8 Steps to Create a Positive Candidate Experience
Want happy, productive employees and a good corporate reputation? It starts by creating a positive candidate experience. In a candidate-driven market, it’s more important than ever to consider your recruitment process from the candidate’s perspective.
Read on to learn why the candidate experience is so valuable to your brand, ways to create a great candidate experience, and how you can measure your efforts accurately.
Here are eight strategies to create a positive candidate experience:
What is the “candidate experience”?
The candidate experience is essentially how a person feels as they go through a company’s hiring process. It’s one of the most important factors for attracting talent and has the power to impact whether or not a candidate will apply or accept a job.
A candidate’s experience is more relevant than ever. Why? The employer-candidate relationship has seen a power shift in the past decade, particularly since COVID-19 effectively rewrote corporate recruiting rulebooks. Chalk it up to a tight labor market and the Great Resignation, or a louder collective voice regarding the employee experience and expectations. Historically, employers were able to call the shots during the hiring process. Now, this power has shifted to the candidates.
What are the benefits of a positive candidate experience?
A good candidate experience is necessary to find hires. A great candidate experience helps you win over top talent, benefiting not only your recruiting but your business overall.
You’ll stand out from the competition
Chances are high that candidates are applying to several different companies at the same time. The job titles, locations, salary, and perks may be very comparable on paper. How a candidate is treated throughout the hiring process can be the biggest differentiator. If the candidate gets more than one job offer, their hiring experience could very likely be part of their deciding factor.
You’ll see a better completion rate
Candidates that start an application and feel supported and personally acknowledged throughout their hiring process are far more likely to see it through. Candidates tend to disappear during the application process (otherwise known as ghosting) due to a lack of communication or a disorganized hiring process.
Candidates will be more likely to refer others
Referrals are often the best source for great candidates. 67% of North American candidates said they were very likely to refer others to the company based on their experience.
Implications of a bad candidate experience
Candidates might decline the role
58% of job seekers have made it all the way through a hiring process, and ultimately decide the role isn’t for them due to a poor experience.
You’ll lose a
41% of those who have had a negative candidate experience won’t buy from your brand anymore.
Candidates will share their bad experiences
37% of candidates said they left a negative review online after having a bad hiring experience.
You won’t get repeat candidates
42% of candidates won’t apply for another position at your company if they’ve had a bad experience with you.
It’s not only the candidate who suffers when you fail to provide a positive candidate experience.
60% of candidates talk about their hiring experiences with friends and family, which means their negative experience could potentially have a far-reaching impact on overall brand reputation
How to provide a great candidate experience
A great candidate experience requires work throughout the hiring process. Here’s how you can improve the experience for every candidate by making small changes from the job requisition, all the way through to onboarding:
1. Have a clear idea of the job you’re hiring for
A hiring process quickly falls apart when the team isn’t quite sure what they’re looking for. If the vision is unclear, it can cause the recruitment process to be lengthy and disorganized – two components that create a stressful hiring experience for everyone, including candidates. Additionally, you may hire the wrong person or possibly end up not hiring anyone. It’s essential that everyone involved in the hiring understands the role they’re looking to fill, and what skills are needed.
Check out job descriptions for similar roles. Are you asking for too much? Or too little?
2. Write an accurate, yet enticing job description
Everyone knows the importance of a first impression. Consider your job description as a glimpse into what it could be like to work for your company. How do you want candidates to feel when reading it? Excited, enthusiastic, like they want to drop everything else and click ‘apply’ right away?
A job description needs to be about more than just what you’re looking for. Sure, the requirements for the role are a very necessary part, but in a candidate-driven market it’s paramount you answer the “What’s in it for me?” question that every candidate has, too.
- Lay out any perks and benefits up top to show that you prioritize their employee experience.
- Include a company description that explains what you do, and why it’s important.
- Make sure the job description and skill requirements are accurate. Speak to the hiring manager and team members to clarify main duties.
- Use clear, factual language throughout – as an organization, you’ll look confident and trustworthy. Candidates will be able to better determine their fit and feel good about applying.
Components for a candidate-focused job description
Company perks and benefits
What you do, and why it’s important
Accurate job description and necessary requirements
17% of candidates withdraw from the recruiting process because of discrepancies between the job description and their interview.
3. Make it easy (and even fun) to apply
As a candidate, there’s nothing more frustrating than filling out a lengthy application form, only to then be asked to upload your resume which has the exact same fields included. Behind the scenes, we know application questions can help with filtering and screening processes, but from a candidate’s perspective, they’ve had to explain themselves twice.
To deter candidates from clicking ‘X’ halfway through, you need to make it easy to apply by keeping your application short and simple. Ask only ultra-relevant questions to show respect for your candidates’ time. Consider also making your application process totally mobile-friendly. Not only does this widen the applicant pool (nearly 90% of job seekers use a mobile device when looking for a job), but it provides the start of a much more user-friendly, modern experience.
We’ve covered how to make the application process easy, but what about fun? Some applicant tracking systems allow you to easily add brand colors, videos, and imagery to the applications and careers pages. Engage and even entertain candidates by showing what it’s really like to work at your company – use short videos of current employees to share welcoming messages and even record them asking specific questions. Most applications are very much text-based, so it’s certainly a way to stand out and be memorable.
Long application = short applicant list
Completion rates drop by 365% if an application takes longer than 15 minutes.
4. Send prompt communication at every stage
A great candidate experience must involve prompt, timely communication, ideally at each stage of the hiring process. If a candidate has taken the time to fill out an application form, they expect some form of receipt. When faced with radio silence they may assume they didn’t fill out the application correctly or their application isn’t going to be acknowledged.
Send all applicants a “thank you” message after they apply, without delay, that explains you’ve received their application, and sets up expectations for the next workflow that sends out an automated email (or even SMS) so your team doesn’t need to reach out personally.
Sending out a prompt thank you message is setting the bar – you’ll need to maintain this level of communication throughout the hiring process. This isn’t to say you need to send an email or SMS instantly after every stage, but the candidate should always know the status of their application and when they’ll hear from you next. It will help to keep the process moving along smoothly.
When should you communicate during the hiring process?
There isn’t a set number of times to reach out, however, your candidates should always know where they are in the hiring process, and what the next steps are. Here’s an example of a good amount of communication:
5. Personalized candidate experience
To truly set yourself apart from the competition, you should look into creating a personalized hiring process. Giving some control to the candidate shows a lot about your company – it shows that you’re prioritizing their preferences and that you want to provide them with their best version of a hiring process.
Providing a personalized candidate experience isn’t as hard as it might sound. A scheduling platform can integrate with work calendars, allowing teams to auto-share real-time availability. Candidates pick an interview based on available time slots. This in itself isn’t game-changing (though it is very convenient) but when paired with allowing candidates to choose how they interview, you’re on to a winning experience.
Certain recruiting software allows you to offer candidates the choice of picking their preferred format of interview – say a live video interview, a pre-recorded video interview, or even an in-person interview (where possible) – all based on your team’s availability. No manual work is needed. It’s a win-win – candidates get to pick the type of interview that works best for them, and your team gets to see the best version of the candidate.
6. Provide the hiring team with all the resources they need
Within the five minutes, it’s easy to tell if a candidate has prepared for their interview. Similarly, a candidate can detect if their interviewers have done their due diligence: without the right preparation, hiring teams may stumble over their interview questions, ask questions clearly answered in their application, or simply seem disengaged. For a candidate that’s been waiting for the opportunity to interview for your company, this can be a really frustrating and disheartening experience.
It’s so so important that anyone involved in hiring knows how to interview effectively and fairly. Recruiting teams need to provide other decision-makers with interview training, and additionally, use a recruiting platform that offers built-in tools to support them during the interview:
- Access to candidate profile: Within the interview link, or within the interview platform, hiring teams should be able to easily access all other information about the candidate.
- Pre-set questions: Recruiters should work with the hiring manager to come up with suitable, relevant questions.
- Rating scales: For an easy way to evaluate, a rating scale (say, a scale from 1-5 or 1-10, should be available for each question).
- Rating guides: Keep evaluations objective with criteria for each score given.
7. Provide interview feedback
If one thing’s for sure, candidates want to hear your thoughts, regardless of whether they’re given the job or not. Nearly every candidate (94%) wants to receive interview feedback. However, there’s a big disparity, with only 41% of candidates ever receiving interview feedback before.
Many companies don’t provide feedback for two main reasons.
- The candidate got the role, so they may assume feedback isn’t really necessary.
- They may shy away from giving feedback to rejected candidates, for fear of legal issues.
A good interview experience isn’t lost if they’ve failed to get the role. By providing constructive feedback, you’re helping to support rejected candidates in their job search. Additionally, these candidates may be more likely to explore future job opportunities with you.
Quick tips to provide respectful constructive feedback to any candidate
Base it on your rating criteria
Relate back to the job description
Be clear and concise
Focus on qualities that can be improved
8. Keep in touch in between offer acceptance and onboarding
A candidate’s experience isn’t over simply because a job offer is signed. Those few weeks between accepting the role and starting at a company can be full of emotions. For most, it’s exciting and nerve-wracking!
How you communicate during this time can really make or break the candidate’s experience. Radio silence can be worrying and increase the likelihood of candidate ghosting. On the other hand, communicating with the candidate too much (e.g. sending training materials, meeting invites, numerous memos that could be shared within the first week) is inappropriate and can make the candidate feel concerned about your expectations.
Consider sending them a “starter pack” to welcome them to the team. This will help to create a positive transition from candidate to employee, plus it’s a great opportunity to share your company culture. Depending on your budget, this could simply be an email with useful information and friendly messages from the team, or you could send them a welcome kit, complete with branded swag to help them feel like a member of the team from day one.
How to measure the candidate experience
The candidate experience is highly subjective and personal to each individual. If you’re only rating the success of a candidate experience from internal observations, you’re probably missing out on some important insights. Here are a few ways you can benchmark the experience and continue to improve.
Promptly send all candidates a survey
In your applicant tracking system, you probably have access to a lot of real-time data. You can use these statistics to interpret the candidate experience:
- Was time-to-hire longer than usual?
- Were there bottlenecks in your hiring process that slowed down a specific hiring stage?
- What was the dropoff rate? Was it during a specific hiring stage?
- How many of your candidates were referrals?
- What’s the overall offer acceptance rate? Does it differ depending on the department/location?
This information can help you pinpoint specific areas where you can improve, particularly when combined with the results of candidate surveys.
The voices of candidates are louder than ever. Their experience with your company can truly make or break their perception of your business and influence the actions of other potential candidates. In this candidate-empowered climate, it’s never been more important to provide a great hiring experience for everyone who applies. Even better, by going above and beyond, you can stand out against the competition, secure top talent, and ultimately build a stronger team.