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What Made AstraZeneca go the Extra Mile for Candidates?



Talent Attraction, Employer Branding

In-depth research and a unique video concept and execution helped connect AstraZeneca's Talent Acquisition team more closely with its candidate experience, asking for greater accountability and a more personable approach...


AstraZeneca didn’t know what it didn’t know when it came to its existing candidate experience (CX). The sheer volume of applications and candidates it was rejecting on a monthly basis, never mind yearly, created a responsibility​ to understand what it actually felt like, as a candidate, to go through that process end to end. And not only that, but how that differed based on the job you were applying for and the country you were applying in.

The Challenge

At its heart, the project was driven by accountability. Anyone who played a part in the experience was not putting themselves in the shoes of the candidate and were not always being a custodian for the brand. There was a perceived lack of ownership at a number of levels across Talent Acquisition and Hiring Managers. So the challenge was to achieve a number of things:

  • Uncover the data that was needed to steer our strategy and plot the CX journey end to end, globally.​
  • Create a set of guiding principles that would form the foundation of all future activity going forward (this was not a flash in the pan project, this is about driving continuous change on an ongoing basis. Defining, deploying and then measuring on​ a two-year cycle)​
  • Begin the process of altering the way those ultimately responsible for the CX thought about the holistic process, and take the first real step to driving meaningful change and adoption of the guiding principles.

What we found out

To start with, it was necessary to research and understand what the current customer experience is like, for all candidates both hired and rejected across the globe. It was hoped that this initial work would identify some key areas to focus initial efforts and identify potential low hanging fruit. Whether that was a regional issue, issues with specific personas, or perhaps even some of the tech stack aligned to the overall CX.

We undertook a 360 degree global approach to research including a variety of methods both quantitative and qualitative with a plethora of audiences and channles taken into account. This included:​

  • A website competitor careers site audit​
  • Quantitative survey to recent hires & rejected candidates (internal & external)​
  • 1-1 interviews with Hiring Managers and recent starters​
  • Bounce & Build virtual workshops designed to take learnings from the global survey translated into six key languages​
  • Stress-test and deep dive during focus groups to find practical solutions​
  • Global Talent Acquisition solution sessions

The research revealed key areas and themes indicating what needed to improve and what job seekers want from an experience.

We uncovered a huge range of challenges that we needed to face into. Ranging from basic communication challenges and responsiveness and timeframes. Through to a lack of detailed feedback, face to face interviews not feeling personable and the technology used creating a barrier between the candidate and the AstraZeneca representative.

The biggest thing the project needed to achieve, however, was behavioural change among hiring managers, recruiters and talent acquisition teams – we needed to instil more empathy and accountability into the process.

What we did next

Success is measured through behavioural change, and improved NPS score across the candidate experience journey. The key challenge around this project was making this stick. AstraZeneca had done a piece on CX before and it did not land. We had to ensure this time it worked.​

So, we crafted a creative brief around a creative concept and film idea centred on the proposition:​

“We all have the power to affect lives. Everyone, successful or not, likes to be treated with consideration.”

We had to drive understanding around the importance of choosing a job. We’ve all been there and know the impact it can have on not just our own lives, but the lives of our families and friends. It is by far the biggest buying decision any of us ever make. It is easy to lose sight of that when you receive 10,000 applications a week. But our job was to help re-position the message around the importance of CX.​

After all, not many brands are able to truly say that the next person who applies to work with them, could lead the next major breakthrough in oncology. Or any drug that could play such a huge role and have such a big impact on society. Therefore, we had to land the message that Candidate Centricity = Patient Centricity. And by giving just a little​ bit more of your time to each candidate can make a big difference.

So, we set about creating a piece of communication that had the power to change behaviours. Something that would help the recruiters and hiring managers understand the perspective of each and every candidate and had a message of empathy at its very core. 

Above all, it needed to be something that was unique and enjoyable to watch. It was important that we moved as far away from corporate platitudes as possible to deliver a unique piece that told a story and took our viewers on a journey to better themselves. Something that set them a challenge and helped them understand the vital role they could play in the hiring process and the next medical breakthrough.

The Results

The film, which ask hiring managers to do just a little bit more for those involved in the interview process, was rolled out across all of AZ's internal channels and internal social feed (Workplace) . Feedback on the film was excellent. It helped bridge the gap between strategy and theory to actual activity. Influencing those that meet with global candidates on a daily basis was critical.

A 10-day launch campaign, started with the video and then individual stories, examples of best practice and inspiration, focused content across the TA (Talent Acquisition) team globally. It was then posted on a Workplace group with around 150 TA people and 100 other people (some of which do TA but not as 100% of their role).

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