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What is Candidate Experience and Why is it Important?

Published: May 20, 2015 In: Recruitment Best Practices

The hiring process consists of 4 primary stages which are sourcing, screening, selection and onboarding. The way a job seeker perceives and reacts to each of these 4 stages of hiring is known as Candidate Experience.

Candidate experience can be defined as the perception and feelings of a job seeker about an employer and their job application process, based on their interaction during the hiring process. This includes all points of contact during recruitment – job search, the application process, the interview process, and sometimes even onboarding.

Candidate Experience, the new buzzword in Human Resources is not just limited to the recruitment process but also extends to the perception of people working in the organization. This concept emerged from the humane approach which surfaced after Hawthorne studies.

Candidate Experience is closely linked with Employer Branding since it also creates goodwill for the employer. With the new VUCA environment, almost all organizations have become vulnerable. In such a scenario, the only prominent source of competitive advantage is the people you have in your organization.

”Smart employers see the application and interview process as an opportunity to make a positive impression on the applicants.”

Why is a Good Candidate Experience So Important?

It is imperative to know the reason for companies to focus on candidate experience. The best reason for it is that now employees, both current, and prospective are well connected and informed. Moreover, social media has brought about enormous changes in the environment.

Hay Group study infers that 70% of the graduates are put off by someone else’s bad experience with an organization.

This demands creating an emotional connect and treating the employees more respectfully. So the steps can be either preventive or curative in nature. Preventive steps will ensure that you give a good experience and treat the recruitment drive as a sales process by giving the best care to the customers.

The remedial steps will involve a Branding team and PR machinery to help the brand sustain itself. So the whole process of candidate experience can be tackled at five basic levels which are shown below in the order of their flow.

levels to improve candidate experience

Candidates start their quest for knowledge about the organization even before applying to it. The channels which provide the information are social media, company website, the company review sites and word of mouth.

They act as external touch points. So it demands good channel management to get quality applicants. This could make or break the whole purpose of a recruitment drive.

After all, a bad experience after joining the company also results in attrition and increases the burden of rehiring costs.

The lesson learned is “Be Visible and be Appealing to Candidates.”

Moreover, the very next step in the same comes when the prospect applies through the career site.

As per the study of Hay Group, only 75% candidates complete the application process. So 25% become disinterested with complex procedure or an application which is too long.

So the website and application format needs to be straightforward and precise. Recruitment Consultant Nathan Vance suggests that recruiters should take a break once in a while and do the application process for the jobs in their company. Then only they can understand the areas which demand attention for a better experience.

The next phase is when the candidate interacts with the company personnel and interview panel. Good conduct infuses confidence in the applicant and unleashes the best performance.

Around 87% of people saw the interviews as a means of knowing the employer.

Moreover, even if the candidate is rejected for a job he should be treated as an agent of the organization who will be talking about the process and the company in the outside world. Companies default in the sense that they don’t bother to call or mail the rejected candidates leading to dissatisfaction.

Dealing with candidate rejection is also a very important part of candidate experience. Especially how a rejection message is delivered because it leaves the last impression of the company on the candidate's mind.

Successfully some organizations have recently started doing that, which is adding to their brand equity and promoting an employer as a “Fair Employer."

Certain organizations like Hay Group have come up with solutions like Talent Q which provides extensive tools for designing an engaging recruitment process and delivering a positive recruitment process.

They deploy the most efficient recruitment processes at an optimal time. The hiring process is different for Graduates and Managerial personnel.

To make it in a friendly way they have come up with secure assessments as a means to apply remotely also. The precise reason for doing all this is the study of Hay Group which says “Long Application process put 42% applicants off to the organization”.

Some people are of the view that they need to treat their current employees as internal customers. The sole reason is, having the Employee Referral as a mode of recruitment. If the employees are not happy with their experience in the organization, then they are most likely to leave the company and provide no employee referrals too.

This serves as a double blow for the organization in the sense that it causes the cost of rehiring and prevents the company from getting talented passive job seekers who are otherwise difficult to find in the external job market. Referrals are the only touch points for them.

So we can say that it involves anything and everything experienced and felt by the candidate starting from replying to the emails with adequate speed. It makes sure that no candidate goes through a negative experience with employers. Moreover, making the application process simple and brief is very important.

Enforcing good experience for candidates is very important because if a candidate gets selected, the organization wants them to come and join. Candidates who are selected will become involved in the employee engagement programs to feel connected with the company culture and philosophy.

After extensive research, it has been found that 40% of the candidates have turned down job offers after a bad experience.

Out of these 40% people, 81% people told around ten people about their bad experience thereby tainting the name of the company. Moreover, it is beneficial to companies if the applicants become their brand advocates rather than hiring people for this job and paying them hefty amounts.

How to Improve Candidate Experience?

It’s often heard that the quality of employees joining an organization is deteriorating in terms of the skills possessed by the candidates. Managers aren’t satisfied with the performance of their employees and the constant lookout for the skilled candidate never ends. However, has anyone given a thought to the fact that maybe the right candidates would arrive if the right candidate experience is provided to them?

Often with the long procedures and different levels of assessments with no proper communication and different layers between the candidate and the decision maker, it becomes difficult to find the right candidate and these potential employees are often stressed with their experience telling others to not apply too. In case you're publicizing open positions to anybody and everybody, you're most likely getting unmanageable resume volume.

Control the candidate wave so that you can commit time to the best candidates. Fewer layers among competitors and hiring managers make better applicant encounters.

Quit separating your competitors through selection representatives and HR gatekeepers. The best individuals need acknowledgment. Show the candidates that you respect their time, by fulfilling your commitment to meet them at a certain time.

Using these small details during a recruitment process, hiring managers can ensure that they provide candidates with a memorable experience, save time and effort, and can ensure that they select the right candidate skilled for the job.

However, it’s also necessary to ensure that the candidate has been assessed from all perspectives and is right for the job.

So it is true that not only the job applicants are being evaluated as potential employees but also the employers are being evaluated as potential employers. Maybe Talview could help show some ways for talent engagement.

How Can Personalized Hiring Strategy Make a Difference?

Personalization of recruiting process can bridge the gap between the candidates and the employer. Recruiters are the first point of contact with the candidates, so then and there should be the point of action. If you have a well-built, candidate-friendly recruitment process, you are good to go. Believe it, if you are going to set the trend, you’ll be praised by the Gods of corporate.

Why do we do that?

Personalization is an angel for you as a recruiter. Don’t believe? Here’s the fact. The candidates are subjected to the recruitment process of any organization. If they have experienced something unsatisfied or sulky, they may lead towards sites such as Glassdoor, Mouthshut, etc to pull your brand image. But if you are ready to take up a new way, you should personalize the recruitment process for the whole betterment. So, personalizing your recruiting could be a good practice to follow.

Check out this guide on Recruitment Marketing 101: Working on Negative Glassdoor Reviewsr

Job Descriptions

Job Descriptions are the primary reading about the job for the job seekers. So, it should play a major role in the whole personalization process. But how do you personalize the Job Description? Well, by making it more detailed. This is the only activity you can do.

Vague Job descriptions make them feel into the nets of complicacy. Make your Job description talk to the candidates, and communicate with them with its presence. Use video or graphical images for more interest and interaction of candidates. There should be an increment of knowledge after reading your Job description.

Proper Communication

The lack of communication is something unacceptable for the candidates. They want to get communicated with the recruiter throughout the whole process. In order to make a better candidate experience and develop a relationship, approach them before, between, and after the process of recruitment. They should know the post-interview details of rejection also with a full touch of sincerity.

You can mail them on a regular basis providing them with some or more information, not always related to the job. You can send them, some knowledgeable videos, images, and documents to read even if you don’t have any updates. You can wish them on the opportunity of festivals, New Years, etc.


Sending customized emails to the targeted group can fetch you some great communication with them. There are thousands of applicants who want to get communicated. Beware of complicacy!

Use segmentation for this purpose. You can segment the candidates and applicants by ATS according to their background, industry, profession etc., then send them the emails accordingly for the update on their interest. Make your approach wide enough to cover each and every application.

Video Interviews

Using video interviews to connect to the unapproachable and far away candidates are the most advanced, derived, and accurate way to interview. You are maintaining the limit of your budget, making the process much easy for yourself and the candidates, and committing no mistakes.

Video interviews could be synchronous and asynchronous according to the need of both parties. The use of the latest technology would definitely entertain and cater to the simplicity for the candidates.

Use Dynamic Content

Creating great content will surely give birth to the interest in your readers. Using that content in your job ads and postings can develop the need to get hired in your job seekers. You need to be sure about each and every word you are using in your job ads and postings as it can really make difference. Use inbound marketing as a recruiter to sell your job descriptions, ads to your candidates.

Boosting Employer Brand With Better Candidate Experience

You've been hearing the buzz about building employer/company brand among candidates. But you haven't seen any tangible results on this and that makes you skeptical about this whole phenomenon.

With some experience in hiring the first few employees for my company, I can say that though the results are not tangible at first, you'll see how your employees respect your organization and speak highly of it which ultimately does good for the employer's brand. By Providing the right experience to candidates from sourcing to onboarding, your candidates can be your brand ambassadors.

"Most recruiters just rely on defining the experience as the journey of the candidate until they reach your career site."

Candidate experience means more than just that. It is the sum total of every interaction and activity between your company and the candidate even before you start sourcing to the orientation program on day one and the days after that.

Almost 82.4 percent of candidates complain about not having a good experience.

It's not rocket science to provide them with the experience they look for. It can be quite tricky to arrive at a conclusion and say, 'This is it! This is how I can give them the best' but it’s possible to arrive closer to that point. 78.6% of candidates surveyed would definitely tell their inner circle about a positive experience (62% would share a negative experience) and 28% would share a positive experience on Social Media (17% would share if it was negative). These are very big numbers to let go.

I've put together a few tangibles (stats) for you and a few pointers on how you can provide a good experience to your to-be employees (or not). And this can be your success mantra to create the perfect employer/company branding and an organic talent pool.

Before I delve into the components of getting the right experience for the candidates, here's one point that supersedes all and also catalyzes the process. 'Think from the candidate's perspective,' this could help you achieve your bigger goal of creating a better employer brand.

Think of the time when you applied for a job, and how you felt about the process you went through if it was bad - think of ideas that can make it better for your candidates. If your experience was good - come up with a plan to make it better anyway! Experience is a continuum, it doesn't reach saturation, and hence, it is imperative that you evolve with time and your candidates.

So, what comprises a good candidate experience? There are various important factors, here’s the breakdown based on a research report by Business2Community on candidate experience.

  • Better Communication (34%)
  • Being Told That They Didn’t Make It Through (28%)
  • Hiring Process Steps (21%)
  • More Human Contact (14%)
  • Quick Replies (13%)
  • Easy-To-Understand Job Descriptions (12%)
  • Updates (10%)
  • Application Confirmation (9%)
  • Short Application Form (7%)

Start with these stats; make amends to your current process until you plan one with your boss. It’s important to come up with your own plan because every brand has a different necessity and its own pain points. Addressing these pain points should be the agenda of the new plan.

Make the interview a two-way street with candidate engagement

It’s not a decision you can jump into today - it’s a strategy, a process. It needs a good amount of thought put into it. Start with an internal survey; make it anonymous. Bad responses are good; it’s the only way to rectify the problems in your hiring process.

Engaging candidates with articles and photos of the good times at the office, and starting a buddy system to introduce the new hire to the entire group is just a start on engaging candidates. Trust your instincts and go with the flow, you’ll know what will work, eventually.

Personalize the interview process - lookup on the internet before the f2f!

It’s really that simple; you spend a good amount of time sourcing the candidate. Why not spend five more minutes on their LinkedIn account? Or any other professional sites they are on before meeting them for the HR round?

Just a hint that you know something about them that’s not mentioned in the resume will give them the impression that it really means a good deal for the company to have them onboard. Most of the time, candidates are asked questions on information that is furnished on the first page of the resume.

‘Applying for a Job is like throwing anticipation into a Black hole’ - Break this myth

Notify candidates when you receive their applications, when they are not selected, or when they are on hold. Keep them updated. Work towards proving that the recruitment process is not a black hole. 86% of the candidates who applied for an open position have never heard back from the company.

So always, always reply to emails - even an automated one will do if you can’t personally reply. Something is better than nothing. But if you are putting efforts to improve the brand's health, why not go all the way? Hire someone to do this or find a technology that helps you inject personalization into automated emails.

Impression once made is made - Be careful not to throw your chance the first time

The first impression rule applies here as in any other field, and the first day of work is too late to impress employees. Try engaging them earlier, during the recruiting process, and you will have a pool of qualified and motivated candidates to choose from.

The perfect candidates that you have been looking for are constantly deterred by bad candidate experiences. Sure enough not all candidates are perfect for the roles they apply for, but they could be perfect for another.

Bad experiences are only going to discourage them and their friends to apply to your company. Here, you are not only losing out on employer brand; you are also stopping the talent pool from replenishing itself organically and effortlessly.

What Happens After You Provide Good Candidate Experience?

  1. Builds Brand Health and hence, Brand Loyalty
  2. Your Company’s Bottom Line
  3. Influences Retention and Attraction
  4. Encourages Referrals

A good, early, and “human” candidate experience can help companies build a consistent talent pool, a stronger employer brand, and happy brand ambassadors. And as a bonus, along with other perks of offering a better experience you can also win various innovation awards in the long run.

Tags: Recruitment Best Practices, Candidate Experience

Written by: Pavana KR

I am a seasoned expert in my field, with several years experience behind me. I have a proven success record, with a focus on strategic projects and helping to build successful, effective teams that are motivated and goal-oriented.

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