HR Leads Business

Dec 4, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

3 Ways to Improve the Candidate Experience in the Public Sector

Constant disruption from technology is changing our workforce at an unprecedented rate, and the competition for digital-ready talent is fierce. This is especially challenging for recruiters in the public sector. The U.S. Department of Energy faces the challenge by hosting an actual competition to identify leading cybersecurity talent. But many government departments have fallen behind the digital curve.

Why is that?

Historically, the candidate experience in government hiring has been less than desirable. This reputation can prevent quality talent from even applying for public-sector positions. Lately, some government agencies are taking their candidate-experience cues from the private sector.

Here are three ways you can update and improve the candidate experience at your government agency.

Reconsider Legacy Systems and Processes

Traditionally, public-sector hiring hasn’t been very candidate friendly. The legacy systems and processes in place are complicated and cumbersome, says Ernest Paskey, North America practice leader at Aon Assessment Solutions. “Public-sector recruiters tend to do everything the way they've always done it,” Paskey says. “It’s a test of patience and persistence for candidates and recruiters alike.”

Caitlin MacGregor, co-founder and CEO at Plum, agrees. “HR teams in the public sector have typically had to rely on legacy systems that prioritize efficiency over candidate experience,” she says. “These systems are not optimized to meet even basic candidate expectations.”

MacGregor suggests adding services that can be integrated into legacy systems but optimized for candidate use.

Utilize Digital Hiring Tools

The private sector has adapted to new technologies in recruiting and hiring that strengthen the candidate experience. “In the public sector, it’s still common to have candidates come to a hiring office to take in-person tests and assessments,” Paskey says. This can be inconvenient and may prevent quality talent from spending the time to get deep into the hiring process.

Digital assessments allow candidates to take tests and assessments from home, and in many cases even from a smartphone or tablet. Flexible test-taking options can significantly improve the candidate experience. Additionally, digital talent assessments can provide candidates with instant insights into their own personal strengths and weaknesses. “These solutions go beyond simply meeting expectations by also providing intrinsic value to job candidates,” MacGregor says.

Put Transparency First

Technology offers opportunities for recruiting and hiring, but many people are still wary of its power. When AI is involved in hiring decisions, candidates want to know exactly how their personal data will be used. And transparency and fairness are particularly important when it comes to making hiring decisions in the public sector. 

To minimize technology-related anxiety and increase transparency, Paskey suggests avoiding a “black box” approach. “With a black-box approach, you put all these variables — like micro-expressions and word choice — in a ‘black box,’ and you come out with some model that says this is the best candidate,” he says. 

Candidates aren’t privy to how that decision was made, which tends to decrease trust in the employer. “With a glass-box approach, on the other hand, you’re able to explain how the AI is working to score candidate data,” Paskey says. This increases trust and improves the candidate experience.