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9 must-haves for a stellar candidate experience

June 30, 2022 - 17 min read

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What is meant by candidate experience?

What a positive candidate experience looks like

Why is the candidate experience important?

How do you measure candidate experience?

4 tools to help build a positive candidate experience

If you are currently a candidate for a position, you know the struggles of the job search process. Sifting through endless listings. Having to re-enter the same information over and over again. Making profiles across a variety of platforms — and then anxiously waiting for a response for weeks, or sometimes months.  

The candidate experience cycle can be frustrating. From the application to the job offer, there are a lot of moving pieces that organizations need to seamlessly facilitate. And while hiccups are sometimes unavoidable, companies need to invest in making the experience a positive one. 

In fact, 78% of candidates say the overall candidate experience they receive is an indicator of how a company values its people. Candidates have also reported withdrawing from the recruiting process because of the candidate experience. The top three reasons? Disrespect during interviews, poor rapport with the recruiters, and the hiring process simply took too long. 

One question is how can employers improve the candidate experience. But first, we should ask why they should improve the experience in the first place. Most importantly, streamlining the recruitment process can build a company’s reputation.

Let’s talk about what we mean by the candidate experience. We’ll also outline what it means to have a positive candidate experience — and how to create one in your company. 

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What is meant by candidate experience?

The candidate experience can be a nebulous term. And each company has its own unique hiring process, so it might be different from other organizations. 

So, what do we mean by the candidate experience? Let’s outline what the candidate experience cycle consists of. 

  • Awareness. This stage of the candidate experience comes down to employer branding. Generating awareness about your brand is the first touchpoint of the candidate experience. For example, how recognizable is your company’s brand? What feelings, emotions, or perspectives do candidates have about your organization?

    Your company’s social media presence and website will have an influence over this stage of the candidate experience. At BetterUp, our employer branding has been integral to our marketing strategy to help build this awareness stage. 
  • Interest. Once candidates have an awareness and interaction with your company’s brand, you’ll generate interest. This second stage of the candidate experience is about attracting top talent.

    And in a changing world of work, this “interest” stage hinges on different factors. For example, we know employees want the flexibility to choose how (and where) they work. We know employees value companies that prioritize their mental fitness and mental health. We know employees want to work for organizations that invest in the employee experience
  • Application. By this stage, you’ve hooked your prospective candidates. Now, comes the formal application process. But the application process looks different in every company.

    First things first, the applicant tracking system. The human capital management software your organization uses does matter. How long and how easy is it to submit an application? Is it a cumbersome, confusing process? Are candidate applications easy to submit?

    Many companies also have an employee referral program. In these instances, the current employee will submit a referral internally on behalf of the candidate. This is another touchpoint for the overall candidate experience.

    How easy it is for employees to submit referrals? What systems are you using that may deter top talent from applying? Or, what systems are you using that help the workforce management process? 
  • Screening and scheduling process. For any candidate's experience, there’s a screening process. Again, the screening process is unique to each organization.

    Sometimes, the recruiting team will pre-screen resumes before putting any of their top candidates in front of a hiring manager. In other companies, the recruiting team and hiring manager screen resumes side-by-side. But however the process is completed, there’s a decision to be made: should the candidate be interviewed or not?

    If the recruiter and/or hiring manager decide to not move forward with an applicant, communication is key. In this part of the candidate experience, usually, the candidate receives a rejection email.

    If the recruiter and/or hiring manager decide to move forward with an applicant, usually it’s time to schedule an interview. At BetterUp, our recruiting team typically schedules a phone interview as the initial stage of the interview process.

    The scheduling process is part of the candidate experience as well. It’s a lot of calendar Tetris to play: the candidate’s schedule, the hiring manager’s schedule, the recruiter’s schedule. Time zone differences, moving meetings, competing priorities.

    These are all factors that can impact the candidate's experience. It’s best to schedule as quickly as possible and solidify that time and date to ensure the candidate has a good experience. 
  • Interview. The interview process is another important aspect of the candidate experience. And similar to other stages of the experience, the interview process varies depending on the company’s hiring process.

    Some companies have multiple stages of the interview process, like BetterUp. Other companies may have a one-and-done interview process. Some companies offer things like working interviews as part of the process. Whatever the process is, communicate it clearly. This helps to improve the overall experience and set expectations for the job seeker. 
  • Job offer (or declination). After the interview process is complete, it’s time to make a final decision. Should you offer the job to the candidate? Or will you reject the candidate and make an offer to someone else? It’s pretty straightforward. Yet, still, a stage of the experience that needs to be treated with care.  
  • Employee onboarding. Lastly, the candidate experience teeters off when onboarding begins. The employee onboarding process is the last and final touchpoint of the candidate experience. This is where the candidate officially converts into an employee. 

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What a positive candidate experience looks like

Now that we know what makes up the candidate experience, let’s look at what makes up a positive one. In order to capture the best talent, you’ll need a great candidate experience. 

  • Clear and frequent communication 
  • A career site with thorough job descriptions 
  • A seamless application process 
  • A structured and cohesive interview process 
  • An opportunity for candidate feedback 
  • An opportunity for the candidate to experience the company culture 
  • A streamlined decision-making process 
  • Relationship-building throughout the interview experience 
  • Solid follow-up, especially if the candidate did not receive the offer 

Foundational to the entire candidate experience is one key factor: belonging. Bring inclusivity into the hiring process. But what does that actually mean? How has your organization approached its diversity hiring strategy? Well, for a positive candidate experience, it starts with intention and awareness.

Take a hard look at your talent pipeline and examine talent sources and talent pools. Where can you meaningfully diversify how you're sourcing candidates? Are you intentional about bringing diverse candidates into the talent pipeline?

Next, tap into your awareness. Unconscious bias or implicit bias can be harmful blockers that we might not even know exist. When it comes to being aware of your own biases, you need to prepare to be uncomfortable. Look inward about your hiring practices and associated biases. By even bringing your biases to awareness, you'll be better equipped to address them. 

At BetterUp, all hiring managers and recruiters participate in six-week inclusive hiring coaching circles. It's a dedicated, intensive training from everything on unconscious bias to interviewing techniques. But inclusive hiring can be the difference-maker for your organization, both in your people and your performance. 

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Why is the candidate experience important?

The job search is a grueling process. A poor candidate experience is only likely to leave a bad impression on the company and your company’s brand. 

The candidate experience matters. In a tight, fast-changing job market, employers are vying for top talent to meet their businesses’ needs. According to research by Deloitte, candidates who have a poor experience are likely to tell others about it. In fact, the report found that those who had a poor candidate experience are more likely to leave a negative Comparably or Glassdoor review. This can be damaging to your employer's brand and can deter top talent from sending in their applications. Your recruitment marketing strategy could take a hit if candidates aren’t having a good experience. 

The candidate experience is also one of the first touchpoints to help build trust with the candidate. After all, the job seeker is interacting with a potential employer. If the employer goes MIA for long periods of time, doesn’t have clear or direct communication, or forgets to schedule an interview, it’s likely to break trust. 

4 benefits of a good candidate experience

Here are four benefits of a good candidate experience: 

  • Increased employee engagement 
  • Built trust between candidate and employer 
  • Candidates are more likely to refer other top talent 
  • A better brand and reputation in the talent marketplace 

How do you measure candidate experience?

Well, that’s a good question. This hinges on what tools your company uses for its recruiting process. It also depends on what type of candidate experience survey your organization uses, too. 

Let’s take a look at LinkedIn. Let’s say you use LinkedIn as a job board and have garnered some applicants from the LinkedIn talent pool. 

Within LinkedIn, you can look at metrics like these

  • The application completion rate 
  • The application abandonment rate 
  • The interview-to-offer rate 
  • The time per stage in each stage of the hiring process 
  • The offer acceptance rate 
  • Candidate satisfaction 
  • Survey feedback from the candidate journey 

Work with your talent acquisition team to ensure that capturing appropriate metrics for all stages of the candidate experience. By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to tackle a bad candidate experience and turn it into a positive one. 

9 ways to improve the candidate experience

Let’s say you’ve taken a look at your available data. You’ve realized that candidates seem to be dropping out mid-way through the interview process. You also notice that your ratings on Glassdoor have recently taken a tumble. And now, you’re hearing some survey feedback from your new hires. They’ve shared the candidate experience can use some improvements. 

You’re worried that your organization is going to start missing out on qualified candidates. You also want to make sure you’re retaining the new talent you’ve been hiring. But how? 

4 tools to help build a positive candidate experience

If you’re ready to invest in a better candidate experience, try looking at your company’s systems. What tools can you use to help improve the candidate experience? 

candidate-experience-business-woman-at-desk

While we’re not software experts, we’ve looked at some types of software that can help. 

  • Applicant tracking systems. We’ve all experienced the pain of a clunky application process. Your candidate's time is valuable. If it’s too cumbersome and confusing to apply, you might lose out on the potential candidate. Explore applicant tracking systems that’ll help streamline your candidate’s experience. 
  • Online interviewing platforms. With the world of work constantly changing, hybrid and remote work is here to stay. It’s likely you’ve already been conducting virtual interviews. Your recruiting strategy has probably pivoted to accommodate remote workers. 
  • Chatbots or text messaging software. There are more ways to reach candidates than just a phone call these days. Chatbots and text messaging software are innovative ways to communicate with candidates. These are tools that can help ensure your talent acquisition teams are staying in touch with the best candidate. 
  • Candidate experience analysis tools. Lastly, try out some candidate experience analysis tools. This type of tool can help standardize the candidate experience so it’s consistent for every applicant. It can also give you a deep dive into data to figure out what’s working (and what isn’t). 

Think about coaching 

Today’s labor market is tight, fast-moving, and ever-changing. 

We're all challenged to hire the best talent that we can. In a competitive labor market where candidates expect decisions faster, we know many companies are balancing a number of priorities. For example, talent quality, aggressive hiring goals, and staffing needs can all be at odds with one another. But this makes the candidate experience that much more important, underpinned with clear, consistent communication. 

When it comes to doing less with more, BetterUp can help. We know there’s unpredictability on the horizon. But the truth is, we’ve been living in unpredictable, constantly changing times for a while now. 

With coaching, you can make sure your employees are well-equipped to weather any bumps along the road. With BetterUp, you can make sure your employees are tapping into their full potential. Ultimately, we can help make sure you're bringing the best candidates on board to your team.

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Published June 30, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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