The ups and downs of the job search process can be exhausting for both the job seeker and the hiring team. But as a talent leader, you can make things better from the inside out.
A positive candidate experience is major for recruiting and hiring top talent. Four out of five applicants, one study found, believe that the candidate experience reveals how a company treats its people — and when it’s bad, they run away. In fact, 58% of applicants will never apply again to a company after a negative candidate experience.
With more available jobs than job seekers right now, your process must be competitive to attract the best people. Below, we’ll share some key ways for your organization to create a positive candidate experience, including the things talent outright expects to see today.
Understanding the Candidate Experience Lifecycle
The best candidate experience definition is this: how potential applicants feel during the entire process. The lifecycle of recruitment and hiring breaks down into six steps: preparing → sourcing → screening → selecting → hiring → onboarding. With multiple touchpoints happening along this lifecycle, the quality of every interaction defines the candidate experience.
First impressions begin long before the job application, and applicants form opinions of your company based on various sources. Whether or not an applicant gets hired, their comments to friends and colleagues hold weight. The overall health of your recruitment pipeline depends on positive candidate experiences. Reflect on (and change) existing hiring practices. Don’t be afraid to question long-held industry standards. Here are twelve candidate experience best practices to get you started.
12 Things You Need for a Positive Candidate Experience
1. Hire to fill a real gap.
How do you make sure you’re hiring to fill a gap? Perform a needs assessment. Get the data necessary to be transparent about job duties and functions. Change job descriptions when necessary. Make sure the position is funded before reaching out. You won’t win any candidate experience awards if an interviewee finds out there ultimately wasn’t sufficient budget to fill this role.
2. Show DEI in company culture.
Candidates want to see what insiders see before applying for a job. They look for an environment that is safe, inclusive, and has employees that look like them. Images and videos are a powerful tool. Make good use of your social media and company website to demonstrate your commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
3. Write inclusive job descriptions.
A well-written and inclusive job description is not only a DEI best practice; it also sets candidates at ease. Encourage a variety of candidates to apply with both what you say and how you say it. The job description should focus on concrete outputs of the position. Separate must-haves and nice-to-haves. Write a day-in-the-life perspective. Let candidates know they can be themselves at work.
4. Make it easy to apply.
A complex application process is the kiss of death. Don’t make candidates create yet another online account just to apply. Accept applications through different avenues like direct email, LinkedIn, or popular resume upload sites. Keep job listings up-to-date on your website. Most of all, test it out. Go through the application process yourself and see what it’s like. Is your process going to attract high-performing candidates that value their time?
5. Remove bias from the application screening.
Some companies invest in AI software to reduce bias from applicant screening. Without that budget, another option is to work in tandem to create “blind” resume viewing and even interviews. For resumes, one recruiter can block or remove candidate names, photos, and university information from applications, and the other recruiter will therefore have less bias when selecting applicants.
6. Encourage inclusive interviews.
Interviewer bias is when a recruiter makes a judgment about a candidate based on irrelevant personal attributes. In a face-to-face interview, this includes judging body language, a lack of eye contact, accents, manners of speaking, or physical appearances. Interviewers should be aware of their own biases and keep them in check. Negative reactions or comments from a recruiter can hurt both parties.
7. Meet candidates where they’re at.
Interviews shouldn’t be an ambush. As much as possible, share your interview questions with candidates ahead of time. Let them know who will be there. Better still, ask your candidates how they want to be interviewed. What about phone, video chat, video on/off, or face-to-face? Candidates should feel included, prepared, and relaxed — just like when performing typical work tasks.
8. Implement paid tests.
One study found that up to 82% of companies are using pre-employment tests in the recruiting process. If you’re asking a candidate to do work, pay them for it. Unpaid labor, whether it leads to a job or not, leaves a sour taste in the candidate's mouth.
9. Communicate often and with everyone.
Let candidates know as soon as possible that they are no longer being considered. Those that are still in the running should also be contacted and prepped for each stage of the process. We value candidates that communicate proactively, so make sure that communication goes both ways.
10. Offer feedback.
When a candidate is no longer being considered, tell them why. Give clear and specific feedback. Avoid generalizations like “we need more experience” and get specific. Fifty-two percent of candidates that receive actual feedback will continue a relationship with the company.
11. Request feedback.
Designate a Candidate Experience Coordinator to take the lead on a follow-up candidate experience survey. An overwhelming 75% of candidates say they were never or rarely asked for feedback about their candidate experience. Want to know what applicants thought about your candidate experience? Ask them.
12. Incorporate DEIB into onboarding.
Onboarding is the final step in the hiring and recruitment lifecycle. Focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to set a positive tone. Want a shock? Seventy-two percent of jobseekers hate the job they just got. Onboarding is your chance to welcome a valued new hire and prevent bad first impressions of your company culture. Incorporate DEIB best practices such as 1:1 training and mentorship, and connect new hires with relevant employee resource groups (ERGs).