From yes to desk: How to ace the transition from candidate to employee

When the search for the perfect candidate is finally over, HR professionals are usually tempted to sit back, relax, and wait for their new hire’s first day to roll around. After all the time and energy the hiring team has already poured into recruiting the right person and implementing an onboarding program, what else is there to do? Plenty.

After a job offer, your new hires are keeping busy — potentially juggling interviews with other employers, getting prepared for their new role, or researching your company. If they’re given any reason to second-guess their decision, they may not even make it to day one — and you’ll be left to start the recruiting process over from scratch.

Keep engagement high between the “yes” and the desk by streamlining the transition from candidate to employee. This is the “preboarding” period, and with thoughtful preboarding processes, employers can avoid losing their new hires, successfully prepare employees for their first day, and even improve first-year retention rates

Why is the time between job offer and first day so important?

Even if only a week or two passes between a signed job offer and the first day of work, those few days are long enough for your new hire to second-guess everything, from their decision to take the new job, to their role at your organization. During this critical time, HR professionals should build excitement and engagement, rather than go radio silent. Done well, these actions benefit both new hires and their employers.

How preboarding benefits new hires

Research by the Human Capital Institute found that around 58% of onboarding programs focus on “paperwork and processes” rather than specialized role training or integration with the company culture. While new hire paperwork is an important step in the process for HR, it’s also a potential distraction on an employee’s first day.

By moving simple information gathering and paperwork tasks to the preboarding period — like completing W-4 forms, scanning identification cards, and selecting benefits — the HR team can re-center the onboarding experience on personalized training, shadowing, or culture integration. On their first day, new employees can immediately focus on their new role rather than paperwork.

While reducing first-day paperwork is a notable employee benefit, the preboarding period is a crucial time for building excitement, too. Employers who actively communicate with new hires before day one show that they’re equally as excited about the future. This active communication may also reduce the employee’s doubts or fears, as it shows your organization’s dedication to ongoing communication and employee happiness.

How preboarding benefits employers

On average, companies spend 24 days and around $4,000 hiring just one new employee. This cost and time to hire may be even higher for specialized roles or those with high market demand. Preboarding activities may help prevent organizations from losing their newest employees — and the considerable investment the company has made in hiring them — before they even start work.

Additionally, a survey of more than 1,500 HR professionals found that new hires with a negative onboarding experience were twice as likely to seek new opportunities than those with a positive one. A poor onboarding experience typically only lasts for a few days or a week and focuses primarily on paperwork, whereas a more effective and engaging onboarding program starts early, lasts longer, and includes multiple touch points with members of HR, the employee’s team, and leadership.

The time between offer and your employee’s first day is crucial for building engagement and excitement, especially if the candidate isn’t able to start immediately. Confident about their new role and becoming increasingly familiar with the company and your expectations, new hires are less likely to follow through with any remaining interviews, accept a counteroffer from their current employer, or feel any doubt about their choice.

How to successfully engage new hires before their first day

Start by rethinking your onboarding experience as a whole. Since only 1 in 10 employees positively rate the onboarding process with their employer, this is a good opportunity to revisit how you introduce new hires to your workplace, train them on required processes, and integrate them with your company culture. But before you overhaul your entire onboarding program, think about how to engage your newest hires, and transition them smoothly into their new role.

Address common concerns or fears in advance

The HR team and hiring managers probably hear the same concerns repeatedly raised by new hires. For example, if your organization hires new sales team members frequently, they may express anxiety about meeting their monthly sales goals, or generating enough revenue to be considered a valuable member of the team.

You may be able to address and alleviate these common fears before new employees even know where the break rooms are. For your sales hires, this might look like providing clear documentation on what you expect, and specifically clarifying your company’s policy on sales quotas. For other employees, you might consider providing a timeline for ramping up production, a schedule for their first week, or a list of frequently asked questions with detailed answers.

Build on existing excitement

While some new hires may be nervous about meeting the expectations of their employer or transitioning into a new department, others may be excited to get started, meet their team, and excel in a new role. Build on specific factors contributing to this excitement: For example, allow new employees to “meet” their team early by providing links to their social media profiles, or even hosting an offsite lunch. Keeping these positive emotions high may prevent new employees from second-guessing their decision or following up on interview requests from other companies.

Which benefits are your new hires most excited about? Build off of them, too. For example, if your office has a fully stocked kitchen with an in-house chef, you might invite your new hires to a lunch with their team before their first day. Or if members of your sales team have the opportunity to travel frequently, you might send them to get their passport, or pay for a new suitcase they can use on their first trip.

Start the onboarding process in advance

Finally, as mentioned earlier, preboarding is a great opportunity to address tasks that might otherwise take up time on the new hire’s first day. None of the preboarding tasks should be time-consuming or directly related to their role, as it’s crucial to pay employees for any work they do for you, but these few days or weeks leading up to their start date provide an ample opportunity to take care of paperwork, provide basic information, and successfully prepare for the transition to onboarding.

Along with the typical new hire paperwork and processes, consider which policies and other information could be provided earlier. Could it be combined into a company handbook, or even documented in a company wiki? This would allow the employee to read and learn basic information on their own time. Documentation like this also benefits your current employees, since they will have a permanent place to reference for information on benefits or policies, and won’t need to repeatedly contact HR.

Learn more about successful preboarding from the experts

On Tuesday, August 6, join Hire by Google and Sapling, a leading HRIS, for an engaging panel discussion on the topic of successfully transitioning your candidates to employees. Our discussion will highlight advice from leading hiring and onboarding experts, including:

  • Rasika Saikia, the head of Google's global onboarding program for new hires

  • Niki Yu, Director of Employee Success at Copper

  • Kathy Kelly, Lead Recruiter for Hire by Google

  • Elisabeth Mann, Talent Acquisition Operations Lead at Aclara

Sign up here or via the form below to reserve your space and to suggest questions for our hiring experts to answer during the panel.

We look forward to seeing you on August 6!