How to create a positive candidate experience when recruiting

candidate satisfaction

In a competitive job market, employers need every advantage to secure top talent. Whilst we all know about company culture, fair remuneration and employee benefits, there is an area of the recruitment process that many organisations overlook – candidate experience.

A positive candidate experience sets the scene for the candidate to want to work in the organisation, or, perhaps more importantly, it means they won’t not want to work for you now or in the future.

Simple right? But research (and my experience) says otherwise. I have witnessed multiple occasions where an employer makes an offer after a recruitment process, only to have their offer turned down due to a poor candidate experience.

What is the ‘candidate experience’?

The candidate experience is defined as how candidates feel about your company once they experience your hiring process”.

This covers every step of the process, from the job ad to the application process, communication, interview process, feedback, and rejection/ onboarding. Getting all the steps right is crucial to ensure a positive candidate experience.

Why does a positive candidate experience matter?

The benefits of a positive experience for the successful candidate are clear, such as increasing the likelihood of a job offer being accepted (especially in a multiple-offer situation) and a more positive attitude when starting a new role. In a recent LinkedIn survey, 78% of respondents agree that the candidate’s experience during recruitment indicates how a company values its people.

What is not often considered is the importance of a positive experience for unsuccessful candidates.

It includes positive word-of-mouth feedback, a willingness to apply for future roles (critical in a small and tight labour market like New Zealand) and a willingness to continue (or begin) being a customer of the brand.

In 2017, Virgin Media announced they felt candidate experience was so important for their brand and believed improving it could turn recruitment from a $6M loss to a $7M income stream as a result of not losing business from unsuccessful applicants.

job candidate

What are the top four steps to creating a positive candidate experience?

The Talent Board 2022 business impact of candidate experience benchmark survey found the top four reasons candidates withdrew from a recruitment process are:

  1. There was a difference between the posted job description and how it was presented during the interview
  2. The recruiting process took too long
  3. My time was disrespected during the recruiting process
  4. The salary didn’t meet expectations

Avoiding these four things should be front of mind during any recruitment process.

There was a difference between the posted job description and how it was presented during the interview

This happens all the time for various reasons, including failing to review the job description (JD) before advertising the role, a desire to ‘attract’ candidates with a JD that is more exciting than the role, not understanding the role itself and a communication breakdown.

How do you avoid these pitfalls?

Rather than mindlessly replacing every person that leaves, with the same role and JD, start the hiring process by analysing your employee matrix.

What operational gaps do you need to fill?

What would the role look like that could fill those gaps?

Is there an internal person ideal for filling some of those gaps?

Do the gaps logically fit together into a role?

Use this information to create a concise job description and title. Avoid jargon and ‘buzz words’ like ‘passionate’ and ‘guru’ and focus on measurable, reasonable responsibilities.

I always recommend having two people for an interview. Two is not so many to be overwhelming, but enough to provide balance during selection. The ideal mix is a recruitment professional and a manager for the role being filled. The line manager is the subject expert who knows the role and can answer candidate questions on the spot. The recruiter knows how to conduct an interview. They are responsible to reference checks, following up with candidates and taking care of all of the administration.

The recruiting process took too long

According to LinkedIn, in 2022, the average length of the hiring process was 36 days. That is over a month from start to finish. However, research suggests that the majority of candidates who accept interviews, and go on to accept the role receive a response within two days.

So how can you streamline this?

Contact every candidate within 48 hours of application. This can be a generic ‘thank you for your application, or something more specific. There is no need to wait for the application period to finish; get started booking interviews for promising candidates immediately. Every good recruiter knows that the best talent will always have options. Ensure they interview for your role first to present an offer before anyone else.

My time was disrespected during the recruitment process

This is a difficult one.

HR Managers, Hiring Managers, and Recruiters, we would all say that we spend a lot of time on the recruitment process. And this is true. However, have you ever thought about how much time each candidate spends applying in relation to how much time you spend on each individual?

In most roles, only 10% of the applications you receive will be considered contenders. It takes less than a minute to scan the application to assess suitability quickly. For the person applying, it would probably take an hour, or even longer, to craft that application.

On to the next step, interviews.

Once again, as recruitment professionals, we spend much more time conducting interviews for two or three people than they spend attending. However, each person has had to take time out of their job to participate in that interview, whilst we get paid to be there. Good candidates also spend more time preparing than we do by researching the company, the product, the team, and the culture and preparing questions. The candidate must drive to us, perhaps pay for parking, and the list goes on.

waiting for interview

How do you show a candidate you respect their time?

Prepare a professional, friendly, and organised interview for your candidates.

Send them an email with all the information they need for the interview and follow up with a calendar invite containing the same information.

Give your candidate all the housekeeping information, where to park, how to enter the building (if there is security), dress code, how long the interview will take, what the format of the interview will be, who will attend and their titles/ relationships to the role. I also recommend attaching a copy of the job description and a copy of their CV and cover letter; this is especially helpful for candidates who have personalised their application for multiple roles.

During the interview, make sure you start and finish on time.

Tell candidates where the bathroom is, offer them refreshments and have water in the room.

Outline the interview process, including the post-interview process and timeline.

Avoid any distractions, maintain eye contact and give candidates the courtesy of your full attention, as you will expect them to do for you.

Take notes during the process and explain this to the candidate.

Finally, ensure you thank candidates for their time and don’t schedule anything directly after the interview. This means candidates won’t feel rushed and gives you time to complete any notes and confer with any other interviewer whilst it is fresh on your mind.

After the interview, send feedback as soon as possible, preferably within two days. Take some time to send meaningful feedback to rejected candidates. If there is a second round of interviews, let those who made it through know as soon as possible. You can always confirm a time and date at a later stage, but they will be waiting to hear from you. Regardless of the outcome, always do your best to end the process on a high note. If you liked the candidate and would love to hire them for another role, make sure you let them know.

You can read our blog for more interview tips.

The salary didn’t meet expectations

This is often a point of contention during recruitment as it raises the question of whether you advertise a salary band with the role.

Generally speaking, advertising a salary band saves everyone time and improves the candidate experience. No one wants to get to an interview or, worse, make a job offer only to find out salary expectations are incompatible.

So why not advertise the salary band?

There are many reasons that an organisation will choose not to advertise their salary, none of which are for the benefit of the candidates. It could be to hide from current employees what the role is worth, hide from competitors what you pay your staff, negotiate a lower rate than you might be willing to pay, or not exclude an exceptional candidate that you might be willing to stretch the budget for.

Whilst the simple answer is to include a salary range in the job advert, many organisations will not budge on this. If this is the case, it can be helpful to ask/ disclose this information in an initial screening phone call. This saves everyone’s time and may help decide whom to offer a job to.

It is worth noting that legislation is being introduced to demand wage transparency in other countries. It is likely similar legislation will be introduced in New Zealand.

Other things to consider

So far, we have covered how to create a positive candidate experience after an application has been made. What about during the application process?

The job ad

List the most important information first (just as recruiters skim applications, candidates skim job ads). Make them as short, easy to read and straightforward as possible – think bullet points, lots of verbs and short sentences.

List essential experience and qualifications as requirements, but carefully consider them – if a candidate ticked every other box, would you still turn them down?

Ensure your careers page and company LinkedIn profile are up to date and touch on company values and culture. Look at your website with fresh eyes – does it represent somewhere you would want to work?

The job application

LinkedIn tells us that nearly 60% of job seekers quit online job applications mid-way due to their length and complexity.

Good people are hard to find, make their journey into your organisation as easy and stress-free as possible. Ask yourself – what does it say about working for you if the application process feels like an exam?

Whilst these steps may seem difficult initially, the rewards that can be realised in the short and long term make the effort well worth it.

At 40 Foot, we are experts in ensuring candidates have a positive experience during the recruitment process. We manage the whole process, from advertising the role, screening applicants and running the interview process. We can coach your line managers in interview techniques and manage all of the candidate communications for a seamless experience. We are experts in taking the pressure off our clients. We deliver exceptional candidates with the knowledge and experience to fill any tech role.

Why not call me and discuss how I can assist you in providing a candidate experience that will ensure you get the best person for your role.

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