How to ensure a positive Candidate Experience in 2022?

14 April 2022 Joanna Byerley

What’s Candidate Experience?

Poor candidate experience (CX) can have a detrimental effect on your market research business, and the need to ensure that everyone has a positive experience at every touchpoint during your hiring process is the key to securing the best talent and enhancing your employer brand. In this post, we explore what constitutes an inferior candidate experience and give you some tips on getting it right in 2022. A must-read!

The impact and cost of a poor candidate experience can be anything from a candidate not buying an agency’s services (think potential future clients of yours!), to talking negatively about the interaction with your company/brand to many others, or even leaving negative reviews publicly (Glassdoor anyone?).

The Touch Points

Candidate experience is the candidate’s perception of your company’s entire recruiting process, from the original advert/job description you posted to the initial email they receive, the first person they spoke to, the interview, offer stage and onboarding. Each part is equally important.

It is essential to measure candidate experience and understand the commercial consequences of getting it wrong. Go ‘undercover’ and through the recruitment experience yourself! Consider all the touchpoints – pre-interview, post-interview, the offer stage and after hire. Please take a closer look at your recruiting processes and feedback from candidates about their experience.

There are many examples of what constitutes a bad candidate experience. Here are 10 points to act as a checklist:

1) Your Job Advert or Job Description 

The point of your job spec is to attract people, not deter them! Don’t just make it a list of must-have requirements but make it clear and attractive. Talk about your company values and the benefits of working there. Make the candidate WANT the role before they even apply; get them excited. Cut out the boring!

Equally, take the time to ensure that the job posting (or your initial verbal briefing on a job to a candidate during the first interview stage) is through and accurately reflects the job responsibilities of the role. Candidates look to your job description as their guidepost when preparing for 1st/2nd interviews or when envisioning themselves working for your company.

2) Your Website 

Ensure that your website is up to date and reflects your current vision, mission, projects, and clients. Candidates will check your website first, and if they are not inspired, they will not want to apply. There is nothing more off-putting for candidates than hearing at the interview that ‘the website is no longer relevant; we are updating it etc.’ – it makes you look as if you lack credibility as a business.

You should have a Career Page that is crisp, highly digestible, relevant and fun! Use a simple language (not buzzwords!) and break it down into bite-sized chunks! Paint a picture aka ‘ A typical day at work’. Talk about who they’ll be working with and how they are expected to perform to succeed in your business. Be transparent about your hiring process. Make sure your expectations are clear from the get-go (81% of candidates said it would greatly improve their overall experience if the company/recruiters could set expectations about the hiring process).

3) Your Glassdoor Reviews

Sharing experiences has become the norm. We check Tripadvisor for Travel, Trustpilot for products and Glassdoor for workplaces / interview process reviews. Negative reviews about your hiring process and candidate experience will adversely affect your employer’s brand. One-third of jobseekers with lousy candidate experience will share it online. Each negative candidate experience has a ripple effect in the market because candidates are speaking with their colleagues, friends, and networks.

BTW, have you checked your company’s Glassdoor reviews recently?

4) The Application Process

Do you ask candidates to prepare a 5 mins presentation on ‘Their Favourite Brand’ for their first interview? Or potentially send them a quick data reasoning/Excel task? Don’t! A complicated application process puts candidates off, especially those who are in demand. Most of the information you need at this stage should be on their CV and feedback from your recruitment partner.  

Research shows that 25% of candidates had quit an application because it was too large or complex.

Keep your application process short and mobile-friendly. Remember, the mobile job search is an expected convenience today, so make sure to create short, crispy, and mobile-friendly applications.

5) Communication During Hiring Process

Communicating well with candidates eliminates doubt and confusion. Candidates consider prompt and frequent communication with their potential employer (or recruiter representing your employer’s brand) to be a significant positive factor in the candidate experience. It’s essential to keep this in mind throughout the hiring process with ALL your candidates, not just those you choose to move ahead with.

Be transparent and open to taking a candidate’s call (no matter how challenging a conversation). Don’t hide behind an email! Answer calls and emails in a timely fashion. All of this is super easy to do, so no excuses, folks!

Keep candidates posted on their status during your hiring process. If a candidate contacts you for an update, that’s the sign you need to be better about communicating! Remember that candidates often pursue multiple opportunities at once, so you could miss on your favourite potential employees by keeping them in the dark!

6) The Recruitment Process Takes Too Long!

It sounds evident that companies who have a streamlined and timely interview process hire better and get candidates they want! It’s hugely frustrating for a candidate (and a recruiter!) if the candidate/recruiter waits for feedback on the CV for over a week (it still happens, and you are losing out if this is your process with an unnecessary layer of the ineffective talent management team in the chain of communication). Please understand those good candidates won’t wait around for long! If the candidate is interviewing in two different companies and gets offered one, they are very unlikely to be around in case the other one may offer. After the first interview, they (rightly!) want feedback (ideally in the next 24h), and if they liked you, they are keen to organise a second interview asap. As they say, ‘time kills deals!’. They want the process to be brief, and if your hiring approach is long, it creates self-doubt! Avoid a prolonged recruitment process at all costs!

So, what are the right timeframes?

A 24h feedback on candidates’ CVs (either decline or invite candidates to the first interview) should be a norm. The first interview should take place within a maximum of 5 days of an initial response (subject to the candidate’s availability). Depending on the role/seniority level, the process should not take 2-3 weeks at most! It’s simple, the more time you take, the higher the chances of the candidate interviewing for other opportunities and the risk of losing this great candidate to a competitor!

7) The Interview Was Awful! 

You must become amazing at interviewing candidates! I am serious! We have dealt with some fantastic market research businesses in the UK, and candidates we have set up for interviews with these companies came out deflated, unenthused, and exhausted! Why? Because you didn’t build a rapport, grilled them with unnecessary questions, and an interview simply felt like a transaction!

It’s paramount to start by welcoming the candidate and telling them more about the company and exciting projects/people who work with you and why it’s exciting to join them. Make the candidate feel at ease! Don’t just jump into question after question, as candidates will not show their best side if they are intimidated.

Remember, people, prepare prior to meeting you! Ensure you do the same! Study their CV and feedback you got from a recruiter who represents them (often more valuable than the CV itself!); anything interesting that stands out? Have your questions ready, do not follow a boring template (aka ‘What’s your weakness?’ question). Think about the challenges the candidate will face in the role and interview around this!

Allow the candidate to ask you questions (the candidate often leaves deflated that they didn’t have any chance to showcase their skills or ask any questions). Lastly, don’t forget to sell your company and be yourself (remember, hiring is a two-way process, so candidates buy into your culture & values, too). Using a poker face is a quick way to put candidates off!

8) Poor Post Interview Feedback 

How likely are candidates to apply again based on their experience? Are they likely to refer you to others?

Provide detailed feedback to unsuccessful candidates. Guess what? Candidates will respect the time you took to give them considered feedback. They will likely apply to future roles and tell their colleagues, friends, and network to apply, too.  

Integrate personal touch into your rejection emails. While 65% of professionals would prefer to read rather than hear that they didn’t make it, offer them a choice to discuss it in person.

9) Time to Offer Acceptance 

Is time to offer acceptance contributing to a bad candidate experience?

Respect the candidate’s time frames and commitments! If they are interviewing with other companies, allow completing a process so they can make a considered decision to join you.

Give them the time they need to finish off other interviews. If you don’t, they will accept your offer and then turn it down because they could not get all the offers on a table to consider these properly side by side within the timeframe you gave them. I am still perturbed by companies who ‘demand’ a decision in 2-3 days! Don’t! It’s so counter-productive! 1 to 2 weeks should be a reasonable timeframe if the candidate is interviewing elsewhere.

10) BONUS TIP – NEVER Cancel a Second Interview If You Assigned a Task! 

Never cancel the 2nd interview with a task assigned, citing that you have already offered a job to another candidate! 

It’s ultimately your right and prerogative to give the job to whoever you feel is best but remember that candidates would have spent a LOT of time thinking and preparing for the interview slot. This takes up a lot of hours over the course of the hiring process – including booking the time off, and more importantly, is an emotional investment. 

If you cancel their interview a day before they are due to meet you, this will be discussed over and over again with their colleagues, friends, family and the network. They will most likely become the opposite of your brand ambassadors and will work against your business, influencing their professional contacts (your future candidates or clients) as well. 

It’s simple! PUT YOURSELF IN THE CANDIDATES’ SHOES. What would you think if you were interviewing with yourself and your company?

Benefits of Positive Candidate Experience 

Great candidate experience is crucial to your hiring success (as researchers, we are always looking at ways to improve the CX experience for our clients, so it’s time to use those skills in our hiring process!).

Candidates who have a positive and enjoyable recruitment experience will more likely accept your job offer, will probably refer their friends and peers to your company, and reapply if initially unsuccessful. All aspects will lead to improving your personal and company brand.

Make it your goal that every candidate you interview has learned and enjoyed the experience. You want them to want the job even though you can’t offer it to everyone. Make sure you leave them with this POSITIVE feeling! 

Remember that regardless of the state of the market, the best candidates will always have the ability to be picky about where they want to work. If you understand what candidates want out of the hiring process, you can put your business at a significant advantage in the job market.

Delivering an exceptional candidate experience is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity to attract and win the best talent!