What Is Net Promoter Score and How Does It Affect Hiring?

Scale reading the score is "promoter"; Net Promoter Score

Originally introduced as a way to gauge customer loyalty, net promoter score, or NPS, is one of the most widely measured business metrics. When taken consistently, it can be an accurate indicator of a company’s future growth. Now, hiring teams are leveraging it as a way to measure their recruiting performance. 

What is net promoter score exactly, and how is it connected with your hiring process? Read on to learn how you can use this one simple question to gauge the effectiveness of your talent acquisition efforts and project future staffing success. 

What is Net Promoter Score?

Your net promoter score is a number formulated by gathering customer answers to a single question: on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [product/brand/company] to others? One is the lowest possible score while ten is the highest. Higher scores from a customer are strongly associated with a higher likelihood of repeat purchases, brand loyalty, and other important performance metrics that influence business growth. 

Here’s how a customer is defined based on their NPS response:

  • Detractors: customers that give a rating from 1 to 6 
  • Passive: customers that give a rating of 7 or 8
  • Promoters: customers that give a rating of 9 or 10

Your overall score is a number ranging from -100 to 100. It’s calculated by the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. So, if you had all promoters, your score would be a perfect 100. If you had all detractors, your score would be a terrible -100. A positive NPS means you have more promoters than detractors, while a score above 50 is considered outstanding. 

As you can see, when used with customers, the net promoter score rating system is a quick and useful way to get a read on how you’re doing as a company. In fact, companies found it so effective that they began using it to gauge employee satisfaction with the question ‘how likely would you be to recommend this company as a place to work?’ 

Now, more companies are adopting it further for use on candidates with the question ‘how likely would you be to recommend that someone apply to work here?’ When used in the context of job candidates, net promoter score is commonly referred to as cNPS. 

How Does Your Net Promoter Score Pertain to Hiring?

Your cNPS is a broad measure of the average candidate experience when applying to your company, which is directly tied to all sorts of factors from your offer acceptance rate to your employer brand. 

A poor candidate experience is one of the top two reasons candidates reject job offers. When the job application process is disjointed, sloppy or inefficient, it can spark worries among applicants that other processes at your company will be this way, too. 

One major benefit of using cNPA is that it’s a structured measurement. While candidate experience surveys are highly useful, the open-answer information they bring in can be inconsistent from applicant to applicant and they don’t offer a uniform way to compare answers against one another. The simple scoring format of cNPS gives you an easy way to compare apples to apples from one candidate to the next. 

While it’s not a be-all, end-all metric by any means, net promoter score is a great way to track your recruiting progress over time and quickly gauge the impact of any changes you’ve made. For example, if you institute a new application format and see a subsequent rise in cNPS, it’s a good indicator that the new format is a success (and vice versa for a subsequent drop in score).  

How to Use Net Promoter Score to Hire Better

To begin using net promoter score to drive better recruiting performance, follow these five tips. 

1. Think of candidates as an extension of your customers

For most businesses, the benefit of gathering feedback from customers is a no-brainer. For some reason, though, many organizations fail to extend the same logic to their job applicants. Approach your candidate experience the same way you would approach your customer experience, making it a positive one for buyers and non-buyers (or in this case, hires and non-hires) alike. 

Why do you need to focus on a good experience even for candidates you don’t hire? Because they have the potential to really hurt your employer brand. Whereas 87% of people will tell a friend about a positive brand experience, 95% will share with others about a negative one. Tracking your net promoter score and making incremental improvements to it over time can have meaningful implications for your candidate experience, which minimizes negative conversations about your company. 

2. Use it with new hires, but more importantly, with non-hires

When measuring cNPS, consistency is key—the single-question survey should be distributed to all applicants regardless of whether they’re ultimately hired or not. As we discussed above, the ideal scenario is for all candidates, even those you reject, to come out of your hiring process with a positive impression. 

In fact, we’d argue that the scores you receive from non-hires—which will be the majority of applicants—are even more important than those you receive from candidates who wind up joining your team. While new hires may feel compelled to leave a high score simply because they wound up getting the job, non-hires have nothing to gain by sugar-coating their answer. Thus, their feedback is likely to be a more honest assessment of your actual candidate experience. 

3. Make it simple

One of the primary reasons net promoter score is so useful is its simplicity. The single-question format has a low barrier to entry, which helps you gather as many responses as possible, and lends itself to a number a of different collection formats, from your website to email to written responses via a physical form. 

To maximize the data you gather, make it as easy as possible for candidates to participate. Some methods we like to use are embedding the question in an email with a clickable answer so candidates can weigh in without even leaving their inbox, or by using a free service like Survey Monkey to send a link and letting candidates know in advance it’s only a single question. 

4. Test it at various stages of the hiring funnel

Another useful quality of cNPS is that you can send the survey at any point in the hiring funnel that you choose. As long as you send it to all candidates at the same time, you’ll still get an apples-to-apples comparison. 

Why is this useful? Because it can help you pinpoint where breakdowns are occurring in your recruiting process. For example, if a cNPS survey sent after the screening process yields a score of 55 but one sent after the interview process yields a much lower score, you’ll know that something is lacking in your interview execution or follow up and can take appropriate steps to correct it. 

5. Follow up to address low scores

There are various reasons a candidate may have a bad hiring experience, from a rude interviewer,  an extensive interview process, or a lack of feedback, and the list goes on. We mentioned that NPS isn’t a be-all-end-all – that’s why it’s important to dig for more information via a candidate experience survey. 

Candidate experience surveys are longer, more in-depth questionnaires that give context to positive or negative net promoter scores. They ask about the candidate’s overall experience as well as delving into specifics like the written application and the interview process. 

While you may choose to follow up on all NPS surveys with a candidate experience survey, it’s especially important to do so with detractors so you can learn the reasons behind their poor interaction with your company. 

Here are some good questions to ask in a candidate experience survey:

  • What words would you use to describe the interview process at [company]? (i.e. challenging, enjoyable, stressful, etc.)
  • How would you rate the level of communication you received from [recruiter] the hiring process?
  • How would you rate your understanding of the role you were applying for after the interview process?
  • What could we do differently to make our hiring process better?

Collecting candidate feedback in this manner not only gives you a breadth of information to use to make internal improvements, but it gives candidates an important outlet that can help deter them from turning to public sites like Glassdoor to air their grievances. 

Hire More Effectively by Partnering with 4 Corner Resources

Identifying and attracting the best candidates is one part art, one part science. 4 Corner Resources will help you master both aspects with a combination of time-tested recruiting methodologies and more than 15 years of experience in the field.

When you partner with our team of seasoned headhunters, you’ll enjoy faster sourcing and screening, more efficient interview scheduling, and a seamless onboarding process, all of which contribute to a better candidate experience. Learn how we can help you fill your open roles more quickly and at a lower cost by scheduling your free consultation now.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete is a seventh-generation Floridian whose career in technical recruiting began immediately following his graduation from Florida State University. After serving in leadership roles for two Fortune 500 companies, he founded 4 Corner Resources in 2005 to pursue a dream of building a business that prioritizes people over processes. In the years since, 4CR, the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida, has won numerous awards; most recently Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete and his team recently launched zengig, with the goal of offering the most comprehensive advice, tools, and resources for every career journey. He’s the host of two podcasts; Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology.