How to Provide a Great Candidate Experience

6 mins read
Employer candidate experience hiring recruitment

Can you remember what it feels like to be a job seeker? Scouring online job boards, revamping the old LinkedIn profile, endlessly updating your CV, finding time during your busy week to attend interviews…it’s a lot!

If you’re safely ensconced in your role, with job hunting nothing but a distant, hazy memory, then you probably don’t recall the positive experience of a well-oiled, candidate-friendly recruitment process, nor the flip side – just how demoralising it can be when the hiring process (in which you’re investing your precious time and energy) is, frankly, a bit rubbish.

So I’m here to rejog your memory! If you’re involved in the hiring process, here’s everything you need to know about creating a positive candidate experience.

Why does it matter?

I’ve been a professional in this field for a number of years now and I can assure you that the recruitment process experience does truly matter. It makes an impact, regardless of the outcome for the applicant. Even if a candidate is successful in winning the role and they accept the job offer, the memory of a ‘bad’ process will linger with them once they’re an employee – which is not what you want as an employer!

Developing and maintaining an engaging, pain-free recruitment process is incredibly important for your organisation’s employment brand; it helps protect your reputation and ensure that you’re not repelling the very talent that you wish to attract, hire, and nurture in your business.

Collectively, we need to recognise that candidate expectations of the hiring process have changed and evolved. Expectations are higher and we see evidence of this every day in the recruitment industry, regardless of the age and career stage of the candidate (though we do see this most prominently in Gen Z job seekers).

Have the tides turned?

Due to the current state of our economy and increasing unemployment, I’ve seen a lot of talk about it being an ‘employers’ market’, but I think this is a misnomer. It’s true that some organisations are unfortunately needing to restructure, and there are certainly a few more candidates in the market, but this doesn’t mean that employers have ‘the power’.

I don’t believe anyone can truly afford to neglect their candidate experience. After all, you want the best talent available, don’t you? Those top-tier, fully qualified and experienced applicants know their worth, and they’re not going to stick around if it’s difficult or unpleasant to interact with your business.

So what does a great, experience-enhancing, brand-protecting recruitment process look like? There are many factors at play, but it’s possible to group these into three key categories:

1. Regular, comprehensive, and personalised communication

I just bought something online from a local business, and almost instantly, I got a notification that my order is being prepared. Having been through this process before, I know I’ll then receive further notifications when my purchase has been shipped, updates while it’s on its way to me, and confirmation once it’s been delivered.

This retail experience is just one example of how consumers are being taught that higher standards of communication are possible, and this informs their expectations in other areas. Why should a hiring process be any different? (Or so the argument goes!) I’m aware that a similar investment in technology is not always possible or necessary for employers, but it’s clear that people want to know what’s happening and when, with polite and timely messaging.

However you manage it, it’s essential to acknowledge job applications. Be transparent and provide upfront context about what your process looks like, including all steps, people involved, and expected timeframes. And definitely be sure to communicate any delays or hold ups!

Once candidates reach interview stage, ensure that full details about the role, team, and organisation are made clear. This includes salary range, all benefits, and key expectations around the working environment — we encounter candidates daily who now assume that some level of WFH (working from home) is a given, so be clear about your organisation’s stance on this factor in particular.

By providing all the relevant details at the right time in the process, you’re allowing candidates to ‘opt in’ (or out), thereby avoiding any nasty surprises at the very end of your process.

2. Timeliness wins

In this year’s Employment Market Report, data collected from over 2,000 candidates revealed candidates expectations around the offer process:

55% of job seekers expect to receive a job offer within two weeks of making an application.

This sounds really quick right? But that’s the pace of the market, as set by savvy organisations who run tight processes in order to secure the people they need, and beat out any competition. The bar has been raised. This is what we’re being measured by, and it should also be achievable.

There are likely very few job seekers who aren’t applying to at least two or three jobs at once. These people may be extremely interested in the opportunity at your business, but if someone else gets in there with an enticing offer before you’ve managed to corner the Exec team for that 3rd interview…guess who’s going to miss out?

Make peace with the fact that your candidates may be interviewing elsewhere and receiving offers. Run a tight ship, line up time slots for interviews, make decisions fast, don’t leave anyone hanging, and as per my first point — communicate every step of the way!

3. Make it easy

Candidates don’t want to have to jump through too many hoops during a recruitment process. A good rule of thumb is to use a ‘customer’ service mindset as your guide. The job hunting process is taxing enough already, so adding unnecessary, burdensome steps will only serve to deter talented people from completing the process.

Here are some things to avoid:

    • Asking the candidate to provide a full CV, then requiring them to complete an online (or manual!) form that asks for the same information.
    • Phone screening or interview time slots that don’t consider the fact that most job seekers are currently employed – finding time and space to speak to a potential employer can be one of the most arduous parts of the process.
    • Long, in-person first interviews, followed by second or third (or fourth!) interviews. Try a shorter video meeting for a first stage so that you can get a sense of the candidate before progressing.
    • Excessively long testing processes, especially those with little or no feedback.
    • Expecting candidates to have referees at their existing jobs ready and waiting to provide references before being offered a job – many candidates prefer (or need) to keep their job hunt private until they’ve secured an offer.

Future proofed processes

How does your recruitment process stack up, measured against these key focus areas?

The good news is that adjusting and amending your process is a highly-achievable goal for 2024, if you want to tighten things up and take a more candidate/customer focused approach. The results will be in all the positive hiring you do — and your retention stats.

Gemma Hill
Principal Consultant

A bit about me In 2016, I arrived in New Zealand from the UK and my recruitment journey began. With experience in people focussed industries like healthcare and hospitality across the UK and…

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