First, there was the Great Depression. Then, many years later, there was the Great Recession.

More recently, there was the Great Resignation.

However, in today’s competitive hiring environment—especially within the Veterinary profession—the most important “great” is the experience that employers provide for job candidates during the recruiting and hiring process. Because of multiple factors, not the least of which is a shortage of veterinarians, organizations looking to hire must provide a great experience for those candidates who are open to exploring other opportunities.

In fact, it could be argued that the candidate experience is one of the most important keys to successfully recruiting and hiring top talent. To be sure, other factors are involved, such as making a competitive offer with attractive pay and benefits that are in line with industry norms. However, the experience that you provide for candidates during the hiring process could mean the difference between making your next great hire or “going back to the drawing board.”

The good news is that many organizations are making the necessary adjustments to their process and prioritizing the candidate experience. However, the bad news is that some of those same organizations are not providing the same level of experience for their new employees once they’ve been hired. This can prove to be a costly mistake, especially in the Veterinary profession, where there is ample opportunity and numerous options for veterinarians.

To put it simply, a great candidate experience does not end once the candidate accepts your offer of employment. Instead, that experience must extend throughout the new employee’s tenure with the company . . . or that tenure will be much shorter than you anticipated it would be.

Factors for Engagement and a Positive Experience

Historically, the candidate experience was narrowly viewed as the interactions between an organization and a job seeker during the recruitment process. However, that perspective has evolved during the past few years, to the point where the candidate experience encompasses the entire lifecycle of an individual’s interactions with the company, from initial engagement to post-hire integration. Extending the candidate experience in this fashion encompasses multiple factors, including the following three:

#1—A Lasting First Impression

The first days and weeks on the job are critical for new hires. An organization’s commitment to providing a positive experience during this onboarding phase contributes significantly to an employee’s perception of their new workplace. A smooth transition into the company’s culture, values, and workflows sets the tone for a long-lasting relationship.

#2—Alignment of Expectations

Ensuring that the expectations set during the recruitment phase align with the realities of the job is crucial. A transparent and honest portrayal of the work environment, responsibilities, and growth opportunities helps in managing employee expectations. This alignment reduces the likelihood of disappointment and enhances job satisfaction.

#3—Continuous Communication and Feedback

Effective communication is the bedrock of any successful relationship, and the employer-employee dynamic is no exception. Organizations should establish channels for open, transparent, and continuous communication, fostering an environment where employees feel heard and valued. Regular feedback sessions, performance reviews, and avenues for expressing concerns contribute to a positive employee experience.

Creating a ‘Win-Win’ Situation

As you might expect, extending the candidate experience to include the entire employee lifecycle can and does have a positive impact on your employees. Specifically, it has such an impact on their level of engagement, both with their job and also with their employer, translating into benefits for the organization through the creation of a “win-win” situation. Below are three ways that this positive impact manifests itself in a meaningful way:

#1—Sense of Belonging

A positive candidate experience that extends into the employment phase fosters a sense of belonging. When employees feel a connection to the organization, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work. This emotional connection is a powerful driver of productivity and loyalty.

#2—Employee Development and Growth

Organizations that prioritize employee development contribute significantly to job satisfaction. The commitment to continuous learning, skill development, and career advancement opportunities signals to employees that the organization is invested in their long-term success. This commitment not only enhances the individual’s skills but also strengthens the overall capabilities of the workforce.

#3—Work-Life Integration

Recognizing and supporting the work-life balance of employees is integral to a positive employee experience. Organizations that prioritize flexibility, acknowledge personal responsibilities, and provide resources for well-being create an environment where employees can thrive both professionally and personally.

The experience that a company provides for its candidates and employees is tied closely to that organization’s employer brand. An organization’s employer brand is its reputation in the marketplace and how it is perceived, either through the direct experience of people or the indirect perception of people who have no direct experience. You can brand yourself in one of two ways, either positively or negatively, and if you provide a negative experience to either candidates or current employees, then you’re branding yourself negatively.

The ‘Validation of Experience’

An overriding best practice for ensuring that you extent the candidate experience to the candidate’s employment with your company is as follows:

If you brand yourself in a certain way to job candidates, you must back it up with a company culture that is a full and accurate reflection of your branding efforts after you’ve hired them!

This is called the “validation of experience,” and it confirms in your new employee’s mind that they made the right decision in joining your team. If they do not get this validation immediately, they become a retention risk.

In essence, you must deliver on what you “sold” them on at the beginning during the interviewing and hiring process. Do not do a “bait and switch.”

My search firm once placed a veterinarian with a group of veterinary practices that had nine veterinary hospitals in the area, and the veterinarian took the job because he would be working in a practice right by his house. But the company moved him to another practice that was an hour away because a veterinarian at that practice had left, so the newly hired veterinarian thought about quitting. But I talked to the employer about it, and they moved him back to the original practice. That is an example of what a candidate would consider a “bait and switch” and it is to be avoided at all costs.

It does not do any good to brand yourself well to great candidates, have those candidates join your team, and then leave shortly thereafter. Not only that, but if they leave because your branding was inconsistent or they believe they were misled, then they will tell other people about their experiences. And that is how you get not only a branding problem, but also a retention problem.

While taking steps to improve the candidate experience for the purpose of successfully hiring top talent is a strategic move in this current market—and any market, when you think about it—you must not do so at the expense of the experience that you provide for your current employees. While it may require more time, energy, and effort, making a commitment to enhancing the experience of both candidates and employees is integral to ensuring that you can consistently hire the best candidate while at the same time retaining your best employees.