you're reading...
Candidate Experience, Employer Branding

The RAD Awards and The Unrewarded Candidate Experience

So we come round to the time of year when we have the annual RAD awards. The Recruitment Advertising Design (I had to ask what the ‘D’ stood for) awards for the uninitiated. From years of working in the recruitment industry my experience is that throughout the day there will be mild frissons of excitement with posh frocks and dinner suits draped around office corridors and the eager anticipation of wondering who’s going to scoop up the awards this year. And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a few rumblings of cynicism about such things as ‘digital strategy’ and ‘look how much they had to spend.’

Moving Times

When I worked in recruitment advertising it was generally the Accounts Department and the Research Team who were the ones without the hangovers on the Friday morning after the event. In the old rec ads days the thought of handing out a table seat to anyone outside the creative or client side teams would be met with a certain amount of puzzlement. “Who? Really? I don’t think so.” This event used to largely be about the creative folk and the Account Directors who (whisper it quietly) might just play a big part in getting those innovative ideas signed off by the client in the first place.

Now there is a wider mix of people attending the awards working in areas such as employer branding, digital and social media that reflects the range of tools that we now use to engage with and attract candidates. That is a key part of how it has evolved when we engage with candidates across many platforms rather than just responding to an ad in the recruitment section of the local press. And there’s the social side, of course and by the end of evening everyone has forgotten who does what anyway, but it’s a good opportunity to meet old friends and admire increasingly receding hairlines from people who have forgotten just how long they have worked in the industry. And in many ways that is exactly how it should be. A celebration of what has been achieved and great creative work (or should it be ‘Design’)

What are we judging?

Recruitment Marketing is often seen as a poor relation to the world of Marketing (proper advertising, as someone once told me) which is an unfair label given the quality of the work that is produced with the very best going on to win awards at even bigger events in the world of, umm, Marketing.

As the industry has evolved the RADs have also evolved. If we still just had awards for print media and the best ad in the Sunday TImes I’m sure there would still be people showing up (some actually wouldn’t notice), but we have awards for ‘Employer Brand’, “Best Use of Digital Media’ and ‘Best Use of Mobile’. But I wonder on what basis are these judged? There are some very strong contenders looking at this year’s entries, but what constitutes ‘Best’? And who judges who wins what in Employer Brand? What metrics are being defined to truly measure what wins in ‘Employer Brand’, for example? There is no qualifying criteria to this category – ‘Best? Most effective? Most nicely designed? ‘ so it’s always intriguing to see what wins the award and why.

The Candidate Experience Award goes to…

This year saw the introduction of a new category – Candidate Experience. Now we’re talking. The problem is this is an event that is largely (though not exclusively) focused on attraction and design rather than metrics. I was intrigued to see on what basis the candidate experience award was going to be judged. Except in the end, it wasn’t because according to the organisers, “Following two rounds of reviews and significant deliberation, the judges decided not to shortlist or appoint a winner for this award, since it wouldn’t have supported the high quality standards of the RADs.”

Well that’s disappointing

And that’s created a tricky dilemma in my mind because I’m thinking how can you have award winning recruitment, but at the same time not have anything that is entered that has actually delivered a positive candidate experience? It’s like designing a new product that everyone thinks looks amazing until someone says,

“And what about the customer?”
“The customer. What did they think of it?”
“I’ve absolutely no idea. But what does that matter because it looks great.”

So I am not surprised that a Candidate Experience award isn’t being awarded this year despite a commendable effort to introduce the category because how would they be measuring it? Equally I don’t believe that amongst all the fabulous list of clients – and there really is some great work and well thought out strategies amongst those finalists – that none of them translate into a great candidate experience. They just don’t have the evidence to prove it.

But does it matter? In the context of these awards does it actually matter? I still think it does.

The RAD awards contribute hugely to the industry of recruitment communications and will continue to do so and it is a fine balance delineating the boundaries between the creative execution through to the recruitment strategy itself for an event that is largely focused on the former. But the DRUM Marketing Awards, which are now one of the marketing industries largest and most sought after awards do have specific categories for ‘Customer Insight’ as well as one of the key criteria for the Brand of the Year being how strategies ‘influenced a change in customer attitudes’. And to compare again to our friends in marketing, would you expect a Marketing award where the category for Best Customer Experience wasn’t awarded because none of the entries was good enough?

Creativity vs Experience

So are the RAD awards a display of great creative execution or are they going to focus as much on the success of that work based on the measurement and outcomes? It is about attracting the right quality of applicant and successful hires that is the whole point of recruitment and we don’t want to undervalue that. Let’s not forget we are in a people industry and this includes the candidates and the job applicants. It is admirable that the RAD organisers thought to introduce the Candidate Experience as a category, but it can’t ever have credibility just being judged by anyone other than candidates themselves and not just a panel of judges.

But whatever the debate (and there is usually one every year) about criteria, judges, quality of the champagne, the RAD awards showcase brilliant work and bring together industry colleagues and maybe that’s what it should always be about.

Good luck to all the finalists. I look forward to waking up tomorrow with a clear head and finding out who all the winners were and who this year swept the board/cleaned up/had too much money to spend/was not even in the right category.

P.S. And if you really want to measure the candidate experience, pop on over to Mystery Applicant.


About Nick Price

Employer branding and communications, insight and engagement, talent attraction and HR analytics


14 thoughts on “The RAD Awards and The Unrewarded Candidate Experience

  1. Glad you mentioned that metrics are not used as much as they should. The minute effectiveness or most successful campaign is mentioned I wonder how they judge that without it being subjective. As an analyst in rec ad I only ever got invites via people not being able to go…..

    Posted by Neil Parkinson | January 31, 2013, 6:38 pm
  2. Wow, really they didn’t award anything for Canddiate Experience? Frankly the entire industry should hold their head in shame and go back to the drawing board.

    Unfortunately that marks the whole event as a back slapping exercise for those who don’t give a damn about who they are actually working for… the candidate, or as you rightly said, the customer.

    It still amazes me that we treat candidates the way we do as an industry. I’ve been saying for years they are customers/consumers by any other name and you should treat them as such, if the retail / ecommerce industry treated people the way the recruitment industry sees fit to then there would be a hell of a lot of companies wondering why they were not making sales and why they never had repeat business.

    There are some great companies doing great things for their customer/canddiate audience and smart companies measure their experience and not just the experience of people who got the job. They have a voice but really, are they going to be anything but complimentary? Measurement before, during and after the final outcome of the recrutiment process is the only way that anything in recruitment advertising should be judged. Saying something looked really good and was really creative without actually being able to prove it had a demostrable effect on recruitment and your employer brand is the equivalent of the Chewbacca defense from South Park.

    Posted by Sussexmatt | February 4, 2013, 10:56 am
  3. Thanks Neil and Matt for your comments. I agree – it all comes back to measurement. The thing is I’m sure that a lot of the good work that is being done by the companies – as you point out Matt – some of whom would have been successful at the RADs, but if they don’t measure it they can’t demonstrate it and also if they’re not measuring they can’t identify the areas where they can improve.

    Quite frankly though to not have any award on the candidate experience is incredibly remiss.

    Posted by Nick Price | February 4, 2013, 11:12 am
  4. I was going to make a comment on this but the good Matt beat me to it.
    I could not have said it any better and must agree with this being indeed shameful. We live in a time of almost wilful ignorance and going backwards rather than forwards. This subject (candidate experience) is simply a h u g e issue that is being treated worse and worse and where there appear to be very little learning and/or change taking place. It is (and has been for now the last couple of years) being discussed to death in various fora, yet ultra miniscule development or changes appear to happen. Myself both a senior TA manager as well as a job seeker I can by now and from 2 x lengthy job search periods write a book about my experiences, counting in excess of 50 incidents, suffice to say that I have seen it all and 98% was not even nearing being adequate. I personally hold every single HRD, HRBP and TA/recruitment manager and anyone in a recruitment function leadership role responsible for getting this right. It is n o t rocket science and we (all included in the recruitment industry as a whole) ought to do better.
    Set your mind to something and usually there is a way, appear that the mind-set is simply not there.

    Posted by jacobstenmadsen | February 4, 2013, 12:11 pm
  5. Jacob, I couldn’t agree more and appreciate you sharing your views and experience. There has to be more accountability and responsibility for actually doing something about candidate experience rather than just talking about it.

    Posted by Nick Price | February 4, 2013, 5:58 pm
  6. Having spent 25 years as a creative in a number of recruitment communications agencies – and attended a fair few RAD Awards in my time – I have to agree that the lack of a winner in the Candidate Experience category is a massive fail.

    But I have to stick up for the recruitment comms agencies – who are usually the ones who enter the work for the awards. All work submitted for any category at the RADs for a number of years has been judged on the basis of results, as well as creativity (I know, because for some of those years I was the one submitting the entries for my agency’s clients). If it was solely up to the agencies to gather the data and gauge the effectiveness of their work, it would happen almost every time. After all, there’s nothing more persuasive when you’re trying to win new clients than actual proof that what you’re offering really does work. But usually, with some notable exceptions, when I was filling in those entry forms, we were left waiting until the last minute for the client to come through with some vague figures that we could submit.

    Most agencies are well aware of the value of measurement. Unfortunately, not enough clients share that view.

    Posted by welchwords | February 6, 2013, 2:19 pm
  7. Have to agree with Phil, that most agencies should be aware of results – and that they are important to any awards entry.

    Candidate experience can be ‘seen’ and measured in many ways these days – using social listening is one example, where you don’t have to wait for a clients input, and it can tell you far more than any form of questionaire/poll/etc/etc.

    Taking the RADs defence, any category is only as good as the work it receives – so for all we know, a poor number of quality entries would not warrant any award. I’d rather no award, than one just to pacify the crowd and the sponsors. Believe me, having judged the RADs 3 times over the past 10 years it can be quite amazing how different reality can be to what you would consider to be popular (and important) categories.

    Don’t forget that the CIPD RMas used to have a Candidate Experience category – which we won on a few times with clients – but they decided to drop it a couple of years ago.

    Maybe the appetite isn’t there for an individual award, but I think we all recognise its importance in the greater scheme of recruitment, don’t we?

    Posted by andsomepeople | February 6, 2013, 11:13 pm
  8. Thanks Mark and Welchwords.Great comments.

    I agree that Agencies often are doing their best to extract relevant data from their clients (I have been on that side of the fence too) and that this can be difficult, but there isn’t really an excuse if the proper metrics are established in the first place. I am a big supporter of the Recruitment Comms Agencies and the work they do and likewise we should all encourage clients to take more responsibility for putting basic measures in place to capture this data.

    I agree Mark that an award shouldn’t be given out for the sake of it, but perhaps more consideration should be given from the outset about just how this would be measured/judged in the context of the RADs. Candidate experience can be seen and measured in different ways and social media as a listening device is an important one, but I don’t agree that it tells you more than getting any kind of feedback directly from the job applicants themselves in the same way that in consumer society I’d rather the customer told me first if they had a bad experience before telling all of their friends. Then I could action it and do something about it and make sure we see tangible improvements.

    I think and hope we all recognise the importance of candidate experience in the greater scheme of recruitment but it is one thing to acknowledge that and another to put in measures and actions to actively improve it and deliver a good candidate experience.

    What I would be interested to know – and coming to the main point – is that when this category was introduced how was it anticipated it was going to be judged?

    Posted by Nick Price | February 7, 2013, 10:05 am
  9. I originally replied in the LinkedIn group but thought it was worth adding it here, too:

    As one of this year’s RADs judges (and someone who has covered the RADs for a few years), I hope I can help to clear up some of the misunderstandings regarding the candidate experience award.

    The award was added to the 2013 RADs due to feedback from previous years’ judges and the wider recruitment community. The RADs categories evolve and change from year to year in accordance with how the industry itself changes, and the addition of the candidate experience award reflected the obvious increasing significance of this aspect of the recruitment process.

    Put simply, candidate experience *is* important, and the RADs set out to recognise its importance this year. As judges, we were looking forward to presenting this new award.

    However, the quality of the entries and supporting materials, and not necessarily the quality of whatever candidate experience work was done in the past year, was the main reason for shelving the category.

    Regarding the question about how the awards are judged; there are strict criteria for each award, and while yes, creativity is a factor, each award also takes into account results and ROI. Believe me – the judging isn’t taken lightly, and is a lengthy, demanding process that takes into account all the evidence made available.

    By not awarding a winner in this category, the RADs certainly aren’t saying candidate experience isn’t important, and they’re not saying there was no good candidate experience work done this year.

    Instead, the individual entries just weren’t persuasive or demonstrative enough for a winner to be chosen. Crucially, that’s a matter for the wider industry to consider. Is candidate experience evaluated and measured sufficiently to reflect its significance? It would be interesting to hear some thoughts on that.

    It’s also worth pointing out that all the judges sincerely regretted the decision to pull the category – and it was only decided at the final stage, when all the entries had been reviewed. It’s not like they weren’t given a chance.

    But without any entries that sufficiently showed the results of the work that had been done, it was impossible to pick a winner – just as it would have been in any other category. The difference is, the other categories aren’t as ‘new’ as this one, so perhaps it’s easier for the entrants to put forward a compelling case in those.

    I’m glad this debate has arisen, and I’m confident that future RAD Awards will see a deserving recipient pick up a candidate experience award.

    Posted by John Eccleston | February 8, 2013, 11:09 am
  10. Phil, your last point about clients not sharing the view surprises me. I talk to a lot of people in Recruitment, Resourcing and Talent roles and the overwhelming thing we are all discussing at the moment is measurement. Frankly most, if not all of us are very much under scrutiny to prove effectiveness. I think in the last 12-18 months the realisation has hit across the board that just doing shiny is absolutely not enough any more.

    Posted by Sussexmatt | February 8, 2013, 11:11 am
  11. Matt, I agree that an increasing number of organisations are paying more attention to measurement. Unfortunately, the ones that do – in my experience – are still in the minority.

    But I think it’s just as important to look at how they’re measuring effectiveness. For example, how many organisations are not just gathering the data from their careers websites, but interpreting it correctly so they can maximise its effectiveness? Understanding why people aren’t visiting a particular page is far more important than just recognising that they aren’t going there. So, thorough interpretation of data, in-depth research and user testing come into the equation, as they enable you to truly measure effectiveness – and do something about it. Obviously, including these in an agency’s services increases the costs.

    This presents some difficult choices and many organisations I’ve worked with have chosen a cheaper option, which might give them some useful data, but doesn’t necessarily give them the full picture that would really improve their site’s effectiveness.

    Posted by welchwords | February 8, 2013, 11:42 am
  12. John, thank you for taking the time to comment and explaining the judging process. A very reasoned response with many good points.

    On the point of measurement, there are organisations that are making great strides in this area and forward thinking companies are having to continually evaluate their candidate experience on an ongoing basis as you would valued customers and are utilising the tools to help them do this. The more this is done the more opportunities there will be for benchmarking and monitoring which in turn will drive standards and performance. So in answer to the question ‘Is candidate experience evaluated and measured sufficiently to reflect its significance?’….. No it’s not, but the organisations leading this charge are already seeing the benefits and, as Matt says, with increasing pressure to demonstrate effectiveness measurement is essential.

    I hope too that there will be a deserving recipient picking up a candidate experience award, but there can only be one judge of who that can be and that has to be the candidates themselves.

    Posted by Nick Price | February 12, 2013, 12:22 pm
  13. Agree – “measuring it and doing something about it” with the two being very much interlinked!

    Posted by Nick Price | February 12, 2013, 12:24 pm


  1. Pingback: Is the RAD Awards “Candidate Engagement” category just more of the same? | WhatEverYouThink.com - October 17, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow WhateverYouThink on WordPress.com



%d bloggers like this: