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Proof the Candidate Experience Matters, from AIG


Almost anyone who’s ever applied for a job has had it happen to them at least once: the dreaded “bad candidate experience.” You fill out a lengthy application, then receive no response for weeks—only to finally be informed, sometimes months later, that the position is closed. And that’s if you’re lucky; frequently, you won’t receive any response at all.

In recent years, many recruiters have realized a negative candidate experience can impact their organization. By making the application and interviewing experience arduous and opaque, some argue, companies are driving away quality candidates. In fact, a recent study by Harris Interactive found that bad candidate experiences result in the following:

  • 42 percent of candidates would never seek employment at a company again;
  • 22 percent would tell others not to work at a company; and
  • 9 percent would tell others not to purchase products or services from a company.

Advocates for a positive candidate experience argue that, by communicating openly with applicants, companies can not only avoid these results—they can actually improve their overall hiring metrics. One company that has taken this argument seriously is American International Group (AIG): a multinational insurance corporation with around 64,000 employees. AIG generally has 2,200 positions open at any given time, and receives approximately 30,000 resumes a month.

With such a high volume of applicants, it might seem an overwhelming task to ensure that each one has a good experience with the company. But Jennie Anderson, AIG’s global head of talent acquisition, has taken on that very task. In 2011, AIG underwent a complete overhaul of its recruiting process to improve the candidate experience. I sat down with Anderson to see how recruiting has improved as a result and what other companies can learn from AIG’s experience.

New Recruiting Technology Leads to a Larger Talent Pool

First and foremost, AIG updated its recruiting software. Before, each regional office had its own local system. Now, all AIG’s recruiters use enterprise recruiting software system Peoplefluent, and can easily coordinate their hiring efforts in real time. In addition to improving internal communication, the software has helped recruiters attract and source more candidates suited to their open positions—through an updated careers page, automated postings to external career boards and new candidate-management capabilities.

Anderson describes how, by integrating PeopleFluent’s software with AIG’s careers page, the company made its job listings easier to navigate for potential candidates. Before, the page simply had a long list of open positions that was difficult for candidates to sort through. “Now,” she says, “on our website, we have categories of jobs organized by grade and region.”

AIG Career Page

Screenshot of AIG’s New Careers Page

Further, AIG has implemented mini-assessments within the job postings themselves for certain positions. In these assessments, potential candidates answer a brief set of questions to help them gauge whether their skills and experience are a good fit for the role before they apply, saving time and effort for job-seekers and recruiters alike.

The primary result of AIG’s technological improvements? AIG is now better able to ensure that potential applicants find jobs that fit their skills—and more candidates are applying. Anderson is happy to remark, “We’ve received more applications globally than we’ve ever had.”

In fact, AIG now has enough candidates to warrant a separate database in which to store past applicants for future positions. According to Anderson, AIG is building what it calls “Talent Communities” of people who have applied previously—so, rather than having to advertise a position again externally, AIG can source from these databases when it has a need.

Talent Acquisition Training Decreases Time-to-Fill by 27 Percent

Before 2011, AIG had no standardized internal training for its recruiters. Instead, they were trained regionally, using disparate recruiting systems. AIG’s second big change was to create a uniform training program for all of its 120 recruiters across the globe. And where AIG had previously relied on external recruiters to source its highest-level positions, the company now trains internal recruiters to seek out candidates for executive-suite roles.

As part of AIG’s new program, recruiters now participate in a monthly training session called “Raising Our Game,” where they learn best practices from how to use Peoplefluent to candidate care. The training also teaches recruiters how to handle applications, get back to candidates in a timely manner and reduce the time between the first interview and actually filling the job.

This leads to the next benefit AIG has realized by improving its candidate experience: decreased time-to-fill. “We reduced the number of requisitions open greater than 90 days by 27 percent,” Anderson says. Now, less than 10 percent of AIG’s requisitions are open for more than 90 days.

The company has seen time-to-fill decrease in two areas in particular: high-volume customer service positions and executive-level roles. AIG’s recruiters are usually able to fill high-volume positions in just 24 hours. Meanwhile, as a result of bringing its Executive Search function in-house, the time-to-fill for the highest-level jobs in the company has gone down 35 percent.

Improved Communication with Candidates Leads to Better Quality of Hire

Denni Oravec, manager of programs for The Talent Board—the nonprofit behind the annual Candidate Experience Awards, which recognize companies for providing an exemplary candidate experience—notes that communication during the application process is one area where companies can easily improve. “One of the biggest things [successful companies] have in common is that they respond,” Oravec says.

At AIG, communication with candidates has been a key area of focus. Before, recruiters sent confirmation emails to candidates who submitted applications as each application was reviewed, which sometimes took weeks—or worse, candidates received no confirmation at all. Now, recruiters are able to send automated messages to candidates immediately after they submit their applications. Anderson notes that they’ve even customized these messages based on the type of job the candidate applied for, instead of just sending out one standard form letter.

After a candidate is brought in for an interview, AIG’s recruiters send them another email outlining what they can expect through the rest of the hiring process. For instance, a recruiter might tell a candidate that they’ll receive an update on their status within a week if they’re moving forward, and that if they hear nothing, it means they’re no longer being considered for the position (but their application will be kept on file in a Talent Community).

This sort of transparency about the hiring process has a great side effect. According to Oravec, improved quality of hire is one of the benefits she most often sees in companies that improve their communication with candidates. By continuously touching base with prospective hires, AIG ensures that they stay engaged throughout the process. And engagement is key, especially with high-quality candidates who may be receiving offers from multiple companies.

Additionally, AIG has been able to increase the number of referrals it receives from past candidates, because those candidates had such a positive experience during the hiring process—regardless of whether they were actually hired. And typically, referrals yield better candidates. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Software Advice found that referrals deliver the highest-quality applicants.

Channels Delivering the Highest Quality of Candidates 


Referrals are especially important when seeking candidates for specialist positions, where quality of hire is more important than filling the role quickly. As a result of the increase in referrals, hiring managers for these types of positions are now more satisfied with the quality of candidates they’re seeing, Anderson says.

AIG has improved its candidate experience by implementing recruiting technology, standardizing recruiter training and making a concerted effort to ensure each candidate receives feedback from the company. As a result of these efforts, AIG’s entire recruiting and hiring process has become more effective. The company has created a larger talent pool from which to source candidates, decreased time-to-fill and improved its quality of hire.

And continuing to improve the candidate experience (and the company’s recruiting efficiency in general) is one of Anderson’s primary goals. According to Oravec, this is a great trait to have. The companies providing the best candidate experiences, she says, “realize that they’re never really done when it comes to improving what they’re doing with their candidates.”

Screenshot image provided by AIG.

Job Search” by Kate Hiscock Used Under CC BY / Resized

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About the Author

Erin Osterhaus joined Software Advice in 2012 after earning an M.A. in German and European Studies from Georgetown University. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management, and leadership techniques.

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