Imagine you’re in the midst of a job search – an already taxing process on its own.
You find two different companies you’re interested in. The first seems like it could be a good fit, but you aren’t positive because their job listing is vague and confusing. Their application takes you an hour to fill out, and you go away wondering if it was even worth it.
The second company has a clear and engaging job description that lays out all its values for you upfront. You apply in a matter of minutes and are then invited to take a couple of skills tests. You ace them and are excited to continue with this organization.
Then, within a few days, you receive communication from their recruiting team and have an interview scheduled. When the offer comes, you’re happy to accept.
The difference here was that one company delivered an awesome candidate experience while the other was lackluster.
Candidate experience is a fast-growing talent acquisition trend that focuses on how applicants perceive the company throughout the hiring process.
It’s an important piece of your overall recruitment strategy because more and more job seekers look for welcoming companies with strong values.
Let’s dive into what this trend is all about, why it matters, and go over some best practices and examples of companies creating a positive candidate experience.
The candidate experience consists of the interactions a candidate has with a company throughout the hiring process – from reading a job listing and filling out an application to interviewing – and how these influence their perception of the employer.
These impressions – whether positive or negative – significantly impact the applicant’s decision to either submit an application to your company or accept a job offer from you.
The candidate experience spans the following stages of the hiring process:
Offer, induction, and onboarding
Incorporating a strong candidate experience as part of your overall talent acquisition strategy helps you to show job seekers that your company is a great place to work.
A great candidate experience is marked by a series of interactions and touchpoints that leave applicants feeling valued, respected, and enthusiastic about the organization, regardless of the final outcome of their application.
Here’s a step-by-step snapshot of a great candidate journey:
Job search: This phase provides applicants with an initial impression of your company, so it should be simple and straightforward. Make your career page easy to find, write clear and detailed job descriptions, and design a mobile-friendly website.
Application: A long and complex application process drives candidates to drop out of the process. Instead, simplify it by creating an easy-to-fill application form – ask only the necessary information and allow candidates to apply by linking their professional socials.
Interviews: As the first face-to-face contact with an applicant, interviews provide an opportunity to double down on a good candidate experience. At this stage, candidates are expecting a fair and professional interview process, including timely interview feedback.
Offer, induction, and onboarding: After selecting the most suitable candidate, send them an offer and share the next steps. Keep them engaged between the offer and their first day to minimize the risk of ghosting. When they finally report, incorporate onboarding best practices to make them feel welcome and ready to hit the ground running.
The prevailing skills shortage, talent wars, and an employee’s job market have brought candidate relationship management to the forefront of HR recruiting efforts.
How you make a candidate feel matters. Do you leave them without feedback and ghost them, or do you go above and beyond to engage and communicate with them during the hiring process?
If your candidate experience is poor, it may lead to strong applicants withdrawing. However, by ensuring a smooth and transparent hiring journey, your company retains the interest of top candidates – minimizing dropouts and preventing potential talent loss.
Social media has also contributed to the growing importance and attention given to the candidate experience.
With a significant number of candidates using social media to find jobs, one bad experience could send your company viral – in the wrong way.
A study by CareerArc reports that 72% of candidates share a bad experience online or with a friend. The ripple effect spreads like wildfire, negatively impacting your employer branding in the job market.
With the tech and social media-savvy Gen Z poised to be the largest workforce by 2027, a negative candidate experience could ruin your company’s reputation with this substantial talent segment.
Despite all this, a CareerBuilder study reports that 82 percent of employers believe a bad candidate experience has little to no negative impact on the company. 
With so few employers recognizing the importance of this trend, focusing your efforts on a positive candidate experience gives you a crucial leg up on the competition.
For job seekers, a positive candidate experience encourages them to fill out the initial job application and, later on, to accept a job offer. It also prevents top talent from dropping out of your talent funnel.
However, the advantages of this experience extend beyond just your applicants.
Here’s how delivering a positive candidate experience benefits your company and brand:
Employer branding significantly influences how a business is perceived, not only by customers but by employees and prospective job seekers, too.
It, therefore, comes as no surprise that 72% of recruiting leaders agree employer branding has a significant impact on hiring.
In the job market, potential candidates share information about a company among themselves. They also post reviews on websites, such as Glassdoor, exposing your good, your bad, and your ugly. These reviews get seen by nearly everyone:
75% of job seekers check an employer’s brand before applying for a job, with 50% saying they would turn down an opportunity to work for a company with a bad reputation
83% of candidates would consider never applying for another job with a company if they had a poor candidate experience 
If word gets out that your applicants have had a lackluster experience, you risk cutting off a significant portion of job seekers, drying up your talent pipeline.
Providing a good candidate experience generates positive awareness about your brand, even among people who haven’t applied yet.
Improving your candidate experience enables your business to increase the number of applicants to your open roles, Some applicants, such as recent college grads, may be looking at candidate experience especially closely.
Positive experiences encourage candidates to reapply in the future, even if they were not selected for a previous position.
When candidates and employees share their good experiences with their friends and family, they are also likely to refer job seekers to your company. More referrals means more candidates to choose from.
As a talent source, employee referral programs offer some key advantages to your talent strategy:
Reduced risk of ghosting: A Glassdoor study indicates that referred candidates are more likely to accept a job offer, reducing the risk of candidates ghosting.
Higher retention: Referred employees are also likely to stay on the job longer than other talent sources, hence reducing turnover costs.
Candidates are more likely to choose a company that has consistently engaged with them and demonstrated genuine interest throughout the hiring process.
A positive candidate experience widens your talent funnel, increasing your chances of landing the best talent out there.
Furthermore, combining a great candidate experience with an effective candidate nurturing campaign helps you pinpoint and further engage your best prospects once they’re within your talent pipeline.
Even if a candidate is not selected for a role, effective nurturing ensures they leave with a positive view of the organization.
This leaves the door open for potential referrals and boomerang employees, another goldmine of quality hires.
With 92% of applicants saying they quit out of lengthy or complex job applications, it’s critical that you focus on building an application process that caters to your candidates.
Candidates do not want to spend hours filling out a single application and answering questions that don’t actually reflect their skills. They want a simple, streamlined process that lets them demonstrate their ability to do the job.
Furthermore, since mobile devices have become the tool of choice for job seekers, making your site mobile-friendly is a key component of a positive candidate experience.
An Appcast study reveals that 67% of job applicants used their mobile devices to apply for jobs in 2021, up from 51% in 2019.
A mobile-optimized career page enables job applicants to complete the application process rather than dropping midstream, hence improving your chances of finding an excellent hire.
Applicants who have had a positive experience with your organization are more likely to share their experiences with their professional networks.
When they speak highly of your company, it can lead to additional qualified candidates expressing interest in working for your organization.
A positive reputation also sets the stage for successful recruitment. It ensures that you have access to a pool of candidates who are qualified and enthusiastic about joining your company.
According to research by the Talent Board, companies with great candidate experience have four key things in common:
They communicate with the candidate at every step of the hiring process
They set clear expectations for the hiring process
They have a fair hiring process
They hold themselves accountable and track candidate experience metrics regularly
You can achieve these standards by implementing the following candidate experience best practices:
1. Make it easy for candidates to learn about you
- Make your company discoverable across multiple platforms
- Share your mission and values so candidates know if you’re the right employer for them
2. Craft skills-based job descriptions
Use skills tests to help you create clear and concise job descriptions that answer common candidate questions
3. Create a stellar interview process
- Follow a structured interview approach
- Ensure your interview process is professional and streamlined by training your interviewers
4. Commit to inclusive hiring
- Make all candidates feel welcome by using inclusive language in your application process
- Ensure your actions align with your words
5. Use your skills database for future hiring
Review your applicant database for candidates who match the job specifications and reduce the cost- and time-to-hire
6. Keep in touch between offer acceptance and onboarding
Keep in touch with candidates until their first day by sending onboarding materials, company policies, or checking on them via a phone call
7. Use the right tools to optimize your candidate experience
Leverage tools – such as talent assessments, live chat, chatbots, and survey tools – to optimize your candidate experience
The first step for a smooth candidate experience is making your company and open roles easily discoverable on multiple platforms.
If candidates have to search for a needle in a haystack to find out how to apply for a job, their experience is off to a bad start.
The career page of your site is the first port of call for candidates looking for vacant positions. Make this page easy to find and browse so candidates don’t spend a lot of time looking for it – otherwise, they end up leaving before they even see the vacancies.
This straightforwardness pertains to more than just your job postings, though.
Job seeking has evolved beyond just how much a company pays or how much time off they offer. In one LinkedIn study, more than half of currently employed young workers said they are considering changing jobs for an employer whose values align more closely with their own.
You should wear your company values along every step of the candidate experience. Make them clear on your “About Us” pages and job listings, and be sure to speak about your company culture during interviews. This creates a stronger impression on applicants and helps both of you decide if your firm is a good match.
This goes doubly for your social media recruiting efforts.
Social media has become a preferred job search channel for candidates, so make an effort to engage with your visitors by answering questions about the recruitment process and emphasizing your values.
The job description is the first step in crafting a better candidate experience since it informs applicants about the role’s key requirements.
Ensure your job descriptions are simple enough to avoid boring the candidate yet detailed enough to answer key questions they might have about the role and the company.
Use skills testing to prepare your job descriptions, so candidates know exactly what skills are needed for the position and what their responsibilities will be.
Confusing or vague job descriptions can easily drive the right candidates away because they reflect a lack of organization in your company.
Consider how you might craft a job description for a programming position, for example.
Approach the job application process from the candidate’s point of view and think about what questions they want answered:
Which coding languages are necessary for this position?
What role does this position play within the wider team?
What soft skills help the candidate succeed in this role?
The job interview is the first direct point of contact between your company and the candidate, so you want to make sure you nail this step.
A poor interview process can undo all of your work up to this point. If the interview clashes with their perception of your company, they’re going to walk away having doubts about the job.
Remember that your job interviewers are your brand ambassadors. Training them on how to conduct fair interviewing and avoid unconscious bias is crucial.
The key to this is a structured interview approach. Interviews that are not properly structured let unconscious bias creep in, leading to an unfair process and a poor experience in turn.
Many candidates also do not do well in unstructured scenarios. More introverted candidates, for example, may experience anxiety in off-the-cuff situations, making them feel uncomfortable in your company.
Above all, your interviews should make your candidates feel welcome. By structuring your interview and asking each candidate the same questions, you show them you value a fair process and an efficient, organized interview experience.
To aid this further, you can use an automated interview scheduling tool to help you streamline your interview process.
Respect that candidates have their own plans and schedules, so it's best practice to ask the candidate the day or time they are available. When recruiting internationally, consider candidates’ time zones and plan accordingly.
Candidates' physical comfort level during the interview process influences their experience, too. You can facilitate this by organizing accommodations for candidates who might require them.
Provide both online and physical interviewing options so that candidates can choose whichever they prefer.
Lastly, don’t keep candidates waiting for too long. Applicants cite a long wait after the interview process as one of the most frustrating aspects of the job search. 
When posting a job ad, keep inclusive hiring practices in mind because you want to attract a wide range of applicants.
You want to make sure that any candidates considering a position in your company feel welcomed and can imagine working in an organization that values psychological safety.
For this reason, use inclusive language to avoid creating a bad experience during the job search and application stage. For example, avoid masculine-coded language, such as “assertive” or “ninja.”
Most importantly, make sure your statements align with your actions. It makes no sense to give inclusive statements if your actions go in the opposite direction.
Incorporate DEI at all levels of the organization to send a message of belonging to underrepresented groups.
Use an applicant tracking system to build a database of previous applicants whose skills you would like to tap into in the future.
When rejecting candidates, many companies promise that they’ll consider the applicant for future roles but don’t always do so.
By using your skills database to inform previous applicants about new job opportunities, you fulfill this promise and build a level of trust between you and the candidate.
Even if these opportunities don’t bear fruit, you’ve shown the candidate that your company is willing to go above and beyond in helping their job search.
This communication also aids in your candidate nurturing efforts, increasing your ability to tap into this talent in the future.
The recruitment process is highly demanding on your HR team. Once you give a candidate an offer, it's common to assume that everything is done and dusted.
However, the lack of any follow-up between offer acceptance and reporting can be disconcerting to your candidates. With candidates receiving an average of two to three offers, your silence might drive them into the arms of your competitors.
It's critical to keep in touch with the candidate until their first day at work. Sending onboarding materials and company policies or just checking on them via phone fosters a positive relationship with the new hire before they step through the door.
Invest in a great onboarding experience to give the candidate a good first impression of the company. With seven in 10 employees citing an exceptional onboarding process in their job satisfaction rating, you do not want to drop the ball so late in the game.
Leveraging talent acquisition technology in your hiring plans makes it easy and intuitive not just for the hiring managers but for the candidates as well.
Talent assessment tests play a pivotal role here.
Candidates want to know that they’re being judged on their ability to actually do the job they’re applying for rather than the experience they can list on a resume or the connections they have.
Talent assessments remove the biases commonly associated with traditional hiring methods and resume screening. It should come as no surprise that 54.3% of candidates prefer a hiring process that includes skills-based assessments.
A hiring process that incorporates skill assessments lets candidates walk away from the process, satisfied that they were able to properly demonstrate their skills.
Further, ensure seamless communication with your potential talent. Recruiting automation tools, such as live chat and chatbots, enable a consistent flow of information at every stage of the hiring process.
Remember, though, that these automation tools should be used to supplement, not replace, direct human communication. If an applicant is only ever talking to a chatbot, they’re going to get frustrated and take a bad experience away with them.
Perform regular audits on your application process and review your talent acquisition analytics to establish the ease or difficulty candidates have when interacting with your company in their job search.
Candidate experience survey tools like online questionnaires help you detect candidates’ pain points and inform an improved roadmap.
Companies are improving their candidate experiences to get ahead of competitors in the battle for top talent.
These three organizations have recognized the value of providing an exceptional experience in their recruitment efforts and have made steps to cater their process accordingly.
Use them as inspiration.
Recruiters practice different interview techniques through role-playing to provide fairer interviews for job candidates
A hiring process “designed for the disappointed” ensures that even unsuccessful candidates walk away with a great experience
Bain & Company
The company turned to skills assessments to review job applications and rank candidates objectively, resulting in a fairer process and faster time-to-hire
In a bid to enhance its candidate experience, Slack asks its recruiters to prepare for interviews by role-playing with other employees. This activity aims to raise awareness of how unconscious bias can influence the interview process and results.
When interviewers put a lid on their inherent biases, it impacts positively on candidates who feel they are being evaluated on their abilities alone.
Slack interviewers also practice structured interview techniques to enhance consistency during the process.
Relying on predetermined questions and evaluation criteria leads to fairer assessments and a more positive perception of the process.
Delta Airlines’ hiring process is famously “designed for the disappointed.”
The company strives to ensure that its unsuccessful candidates leave with a positive impression of the company.
Delta achieves this by approaching its application process from the candidate’s perspective.
It asks candidates how they felt during the process and has its leaders go through mock application processes to gather first-hand experience. This helps the airline identify areas that are lacking or that may be off-putting to potential hires.
Delta also aims to foster transparency in every step of the experience. Its job listings give a realistic snapshot of the position’s responsibilities and describe the entire application process.
Finally, the company believes that an informed candidate is the best candidate.
Delta makes sure to let candidates know the outcome of their applications as soon as possible and even suggests areas that candidates can improve in – offering classes to help applicants build skills, so they walk away from the process having developed themselves.
Bain & Company, a global consultancy company, previously relied on manual resume screening techniques.
Reviewing the applications proved time-consuming and tedious, leading to a long time to hire and a negative candidate experience.
The company turned to TestGorilla to conduct assessments at the top of its hiring funnel, making it possible to rank candidates based on their skills.
Shifting to this skills-based hiring approach enabled Bain to improve its candidate experience because the testing process was quick and simple, and candidates knew they were being judged fairly.
According to the company’s spokesperson, Bain’s entire recruiting strategy is built on making sure candidates are comfortable, and talent assessments helped Bain extend that comfort into the early stages of its hiring process.
The candidate experience shouldn’t be an afterthought but a critical pillar of your overall talent acquisition strategy.
Ensuring candidates maintain a positive impression of your company throughout the entire hiring process results in immense benefits – positive online reviews, a larger talent pool, a database of quality candidates for future recruitment drives, an enviable employer brand, and better hires.
To sum it up, incorporating skills-based hiring makes the process faster, easier, and bias-free.
For example, try our Google Analytics test to hire for your next SEO analyst position.
Next, learn more about how data driven recruiting helps you reduce the risk of losing talent during your hiring process.
"Nationwide Study from CareerBuilder Reveals Six Facts Every Employer Should Know About the Candidate Experience”. (May 21, 2015). CareerBuilder. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://press.careerbuilder.com/2015-05-21-Nationwide-Study-from-CareerBuilder-Reveals-Six-Facts-Every-Employer-Should-Know-About-the-Candidate-Experience
“The Ultimate List of Employer Brand Statistics For Hiring Managers, HR Professionals, and Recruiters”. LinkedIn. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/talent-solutions/global/en_us/c/pdfs/ultimate-list-of-employer-brand-stats.pdf
Westfall, Brian. (February 18, 2016). “8 Tips for Improving the Online Candidate Experience”. SoftwareAdvice. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/8-tips-improve-candidate-experience/
Chamberlain, Andrew. (August 12, 2015). “Why Interview Sources Matter in Hiring: Exploring Glassdoor Interviews Data”. Glassdoor. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://www.glassdoor.com/research/interview-sources
“‘We see you’: Why an employer’s values matter to job seekers”. (April 27, 2023). LinkedIn. Retrieved September 25, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/we-see-you-why-employers-values-matter-job-seekers/
“Are You Taking Too Long to Hire?”. (August 2016). Robert Half. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://www.roberthalf.com/us/en/insights/hiring-help/are-you-taking-too-long-to-hire
Harrington, Sian. (October 2018). “Recruitment: Design for the disappointed”. PeopleSpace. Retrieved September 19, 2023. https://www.thepeoplespace.com/practice/articles/recruitment-design-disappointed
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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