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

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 a net promoter score, exactly, and how is it connected to 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, the net promoter score rating system is a quick and useful way to gauge a company’s performance when used with customers. In fact, companies found it so effective that they began using it to gauge employee satisfaction, asking, ‘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 Recruitment?

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. Here are some important ways cNPS influences recruitment success. 

Candidate experience

A poor candidate experience is one of the top 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. On the other hand, a smooth and enjoyable candidate experience promotes excitement and enthusiasm about joining your company. 

Employer branding

A good cNPS indicates that candidates are happy with their experience within your hiring funnel. Positive word of mouth reflects well on your company, which means you don’t have to do as much work to convince candidates to apply when you’re hiring. Recruiting aside, a strong employer brand is good for business. 

Attracting talent

When job seekers research companies, they often seek out information from prior candidates and current/former employees. Sites like Glassdoor are known for this. A high cNPS can serve as a testament to your company’s positive culture and employee satisfaction, making it more appealing to prospective candidates.


Happy candidates typically become engaged employees and are likelier to stick with their jobs than dissatisfied workers. As any recruiter knows, retention is an important long-term KPI, and having a strong cNPS will boost this impactful metric. 

Continuous improvement

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 collect 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 to drive continuous improvement.  

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).

The Challenges and Considerations of NPS in Recruiting

NPS isn’t a magic bullet for measuring candidate experience. It has some downsides that require consideration. 

Limited visibility

As we’ve already touched on, one of the things that makes NPS such an appealing measurement is its simplicity. But this simplicity also has a big disadvantage: it doesn’t give much room for context or nuance. If your cNPS is lagging, it’s not always immediately clear why. Further investigation through candidate feedback surveys and exit interviews is required to delve deeper into the details of candidates’ experiences and in turn, make meaningful changes.

Limited reach

cNPS scoring only collects feedback from applicants who have a current or very recent relationship with your brand. But many other people are influenced by your recruiting efforts, like prospective candidates who see your recruitment ads but don’t click on them or people who heard about a negative experience from a friend of a friend. Learning more about the perceptions of these individuals could be valuable, but they will never receive a cNPS survey.


Setting up and executing a cNPS survey can be time-consuming, but hiring moves fast. Candidates’ feedback is going to be the most useful when it’s fresh in their minds, but surveys often don’t reach people until several months after their interaction with an employer. The speed must be taken into consideration when deploying cNPS efforts. 

How to Use Net Promoter Score to Hire Better

Follow these five tips to use net promoter scores to drive better recruiting performance. 

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 the 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. It also lends itself to a number 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 using a free service like Survey Monkey to send a link and letting candidates know in advance that 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. You’ll still get an apples-to-apples comparison if you send it to all candidates simultaneously. 

This is 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, such as a rude interviewer, an extensive interview process, or a lack of feedback. We mentioned that NPS isn’t the be-all and 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 and delve 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] during the hiring process?
  • How would you rate your understanding of the role you applied for after the interview?
  • 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 also gives candidates an important outlet that can help deter them from turning to public sites like Glassdoor to air their grievances. 

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Tips on Promoting Your NPS

Set goals

Without specific goals, the desire to raise your NPS is just that–a desire, with no meaningful action plan. Drive results by setting measurable KPIs and analyzing them regularly. For example, you might set a goal to raise your NPS by 10 points within six months. 

Keep in mind that NPS can fluctuate widely if you look at it in too-narrow windows of time (like one week to the next). So, it’s best to analyze NPS over larger time frames and allow sufficient time to make meaningful improvements to it. 

Be transparent

When you send out an NPS survey, give the recipient context. Tell them why you’re asking the question(s) and how the information will be used. Simply knowing that you’re seeking feedback in order to improve can position you more positively in a candidate’s mind. 

Engage with promoters

People who reveal themselves to be promoters are brand evangelists in waiting. Give them additional opportunities to engage, like sharing your posts on social media or inviting them to join your mailing list.

Follow-up with detractors

Once someone lets you know they’ve had a bad experience, don’t just leave them hanging. Follow up to thank them for their feedback, apologize for their subpar experience, and let them know you’re working to make improvements. 

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 faster and at a lower cost by scheduling your free consultation now.

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