The Art of Candidate Experience: A Strategic Guide for Talent Acquisition

Creating a positive candidate experience isn’t just important but is essential to attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent.


Understanding the importance: Elevating the Candidate Experience

Recent studies emphasise the impact of candidate experience, both positive and negative. Ever been on a bad date; and couldn’t wait to tell your friends all the awful things they said or did?...Me too, and this is the reason candidate experience isn’t just important, but is essential to attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent.

  • 38% of candidates would accept a job offer if they have had a good candidate experience
  • 8 out of 10 candidates spread the word within their professional network
  • 72% tell family + friends about positive, and negative experiences

It’s easy to see here how the candidate experience can impact employer brand.



Designing a Candidate-Centric Process: Where to begin

Creating a candidate-centric process starts with a deep dive into your current hiring strategy, tailored to your organisation.
Do you know where your bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and time constraints are?

Look at:

  • Workforce planning
  • Talent team capacity
  • Hiring manager engagement
  • Recruitment lifecycle + process
  • Historic metrics (time to hire, cost per hire etc.)

Communication plays a huge role in the hiring experience, and ghosting isn’t just a thing in the dating world. You can’t have a world-in-class talent acquisition function without timely and clear communication across the entire lifecycle.

Technology's role: Streamlining and enhancing

Just as plumbers need tools, your talent team needs the right technology.

The backbone of any talent function is an applicant tracking system (ATS). You can’t operate an efficient hiring process without one, and you can’t have an exceptional candidate experience if you don’t invest in the tools that give you the functionality required to customise, automate, and manage your hiring process.
Having your ATS in place is the first step, you need to look holistically at your entire lifecycle. Where else can you begin to deploy additional technology?

  • Competitor and candidate mapping
  • Employer branding and marketing
  • Candidate attraction
  • Sourcing and comms
  • Interview process
  • On-boarding

What time will this save your talent team, how much more efficient will they be, does it give them access to the talent that your business requires? Use technology to enhance performance and capability, and enable your teams to operate at the top of their game.

Something to keep in mind is that you want to keep processes as slick, and easy as possible for talent teams, hiring managers, and most importantly candidates.

Personalisation and Customisation: A Personal Touch

When evaluating technology, prioritise customisation and harness the power of personalisation. Candidate’s don’t want to feel like they are one of 90 other candidates that’ve been sent the exact same message; look at how AI can assist you with reach out messages for a more personal touch. Personalisation isn’t just important initially, it’s important that candidates receive tangible feedback, even when they aren’t successful and you’ve got to be able to articulate the skills or competencies they didn’t demonstrate alongside the skills they did. Some of the best hires I’ve ever made have been candidates who were unsuccessful for one role in the team, but would be great for another role in the team at a later date.


The Interview Experience: From Preparation to Feedback

It’s best practice to always deliver feedback on a call (unless a candidate has specifically told you their preference is otherwise) an email to reject a candidate when they have put time and effort into an interview process is impersonal and doesn’t give the option to ask questions around the feedback. It’s also a great opportunity to ask the candidate if they’re happy to keep in touch to discuss future positions in the organisation.

We can overlook the little things that - a good luck call, or text to wish a candidate good luck 24 hours prior to the interview is always well received - even if it’s automated and light touch.

The success of a candidate experience doesn’t just sit with your talent teams - hiring managers and interviewers alike need to understand the importance of a good candidate experience, and the steps that they can take to ensure the process (and actual interview) is as enjoyable as possible.

Something that we do at FIELD is ensure that before a requisition is accepted that the hiring manager has mapped out each stage of the interview process, so those involved know what their role in the interview is, what it is that they are assessing, and what questions they are responsible for answering. Hiring teams will also review prior interview notes so they know if there is a skill or competency that needs a little more exploration.

Top Tip: only move interviews with absolutely necessary, always turn up on time - and have hiring managers feedback within 24 hours

Post-Interview Engagement: Maintaining Momentum

The hard work doesn’t stop once the interview has taken place; maintain momentum. Talent teams and interviewers need to work together. You can’t provide an exceptional candidate experience if you don’t all act with urgency.

The role of a talent team isn’t just to find talent, you need to keep talent engaged and excited - check in with candidates no later than 24 hours after an interview. Ask how they found the interview, if they have questions or feedback. Let them know time frames and ensure you stick to them.

What does great feedback look like?

Feedback is detailed and timely - should be shared with the candidate no more than 48 hours after each interview. It feels good to give positive feedback; but it doesn’t always feel so great to say no or give constructive feedback. We are all human and we’re subject to biases so giving clear, fair & impartial feedback will help us break down and manage our own biases.

The best way to deliver feedback is using the SBI model (Situation, Behaviour, Impact)

  • Situation: I asked a question about their reason for leaving their last employer
  • Behaviour(s): They talked at length about how much they hated their last job
  • Impact: This left me feeling concerned about their proactivity, because they didn’t take any active steps to improve things before deciding to leave

Gathering and Analysing Feedback: Continuous Improvement

End all candidate interactions by sending NPS surveys to candidates. This will give you a measure on the health of your hiring process and show where you’re doing a good job, and where you have some blind spots.

Top Tip: I recommend sending NPS surveys only to those who have reached the first hiring manager interview and beyond

Dig into your data and understand what is impacting experience. What is your NPS score and how does that compare to wider industry data? What are the most common themes in feedback? Cross reference the data against offers rejected, and candidates withdrawing from the process - what insights can you gain from this? Use your findings to implement changes and improvements across the recruitment lifecycle. If too many interview stages is a common theme, work with hiring managers to condense processes where possible.

I typically dive into the data on a quarterly basis, depending on the volume of your hiring you may need to do it more, or less frequently.

The Long-Term Impact: Candidate Experience as Part of Employer Brand

Engaged candidates and team members become advocates who support both recruitment and retention. In fact, research by the Edelman Trust found that employee voice is three times more credible than that of the CEO when discussing what it’s like to work for an organisation.
When you’re hiring, interviewing, or engaging with prospective candidates you want the experience to be positive, so even rejected candidates become ambassadors for your organisation.

Do you remember a world-class candidate experience, either as a job seeker or a talent acquisition professional, if so, what actions can you take, starting today, to replicate or enhance that experience in your own recruitment process?

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