As a recruiter, you know that finding the perfect candidate can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

No matter the role you’re hiring for, you know the feeling of coming across the resume of a candidate with all the skills and requirements you’re looking for. Now imagine they decide to join the team at one of your competitors because your team provided them with a poor candidate experience.

It happens more often than you think, which is why it’s so crucial that recruiters and hiring managers take the time to treat all applicants with respect and provide a winning candidate experience throughout the hiring process.

If you’re looking to create a candidate experience that wows from start to finish, you’ll need to dive headfirst into every facet of your recruitment process. As an HR professional, take the time to examine all of the touchpoints you have with a candidate. Can you do things differently? Is there room to improve? Now is the time to take the candidate experience to the next level.

Why is the candidate experience important?

Providing a positive candidate experience is crucial to organizations of all shapes and sizes. Doing so can improve the results of your recruiting efforts in various ways as well as help your company achieve success.

Attract more applicants

If your application process is short and direct, more jobseekers are likely to apply for an open role at your company. And because there’s nothing faster than word of mouth, if enough people know that your company has a convoluted recruitment process, ghosts candidates, or takes too long to respond with status updates, you’ll find that open roles tend to stay that way.

Better compete for top talent

If your recruitment process is completely streamlined, giving all candidates who apply a positive experience, exceptional communication, and timely feedback, chances are you’ll be able to win over highly qualified jobseekers and the best talent before your competition does.

Improve the quality of your hires

You may think that the candidate experience only applies to the recruitment process, but it can also be leveraged as a sales tool that can help win over top talent on the market. When it’s incorporated into your recruitment marketing strategy, and you make the effort to strengthen how you communicate with all candidates, your quality of hires will improve. 

It’s all about giving the applicants what they want and need throughout the hiring process as a way to motivate the best ones to sign an offer letter.

Increase brand awareness

Last but not least, let’s not forget about brand awareness. When your candidate experience is exceptional, jobseekers will talk about it with others and will write positive reviews about your company online on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. When this happens, your organization will experience positive awareness regarding both your consumer and employer brand. 

The result of this will be more job applicants to open roles and even more customers interested in your brand and what it brings to the table.

7 components of a great candidate experience

The last thing that recruiters or hiring managers want is long and drawn-out hiring experience for candidates. If you’re looking to avoid a bad candidate experience as you go through the process of talent acquisition and recruiting, apply these components to your strategy.

1. A streamlined landing page

What does your company’s career landing page look like? Is it SEO-friendly and accessible for all candidates? Does it utilize the right keywords to target top talent without any confusing or cliche jargon?

The careers page needs to provide information about the work environment, company culture, growth opportunities, benefits, and anything that might appeal to interested candidates. It should also be tailored to candidates’ needs by including information about requirements for the role, from education to professional skills.

Don’t forget to make the content on your website mobile-friendly, as many jobseekers use their phones to apply to positions. 

2. A well-written job description

One thing’s for sure, if the job description of the role you’re hiring for is confusing, you can forget about finding the right candidate. Because of this, make sure you know how to write a job description that is clear, concise, and also piques the interest of jobseekers. 

From an applicant standpoint, the job description is what drives the whole process from interest to clicking “apply”. A comprehensive job description that accurately paints a picture of the job duties makes the process less ambiguous and helps viable candidates make the choice to apply. This is crucial for candidate experience because the experience begins at first touch: the job description itself.

3. Easy application process

A surefire way to start the candidate experience off on the wrong foot is to make applicants jump through hoops when they send in their job application. If it’s too long or too difficult to complete, several applicants will drop off before submitting for the role.

It’s important to note that applications don’t come with a one-size-fits-all approach. The nature of the job, company, and candidates’ experience levels are all factors that affect the application process.

Here are some best practices to follow: 

At the end of the day, candidates don’t want to spend more than five to 10 minutes applying for open roles – no matter the position or the company. 

4. Exceptional communication during the interview process

There are many ways recruiters and hiring managers can be sure to communicate as effectively as possible to candidates during the interview process to avoid a negative experience for the candidate.

As mentioned above, be sure that the candidates receive an email after applying to the open role. The email should thank the candidate for applying as well as outline the next stages of the recruiting process, highlighting the minimum timelines.

As a part of the recruiting team, your primary responsibility is to keep candidates informed about further processes in the recruiting cycle to ensure they sustain a rewarding experience. Organizations that communicate with candidates through emails only need to send status updates to keep candidates in the loop.

These status updates could include a rejection or  information regarding their next interview as soon as possible. If they’re being interviewed, make sure to provide details regarding the time it’ll take place and who the candidate will be interviewing with. If it’s a video interview, be sure that the email specifies details regarding the software used during the video and how to join the call. You can also let a candidate know how long the interview should last, the format, and if coming into the office, where they should park or how to arrive via public transportation.

Essentially, it’s up to you, the recruiter, to be there for the candidate and answer questions they may have along the way.

5. Timely post-interview feedback

Once a candidate has completed an interview, or multiple interviews, remember that you’re their checkpoint or point of contact afterwards. Candidates are often eagerly awaiting a phone call or email from you once their interview is done. This aspect, often ignored by recruiting organizations, could profoundly impact the candidate experience.

If the person isn’t selected for the job, let them know the reasons why. If they are selected, still give them feedback and things you’re hoping to see as you begin the onboarding process. Whether you select a candidate or not, it’s common courtesy to follow up to ensure they know what’s going on and if there are next steps in the recruiting process.

Companies often make the mistake of waiting too long to let a candidate know that you’re in the midst of selecting them for the role. If you miss this step, they might accept another offer during the time you neglect to contact them. Don’t lose good candidates because of bad communication.

Here are a few feedback tips to keep in mind:

  • Thank your candidates. Recruiters and hiring managers should make it a point to thank the candidates, even those you reject, for taking their time and effort and considering the opportunity.
  • Be empathetic and genuine. Imagine if you were in the candidate’s shoes. How would you want someone to communicate with you? Use that sentiment to treat candidates similarly to ensure a positive candidate experience.
  • Highlight their strengths. Focus on the positive qualities and strengths exhibited by the candidate during the interviews, and let them know what they did well.

6. Hands-on training and onboarding

Think the candidate experience is over once you hire someone for the role? Think again.

Having hands-on training and onboarding is a crucial element in not only the recruitment process, but also after a candidate signs an offer letter.

Your new hire will have high expectations on their first day, so it’s your job to meet and exceed these expectations. Stay true to your promises back from the interview stage and own up to any discrepancies right away. Onboarding is your final step in the candidate experience, so be sure it’s a positive and memorable one.

Start by greeting them upon arrival as they likely only know you and whoever they interviewed with. Give them a tour of the office, paying special attention to where their desk is located. Also, be sure to introduce them to their other team members and supervisors, and provide them with any important documents they may need. 

If time, and budget, allows, consider also taking them out to lunch their first day, and invite their manager and maybe some of their teammates along, too.

7. Utilizing software

As you’re following the above six steps, you know what would make it even easier and streamlined? The right software at your fingertips.

For starters, be sure you have top-notch recruitment marketing software within your tech stack. These tools will not only help recruiters to attract and source job candidates to convert them into applications, they also help to build a relationship and engage with candidates. Plus, they also provide recruiters with the tools to optimize their employer branding on career sites and job portals. 

These applications can be used alone or integrated with application tracking systems (ATS). When you do, an ATS can manage the recruiting process for a better candidate experience, since they can reduce the time spent reading resumes and screening potential applicants. 

How to measure the candidate’s experience

Once you’ve worked hard to build a great candidate experience, how can you measure it to know for sure that it’s working?

One of the most straightforward ways is to ask the candidate for feedback. Whether you ended up extending a job offer or not, once they’re through with the recruiting process, consider creating and sending a short survey for them to fill out, or ask if you can schedule a follow-up call.

This first-hand knowledge is straight from the source – the candidate – so be sure to take it to heart and consider ways to improve next time.

You can also check out review boards where a candidate can rank their experience as either positive or negative. Reading these reviews that are based on the hiring process, the questions they were asked, and whether they were offered a position will give you an idea of how the outside work will view your company and the candidate’s experience. 

Similarly, you can also search social media to see what information or feedback candidates are sharing with their networks, whether it be about your company or a competitor. Just be sure that if you decide to respond, you’re keeping a professional tone in your message.

Finally, you can also take advantage of data analytics that can be collected through hiring assessments. This information can highlight areas of success and show you where you and your team can improve next time. 

Be positive. Hire smarter.

When it’s all said and done, providing a good candidate experience is up to you, your team, and the company itself. The best candidate for the job is out there, and providing a winning experience from start to finish will make it that much easier for you to get them to join your team.

You can’t work on improving your candidate experience if no one is applying to open roles. For that, you need to consider building up your talent pool as a way to reduce time-to-hire.