How P&G transformed candidate experience

Just a few months ago, the country had a record-tight job market, prompting candidate experience to come front and center for many HR leaders. Even now, as unemployment in some industries soars because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, others are in a hiring frenzy–and are eager to put their best foot forward from the very first interaction with a prospective employee.

Mike Hudy

“While the outbreak is impacting the way we work, HR leaders are still finding they need to fill crucial open positions to continue to serve customers and drive business outcomes,” says Mike Hudy, chief science officer at Modern Hire.

One company that feels well-positioned to do that now is Procter & Gamble Co.

However, not too long ago, the situation was quite different: It used a multistep hiring assessment that communicated little about company culture or the scope of the jobs candidates were applying for. The consumer-goods company had been on a “very focused journey” over the past few years to reinvent its approach to candidate experience, says Dr. Da Bologna, manager of global selection at P&G. Leaders sought to understand “what do they like, what do they not like, what do they value about the experience and what may lead to a higher likelihood of long-term success with P&G?” This undertaking ran parallel to the company’s recognition that it needed to invest in more targeted hiring strategies outside of campus recruiting–long a boon for the organization but one that was being challenged by millennial and Gen Z workers’ tendencies to job hop every few years.

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Hudy says his firm has seen a significant shift toward clients eager to focus on the candidate experience in the last five years.

“The modern candidates, especially experienced hires, are much like consumers who are shopping: They’re trying to determine, ‘Is this company right for me? Should I make a move?’ ” he says. “So the value proposition needs to be clear early on in the talent-acquisition journey.”

For P&G, that meant revamping its hiring assessments.

Traditionally, it deployed three separate assessments for all entry-level positions, up to middle management. After progressing through a pre-screening, candidates were pushed to two online assessments–one that focused on “cultural fit” and another on reasoning, the latter of which asked users to manipulate shapes on the screen. If they passed those tests, a recruiter would undertake a resume review and then the candidate would move forward to an in-person paper and pencil cognitive-ability test.

The company sought to simplify this process, make it more efficient and, ultimately, be able to utilize an improved version for experienced hires for middle-management sales roles.

“One of the unique challenges of this project was doing this on such a global scale,” Hudy says. “We work with global organizations all this time, but a lot of them don’t behave with as much of a global mindset as P&G does; we had to design an assessment experience and keep it simple enough knowing it would be rolling out to 70 countries in 13 languages, but also not oversimplify it–we had to walk that line of where it felt right.”

The solution Modern Hire and P&G came up with is along the lines of a “virtual job tryout.” Once submitting a resume and advancing through a series of pre-screening questions, candidates are automatically launched into a multi-method assessment geared around a real “day in the life of” a P&G employee.

“We wanted it to feel and look like the job,” Hudy says. “The candidates are asked to prioritize different competing alternatives and they get emails they need to respond to with challenging interpersonal situations. They’re presented with data similar to that which they would use at P&G in this role, and they have to make decisions based on that.”

Hudy notes that research suggests candidates prefer an assessment that appears directly related to the skills and experiences needed for the job–while “gamification” has gotten a lot of buzz, he says, if that method is deployed without an obvious relevancy to the position, candidate experience can suffer.

After the new assessment approach rolled out in April 2018, Bologna says, the difference in candidate experience was “night and day.”

“They went from just rotating objects on a screen to experiencing what a day in the life of a P&G employee might actually be like, which is a dramatic change,” he says. That’s aided by the consolidation of the multiple assessments into one seamless experience, and the fact that the entire process is conducted online, he adds.

The solution has also “dramatically simplified” the experience for recruiters, Bologna says. “There’s only one assessment for candidates to go through now, so there’s only one for [recruiters] to look at now, as opposed to three before,” he says, adding the online-only format is a significant time-saver. Time-to-hire for the positions to which the Modern Hire solution was made available has been cut by two months.

Ongoing concerns over bias in recruiting and hiring assessments were front and center as the tool was developed, Hudy adds.

The teams at Modern Hire and P&G worked together to evaluate a wide variety of potential scoring algorithms in order to maximize predictions while minimizing, or completely mitigating, adverse-impact concerns.

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“Here, we’re blind,” he says. “We don’t care about where you come from; instead, we’re saying, ‘Here’s the job, do it in this simulation and let’s see how you do.’ ”

To recognize the unique challenges in the current crisis, Modern Hire is offering its clients Hiring Blueprints: customizable hiring workflows for more than 50 critical jobs that give talent-acquisition teams the ability to better manage current and future hiring needs. They include Virtual Job Tryout assessments, multiple mediums of interviewing technology for a largely remote workforce, and two-way content and communications for recruiters and managers, Hudy says, “to ensure that every step of the hiring process is a mutual fit for all parties.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].