Background

Note: This case study is a collaboration with Virgin Media and PH.Creative.

We live in an age of increased complexity – where power has shifted from producer to consumer and employer to employee. With the proliferation of digital devices, platforms, channels and apps, all of this “stuff” means brands need to act smarter to cut through the noise and stand out from the crowd. The competitive war for talent is truly upon us.

At Ph.Creative, we believe that the world of talent attraction is ripe for a shake-up. We’re a team of fifty creative and talented individuals, dedicated to creating recruitment solutions for your business.

Our goal is to put the candidate at the heart of all recruitment and talent attraction strategies. This helps our clients become independent from recruitment agencies and job boards (especially their fees!).

Together, our process effectively reduces cost and time to hire, boosts engagement, helps raise brand profile and awareness, and finds the best talent time and again.

The Brief

Attracting and retaining talent is harder than ever. Every year, brands across the country are unknowingly losing millions of pounds, as poor candidate experience jeopardises consumer loyalty. 

In 2014 Virgin Media came to us with a problem: “How do we bring our brand to life through the recruitment process and offer support and guidance to all our candidates?”

Virgin Media came to us with this question prompted by two major factors. Firstly they were concerned about their -29 Net Promoter Score and the resulting impact this could have on this brand. Anything associated with Virgin comes with certain service expectations and this was a concern.

Secondly, conversation with Virgin started directly following ‘Google’ Dave Hazlehurst’s speech at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect 2014 in London. The keynote scrutinised what recruitment would look like if brands became famous for how they treat people when they fail - or ‘silver medalists’ as we name them.

We knew the answer was multi-faceted. First, it required an introspective and honest look at current practices.

Why We Did It

Virgin Media Head of Resourcing Graeme Johnson approached us initially about helping them with their candidate rejection experience. However, it was upon really trying to understand the team’s concerns that we began the process of investigating the total candidate experience journey.

We realised that by mapping the multiple moments that candidates go through during recruitment - and exploring how they think and feel in these moments - that we were able to arrive at the ‘why’ of the project.

To make Virgin Media the good guys of recruitment - to help people out in their job search, whether they end up working for Virgin Media or not.

What We Did

To understand Virgin’s candidate experience, we knew we had to start where it matters most: with the candidates themselves. In 2014, Virgin Media lost 7,500 customers as a result of direct candidate rejection or poor candidate experience. This was discovered after collaboration with Virgin Media’s insights team, who look at who was a customer before or at the start of the recruitment process and cross referencing this with who canceled within 4 weeks of the end of that process.

Working alongside Virgin, we discovered this figure translates to roughly £4.4 million in lost revenue.

The challenge lay in the way we approached the problem. It’s not about candidates, customers, B2B or B2C, it’s about the basic principles of understanding people, their behaviours and what drives and influences them.

EVP Workshops

Nearly every brand has an existing EVP, but very few understand how to make them come alive. We set out to run a workshop that would cut to the heart of the problem and uncover the stories that make working at Virgin Media unique.

Persona Mapping

In order to better understand the candidate experience, we sought to clarify the behavioural identity of ideal target recruits. Persona and Empathy mapping help make pertinent the key target audiences that engage with a brand – we saw this as a key avenue of pursuit in our quest to bring Virgin Media’s brand to life during the recruitment process.

Candidate Experience Mapping

At its most basic level, Candidate Experience Mapping can be understood as the sum of all interactions that a candidate has with a brand during the recruitment process – from initial discovery through to final hire or rejection. Understanding, analysing and improving the candidate experience journey stood at the heart of our project with Virgin Media.

Candidate-Centred Platform

On the back of this incredible insight and knowledge, we knew we could build and design a fast, responsive site that would place the candidate at the heart of site planning and architecture, UX and UI, content strategy and user-behaviour.

How We Did It

EVP Workshops

We ran a series of discovery workshops focused on unearthing what was unique to Virgin Media, helping the team uncover their EVP and evaluating the state of their current recruitment experience. Using the power of storytelling, we helped Virgin showcase their brand values and attributes. These elements are crucial in the eventual design of a careers website.

Beyond establishing any benefits that successful candidates might receive, we looked for opportunities where Virgin Media could provide offers/benefits during the candidate experience, before the successful candidate was chosen.

By developing these further, additional ideas around messaging and tone were unearthed that would help contribute to the candidate experience. We uncovered these insights by drilling down into what made Virgin Media tick using a variety of techniques and exercises.

We gathered together all stakeholders in the recruitment process - including the Head of Resourcing, the entire recruitment team and follow up with a validation survey to the identified personas - and created a relaxed and supportive atmosphere in which people were free to share any and all ideas. Participants were invited to write their ideas down or participate in open discussions and share thoughts and ideas.

Persona Mapping

This process reveals the likes, dislikes and motivations that spur brand engagement. For Virgin Media, this step can help shed light on how human behaviour will play into the application and recruitment journey, by benchmarking it against their existing candidate experience.

From the various sessions, we uncovered seven personas that made up Virgin’s ideal, star candidates. This knowledge is instrumental in designing a careers website and experience that attracts candidates organically to the Virgin brand.

For those unfamiliar with personas we gave an explanation of what they were and how we use them in our work to help us develop solutions for our other clients. A persona is an archetype that describes various goals and observed behaviour patterns among potential users and customers. They enable common insights and observations to be collected ensuring that any solutions that are developed fit in with their needs and expectations.

To help ease people into the workshop we ran through the first persona together using a tried and tested formula that fleshed out the persona based upon a number of factors. These included educational background and family; characteristics such as personality, hobbies and lifestyle; before finishing off what they would expect during the recruitment experience.

We then split the workshop attendees up and asked them to create their own persona using the same framework. Doing this gave us a greater range of personalities and needs that will provide insights into how those users think and operate. This enables Virgin Media to tailor their offering and messages to speak to each particular persona.

Candidate Experience Mapping

Think about the levels of customer service that brands strive to achieve and maintain in today’s digital age. The competition is stiff, with brands like Amazon setting the standard sky-high.

The recruitment industry is changing rapidly as companies wake up to the reality that, in many cases, candidates are also your customers (or potential customers, or at the very least influencers of potential customers). Just as a business needs to understand the full life time value of a customer, so too does recruitment.

In marketing, we’ve been ‘conversion rate optimising’ websites and shop floors to improve how people flow through a brand experience in order to increase the ROI. Candidate Experience Mapping is essentially the same thing. We are trying to create an experience that will not only keep candidates (customers) interested in a brand, but one that lures new customers in as well. The talent (customer) pool is already there – the smart brands will realise more needs to be done to engage and excite prospective candidates from initial contact through to on-board activation.

Virgin Media had great existing customer experience too, but their candidate experience didn’t match up. Together, we helped them create a seamless and enhanced user experience that put the candidate front and centre of all interactions. From start to finish, Virgin’s candidate experience process is now mapped and accounted for. This meant digging deep to uncover the key stages in the recruitment journey, but, perhaps more importantly, find the ‘moments between the moments’.

This was the first workshop we carried out with Virgin Media so that we could put the candidate at the heart of the experience. During the workshop we walked through the entire recruitment process that a candidate would go through establishing the different routes the various job roles would take.

At every stage in the experience for both positive (proceeding to the next stage) and negative (unsuccessful application) outcomes we outlined exactly what a candidate would be thinking and feeling before establishing their pain points.

By mapping out this experience we were able to gain insight into how candidates would react in a given situation. This then enabled us to develop solutions that would reduce these pain points for the candidate thereby giving them a more positive experience even if their application was unsuccessful.

In addition to the candidate’s experience we were able to extract some internal pain points for the recruiters as well. By doing this we were able to shine a light on potential solutions that Virgin Media could implement to help their own staff, which in turn would help their candidates.

Candidate-centric Platform

It is from these extensive and immersive discovery workshops that we were able to design and develop a bespoke, candidate-centric solution for Virgin Media.

We were able to highlight weaknesses in the candidate experience and find common threads that could be stitched together to help provide a simple and effective journey for all candidates.

We then designed and developed a web platform that promises to help candidates improve their prospects using persona focused development material, delivered at different stages of the process. This is coupled with the ability to garner real-time feedback from prospective employees as they progress through the journey. This is done simply by asking them how they feel as they progress through the journey. It’s a very simple happiness index, but an approach that has yet to be harnessed in the world of recruitment.

This not only places the candidate at the very centre of the recruitment journey, but also helps Virgin Media monitor their candidate’s mood and emotion in real-time. This provides feedback that continuously focuses on how the candidate experiences the brand at all touchpoints in the journey.

The added benefit for the brand is being positioned as the ‘good guys of recruitment’. Thanks to the ability to help develop and reward even candidates that are not successful in their application through the delivery of relevant resources to help them progress.

This guiding hand on the shoulder stance that Virgin Media are now able to adopt not only keeps candidates happier, but also creates loyal customers and brand ambassadors – a key currency in the digital world.

Key Results

The full initiative between Virgin Media and Ph.Creative is due to launch in September 2016, so we don’t currently have access to post-event metrics. However, these are the pre-project stats that we’ve been working with and are positive we can change using our unique, user-centric solution.  

  • 135,000 – the number of people who applied for a job at Virgin Media in 2014
  • 18% - the percentage of candidates who were existing customers (7,500 candidates)
  • 7,500 – the number of customers who switched to a Virgin competitor as a direct result of poor recruitment experience
  • £4.4m – the total amount of money Virgin Media lost in 2014 due to negative candidate experience

The results paint a very powerful picture: candidate experience can cost companies millions and millions per year. However, all hope is not lost. As a result of these findings, Virgin has dedicated itself to becoming world-renowned for its candidate experience, and hopes to turn this loss into a revenue stream. The challenge then quickly shifted. We began to ask ourselves, ‘What if their candidate experience was so positive it created new customer acquisition opportunities from the people we engaged with?’

As a result, Virgin Media now strives to create a revenue stream from the 82% of candidates who aren’t existing customers. How? By committing to make every single job applicant at Virgin Media more employable and experienced than when they first applied. The findings in this case study unequivocally show that HR/recruitment is a consumer-facing role.  

You can read more on how Virgin Media are turning the £4.4m per year loss into more than a £5.3m profit here.

What We Got Wrong

As mentioned above, this initiative isn’t scheduled to launch until September and, as such, we haven’t been able to complete a full project debrief. However, there have been a number of lessons that we have learned during the discovery and implementation process.

We worked with the whole recruitment team at Virgin Media to craft a bespoke content plan, offering a completely new set of resources and assets to candidates. This means that we adopted a content first approach which worked exceptionally well for primarily written content but there could have been better collaboration between design and content on the visual pieces - such as infographics and visual assets - taking a more design-led approach.

When initially designing and developing the platform Virgin Media were in the tender process for a new Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This means that we had to amend certain functionalities built into the original design of the platform.

Of course, elements of this timeline were out of our control, but upon reflection it would have made the initially discovery and development stages easier if we had full insight into the functional abilities of the new ATS. This is likely to have made the initial stages of design and development run more smoothly.

Key Takeaways

Virgin Media was losing over £4.4m every year – without even realising it! The shocking cost of poor candidate experience was laid bare for all to see, suggesting that today’s candidates believe the candidate experience a more realistic representation of brand identity than customer experience.

Candidate-centred platforms that offer relevant resources to candidates at different stages of the recruitment process will allow brands to measure candidate happiness in real time.  

Candidates would like more in-depth interview feedback and the chance to improve and hone their skills. Virgin Media has begun to assist candidates post-interview, even if they don’t end up working for Virgin.

Brands need to consider the impact of the candidate experience on wider brand architecture. In today’s digital age, where information can be shared to millions of people in a few seconds, this truth should ring from the rooftops. One bad experience can result in serious brand damage.

Virgin Media can turn their talent attraction scheme into a new customer acquisition opportunity. By working to improve the lives of every candidate, Virgin’s brand image begins to grow and more customers sign up to become a part of the story.

HR is a consumer-facing role. Heads of Talent have a responsibility to design a candidate-first experience that leaves potential recruits with a positive view of the brand.

Technologies Used:

We used a .net, mobile-first, web-based portal for the technological solution and will be rolling out our native app later in the year. The solution will integrate with Avature, a flexible enterprise SaaS platform for Global Talent Acquisition and Talent Management, and the leading global provider of CRM for recruiting.


Did you enjoy this case study? Want to learn more about how they did it? Join Graeme Johnson from Virgin Media and Bryan Adams from PH.Creative tuesday 8/9 11:00a-12:00p EDT for a live Google Hangout for a look inside the case study. Ask them anything and learn more about how they pulled it off. 

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