Improving the Candidate Experience: What You Need to Know

Improving the Candidate Experience: What You Need to Know

As a recruiter, odds are good you have many goals. Achieving them isn’t always easy. Sometimes, you’ll want to enlist outside expertise to help you find candidates when filling vital positions at your organization. For instance, when hiring a new CEO, you’ll be more likely to find strong and qualified candidates with help from an executive search firm. They’ll leverage their extensive networks and other resources to ensure you find the perfect fit.

Of course, you also need to optimize your own hiring practices. That’s why improving the candidate experience during the hiring process should be one of your top goals. This is key to attracting strong performers consistently.

The following tips will help you better understand what you can do to design a candidate experience that yields results.

Understand the Candidate Experience in General

Before making improvements to the candidate experience, you need to know exactly what that is.

This topic isn’t necessarily simple. The candidate experience consists of many different elements. It includes how a candidate perceived your employer brand, how easy or difficult the application process was, how they felt during interviews, how long they had to wait to hear back from you, and pretty much all other experiences a candidate had throughout the recruiting process.

On the one hand, this broad definition means that improving the candidate experience often requires addressing several factors. However, it’s also been shown that making these improvements can help you substantially boost your employer brand.

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Identify Your Problem Areas

You can’t improve the candidate experience if you don’t know how your current strategy is lacking. A simple way to assess your candidate experience is to survey candidates and new hires. Distribute the survey via email and ask questions about their interactions with your organization during recruiting: How long did they have to wait between submitting their application and hearing back from someone? Was the application easy to submit? Was the job description clear and easy to understand? Where did they first hear about the position?

Although positive responses can help you identify which components of your strategy are already effective, it’s more valuable to focus on the negative comments. They’ll tell you where you need to make adjustments.

Surveying candidates like this can also boost your brand as an employer. Seeking feedback shows that you’re people-oriented and that you care how your organization engages with candidates.

Improve Efficiency

Surveying candidates will help you recognize which aspects of the candidate experience need attention. However, there are also general improvements virtually any recruiter can make to their strategy.

For instance, candidates who report negative experiences during recruitment often complain that the process of applying for a job (which includes staying in touch with and waiting for follow-up from recruiters or other HR staff) is cumbersome and time-consuming.

Given this common complaint, it’s worth examining your recruiting process to determine if there are ways to increase efficiency. Perhaps your current job application requires too many steps or includes redundant steps. For example, if your website forces applicants to both upload their resume and enter their job history in an online form, this is redundant. Perhaps it’s not clear what supporting documents applicants should include with their application. Maybe you lack standardized, intuitive methods for keeping in touch with candidates. Perhaps simply navigating the careers section of your website isn’t an easy process and confuses people. 

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Be Honest and Respectful

From the moment they submit their application, candidates want to be updated about their status as soon as possible—they don’t want to wait for weeks before hearing from someone. It’s not uncommon for strong candidates to turn down job offers because, by the time the recruiter contacted them with the offer, they had accepted a position elsewhere.

That’s why it’s important to make sure candidates understand your recruiting process up front. It’s also important for recruiters to keep candidates updated on the status of their application throughout the entire process, whether the candidate is turned down after an initial resume scan or they advance to the third interview.  

When candidates first submit their application, give them a basic idea of how long they should expect to wait before hearing about their status. Similarly, if the candidate advances forward in the selection process, let them know when they’ll next hear back from you—and then keep to that promise.

If a candidate wants the position at your company, but understands that you’ll take a relatively long time to make a decision, they’ll at least keep this information in mind should another job offer come along first. They might be willing to wait until you let them know if the job is theirs.

Even if not, being transparent with candidates about their status is a basic sign of respect. People invest a lot of time in applying and interviewing for jobs, and most will be turned down. The least you can do is respect people’s time by communicating with them promptly. This will also benefit you in the long run: showing common courtesy can enhance your employer brand.

Surveys indicate most people don’t have a positive candidate experience. Luckily, that provides recruiters with a unique opportunity: by improving your organization’s candidate experience, you can gain a competitive edge that other organizations lack.

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