Improving candidate experience has become an important part of the job for recruiters and HR departments.
Also, candidates are more likely to become engaged employees if they had a smooth and engaging application procedure. This makes it important for recruiters and HR departments to rethink their application process to ensure a positive experience for your candidates.
What is the candidate experience?
Even though candidate experience has no official definition, it is often used to refer to how applicants perceive and react to the recruiting, screening, hiring and interviewing processes. It can be measured by candidate feedback (collected through questionnaires), employee retention rates, and employee referrals.
Most employers didn’t pay much attention to the overall experience of their hiring process in the past, as the cost of a poor experience was low. If applicants had a bad experience with an employer the only consequences were that:
- they probably wouldn’t apply again,
- they might not buy from the company (if they did to begin with),
- and/or they might tell close friends and family how they were treated.
But with the help of social media and the internet, candidates now have power to recount their experiences and express their feelings to a massive audience. Worse yet, a hyper-relevant audience: your future candidates. If a candidate is treated poorly, they can write bad reviews about the company on multiple websites.
Also, due to the pervasive nature of social media, candidates’ social circles have grown significantly. Social platforms like Twitter or Facebook enable candidates to reach a great number of people close to them (and not so close too!) fairly easily. This has the potential to lead to far more damage to the brand than it did before the Internet era.
On the other hand, a good recruitment experience can lead to more and better applicants, resulting in better hires. Employees and candidates will also be more likely to refer qualified candidates (and potentially even customers). Improved recruitment experiences can help lower your hiring costs and time to fill when it comes to open vacancies.
Why is candidate experience important?
Think about candidate experience in the same way that you would think of customer experience. If your organization was providing a poor service to customers, then this would likely be at the top of your list to change, right? How you treat your candidates will ultimately reflect on how you treat employees: both of which have direct impacts on your overall business performance.
Let’s dig into why a positive candidate experience is ultimately good for business.
- A positive candidate experience will make top talent more likely to join your team.
- Alternatively, a poor candidate experience will drive top talent away.
- Candidates (and employees) talk. If people are having a bad experience with your company, then they have many platforms on which to share their thoughts, including Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, and good old-fashioned word of mouth.
- All that talk of poor experience will ultimately hurt your employer brand and make it harder to attract top talent.
- A positive experience sets your candidates off on the right foot and makes them feel like a valued part of the team.
That last point is key to understanding the immediate benefits of a positive candidate experience.
Employees want to feel that they are welcome, supported, and part of a team that cares about their well being and growth.
Providing that positive candidate experience has direct benefits for companies and employees, including:
- Boosting long term retention rates
- Increasing employee loyalty
- Improving engagement and commitment to results
- Helping to create a strong culture
- Reducing costs associated with attrition and employee churn
Besides these tangible benefits to your business, job seekers simply expect that their experience with a company will be a positive one. And, they’re willing to look elsewhere if it’s not.
Here are several candidate experience statistics that illustrate that point:
- Candidates are 38% more likely to accept a job offer if the candidate experience was positive.
- 69% of candidates will never apply to your company again if the candidate experience is negative.
- 72% of candidates who have a negative experience will tell others about it.
Clearly, candidate experience is important. But what constitutes “good” or “bad” experiences?
Let’s dig into that now.
What is considered a bad candidate experience?
Think of all of the things that you, as a job seeker, would expect from a company. That list would likely include: clear communication, no time-wasting, friendly conversations, and honest feedback.
As you can imagine, bad candidate experiences do exactly the opposite. In particular, negative candidate experiences typically involve:
- A lack of communication or responsiveness from the employer
- An overly complicated and time-consuming job application process
- An inability to complete the job application on their device of choice
- Unpleasant interviews with unfriendly or disinterested employees
- No opportunity to ask questions or learn more about the company
- No opportunity to provide feedback on the process
As mentioned at the start of this article, gone are the days when a company can rely on their brand alone to attract top talent. In reality, the candidate has just as much power as you do to say “I’m not interested.”
The cost and impact of a bad candidate experience, therefore, range from missing out on top talent, to potentially losing valuable employees due to a disconnect between what is promised in the hiring process and on-the-job reality.
How to improve your candidate experience
Improving the overall experience in your hiring process requires you to start out by thoroughly evaluating every step in your hiring process. By doing this, you will be able to identify areas for improvement. Remember: your communication with the candidate in between hiring steps plays a role in the overall experience and should also be assessed.
The hiring process from a candidate’s perspective can be a high-stakes and high-stress experience. Often candidates want the job but are unsure of what it takes to be selected as your next team member. This can cause anxiety. In fact, a survey conducted in the US suggests that as high as 93% of job seekers experience anxiety as a result of interviews.
A great candidate experience can be a great way of relieving stress among candidates, enabling them to focus on showing your team their best qualities and skills.
There’s no set recipe for a great candidate experience, but there are a few ingredients you can use to make sure yours is great.
Here we’ll cover ten crucial, but often missed, components to improve your candidate experience.
1. Make sure you’re hiring to fill a real need
A good candidate experience is one that has a clear purpose and goal. This starts with ensuring that you and your organization are crystal clear on what you need from a skills and talent perspective, and what type of candidate will fill those gaps.
Before asking candidates to apply for a job, you should:
- Perform and skills gap analysis to determine your exact needs.
- Coordinate closely with the hiring manager to establish a job title.
- Write clear job requirements that align with your need and chosen job title.
Failing to go through these steps increases the likelihood that you will need to change directions or second guess the hiring need at some point in the process. This, ultimately, leads to delays, poor communication, and wasted time for the candidates.
2. Make it easy for candidates to apply for jobs
Your goal as a recruiter should be to make it as easy as possible for qualified candidates to find and apply for your positions. Everyone is busy, and most people won’t be willing to spend excess time trying to figure out how to apply for a position that’s hidden behind a cumbersome application process.
To do so, you should:
- Make sure your careers site is easy to find
- Give clear instructions at each stage of the application process
- Offer LinkedIn easy applications, where possible
- Remove unnecessary steps in the application and screening process
- Make the application process, and all touch points thereafter, mobile friendly
- Send a confirmation email once the application has been received
- Provide timely follow-up and next steps once they are known
While the application process is extremely important, the next point is where the majority of candidate experiences will either shine or fizzle out.
3. Reach out with any delays.
One of the biggest complaints recruiters face is with candidate communication.
While great candidate communication forms one of the pillars of a good experience, it can be difficult to keep in touch with candidates when you are working multiple requirements. Additionally, a lack of updates can be both frustrating for the hiring party and the candidate.
Sometimes tracking down an update for a candidate can be out of your control; the hiring manager went on holiday, you’re waiting on paperwork to be processed, or any other number of reasons. However, in the absence of a substantial update (you would like to offer them the position, invite them to the next stage, or reject them from the process) it’s important to inform your candidates.
An email or call explaining the circumstances or delay in the decision can go a long way in promoting a great candidate experience. Sometimes no news at all is good news.
Keeping your candidate informed will let them feel you’re still on the case, actively seeking a decision for them.
4. Record important information on your candidate profiles.
When you have so many balls rolling in your hiring process, important information can be missed, especially if the communication happens over the phone or during a meeting.
Miscommunications can be particularly problematic when it comes to the offer stage. If information regarding salary expectations or start date were not recorded appropriately, this can lead to a negative candidate experience. Additionally, if you have to ask your candidate multiple times for the same information, this can be perceived as a lack of attentiveness.
Make sure to follow-up any meeting or call by recording any vital information in your ATS. This will help keep you prepared and minimize any miscommunications with your candidates.
5. Outline your hiring process in the job description.
The biggest cause of candidate anxiety stems from the fact that they don’t know what to expect from your organization.
There’s a quick and easy fix that can help ease at least some nerves: outline the basics of your hiring process in the job description. This small addition to your job descriptions can help your potential candidates understand what might be required of them.
It’s normal to be hesitant to share the details with your candidates in case they arrive over-rehearsed. But if you provide only the most basic information, this can be avoided. Share only the basic steps so they know what to expect if they are successful in each round.
By managing expectations you will automatically be providing a better candidate experience.
6. Share the LinkedIn profiles of the interviewers ahead.
Candidates will inevitably (and hopefully!) do their own interview preparation ahead of the meeting. However, sometimes candidates can be left wondering who their interviewers will be.
For a great candidate experience, send them a detailed interview invitation with the interviewers’ LinkedIn profile links. This can help the candidate get a good feeling of whom they’ll be speaking with from within the business. Additionally, it will prompt the interviewers to have a look at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile.
7. Outline what candidates can expect after each step.
Sometimes this small element is missed in the hustle of the hiring process. Outlining what a candidate can expect after every step in your recruitment process will help keep the process moving smoothly.
With clear expectations, candidates won’t be left wondering if and when they should follow-up or if they need to prepare anything in advance. With next steps clear after every stage, you’ll be well on your way toward a great candidate experience.
8. Keep in touch in between offer acceptance and onboarding.
The hiring process can be very intense. Once a candidate accepts your offer, it’s easy to fall into the trap that they’re signed, sealed, and delivered.
However, the radio silence that most candidates receive post-acceptance can be concerning and provoke second thoughts. Until the candidate starts their first day with your company, make sure they’re still having a great candidate experience.
Engaging your candidates during this last stage before they join your company can be a great way to build on a positive candidate experience. Keep in touch, and update them with any changes or information they may need to have before their first day.
We here at Recruitee love taking this as an opportunity to show our new team members how excited we are to have them join us.
During this last step, we send our candidates a starter packet with basic information and resources as well as a fun gif. We hope that this is the cherry on top of a great candidate experience.
A gif we made for our new colleague, Daniel
10. Be open to giving and receiving feedback.
Many companies shy away from providing feedback to rejected candidates, for fear of legal issues. But you can address those fears by carefully structuring your feedback.
The further a candidate advances in the hiring process, the more likely they are to expect specific, personalized feedback delivered. This can help candidates approach their job search more strategically and help them discover whether they’d like to explore more job opportunities with you.
It’s also worth asking candidates to give you feedback too. A candidate experience survey can help you ask the right questions and help improve the overall candidate experience.
How to measure candidate experience
Before you can improve your company’s candidate experience, you need to understand what job seekers and employees think of it currently. To do so, you need to know how to measure candidate experience.
Here are some common ways to measure candidate experience:
- Ask candidates to fill out a short survey at the end of the hiring process to get an idea of what they thought, and what could be improved. This can be done via email, and may include an incentive and thank you for their time.
- Read employer review boards like Glassdoor and Indeed. Look at feedback around the interview process. This gives you both ratings and written feedback that can be used to inform a qualitative and quantitative analysis.
- Parse social media for mentions of your brand and comments about your candidate experience. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit are particularly good channels for this activity. Where possible, respond to comments and request more information if possible.
- Ask new hires. These new employees are among your most valuable resources when measuring candidate experience. Ask them what they like, didn’t like, and what could be improved.
- Ask employees. Interview employees to learn about what they may have heard about the hiring process, and their impressions of how well new hires are being integrated into the team. This will help provide clues on how effective your onboarding is.
- Use ATS data. Lastly, your company ATS likely contains a treasure trove of analytics data for each part of your hiring process. Review this data to flag any stage at which candidates tend to drop off. If anything stands out, this should be your area of focus and review. Use this tool to monitor improvements or declines in key metrics over time.
Once you have an idea of where your candidate experience currently stands, you can focus your attention on improving it.
Candidate experience is so important in developing a great employer brand and attracting the best talent. While it may require more devoted attention and assessment, make sure you don’t forget these seven elements. These quick fixes can help ease candidates’ nerves and generate a better candidate experience.
Relevant: Don’t forget to check out our Candidate Experience checklist!