What is candidate experience?
Candidate experience is essential for organizations to attract, hire and retain top talent. It defines how a job seeker feels about a potential employer, based on the quality of interactions during the entire hiring process.
Candidate experience covers all touchpoints of a recruitment process, including the job search, application process, interview process, onboarding—and all communication along the way.
Why candidate experience matters
Why is candidate experience important? Let’s dive deeper into how a positive candidate experience can help you grow your business and set you apart in today’s competitive job market.
It strengthens your employer brand
A great candidate experience goes hand in hand with a strong employer brand.
Why? Your employer brand is the perception your candidates (and current employees) have of your company so you need to treat your candidates well to keep your reputation in check.
Candidates having a negative experience probably won’t keep quiet about it, especially within certain industries and tight professional networks, where word travels fast. In application, we know that 7 in 10 candidates who have had poor contact with a company shared that experience online, with their relatives, or colleagues.
Many job seekers rely on employer review sites like Glassdoor when considering different companies. Consistently receiving negative online reviews can make it nearly impossible to attract top candidates.
A positive candidate experience, on the other hand, strengthens your employer brand, helping you attract, hire, and retain right-fit candidates.
It reduces your time to hire
A positive candidate experience requires a structured hiring process and good communication. Not only will this keep your candidates happy, but it’ll also help you hire faster.
When you know exactly what should happen at every step of your hiring process, you won’t need to start from scratch whenever there’s a new role to fill. And that can dramatically reduce your time to hire. In short, improve the candidate experience, and you improve your entire recruitment process.
It will increase your job acceptance rate
Especially for sought-after professionals, a good candidate experience can be a deciding factor when choosing whether to accept a new role or not.
In fact, candidates who are satisfied with their experience are 38% more likely to accept a job offer. Simply put, happier candidates will want to work at your company. And since hiring is a big investment, you’ll get a better ROI by providing a top-notch candidate experience.
It makes customers more loyal
Companies tend to pay closer attention to customer experience because it’s more closely tied to revenue. But neglecting your candidate experience will also cost you in the long run.
In fact, 64% of job seekers say that a poor candidate experience would make them less likely to purchase goods and services from that employer. Now, imagine the impact 100 unhappy candidates can have on your business. You could be losing a 100 potential customers.
To properly reject job candidates, you should let them know immediately, be respectful and honest, be brief, ask for feedback and keep their contact information.
“Treat people who don’t get jobs as well as people who do.”
–Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
7 common causes of a bad candidate experience
Take a moment to put yourself in a job seeker’s shoes: From the hours spent searching for jobs and submitting complicated application forms to interviews that don’t seem to go anywhere, it’s easy to become disenchanted with the whole process.
As a recruiter, you don’t want to be the reason a job seeker waves their white flag in defeat. Before we get into how to improve your candidate experience, let’s consider 7 reasons why candidates might be frustrated.
1. Unclear hiring timelines
Telling your candidates “We’ll be in touch soon” but not being clear on who will be in contact and when can leave them confused and frustrated.
Instead, let candidates know when they can expect to hear back from you at each step of the hiring process. Inform candidates about how fast you’re hoping to fill the position, and if anything changes along the way.
2. Irregular communication
Irregular or lack of communication is one of the most common causes of candidate frustration.
81% of job seekers state that if employers would continuously communicate status updates to them, their overall experience would greatly improve.
Going weeks without contact then asking for an interview with a two-hour notice will only get your candidates’ blood boiling. You can dramatically improve a negative candidate experience by prioritizing communication.
3.Poor job descriptions
Have you ever posted a job ad for a junior role that required at least five years of industry experience?
Unless you’re hiring for a more senior or executive position, don’t expect impossible experience levels from your candidates. Sometimes, requiring specific education and experience might not even make sense.
If you’re hiring a sales assistant for your retail store, for instance, will a candidate’s university degree tell you if they can sell electronics in a fast-paced environment? Not necessarily.
Make sure your job ad has realistic expectations and is well targeted to your ideal candidates—you don’t want to deter qualified people from applying.
4. Inefficient processes
Poor communication and unclear hiring timelines usually come from an inefficient hiring process.
It’s easy for hiring managers and recruiters to get overwhelmed when they have no clear baseline for how hiring should work. If you’re collecting applications to different emails and systems, or if hiring responsibilities are unclear within your company, your candidate experience will suffer.
A good hiring process will set you up for repeatable recruitment success. There’s no use investing in employer branding if you don’t have a basic hiring process in place.
5. Long or complicated job application process
Keep it short and simple.
Say you’re applying for a job uploading your resume. You press next, and then you’re asked to mention your work experience, skills, and education. In other words, you’re asked to rewrite your entire resume.
After pulling out their hair in frustration, your candidates might simply close the tab and move on to another opportunity.
6. A bad interview experience
A terrible interview experience can quickly change a candidate’s mind about your company.
Imagine the impression you’d get if you arrived for an interview but the recruiter simply didn’t show up because they forgot? Or if they arrived late with no explanation?
Asking the same questions during a phone or video interview and again in a face-to-face interview can also give the impression that you’re unprepared and disorganized.
7. Poor onboarding
Failing to create a proper employee onboarding process may result in losing new hires in the first couple of months.
If a new employee doesn’t get the basic info they need like where to park their car, or if they’re given outdated onboarding materials, they’ll get the impression your company is poorly organized. Failing to show that you’re invested in your new employee’s long-term success might also leave them questioning their decision and seeking new opportunities elsewhere.
Always remember that, while new employees have a trial period, they can also decide to leave on their own.
How to improve your candidate experience
You don’t need many resources or huge investments to improve the candidate experience—you can make a big impact through just a few small changes.
Consider the Golden Rule as the basis for all candidate improvement ideas: Treat your candidates how you would want to be treated. Here are some specific ways to improve the candidate experience across every point in the candidate’s journey.
The job search
Create an inspiring career page
Your career page is an excellent place to showcase your company culture. If someone checks this page, chances are that they’re interested in working for your company. You don’t want to make a bad impression and turn potential candidates away before they even get started.
For instance, employee-generated content and testimonials are efficient recruitment marketing techniques to show what working at your company really means. Include a company culture video that introduces different roles—from leadership to front-line staff—and shows people’s typical workdays. By showcasing your company culture through video, you’ll get more high-intent applicants who are fully aware of how you operate and want to get on board.
Write accurate and inspiring job descriptions
Your job ads should compel right-fit candidates to apply right away. Consider your target candidates’ career goals to get them excited about the role, and ensure you can keep the promises you make. Include a realistic job description and requirements—while you don’t want unfit candidates to apply, you also don’t want to intimidate entry-level candidates if they’d be right for the role.
Be where your ideal candidates are
To get your ideal candidates interested and interacting with your company, you need to be talking where they can see you. If you’re hiring for entry-level roles and know people fresh out of college could be your best candidates, why not recruit on campus? Or, if you’re looking for more senior profiles, consider joining industry-specific associations and attend their events to recruit people.
You also want to participate in the right conversations online—use relevant hashtags when sharing your job openings on social media, and be active in the right LinkedIn groups.
The application process
Set clear expectations by describing the process early on
Tell your candidates how the recruitment process will play out early on so they know what to expect. For instance, give them a heads up if you’re planning to use recorded video responses, and/or that the next step will be an in-person interview. Or, explain that there will be a second face-to-face interview with the team if they succeed.
Because poor communication is a top reason for candidate frustration, this is a key area to improve.
Ensure a hassle-free application process
Don’t make your candidates jump through hoops to apply for a role—make the process as seamless as possible. For example, many employers are asking candidates to simply fill out a Typeform.
More and more candidates are using their mobile phones to search for jobs and would prefer to apply from their phones as well. Promoting a job opening as mobile-friendly can even increase the number of applicants by 11.6%.
Use pre-recorded video interviews
Using pre-recorded video interviews will benefit both recruiters and candidates during the application process. Candidates get a unique opportunity to express themselves, and they can record their video responses at a time and place that’s most convenient for them. Besides, they get a clearer impression of your company through your video questions and video introduction.
Video interviews also allow recruiters to only invite good-fit candidates to in-person interviews, which results in about 50% of time savings in your recruitment process. If you realize that a candidate isn’t the right fit for your company—whether professionally or culturally—there’s no need to waste anyone’s time moving forward.
Allow candidates to showcase their skills and personality
Most companies screen candidates by assessing their CVs, but not all candidates feel confident expressing their skills and abilities in written format. Plus, a CV can only tell you so much about a person’s attitude, motivation, and personality.
That’s why many companies are allowing candidates to showcase their skills and personality through pre-recorded video interviews. Candidates of all ages are satisfied with video interviews, and 84% recommend video interviews as a recruitment method, according to our 2020 Candidate Survey.
The interview process
Aim to impress candidates
During an in-person interview, you’re trying to impress candidates as much as they’re trying to impress you. Give candidates your full attention, and treat them respectfully. Show candidates that you respect their schedules by arriving on time for interviews and staying within the reserved time slot.
Ask purposeful questions, and allow candidates to ask you questions so they can learn more about the role and your company culture. Show candidates around your office afterwards to give them a sneak peek of your work environment.
Communicate your hiring timeline
Depending on the role you’re looking to fill, your recruitment process might be quite long. You can avoid frustrating your candidates, however, by properly communicating your timeline from the get-go. If you already want to start meeting potential candidates but you know you can’t hire anyone for at least two months, for example, just be honest about it.
Be prompt to respond about the next steps
Too often, candidates have no idea of how the recruitment process will unfold. While you might see one candidate as your first pick, they might have already dismissed your company because they hadn’t heard from you in weeks.
Show your candidates you value their time by proactively communicating with them. If you realize early on that a candidate isn’t the right fit, be honest rather than stringing them along. If anything changes within your company and you have to wait before hiring, explain the situation to the candidate.
Send personalized messages
Taking a more personal approach to communication could have a lasting impact on your candidate experience.
Whether you’re reaching out to a passive candidate or giving feedback to someone you just interviewed, tailor your messages to each individual. Doing so can increase response rates and help you build trust with your candidates, which can also improve your employer brand. Sending personalized messages also helps you avoid burning bridges with any candidates.
Introduce the team
By having different team members record video interview questions, you can introduce candidates to their prospective teammates. During face-to-face interviews, candidates would also have the opportunity to ask team members questions that a hiring manager or recruiter might not be able to answer.
Involving different team members in the recruitment process also reduces the risk of making biased hiring decisions.
Give and receive feedback
94% of job seekers would like to receive interview feedback. Giving specific feedback promptly is a simple way to show you care about a candidate's success, and it leaves a positive impression of your company. In fact, candidates are more likely to consider your company for future opportunities if you give constructive feedback.
78% of job seekers report having never been asked for feedback on their candidate experience. Asking your candidates about their experience will give you the insights you need to improve. If a person ends up telling you about a particularly bad experience, listen without interrupting them or getting defensive. Then, follow up with a sincere apology and use their feedback to improve your candidate experience. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, whether you’re addressing top profiles or rejected candidates, always thank them for sharing their thoughts.
Feedback should go both ways. Listen to your candidates carefully—what you hear from them will give you many ideas on how to improve your candidate experience.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
–Frank A. Clark, American lawyer and politician
The onboarding process
Have a plan
If you don’t have a strategic onboarding plan, your new employees will notice. Share your onboarding plan—including a structured timeline—with new hires so they know what to expect in the coming weeks. Share an overview of your company story including your mission, values, and people to give candidates a clear sense of your culture.
Don’t overwhelm new employees
The first day at a new job can be a stressful experience. Don’t drown your new employee in new information and paperwork on their very first day. Instead, spread out information and training to ease new employees into their new role and give them time to digest everything.
Show how excited the company is to have them onboard by giving them a warm welcome. Inviting them to join a team lunch (even done 100 % remotely) on the first day can be a small gesture that makes a big impact.
How to measure the candidate experience
Are you doing all you can to measure your candidate experience? Consider these different ways to track the candidate experience and find out where there’s room for improvement.
Collect and analyze candidate feedback
At the end of an application process, ask your candidates to rate their experience. Send feedback surveys including questions about their overall experience, whether they would apply to your company again, and whether they’d refer other job seekers to your company.
More and more companies are using Net Promoter Score (NPS) to gauge the candidate experience. After all, you’d reap the benefits by turning candidates into promoters.
Track relevant KPIs
While the best data comes from candidate feedback, here are a few recruitment metrics that correlate to candidate experience:
—Recruiter response time: Track how long it takes for a candidate to hear back from you after they send an application. This will tell you if there’s room for improvement with communication.
—Conversion rates on your career page: Find out how many people view your career page, then apply to a position. You can also track conversion rates for specific job ads.
—Application drop-off: How many candidates start the application process but then leave at a certain point? Find out whether your application process is too complex and turning people away.
—Offer acceptance rate: Monitor how many people accept your job offers to discover whether you’ve made a good impression during the recruitment process.
—New employee satisfaction rate: Measure new employee satisfaction by collecting their feedback after 30 days and six months. This will give you valuable insights into your onboarding process.
—Time to productivity: How long does it take for new employees to get up to speed and be fully productive? Some recruiters also define this metric as the time required for new hires to reach the job proficiency of an employee with two years of experience at the company.
—Employee retention: Measure the retention rates of new hires, and consider voluntary and involuntary turnover rates. Voluntary turnover tells you new employees aren’t impressed with one or more aspects of your company, whereas involuntary turnover suggests you’ve hired unfit employees.
Monitor what people say about your company on employer review sites and social media
Today’s job seekers are more informed than ever, often checking employer reviews before applying for a position. In fact, 55% of job seekers report avoiding certain companies after reading negative reviews. If you don’t take negative comments seriously and own up to your hiring mistakes, you risk losing out on high-quality candidates.
Candidates might also talk about their experiences on social media platforms and online forums like Reddit. These personal insights give prospective candidates a transparent look into your company—so once again, you want to know what people are saying.
Ask new hires for feedback on the onboarding process
You’re not done trying to impress a candidate once you offer them a job. You want them to keep seeing your company in a positive light during their first days as a new employee. 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding.
Ask new employees how they feel about the onboarding process to make valuable improvements. If you don’t, you risk setting new employees up for an early exit.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
–Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft
Great candidate experience examples
Not only is Salesforce ranked as one of the top companies to work for—it’s also known for its excellent candidate experience. First and foremost, Salesforce focuses on hiring people whose personal values align with their company. They created a standardized global process and hire based on competencies rather than strictly enterprise software experience.
Salesforce also focuses on mitigating unconscious bias by training interviewers, recruiters, and hiring managers, and using their assessment tool, Trailhead. Plus, Salesforce clearly outlines their hiring process on their website, along with plenty of resources for candidates.
By using video interviews in the hiring process, Finnair gives candidates a realistic and transparent view of their company. They’ve become a more trustworthy recruiter, and also save time for both candidates and recruiters when high-volume recruiting. Video interviews allow Finnair’s candidates to better showcase their skills and personality, and they empower Finnair recruiters to make more informed decisions by getting a better view of candidates.Learn about Finnair's experience with video interviews
McDonald’s now accepts applications through voice assistants Alexa and Google Assistant as part of an initiative called “Apply Thru.” They aim to give more young people ways to start entry-level careers by meeting potential candidates where they already are: on their mobile phones. Candidates can start the application process through the voice assistant, then answer a few questions out loud. Following their responses, they’ll get a link to complete their application online.
McDonald’s also uses chatbots to automate administrative tasks and to be more attentive to candidates’ needs when high-volume hiring.
JYSK is using video interviews on a global scale to speed up their recruitment process. Through video interviews, JYSK takes a personal approach to hiring and allows candidates to better express themselves. They have their real people presenting the interview questions, which gives candidates a glimpse at their prospective team.
JYSK also integrated Recright with their ATS, Smart Recruiters, allowing candidates to apply through mobile. This was crucial to improve the candidate experience since 70% of JYSK’s candidates accessed their job ads through mobile.
Reaktor is recognized as a pioneer in recruitment processes and has won the Great Place To Work Institute’s “Best Employer in Finland” award four years in a row.
One way they create a positive candidate experience is through relaxed, discussion-based interviews over coffee. They also use video interviews to screen candidates and ensure the possible future team — and not just the talent acquisition team — evaluates the candidates’ video replies.
Useful recruitment tools to improve your candidate experience
There are plenty of tools to help you streamline your hiring process, automate manual work, and measure your progress—all of which translates into a better candidate experience.
Check out these practical tools that help you get on the path to happier candidates.
Applicant tracking systems (ATS)
While most companies today use an ATS, smaller companies without a dedicated HR team might still be collecting applications through email, and managing them via Excel documents. This is a perfect recipe for messy processes, poor communication, and an overall terrible candidate experience.
An ATS like Recright allows you to manage the entire recruitment process from one place, simplifying all processes for both you and your candidates. Whatever ATS you end up using, make sure that it is mobile-friendly so that all candidates can apply in a way that’s most convenient for them.
Video recruitment platforms
Using modern hiring technology like a video recruitment platform will dramatically improve your candidate experience.
Pre-recorded video interviews give candidates the chance to better present themselves. What’s more, pre-recorded video interviews save you time on admin work inherent to live interviews, such as having to coordinate schedules. With Recright, for example, you can record your questions on your own time, and candidates can send their video responses any time and from any location.
Recruitment chatbots can help you engage with candidates at scale and automate parts of the screening process. The great thing about recruitment chatbots is that they can answer candidates’ questions and support them during the application process 24/7, even when you’re not online.
With tools like Drift, Leadoo, HubSpot, or Intercom, you can set up chatbots to answer candidate’s questions about your company and specific roles. You can also send your chatbot to candidates right after they send an application to ask some screening questions. The chatbot can then notify recruiters to follow up with qualified candidates.
Virtual recruiting assistants
It’s safe to say every recruiter or hiring manager would love an assistant.
That’s where tools like TalentAdore’s Virtual Recruitment Assistant (VRA) come in handy. A VRA uses artificial intelligence and automation to make candidate communication more personal and save recruiters time. For example, the VRA can remind recruiters to send candidates status updates, and suggest time slots for in-person interviews with a scheduling tool. A VRA might also include a recommendation function that matches candidates to positions.
Social listening tools
Social listening tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social allow you to set up alerts for your brand name and other relevant keywords (like “job”) so that you can monitor what your people are saying about you as an employer. You can also set up alerts for mentions of your competitors to see how their recruitment process compares.
Join the conversation to start building relationships with candidates and strengthen your employer brand. Social listening ensures you won’t miss any crisis, but can instead act fast to mitigate problems and protect your brand reputation.
You can also use social listening to find new candidates. Create alerts using keywords specific to a job description and you’ll be notified when users are discussing specific industries and disciplines.
There are several paid and free survey tools available like Typeform and Survey Monkey that you can use to collect candidate feedback. Before you start comparing tools, first consider what you need in your specific survey.
To get large volumes of data, make sure to send your survey to all candidates in the process—including candidates you turn down, candidates who turn down your job offer, and candidates who accepted an offer at your company. Ideally, the surveys should be anonymous to get honest feedback and ensure candidates feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. To increase response rates, you can also mention the survey at each step of the hiring process.
Create a positive candidate experience with Recright
Using video interviews in your recruitment process can improve candidates’ impressions of your brand. With Recright’s video recruitment platform, you can put a face to your company, speed up your hiring process, and empower candidates to better express themselves.