Candidate experience is vital to your business for a number of reasons, but it’s a factor that’s often overlooked by companies during the hiring processes. The truth is that if you fail to create a positive candidate experience, this could do real and lasting damage to your business and its reputation.
In this article, we’ll look into the details of candidate experience, why it’s important, and what you can do to improve it.
What is candidate experience?
Candidate experience is the perception that jobseekers have of your business based on their interactions with it when applying for a role at your company. This includes every point of contact during the recruitment funnel, from awareness raised by job ads and social media posts, to interviews, tests, and post-application communication.
Candidate experience begins well before a candidate actually applies for a job. Candidates are likely to be aware of your brand before they even start searching for a job, and their first impressions of your candidate experience will be formed by your job advert.
What’s more, candidate experience doesn’t end when you hire someone. Induction and onboarding are equally important for creating a positive candidate experience as your new hire transitions from applicant to employee.
As a result, efforts to improve your candidate experience need to be comprehensive and holistic. To make the process as smooth as possible, you need to take every stage of your recruitment funnel into consideration.
The benefits of a great candidate experience
A positive candidate experience offers a number of powerful benefits for your business. First and foremost, a great candidate experience is an effective means of sourcing and recruiting top talent.
Sixty-eight percent of candidates think that a company’s hiring process reflects how it treats its employees—so giving your applicants an efficient, positive experience throughout the hiring process shows them that you’ll value and respect them as employees, too.
The reverse is also true: a poor candidate experience will make applicants think your business doesn’t respect its workers, making it more likely that the top talent will choose to work with a competitor instead.
A good candidate experience also has benefits for your brand. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn make it easy for applicants to share their views on your candidate selection process, so if they have a good experience, this will reflect positively on your brand.
Candidates are also likely to discuss their experience with family, friends, and colleagues—all of whom could be potential customers, or maybe even employees.
Candidate experience: The 7 key components
Building a great candidate experience relies on investing time into every stage of the hiring process, so an important first step is to understand the main components of the candidate experience. There are seven key areas to consider:
1. Job search
This is where candidates will get their first impression of your company and brand, which becomes the foundation of their candidate experience. Candidates may become aware of the job opening through job boards, social media, or your website’s careers page, so ensure the information you share across these channels is clear and consistent.
2. Initial application
The initial application process for a job is one of the most important parts of the candidate experience. If your instructions are unclear or if you ask too much of candidates, they may decide not to apply at all.
After a candidate applies, they’ll expect to hear back from you quickly. How you respond to candidates after their application (and how quickly) will shape their experience.
A positive candidate experience requires providing feedback at various stages to let candidates know where they stand and what the next steps in the process are. Giving feedback shows candidates that you value the time they have put into applying.
This is the most direct contact you’ll have with candidates throughout the hiring process, which means it’s their biggest opportunity to learn more about your company and your organizational culture. How you treat candidates during the interview will have a huge impact on their perceptions of your business, which makes it an essential element of the candidate experience.
6. Offer, induction, and onboarding
After choosing your ideal candidate, you’ll need to carry out background checks, references, and other tasks to formalize the job offer. Making these processes smooth and efficient creates a better experience. Once you’ve hired the successful candidate, you also need to implement effective induction and onboarding processes to help them transition from candidate to employee, and to train them for their new role.
After completing the hiring process, it’s vital to look back and reflect on how effective it was. Carefully analyzing each stage will allow you to identify weak points and improve them for future recruitment, which allows you to continually improve the candidate experience.
How to create a great candidate experience
It’s vital to make a good impression on applicants throughout your hiring process by creating the optimal candidate experience for them. To create a first-class candidate experience, as Bain & Company did, make sure you follow all of these steps.
Make sure you’re hiring to fill a real need
First, make sure you actually need someone for the specific role in question. The last thing you or the candidate wants is to make it all the way through the recruitment process only for them to realize the job isn’t what they actually signed up for and quit as a result.
Be transparent from the very start about what the role will entail, and be honest with yourself about whether you actually need a new hire for this role. The key to fulfilling, meaningful work—and in turn a positive candidate experience—is to hire with a specific, tangible need in mind.
Write clear job descriptions
Make sure your job descriptions are clear, concise, and informative. They should provide clear details on the role’s responsibilities and duties, as well as the necessary qualifications and experience. Job descriptions should also give clear instructions for the initial application.
You also need to be clear about why the candidate should apply, which means listing benefits and salary ranges. It’s not enough to simply say a salary is “competitive”: candidates don’t want to go through a job application with a certain figure in mind only to find they’ve wasted their time when the actual salary is much lower.
Make it easy for candidates to apply for your jobs
You should avoid making the initial application more complex than necessary. You don’t want to overwhelm a candidate and put them off applying in the first place. Try to stick to the minimum: a resume, cover letter, and portfolio where relevant. Or even skip those steps and directly evaluate candidates’ skills.
For this, you could use psychometric tests or a skills assessment as an early screening method to filter out unsuitable candidates and simplify the hiring process. Make sure any tests you administer during the hiring process are mobile optimized and easily accessible so that candidates can apply from any device.
Follow up early and often
A big factor in negative candidate experiences is that applicants can feel like they’ve wasted their time if they don’t receive a prompt response. Follow up early and continue to maintain contact: this shows candidates that you respect and value their time.
One way to follow up an initial application quickly and effectively is to offer a pre-employment screening test to the candidate. This helps them feel as though their application is progressing, while also offering you a chance to screen and identify the most suitable candidates at an early stage.
Communicate with (and thank) candidates during every stage of the hiring process
This is similar to the last point, but it’s worth driving home: candidates don’t want to be left in the dark. Make sure you keep them updated on how their application is progressing so that they don’t lose interest, give up, and look for another role elsewhere.
You should also thank them for submitting an application and for their patience as it’s processed. This shows candidates that you value their time and respect the effort they’ve put into applying for the role.
Give candidates information about what to expect at in-person or video interviews
It’s not enough to simply name a time and date for an interview—you should also let the candidate know what format the interview will take and what sort of questions they can expect. This allows them to better prepare for it, which can lessen anxieties and improve their experience.
A structured interview is also their main opportunity to learn more about your business, so give some details on what aspects of the business you’ll be discussing so they can plan questions on details that interest them.
Give candidates your full attention at interviews
The interview is likely the first time a candidate will get to speak with you directly, so be sure to treat them with the respect they deserve. In fact, the interview process can change candidates’ minds about applying: according to Deloitte, 83% of applicants who had a negative interview experience will reconsider going further with the application process.
Give them your full attention throughout, follow up on their answers with questions based on what they say, and show them you respect their time and what they bring to the table.
Tell disqualified candidates you’re no longer interested as soon as you can
Nobody likes being left hanging to find out whether they’ve been successful in their application: as soon as you reach a decision to reject a candidate, let them know.
This is especially the case in the early stages of recruitment—many companies only take the time to contact successful applicants during initial applications. According to the Human Resources Institute, 75% of candidates never hear back from recruiters, so responding to unsuccessful candidates will set you apart as a company that respects candidates and their time.
Encourage unsuccessful candidates to reapply for future openings
Even if you reject a candidate for one position, it’s important to end their application on a positive note by encouraging them to apply for future roles, if you think they’d be suitable. This helps to soften the blow of the rejection and improves the overall candidate experience by avoiding a negative ending.
Encourage unsuccessful applicants to keep an eye on your careers page for future openings, and keep your own internal record of standout applicants who you can contact for similar roles in the future.
Be open to giving and receiving feedback
Feedback is absolutely essential to a positive candidate experience—both in terms of giving and receiving it.
Giving personalized feedback to unsuccessful candidates shows them that you value the time that they put into an application and that you’re supporting them in their future applications as well. Many recruiters don’t bother to give feedback, especially at the early stages, so it’s an easy way of helping your brand stand out from the crowd.
You should also ask for the candidate’s feedback on their experience so that you can improve your candidate experience in the future. Find out what they think worked and what didn't, as well as what their impression of your business is. Not only will this give you valuable insight into how effective your hiring process is, but it also helps make candidates feel more appreciated.
How do you measure candidate experience?
The best way to track, measure, and ultimately improve your candidate experience is through data.
Some important metrics to track include the time it takes you to follow up with candidates at each stage, the response rate of candidates you follow up with, the percent of interviews that begin on time, and the rate at which successful candidates actually accept your job offers.
You should also look to actively gather external data as well, mainly in the form of feedback from candidates. This is where you can acquire some of the most valuable data in measuring candidate experience, such as:
- What percentage of your candidates found the initial application process clear and simple to complete
- Whether candidates thought interviews were well-conducted
- Impressions of each individual stage of the hiring process, as well as of the hiring process overall
- How many candidates would refer family, friends, and colleagues to apply to job openings at your business
- Whether the candidate experience has positively or negatively impacted candidates’ perceptions of your brand
In addition to asking candidates directly for this information, you can also gather data through social listening. You should actively monitor reviews and feedback about your business on Glassdoor, Indeed, and other job sites to find out what candidates are saying about your business and what you can improve.
Good candidate experience is key to a strong brand story
Good candidate experience is essential to a healthy business—not only does a positive candidate experience help attract and secure the best talent, but it also helps to shape positive impressions of your brand. In other words, you can’t afford to ignore it.
Creating an exceptional candidate experience takes time and effort, but it’s more than worth it to help your business to stand out from the crowd.