How to Create a Better Candidate Experience To Serve Applicants and Your Business

“Thank you so much for the quick response and for letting me know!” – a candidate after I told them they didn’t get the job.

Let’s be real: employers hold all the cards in the job search process. A job seeker can play everything in their hand strategically, but the employer is the House, and the deck is stacked. Yes, the candidate can reject the offer, but the employer has the upper hand – and the ability to never make an offer.

This is an important fact to keep in mind when you’re hiring: looking for a job can feel like a very adversarial process to a candidate. They’re operating in a void, doing their best with an incomplete set of facts, often receiving very little feedback, and feeling interrogated throughout the recruiting process. How can your hiring process improve this dynamic and encourage candidates to stick it out? 

Why Candidate Experience Matters

The power dynamics between employers and job seekers are changing, with the dramatic shifts in the working age population and the rise of social media. Even a decade ago, a candidate who had a poor experience during an interview would probably not apply again, letting everyone in her inner circle know about her interaction. Today, though, social media communities and employer review sites have radically changed what that inner circle looks like. Imagine if thousands of potential employees heard that your hiring managers were rude or left a candidate waiting in the lobby.

Moreover, candidates are much better informed in their decision-making. The same candidates who look at six reviews before they pick a restaurant won’t apply to your company when they hear about or read negative experiences from other candidates. People barely wait around for shipping that takes more than two days – why should they wait for six weeks while you wrangle a team together for interviews?

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Employers Set the Tone for Candidate Experience

Employers want to find the best candidates, yet find themselves faced with a dwindling number of qualified applicants and mountains of wasted time while culling through stacks of resumes.

As an agency recruiter, I hear employers worrying about the volume and quality of applications they receive. Having a great candidate experience didn’t matter as much in the pre-social media days, when candidates had less information and fewer choices. With unemployment now creeping toward a 50-year low, having a bad candidate experience can actively harm your business.

Let’s review some common employer frustrations: candidates not completing steps in the application process correctly, dropping out before submission, or accepting other positions before a decision has been reached. Take a look at your process before assuming that these shortcomings were a failing on the candidate’s part. If your process takes 6+ weeks, requires multiple forms of testing, or asks a candidate to fill out an application that takes an hour to complete before a preliminary interview, you’re likely asking too much and giving too little.

If candidates aren’t already excited by your culture and employer brand, you could be losing out on talent by adding multiple barriers to your application process. 

How to Center Candidates in Your Recruiting Process

Too many organizations and hiring managers still don’t get it: the way you treat candidates during your recruiting process matters. As you design or improve your hiring process, keep the candidate experience front and center at all times. 

Some things to remember as you create or improve your process:

  1. Respond. According to one statistic, 47 percent of candidates were still waiting to hear back from employers more than two months after they applied. A disappointing fact. It’s even worse to be left hanging for months and months after a candidate had actually interviewed for a role. Even if the answer is ‘no’, people want closure. If they are still in contention, let them know when they can anticipate an update. If they’re not a front runner, show compassion: “What else do you need to hear?” to close the process.
  2. Move quickly. Or at least be ready to move quickly if you’re worried about your company’s process. This is a personal opinion, but if your hiring cycle is more than a phone/Skype interview and two in-person interviews (max!), your process is too long and you’re not managing yours – or your candidate’s – time efficiently. You should also be timely during interviews. Many candidates are on the job search while still working, so beginning late, being disorganized, or having repetitive questions from different team members indicates that your time if more valuable than theirs.
  3. Be transparent. If you really want to gauge a candidate’s fit for a role, and let them evaluate whether the company and position is right for them, indicate the key functions of the job, including the salary range and key aspects of the role, at the beginning of the process. People value authenticity more than most companies might think.
  4. Set the candidate up for success. An interview is tense by nature, so do your best to move beyond frustration, nerves, and canned answers by giving the candidate an introduction that includes background and context for both your company and the role, rather than putting them on the spot by asking the dreaded first question: “Tell me about yourself.” Also, the more information you can give them before the interview on who they’ll be meeting, dress code (e.g. “Just a heads up – we’re a pretty casual office, and jeans are totally acceptable.”), the key interests of the team…all of this information will go a long way toward making sure you’re seeing the candidate put their best foot forward.
  5. Be prepared. Your team should also be prepared for the interview. They should know, logistically, when and where they’ll be meeting, and make sure the space is neat and private. Come to the table with an agenda. Your staff included in the interview should know what questions are okay to ask and which are not. They should be reminded to be friendly and welcoming.
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There are lots of ways to improve the way candidates view your company! If you’re still asking yourself how you can create a great candidate experience, here’s the short answer: practice empathy, think about what candidates experience at every step of your current process, and find ways to make that process more positive!