of the candidate experience that you deliver. Your applicants are the ones who go through every stage of your recruitment process, so capturing their feedback will provide you with the valuable data you need to identify inefficiencies in your recruitment process, recruiter performance, and even recruitment culture.  

The best way to implement this in your strategy is to use an experience management software that will automate feedback gathering and analysis for you. Traditionally, recruiters would manually send forms to candidates and then consolidate the data in spreadsheets. Not only does this take up too much time but it’s incredibly inefficient because it’s tasking to send forms to every single candidate that you recruit.  

But now there are tools that can do the hard work for you. Leveraging the benefits of automation can provide you with a goldmine of information without breaking a sweat.  

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that your actions are just as crucial as capturing their reviews. It’s called a feedback loop for a reason: it should be a continuous cycle of capturing feedback and implementing improvements. Rinse and repeat until you hit your recruitment metrics or even surpass them. This proven recruitment strategy directly addresses one of the psychological safety stages, so it’s no wonder that it can enrich your candidate experience by 148%.

TAKE YOUR CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE FROM GOOD TO GREAT 

Great Recruiters can help you integrate psychological safety in your recruitment strategies by capturing candidate feedback in strategic touchpoints in the recruitment process. With our experience management software, you can have the data you need to stay aligned with candidate expectations and serve your candidates better. 

Request a demo today and take the first step to integrating an effective feedback loop. 

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