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We care about technology-enhanced human systems. So we thought we would share regular thoughts and opinions about why we think they matter so much.

The candidate experience in 2021 - Learning the lessons of getting it all ‘Pete Tong’

As we step back towards re-opening life, I reflected back on one of the last crowd events I attended back at the end of 2019 and wanted to share my thoughts, observations and what I hope might be some helpful recommendations on that in relation to candidate experience for this year & beyond.

Yes, I know. I’m THAT person who doesn’t think it too cringey and “old skool” to use ‘Pete Tong’ as a reference when things go wrong. I’m nearly 50 don’t you know, and an utter embarrassment to my two kids when they get a sniff of me seeming to venture towards trying to be ‘RAD DAD’.

But being nearly 50 means I’m a lifelong fan of the dance music legend that is Pete Tong, and in 2019 I went to see him and the awesome Heritage Orchestra at the O2 arena. I was sooooo excited. Unfortunately, ‘Right here, right now’ on some levels turned into ‘Wrong experience, wrong memories’. Don’t get me wrong, Pete Tong was fantastic. The Orchestra banging (literally and metaphorically). But the O2 venue customer experience fell well short of any acceptable standards.

If you think back to that time there was an awful lot of safety and security getting into venues. But I was really impressed by the courtesy and efficiency of that operation. Then the experience dropped off a cliff. I went to get a drink. And queued for an hour because there weren’t enough people serving and there weren’t enough stations to cope with the demand – staff queuing to use the one or two taps that were in action. It was a mellay of thirsty people who had paid to be dancing and enjoying themselves, but in a scene that would have been more fitting to be at the other end of the venue in a mosh pit at an Anthrax concert. The stewards were unhelpful, the service staff poorly trained, the kit clearly not up to the job and supervisors inept at helping ensure any kind of speed of service.

So, on a human AND a technology level, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ experience was poor – and that left a bad taste (on the night in my dry mouth and near on 18 months later as I look at booking up some future crowd present events). And the venue’s takings would have been easily 50% what it could have been if they’d had an efficient and effective set up to serve thousands of thirsty house music clubbers.

The thing is, the experience of anything – a holiday, a concert, a first date or a job application – isn’t simply based on one thing alone. It’s the collective experience you have that determines how you feel about that holiday, that concert, that first date or that job application.

So, in the spirit of trying to give you a great blog experience, I’m going to attempt to use the Pete Tong playlist as a metaphor for candidate experience. And the reason I’m doing this is that I think 2021 should be the year when we view the candidate experience through a different lens.

I passionately believe that we all have a moral duty to look at the candidate experience from both the ideal candidate AND the unsuccessful candidate point of view. Why? Well, this year we know that over a million more people will be unemployed than when we went into the first lockdown.  

From a responsible business point of view, I think that every candidate deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. That’s the 0.1% of successful candidates. But most importantly, it’s the 99.9% of unsuccessful candidates. These are people who may well be rejected time and time again. The impact on people’s mental health and sense of self-worth is something all of us in the world of recruitment must put as a high priority. (If you have time, I focus a bit more on the impact of this in the blog: Safety Lessons for a Swedish super-brand)

So, when you’re trying to find that candidate experience utopia, I hope you find that the following Pete Tong playlist tips will give every candidate who wants to work with you, a great experience – whether they are successful, or not.  

And while you’re reading this, why not listen along to a bit of Pete Tong at his very best?



Right here, right now.

Choose technology that gives people what they want, when they want it. The reality is that more people are going to be applying for multiple jobs at the same time. And those organisations who keep the conversation going and are there when needed, will rise to the top. Is your technology set up in a way that is two-way? And the same consideration goes for your Hiring Managers too – because any difficulty for them or allowance of delay there further degrades the whole experience.


I’m not alone.

Keep in contact. If you’re not talking to people who have put themselves out there as being interested in your opportunity, or regularly sending them updates on the application process, the chances are someone else will. Even some of the simplest aspects of technology can make a huge difference to how someone feels about you and your organisation. Personalising emails and text updates might sound a bit old-fashioned, but they work. And I, for one, like the simple things that work well.


Sing it back.

When was the last time you took the experience yourself? Imagine you are a candidate applying to work with you. How does it feel on the candidate journey? If it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you should be speaking to your tech provider and ask them how they think they can improve the experience as well as your recruitment teams as to better understand pinch points and then work to smooth the process.


You don’t know me.

Technology shouldn’t detract from human connection. It should complement and amplify it. We live in a world where many things like AI are seen as the golden ticket to the chocolate factory that is recruitment process heaven. Tech is certainly part of the answer, but it’s not THE answer. In the lonely world of job after job application, nothing can, or ever should, replace human contact. Shiny and new can be received as cold and thoughtless – particularly if poorly executed.


Promised land.

We all know the golden rule about not over-promising. And this is certainly the case when you are creating new aspects to your technological approach. Ask yourself if it delivers a great human experience, whilst not impacting on precious team time to administer.


Last year has been horrific. And this year unfortunately we will really start to see the impact in mass redundancies, higher unemployment, more pressure on families and more applications per role than we have seen for years.

I believe we all share a moral duty to look at candidates in a better way. To look at the entire experience they have with you from awareness and attraction, right through the candidate journey to first day or try, try again. I would urge everyone responsible for the candidate experience to look at every moment on the candidate journey and make sure it’s the very best it can be. And it isn’t set up to go all ‘Pete Tong’.



Blog by Alex

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