Our Voice of the Candidate Series tells the stories of real job seekers: candidates sharing their experiences to better inform all of us about the ups (and downs) of the candidate journey and what a truly great candidate experience is. 

At Prelude, one of the things we hear from recruiters all the time is how one size does not fit all when it comes to candidate experience. I always find it enlightening to see how the mission, vision, and values of one organization may be a great fit for some candidates but not for others. 

It’s vitally important for long-term employee engagement that there be alignment from the start between candidates and organizations, and experienced talent takes finding that alignment during a job search very seriously.

I sat down with Tara Glover who is a former colleague of mine. Tara takes company values very seriously and I knew that as she looked for her next role they’d be a big consideration for her.  

Making time to embark upon a new job search

Tara describes navigating a job search as a whole other full-time job. I think the majority of recruiters understand how time-consuming looking and interviewing for a new position but it definitely feels important to highlight. If a candidate is making the time commitment to explore your organization they deserve a personalized experience and upfront knowledge of the company and role. 

Targeting organizations whose missions she respected and some others whose values seemed like a fit, Tara applied for all told about 40 positions. Fitting her job search into her busy life became a routine as she got more serious about a new role. At the peak of this period, she was applying for 1-3 companies per day. 

One similarity between most of the companies she applied for was how long each application took. For organizations she was very excited about, Tara took the time to craft an extremely specific cover letter as well as to make sure the resume she submitted highlighted the skills most pertinent to the position. With 20 years of experience in the workforce, Tara has vast and varied experience. She also was applying for positions that fit her programming/development skillset as well as those which were focused on project management. Narrowing down the specific parts of her past roles that would most appeal to employers was no small task. 

She did try to limit redundant changes by keeping a running document with some cover letter and resume elements but found repeatedly that she’d end up writing completely new answers to employer job postings and queries. Throughout this time-consuming process, Tara felt lucky to have adequate childcare support and wondered about how many candidates without that privilege found the time to apply for multiple positions.

 Is it possible companies are missing out on scores of candidates that don’t have the time or capacity to dive as deeply into the job application process?

Interviewing at multiple organizations 

Out of 40 organizations Tara applied for she ended up interviewing at about 10 of them. She notes that even though she had made it to advanced stages it was about 50/50 whether she would end up getting a basic rejection email back or just not hearing anything at all. 

She found a distinct difference between organizations where she was applying for a contract role as opposed to a full-time position. Those contracted roles delivered back very obviously templated responses. Some of the top few companies which she had selected to apply to because of her respect for their values did stand out by making responses back with rejections feel much more thoughtful and personalized. She notes that these organizations recognized the time she spent on the application and encouraged her to continue to apply for roles that seemed like a good fit. 

When it came to startups and pre-IPO companies Tara found outreach to be much more thoughtful from the beginning. Because roles at startups often find employees wearing so many hats she found herself helping to design the role she was applying for which involved much more back and forth and tighter alignment with the hiring team. 

Despite the size of one of the startups she applied for Tara found the interview process to be well thought out and organized. This was a contrast to many other roles she interviewed for.

She describes her experience at one organization with over 8000 employees as feeling like her application was just ‘going in blind’. She never expected to hear back so she was surprised to get word back that they’d like her to meet with the team. 

That hiring process felt extraordinarily disorganized. When she actually did the interview it was with so many different stakeholders, none of whom seemed to have a clear sense of what to ask about during the interview. She described feeling like she had to ‘run the interview’ including prompting interviewers to ask questions that would help illustrate the skills she would bring to the table as an employee. 

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Since I’ve known her Tara has always been an outspoken advocate for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. It came as no surprise that many of the organizations she targeted had a stellar track record in this regard. Still, there’s a big difference between what an organization portrays as its DEI strategy and how that shows up in practice during interviews. 

“One of the things I really appreciated was the companies I interviewed with that were very forward about their DEI practices specifically in regards to hiring. They would publish their statistics on making diverse hires and highlight improvements in those areas. Publishing that data meant accountability,” said Tara about her top company choices. 

Anonymizing resumes is one tactic some employers have used to try and reduce bias in hiring. From her research, however, Tara was of the opinion that acknowledging and appreciating the diversity of incoming candidates was more valuable because it allowed companies to purposely ensure they were not bringing bias into the interview process. 

In addition to an impressive commitment to DEI at her choice organizations, Tara also appreciated a new trend in hiring since she had last sought a new job: salary transparency. Many of the organizations she targeted were very forward with what salary expectations per role would be. 

Receiving Offers, and Choosing “The One” 

Throughout her hiring process, Tara found the recruiters she dealt with to be her advocates throughout the process. The best she dealt with helped her understand the agenda of the entire interview process and kept it on track and organized. 

As some offers began to filter in, one particularly appealed to Tara’s love for higher education: a role as a project manager at Georgetown University. Finding a role that matched her passions and DEI expectations felt like an ideal fit. Tara felt privileged to be able to pick one of two career tracks with multiple opportunities: programming or project management. 

While it’s inspiring to hear about how some organizations are truly prioritizing DEI, pay equity, and candidate experience, Tara’s story tells me we still have a lot of work to do in making sure all organizations embrace a better and more fair hiring experience. 

We’d love to hear more stories about candidate experience. Reach out to Julia Winn if you’re willing to have a chat and share more about what made your job search unique!