The Poor State Of Candidate Experience And What You Can Do To Improve It

Candidate experience is top of mind for us. As a recruiting services firm, it comes as no surprise that candidates are at the forefront of what we do. But since all organizations must do recruiting at some point or other, how important is candidate experience to them? What capabilities, communications, and services are they providing to attract candidates and convert them through the top of the funnel as a prospective candidate into a hire?

We recently engaged our HR &Talent Management community on this very topic. Through discussions with our community members, and through a snap survey conducted in the group this past week, we discovered one clear conclusion: candidate experience starts and ends at the top of the funnel.

Below is a summary of the state of candidate experience based on our research and on responses from members of our HRTM group. We’ve broken down candidate experience into four parts: Pre-Application, Application, Interview, and After Process. Within each phase, we have also included additional capabilities and services companies can provide to improve the experience for candidates in the process.

PRE-APPLICATION

Attracting candidates and getting candidates to raise their hands is the main focus of this part of the process. To attract candidates, companies are investing in the promotion of their job openings, either through social media or job boards; more than half of our survey respondents said their organizations promote job openings on social media. Approximately half also stated that their job postings are mobile-friendly.

Aside from promoting jobs and making them mobile-friendly, companies are also allowing potential candidates the opportunity to join their talent network and stay connected when there are no openings that fit what they are looking for. This, again, adds to the talent pool, increasing the number of potential candidates for future job openings.

What else can companies do?

Although increasing the overall volume of leads will likely increase your chance of finding a hire, it’s more significant to get the right, qualified people to raise their hands rather than getting the most hands raised. To this end, companies can provide employee testimonials on their website so that potential candidates can see who works at the company and why. Companies can also outline the hiring process on their website. This additional information will allow candidates the opportunity to judge whether this organization is a place they want to work at, and whether they are willing to invest in the outlined hiring process to get there. By giving access to this information, companies are asking candidates to further select themselves (beyond the job description and company brand) in and out of process. Not all candidates who come to the company website will interact with the additional information, but for those who do, they may be a step more aligned to your desired candidate.

APPLICATION

The application part of the process is all about flexibility and giving candidates a variety of methods to apply; the easier it is for candidates to apply, the more likely they will complete the application process. To add flexibility, companies are investing in mobile capabilities and integrating with various platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Dropbox (among others) so that candidates can easily apply to a job. The focus here is to get as many (hopefully qualified) candidates into the top of the funnel as possible.

In order to keep candidates engaged at the application stage, companies are leveraging system automation to send branded-communications to update potential candidates; about sixty percent of respondents reported that their organizations offer branded emails, and about thirty percent offer automatic updates. Typical automatic updates include thanking candidates for applying, informing them that their application is being reviewed, and letting them know if they are not moving forward in the process.

What else can companies do?

Utilizing system automation to streamline the communications process is the first step in improving experience. A second step would be to add a process that emphasizes timely communications on top of the automation. A major complaint that we hear from candidates is the communication black hole. While it may be difficult to provide individualized feedback to all applicants, responding to them in a timely manner (i.e. within 48 hours) with tailored, automated messages is not too much to ask. The longer candidates have to wait for a response, the less satisfied they will be with their candidate experience.

INTERVIEW

The interview is a nerve-wracking, and often stressful, part of the hiring process. Candidates who make it this far are invested; they are taking time out of their day to come onsite to meet with hiring managers and further learn about the organization. Companies, in turn, should show that they are equally invested in the candidates. To make candidates feel welcomed at the interview, most companies arrange for a point person to meet the candidates when they arrive onsite. Although this step may seem simple, it’s effective because it tells candidates that they are important and that the company is interested.

Sending candidates an agenda prior to the interview is also another way to convey the importance of the interview process to candidates. About sixty percent of survey respondents said their organizations provide interviewees with an agenda prior to coming onsite to clearly outline the interview process and set expectations for the day.

What else can companies do?

Allowing candidates to meet other employees can be time-consuming and disruptive to the work day, but it demonstrates to candidates that you care about the process and that you’re invested in finding the right person to hire for the company. Less than a third of the people we talked to said their companies allow candidates to meet other employees; about twenty percent reported their companies allow candidates to speak to leadership. Introducing candidates to employees can benefit companies by allowing them to get a sense of the candidates outside the typical interview environment. It also allows the candidate to determine and gauge if they can envision themselves working at the organization, and allows the organization to observe how the candidate will “fit” within the company culture.

AFTER PROCESS

After the interview process, the focus once again becomes the communication between the hiring personnel and the candidate. For candidates who make the cut and are moved forward to the offer stage, communication is typically timely and full of information. For candidates who are not moved forward, however, communication can be nonexistent. I have experienced my fair share of the communication black hole after investing a full day of my time being grilled by hiring managers and their team. In that scenario, candidate experience is lacking. I was left with a negative view of the company, and a feeling that I wasted my time.

This probably holds true for what most companies offer candidates who make it this far in the process. Typically, the interviewees are sent a message thanking them for their time, letting them know they did not make the cut, and reassuring them that their information will be kept on record for future job openings. About sixty percent of survey respondents said their companies keep track of candidates who applied. Whether or not companies actually go back to candidates who interviewed when future openings are available is a good question to ask hiring personnel.

What else can companies do?

Regardless of whether the candidate receives an offer or not after the interview, companies should ask all candidates for feedback on the overall process. This feedback should also be shared with hiring managers. If companies don’t collect and share feedback from candidates who interview, how can improvements be made? Most hiring managers don’t receive interview training – they are managers who hire. Gaining feedback can be the first step in hiring manager training and improving the candidate experience at the bottom of the hiring funnel.

Likewise, many candidates will want to know where they fell short; they will want feedback on why they did not make the cut. This can be given in a constructive format so that the candidate can apply what they have learned in their next interview.

While investing resources and efforts to get candidates to apply is crucial, how candidates are treated while they go through the process is even more important. When companies provide candidates with a positive candidate experience, they will likely share that information with their network of family and friends. They may even refer people to current or future job openings. By providing a positive candidate experience, companies are increasing their Net Promoter Score and in turn, driving more candidates to the top of the funnel.