Landing a job is a lot like dating: It takes a lot of rejection to find a match.
And, also much like dating, it’s important for companies to make a great impression, even if you know five minutes into the conversation that the candidate isn’t the right fit. The impression your business leaves on candidates can have a tremendous impact on your company’s reputation. A bad interviewing experience can end up costing you qualified future candidates—after all, this is the age of online reviews and visibility.
Instead of approaching the hiring process with trepidation, consider this an opportunity to meet fascinating people while improving your company’s reputation. We’ll walk you through the importance of providing a positive experience for your candidates and crafting a hiring process that elevates your company and solidifies it as a desirable place to work.
What is candidate experience?
Candidate experience refers to the entire process of applying for a job at your company, from reading the job description to going through onboarding and beyond. But really, your candidate’s experience with your company starts long before they ever see a job description. After all, many companies have a reputation that impacts whether a candidate will seek out a job with that organization or even read one of its job descriptions.
Here are some potential touchpoints in the candidate experience prior to hiring:
- Job description
- Application process
- Application submission confirmation
- Initial call and interview request
- Declining the applicant (either by phone or email)
- In-person interview instructions and preparations
- In-person interview
- Next steps and feedback
Every piece of communication regarding the job is a chance to make a positive or negative impression. Don’t underestimate the impact that even the tone of an email can have on a candidate’s impression of your company.
Here’s an important note: candidates often feel quite vulnerable when they’re applying to an open position. They may have been out of work for a while or they may have received numerous rejections already. They may feel their own value has been diminished by the way the job market has treated them.
Remember that you’re working with real three-dimensional people who come to the hiring process with their own sets of experiences and expectations. A rejection that may be easily brushed off by one candidate may be absolutely devastating for another. And that’s an important part of creating a positive candidate experience: making sure that the candidate feels uplifted and important even if they’re not hired. You have an opportunity to create positive experiences and to maybe even help someone’s confidence.
So what makes a good candidate experience? In general, a positive candidate experience makes a candidate feel seen and valued. A good candidate experience delivers a frictionless application process that leaves each candidate feeling like their application is important, that they aren’t just one applicant among thousands (even if that’s the case).
Further, a good candidate experience communicates empathy. It’s important for HR managers to place themselves in the candidates’ shoes to understand where frustration can be alleviated and where delight can be added.
A great candidate experience prioritizes communication. This includes speaking with managers to understand the needs they have in a specific role, communicating needs in an accurate, specific job description, and sending out regular updates to candidates throughout the hiring process.
Benefits of a good candidate experience
Focusing on improving candidate experience doesn’t just impact the candidate. Putting candidate needs front and center will have a tremendous impact on your company and your recruiting process. Recruiting top talent depends on building and maintaining a strong reputation. That reputation can be hurt by candidates telling others about a bad experience they had with your company.
On the other hand, when candidates have a good interaction with your company, they’re more likely to recommend you to other qualified individuals. The candidate experience can be the edge your business needs to stay competitive in a cutthroat market.
Also, don’t forget that just as much as you’re interviewing candidates, they’re interviewing your business, too. A bad candidate experience can be a sign of larger issues within an organization. If, for instance, you don’t respond to candidates in a timely manner, your candidate may view that as a disregard for employees. The candidate experience shows how much you value your employees.
Ways to improve the candidate experience
Improving your candidate experience isn’t as abstract as it might seem. Try these basic approaches to improving your hiring process to keep the transition as straightforward as possible.
1. Document your processes
When your candidate experience is a set process and not left up to individual interpretation, it can be easily replicated from candidate to candidate to keep hiring as fair as possible. It also ensures that certain aspects of the process don’t fall through the cracks (failing to call a candidate back, for instance).
Documenting processes also allows the hiring process to improve over time so that, ultimately, you can recruit higher-quality candidates and increase hiring speed. It also means less turnover and a better company culture.
Take a look at the example below (and click to use it as a template in Lucidchart).
2. Set clear expectations
Telling candidates what to expect eliminates a lot of their anxiety. It also elevates the perception of how organized your HR department is and, by extension, how organized the rest of the company is. When you set clear expectations, candidates feel comfortable and prepared as they move through the hiring process.
3. Get flexible with better tech
Scrutinize every part of your application process for improvements. Consider, for instance, incorporating video interviews to meet candidates from all over the world. Use APIs that allow applicants to apply using their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles.
Pull pertinent information directly from uploaded resumes so that candidates don’t have to re-enter information found on their resumes into form fields. And never require a candidate to set up an account to apply to one of your jobs (this is a cardinal recruiting sin and will result in a high amount of application abandonment).
In short, make the digital application process not only seamless—but fun.
4. Improve written tone
Immediately after submitting an application, your candidate should receive a confirmation email. Think about that: Before your candidates even have the chance to attend an in-person interview, they’ve already previewed your company’s voice—and, really, its character—through written communication. Every email is a chance to make a great impression. Automated emails should be upbeat, cheerful, and encouraging.
If you need to send a rejection email to a candidate, make it kind. Consider sending personalized rejection emails whenever possible. If a candidate has progressed to the interview stage, an emailed rejection is your chance to tap into empathy and encouragement. It should also include a heartfelt thank you. After all, the candidate likely spent a great amount of time and energy proceeding through the hiring process.
5. Level up your onboarding
The candidate experience doesn’t end with a job offer. Onboarding a new employee should be just as seamless and exciting as the rest of the hiring process. Pair new employees with mentors, provide serious swag (do not underestimate the importance of swag), and provide a training schedule. Training should be engaging, relevant, motivating, and informative
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. One great way to start improving your candidate experience is by hosting a brainstorming session with members throughout your organization (don’t limit it just to HR) who can contribute innovative ideas of how to set your company apart. Make this a purposeful initiative with buy-in from executives and others in your business.
With these tips and ideas from your HR team, you can build a world-class team—and leave an excellent brand impression with every candidate.
Build and document a better recruiting process to leave candidates with a great impression.