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5 Candidate Experience Best Practices And Why You Should Follow Them

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Candidate experience best practices can leave job applicants with a great impression of your company–even if you don’t end up hiring them. Why is this important? Because how you treat candidates directly impacts your company’s reputation, which plays a big role in your ability to attract top talent. 

Think of it from a job seeker’s point of view. Would you rather apply to a company that you’ve heard is aloof and inaccessible during the interview process? Or would you prefer one that is notorious for making candidates feel like VIPs? Most logical people would choose the second option in a heartbeat. The difference between the two companies is their candidate experience. 

We’ll define candidate experience, explain why it’s a critical component of your employer brand and share five candidate experience best practices to help you create a hiring process that leaves applicants with great feelings about you as an employer.

What is a Candidate Experience?

“Candidate experience” defines how job seekers feel about your company after the interview process. Candidates who feel good about their interaction with your recruiters will be more likely to accept an offer, apply to other vacancies in the future, and refer others. A negative experience, on the other hand, can damage your employer brand and increase the challenge of hiring quality talent.

One of the main problems with having a negative candidate experience is that candidates rarely keep it to themselves. According to the latest Candidate Experience Research Report from The Talent Board, nearly 60% of prospective employees will share a negative job application experience with family members and friends, and more than 30% will express their opinions online, for the world to see. 

Candidate experience also contributes to referrals, which most employers depend on to make quality hires. Sixty-seven percent of North American candidates said they were extremely likely to refer others to a company based on their experience as a candidate. When the company provides an excellent experience, that number jumps to 79%. 
Just as negative reviews can impact whether or not consumers spend money with businesses, unflattering remarks from job candidates can significantly impede companies’ employer brands, and their ability to attract the best talent. Unpleasant candidate experiences can also hurt a firm’s bottom line, as British cable and mobile provider Virgin Media discovered. We’ll talk about that story next.

Related: How to Elevate Your Employer Branding To Attract Top Talent

Impact of a Candidate Experience

In a video interview “The Commercial Impact of Candidate Experience,” presented at LinkedIn Talent Connect 2016, Virgin Media’s former Head of Resourcing Graeme Johnson described in detail how uncovering one poor candidate experience resulted in learning about a chronic problem that affected the organization’s reputation among prospective employees, as well as overall revenue.

When he was hired, Johnson started reviewing post-interview surveys of candidates who were rejected, to see their opinion of Virgin Media. He read about Louise, a hairstylist who was excited about the possibility of joining the Virgin Media team and was surprised that she landed an interview since she had limited relevant experience.

From the beginning, Louise’s hiring process did not meet her expectations of a brand that generally has a positive public reputation. In the survey, Louise wrote that she was greeted by an irritable receptionist. The interviewer left the room to take a phone call, returned 10 minutes later, told her he “heard everything he needed to hear”, and abruptly ended the meeting with a rejection.

Louise was so dissatisfied with her treatment that she wrote that she would cancel her Virgin Media cable subscription and switch to a competitor, and her sister would, too.

Louise’s story prompted Johnson to conduct research. Virgin Media’s customer insights team reported that 18 percent of rejected candidates were Virgin Media customers. Their Promoter Scores, which calculates how likely a person is to recommend a business, illustrated that two-thirds of the rejected prospects were detractors, which means they would likely not recommend Virgin Media.

This information troubled Johnson, and he dug deeper to find how it was impacting the company. It turned out that about two-thirds of rejected candidates were “detractors,” meaning they likely wouldn’t recommend Virgin Media to others

He then decided to dig even deeper to find out how many of these unhappy candidates were actually canceling, and how that is impacting the company. It turns out that Virgin Media was losing millions in lost revenue because of bad candidate experiences, so he asked corporate executives to invest in improving the hiring process and re-train hundreds of hiring managers. These moves reaped favorable results.

Importance of a positive applicant experience

This particular story describes why candidate experience is important, and how the interview process for employers should be a high priority for companies. Before the age of smartphones, tablets, review sites, and social media, job seekers could only reach a small audience of family members and friends after a bad candidate experience. Today, each unpleasant candidate experience can be splashed across multiple social media platforms. They can add multiple negative reviews, making it easy to see the harm that can be done to your company’s reputation.

Since the market for talent is hyper-competitive, job seekers have abundant flexibility in the opportunities they pursue. Organizations that have a simple and attractive application, assessment, and interview process have a better chance of captivating the interest of exceptional talent.

Prospects are demanding a consumer-grade candidate experience. They expect an attentive and seamless hiring process from employers.

How to Enhance Your Candidate Experience

Be mobile-friendly

There are more mobile phones than people in the world, and mobile browsing has surpassed desktop and tablet use as the most popular way to access the internet. If you want to get in front of in-demand candidates, your company’s careers page and the entire application process needs to be simple, mobile-friendly, and easily accessible. 

Enterprise companies may want to consider developing a branded mobile app dedicated to streamlining the mobile application process. Your ATS may also come with features that cater to on-the-go candidates, like one-click mobile applications.

Related: What is Mobile Recruiting and How to Use It Effectively

Maintain prompt communication through the hiring process

In the Talent Board survey we mentioned earlier, candidates who reported a poor experience said their number one reason for withdrawing from the application process with a company was disrespect for their time. Usually, this means the company leaves candidates hanging. In a cutthroat talent market, neither candidates nor employers can afford to have their time wasted in this manner.

Do not send a generic applicant rejection letter. Personalize it and send it from an actual human’s email address. Interview invites are also more appealing when they are delivered from a personal email ( instead of

Acknowledge a job seeker’s thank you and follow-up emails after phone screens and in-person interviews. This shows you are organized and courteous, and that you appreciate and respect your prospects.

Related: How to Give Positive or Negative Candidate Feedback

Gather feedback at each step of the hiring process

Requesting feedback demonstrates that your company is genuinely interested in improving the candidate experience. It can enhance your employer brand because job seekers feel like you are listening. The feedback might also help you improve your hiring process, and contribute to creating and maintaining a great candidate experience.

The Talent Board Report indicates that 79.2 percent of companies request feedback from candidates about their experience at some point during the hiring process. Only 14.3 percent of companies conduct surveys at every touchpoint. This limits companies from making meaningful improvements.

Chances are, prospects are providing feedback on social media and places that you cannot monitor, such as conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. Seeking their input can build goodwill. Not every candidate will want to provide feedback, but response rates will likely be higher if the request is optional, and it is easy to complete.

In the early stages of the hiring process, consider implementing a simple rating system via a feedback form or pop-up on your website, or an emailed link. An in-depth survey is more appropriate for new hires and late-stage candidates. A long list of questions in the initial part of the hiring process may create an unpleasant candidate experience.

Assure candidates that feedback is anonymous

Prospects might hesitate to offer feedback about the hiring process if they believe it can keep them from getting the job. This is why it is crucial to let them know their comments are anonymous, and their privacy is respected.

From the start, let candidates know that feedback will be requested and welcomed, and how their insight helps you enhance their candidate experience. Alerting them from the beginning will increase the likelihood they will fill out surveys when they arrive in their email in-box.

The Talent Board Report discovered that 44 percent of companies only survey prospects after they have been hired. This offers a limited glimpse into most candidate experiences. As Virgin Media learned, getting input from job seekers who have been rejected can benefit a company’s reputation and bottom line.

New team members likely have enjoyed a positive candidate experience, or else they would have not accepted your company’s offer. They are probably more inclined to offer positive feedback out of respect to their new employer and enthusiasm for their new role. Surveying new hires is valuable, but it should represent only a portion of your candidate feedback. Rejected candidates might have useful insight, and job seekers who voluntarily dropped out of the hiring process might have done some because they endured a negative candidate experience.

Gathering input from everyone will give you the most complete portrait of how candidates view your hiring process.

Make applications short and user-friendly

Job seekers expect and even demand a simple and easy-to-understand application. A lengthy job application can be the difference between maintaining interest in your company and choosing another organization that meets their technology expectations.

Instead of providing an application that requires filling in details in every space, a better option is an autofill application from their LinkedIn profile and the ability to attach a resume.

Bad candidate experiences and under-developed recruiting strategies generally result in high turnover and low morale. Great candidate experiences not only bolster your employer brand and make your company an ideal destination for job seekers, but they can also turn even rejected candidates into advocates for your company because they feel respected.

Understanding the value of a candidate’s journey through the entire hiring process, and treating job seekers with the same consideration as customers, are habits of successful companies.

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Resources and Sources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn