5 Tips To Create A Winning Candidate Experience

Did you know 42% of job applicants who had a negative candidate experience say they would never apply to that company again? And that’s not all. 78% say they would share their bad candidate experience with their network. 34% of candidates would even publicly share their negative experience on social media for the entire world to see.

If you do it right, a positive candidate experience may be the differentiator for top talent to choose your company over your competitors. Even unsuccessful candidates may become your biggest advocates and continue to engage with your brand and encourage their family and friends to apply. Get it wrong, you may lose out on qualified candidates and find a not-so-glowing review on your Glassdoor or Indeed company page, and everywhere else.

And don’t forget, candidates can be your current or future customers as well. Their purchasing decisions are greatly impacted by the way you engage and treat them. 58% of candidates who don’t hear back from an employer say they are less likely to buy products from that brand. As such, a negative candidate experience can not only damage your employer brand, but it can also hurt your company’s bottom line.

So what does a great candidate experience look like? And where do you start? Here are 5 tips to help you create an amazing candidate experience your applicants will love.

1. Step Into Your Candidate’s Shoes

When was the last time you tried applying to jobs at your own company? If it's been a while, do it! You should do this often and from multiple places (career site, job boards you post to, etc). It’s the easiest way for you to understand the current process candidates go through when applying for a job. Ask yourself how you feel about the experience when you finish your application: Was the process easy and intuitive? Was it quick? Are the screening questions relevant to the role?

According to the 2015 Candidate Experience Research from Talent Board, which surveyed more than 130,000 candidates who applied to over 200 companies, more than half of all respondents rated the overall application process as only one to three stars out of five. Candidates felt the average process was too complicated, and they didn’t get an opportunity to showcase their experience and skills.

No candidate wants to spend hours completing an online application filling in information you can easily get from their resume. They want to be able to quickly apply and share information that is relevant to the role, rather than simply completing a general form or background screen.

And just like customers who shop online, the Talent Board found that candidates want to be able to get insight into how much more time or steps they have left to complete their application. These are capabilities you want to consider when talking with your current or potential technology vendor. Remember, candidates are consumers and they take that consumer experience expectation into the experience of applying for jobs as well! If the process to buy something on your company website was as clunky as applying to one of you jobs, would they buy your product?

2. Offer More Transparent Communication

Candidates want more than a simple automated “thank you” email after completing their application. Nearly half of all candidates surveyed never received any update on the status of their application, or why they were asked gender, race or ethnicity-related questions during the application process.

Differentiate your company from competitors by offering more transparency and guidance before, during and after the application. For example, CA Technologies saw how frustrating it was for candidates to fall into the “black hole” and not hear back after applying for a role, and how this was hurting their employer brand.

They implemented a program to ensure all applicants would receive an email or phone call, positive or rejection, within three business days. This has helped CA Technologies to significantly improve their candidate experience and employer brand, and to even hire 60 candidates from the talent pool that may have gone into the job applicant black hole otherwise. Learn more about how CA Technologies did this in their HROS case study.

When candidates apply, it’s a good practice to explain your timeline and when they can expect to hear back on next steps. If they’re not shortlisted to move forward in the process, communicate that to candidates as soon as you can so they can move on to other opportunities.

3. Give And Ask For Feedback

The 2015 Candidate Experience Research found that most companies are offering less personalization and communication during the screening process. Recruiters required to provide feedback to external candidates by phone fell from 18% to 11% this year. And recruiters required to respond at all dropped to 40%, from 49% last year.

Most candidates want more information after they’ve applied for a role. If they’re not selected to move forward in the hiring process, they want to know why. If they have additional opportunities to pursue in their search, they want to be informed of those options.

Whether you’re a recruiter or hiring manager, try to provide a satisfying explanation as to why candidates aren’t selected. They’ve invested time and energy in their application and interview with you, and they deserve to have some level of communication and valuable feedback from you.

This is also the perfect opportunity to ask applicants about their interview to help improve your candidate experience. Unfortunately this is a missed opportunity for many organizations. 70% of candidates surveyed by the Talent Board say they’re not able to give feedback to employers, and 20% of respondents are not even sure if they were asked to provide feedback or not.

By providing and asking for feedback, you also keep the lines of communication open. Just because the candidate wasn’t the right fit for a role, it doesn’t mean they won’t be for another role in the future. If you start nurturing potential leads early on, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect hire when you have a new opening.

4. Prepare For Interviews

According to the 2015 Candidate Experience Research, the candidate experience improves greatly if companies prepare candidates for their interviews.

38% of candidates surveyed say the only preparation and communication companies offered throughout the interview process were just the interviewer’s name and background information. What’s worse is that 41% of candidates reported not receiving any communication at all.

A great candidate experience means better communication and information throughout the interview process. Be as transparent and honest as you can about what candidates can expect. For example, what types of interviews will be conducted (i.e. panel, sequential)? Who will candidates be meeting, and for how long? How do candidates get to the office and how will they access the building? Having a standard interview package for candidates can go a long way in helping them prepare ahead of time.

Interview preparation also goes both ways. Hiring managers expect candidates to come in fully prepared for their interviews, but surprisingly many hiring managers themselves are not prepared for them. The 2015 Candidate Experience Research found that many organizations do not even have a standard interview approach, and many recruiters and hiring managers are not trained on how to conduct a good interview.

At the very minimum, hiring managers should review a candidate’s resume before the interview and prepare relevant questions related to the role and the candidate’s skills and experience. As well, hiring managers should be prepared to promote their brands and showcase what makes their companies unique.

The interview is an opportunity for you to impress your candidates. So even if they don’t get the job offer, candidates are still excited about the idea of working for your company and are not left feeling sour about your brand.

5. Offer An Engaging Onboarding Experience

Think your candidate experience stops after an offer is sent out? Not quite. Between the time a candidate accepts the offer and starts their first day, there is a great opportunity to provide an unforgettable experience to continue to impress your new hire and engage with your employer brand.

Make sure your new hires complete all appropriate paperwork before they officially start, so they don’t spend their first day filling out forms when they could be doing something more meaningful and exciting, like meeting their coworkers.

There should be more than one touch point between you and your new hire once the offer is accepted. Communicate and share updates frequently. Even a simple email to let your new hires know that their laptop and desk are set up can be extremely powerful and add a personal touch to your candidate experience.

Lever, for example, offers new hires a very unique experience after they accept an offer. The hiring manager announces the new hire and the company gathers to create a fun GIF as a “welcome” gift. Then the hiring manager cc’s the entire team with the GIF sent to the new hire, and all employees add their personal welcomes with more GIFs.

As you can see, an engaging onboarding experience doesn’t have to break your bank to work. The key lies in proactive communication and planning that showcase your company culture and your excitement about them joining your company.

The candidate experience is an evolving process, one that requires ongoing feedback from your candidates to continually build a better experience. By taking these five steps, you can start creating the candidate experience your candidates will love, and one that your competitors will envy.

What other strategies are you using to deliver a great candidate experience? I’d love to hear your ideas so please share them below!

Not sure what strategies or technologies you should be using to improve your candidate experience? Contact us here and let’s chat about how we can help improve your recruiting results.

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Will Staney

Will is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies, LLC and the former Head of Global Talent Acquisition at rapidly-growing startups Twilio andGlassdoor. Prior to that he held recruiting leadership roles at enterprise software leaders VMwareSuccessFactors and SAPwhere he lead strategic programs includingemployer brandingsourcing strategy, recruiting operations and systems process design.

During his over 7 years as a recruiting practitioner, after 10 years in sales and marketing, he developed a passion for building what he calls "modern recruiting machines". He would push innovation from the inside, execute on his vision, and once it was realized he would pass the torch on to those he had mentored and move on to his next challenge. He was destined to start a consultancy so he could help as many companies as possible adopt a more proactive recruiting strategy with community in mind.

In his free time, Will enjoys riding his motorcycle, trying out the newest gadgets, and spending time with his two kids, Foster and Felicity.