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How to improve your candidate experience

13 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. Learn how to improve candidate experience in our guide.

Author: Rosemin Anderson

Subject Matter Expert: Nicole Parish

What is candidate experience?

Somebody applying for a job at your organization will go through your hiring process: early awareness, sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding. This process, along with the people they meet along the way, creates the candidate experience and influences a candidate’s perception of a business.

Why is great candidate experience so important?

Great talent chooses an employer not just based on your employer value proposition (EVP), but also on how that value is established during their candidate experience. It can be the key differentiator for a candidate who is choosing between you and a competitor – in fact, 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
  • Better candidate experiences lead to improved early employee engagement
  • 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 be more likely to give balanced feedback in reviews (both online and offline) about their experience with your company – making them brand ambassadors
  • Your employer brand gets a boost

positive candidate experience

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.

It’s clear a positive candidate experience is vital for good business, but how do you go about creating a candidate experience that will delight?

Free eBook: The candidate experience playbook

How to improve your candidate experience

If you’re looking to improve candidate experience in a concrete way, look no further. Here’s our step by step guide to creating a candidate experience that will be memorable, easily replicated and effective.

1. Define your employer value proposition (EVP) and build your recruitment assets around it

To attract the right candidates and to ensure they’re the ones that are successful at your business, you need to first establish the “give” and the “get” of the employer/employee relationship. Candidates need to be able to truly opt into the hiring process, knowing fully what they’ll be giving to your business – and what they’ll get out of the role in return.

Establishing what you’re looking for employees to “give” – that is, what they’ll provide for the business, what they need to commit to and what sacrifices they’ll need to make to do so – allows your candidates to self-select accurately.

However, you also need to outline what they will “get” in return. Is it a mutual value exchange? Judging whether the “give” is worth the “get” is half the battle of deciding whether to apply for a role or not – and for being the right fit for the business in question.

By clearly outlining your EVP, you can more accurately define your personas and adapt your marketing to reflect the reality of your candidates’ experiences. This leads to higher retention rates and a better likelihood that your new employees will stick.

2. Create your candidate personas

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 recruiting 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. Are they Gen Z or Millennial? With 48% of Gen Z and Millennials with work experience applying to jobs they’ve found on social media, you’ll need to consider where your ideal job seeker will be looking for a job description.

3. 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 hiring process touchpoint must showcase the company and demonstrate how well it values employees.This can be as simple as writing in your company tone of voice, or highlighting your key values that might attract candidates you’d like (green credentials to attract an eco-conscious candidate, for example).

Talented, qualified candidates will breeze past a job description that’s generic, and spot the discrepancy between a declaration of being a “company that cares” when their time is being wasted playing phone tag. Job seekers will judge you at every turn, so don’t waste an opportunity to show how great your company is and what your company culture is about.

4. Make your careers webpage your best recruitment asset

This is the first place interested job seekers will head for in the recruiting process, 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…

5. 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.

They’re also likely to give up on an application that requires them to re-input all of the information that’s already on their resumés. Employer value will decrease, as the candidate believes the brand’s technology isn’t up to scratch to be able to automatically pull that information.

It’s essential that your process is simple, succinct and short to grab the best people. Don’t put candidates off because of input friction – make things as easy as possible.

6. Write killer job descriptions that don’t overpromise

Your job descriptions should 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%. Bear this in mind when you write clear job descriptions, and you’ll attract a wider pool of qualified candidates in the job application process.

7. Let job seekers know what to expect from the hiring process

Interview stress and anxiety contribute to a very negative candidate experience. Very few people are their authentic selves under recruitment process pressure, so ease job seekers’ nerves and expectations by telling them what’s going to happen in advance. Explain each step of the recruitment process and offer support and resources to prepare. This shows you not only care about each candidate, but want them to shine as themselves.

8. Don’t keep good people hanging about

In a job seekers’ market, who dares wins, and savvy companies will snap up top talent by having a great candidate experience and letting them know quickly when a decision has been made.

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. Keep your team and your job applicants updated with a good applicant tracking system and communicate frequently.

9. Showcase your place

You may have already offered tours, open days, or other networking events for prospective candidates. Physically meeting a candidate during the hiring process is also your golden opportunity to show them around the workspace, experience the company culture and meet future colleagues. It’ll set expectations of what they’ll encounter if they join, and you’ll see how potential candidates interact with your existing team.

10. Communication is king

65% of job seekers say they never or rarely receive notice of their application process status. That’s plain rude, and one of the easiest ways to get your company a poor reputation. With applicant tracking systems and CRMs, 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.

11. Rock the interview

Preparation is everything. Train your hiring manager to get the best out of candidates – equitably and without bias, and let interviewees demonstrate what they’ve prepared before entering the interview process. The best interviews feel like friendly, relaxed chats where everyone gets to share information and find out about each other. The more natural a candidate’s experience, the more likely it is you’ll see the best of them in the hiring process.

12. 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.

Providing a positive candidate experience can also include the rejection portion, as well. If possible, providing constructive feedback is also a nice gesture. Candidates are four times more likely to consider applying to your company again if you offer constructive feedback.

You can also ask for feedback on your recruitment process; include surveys about all aspects of the candidate journey. Next time you open the application process, you’ll have a better idea of what to change for more success in the next round.

13. Measure candidate experience

It can be easy in the hiring process to forget that you need to measure candidate experience to improve your results in the future, but you shouldn’t! You can use a tool like Qualtrics® XM for People Teams®  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. Getting a measurement on candidate perception from the wider market can also give you a good steer on what processes to update or streamline.

14. Empathy is everything for a positive candidate experience

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. Ensure all aspects of the entire hiring process – from the attitude of your hiring manager to the job description – takes into account how the candidate might be feeling. The change to your candidate experience could be profound.

Improve candidate experience with Qualtrics®

If you’re looking to improve candidate experience and hire talent that meaningfully contributes to your business, look no further than the Qualtrics® candidate experience solution. Design, test and improve your candidate experience, drawing in the best candidates into your recruitment process pipeline. Increase your candidate conversion rate while reducing costs, taking the hassle out of the talent sourcing and interview process.

Free eBook: The candidate experience playbook