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How to improve your candidate experience

7 min read
A great candidate experience doesn’t just boost the quality of talent you attract. It also positively impacts your hiring process, employee experience, employer brand and even overall business performance.


What is candidate experience?

Somebody applying for a job at your organization will go through your recruiting process: sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding. It is their overall perception of this process that we call candidate experience.

Why is great candidate experience so important?

Great talent chooses you, based on their candidate experience. And in a candidate-driven market, you want the best to pick you as their employer – over your competitors.

78% of candidates say that the overall candidate experience they receive indicates how much that company values its employees. A positive candidate experience offers a whole host of advantages:

  • Successful (talented, happy) candidates will accept your job offers
  • Even unsuccessful candidates will reapply for future jobs and refer others, creating a talent pool; they are also more likely to remain loyal customers
  • Candidates will say nice things online and offline about their experience with your company – making them brand ambassadors
  • Your employer brand gets a boost

Conversely, almost 60% of job seekers have experienced poor candidate experience. A negative candidate experience can prompt these reactions:

  • Successful (talented, but unhappy) candidates will turn down your job offers (in fact, the data suggests that 49% of candidates have declined a job offer as a result of a poor experience
  • Unhappy candidates won’t reapply for future jobs and may tell others not to bother either
  • Candidates will be less inclined to buy your products or services and will not recommend them to others
  • 72% of candidates with a negative experience shared it on employer review sites such as Glassdoor.

Find out more about our candidate experience solution

How to improve your candidate experience

  1. Start by creating a candidate persona: This is a fictional profile of your ideal candidate, drawn from team ‘wish lists’ and data. A persona helps define who you are looking for before the recruitment process begins, and is a way to boost diversity hiring initiatives. Once you know who you want, you’ll be able to identify where to find them.
  2. Make every touchpoint along the candidate journey count: Whether it’s a social media job ad, a networking event, the application form or the interview, every touchpoint must showcase the company and demonstrate how well it values employees.
  3. Make your careers webpage your best recruitment asset: This is the first place interested candidates will head for, so make it worth their while. You can also check analytics to see how people use your site and apply via it, as well as application abandonment. Your website should be a branded ‘one stop shop’ that highlights your employee value proposition (EVP), answers every possible question candidates might have, and links directly to…
  4. Your application process – which should be easy: Typically, candidates may spend 3-4 hours filling in a job application, but 60% say they’ve given up on an application because it was too long or complicated. Passive candidates (those who are just checking out the market, not necessarily intending to change jobs) and A-listers (great but time-poor) are put off by lengthy application processes. It’s essential that your process is simple, succinct and short to grab the best people.
  5. Write a killer job description: Explain the job and its responsibilities, showcase your company values and be upfront about salary and benefits. Only include ‘must have’ attributes and leave out ‘nice to have’ – research shows that women only apply for jobs where they match the criteria 100%, whereas men will take a punt and apply at 60%.
  6. Let applicants know what they’re in for: Interview stress and anxiety is so last century. Very few people are their authentic selves under recruitment pressure, so ease candidates’ nerves and expectations by telling them what’s going to happen in advance. Explain each step of the process and offer support and resources to prepare. This shows you not only care about each candidate, but want them to shine as themselves.
  7. Don’t keep good people hanging about: In a candidate’s market, who dares wins, and savvy companies will snap up top talent. By keeping a candidate waiting while you make up your mind, an equally good employer could make an offer. The longer you take to make an offer, the more rival opportunities will come along.
  8. Showcase your place: You may have already offered tours, open days, or other networking events for prospective candidates. Physically meeting a candidate at the interview is also your golden opportunity to show them around the workspace, experience the culture and meet future colleagues.
  9. Communication is king: 65% of job seekers say they never or rarely receive notice of their application status. That’s plain rude, and one of the easiest ways to get your company a poor reputation. With applicant tracking systems, it’s not hard to communicate with every candidate – successful or not. Create personalized email or messaging campaigns at every touchpoint to keep candidates in the loop.
  10. Rock the interview: Preparation is everything. Train your hiring managers to get the best out of candidates – equitably and without bias, and let interviewees demonstrate what they’ve prepared before coming for the interview. The best interviews feel like friendly, relaxed chats where everyone gets to share information and find out about each other.
  11. Good news, bad news: It’s a joy to telephone a successful candidate and offer them the job. But it’s awkward for both sides to phone with a job rejection. Most professionals prefer to receive an email if they didn’t quite make the grade this time round.
  12. Feedback, feedback, feedback: Candidates develop as professionals with constructive feedback, and their feedback insights help you develop and improve your hiring process. Candidates are four times more likely to consider applying to your company again if you offer constructive feedback; this can be given in the ‘I’m sorry you’ve been unsuccessful this time’ email, or separately. And ask for feedback on your recruitment process; include surveys about all aspects of the candidate journey.
  13. Measure your candidate experience: You can use a tool like Qualtrics EmployeeXM to analyze the data coming in from your candidate experience surveys and continually improve your processes. You’ll be able to capture both qualitative and quantitative data and analyze open text responses.
  14. Empathy is everything: You can have the most sophisticated analytics software going, but if you lack the human touch, your candidate experience will be sorely lacking. Appreciating that changing jobs is a big deal for most people, that nerves, shyness and things going wrong on the day can happen to anyone, and ‘walking a mile in another’s shoes’ will demonstrate you really are a great employer. And one everybody will want to work for.

Find out more about our candidate experience solution