Providing a quality candidate experience just makes good business sense. An applicant will be more likely to accept your offer (or more likely to reapply in the future if they don't fit the role). They might also share their good feelings with friends and family, influencing them to become candidates, or customers, too.
Luckily, there are many guides out there explaining how to create a good candidate experience. Write a clear job description. Respect the candidate's time. Make sure it's quick and easy to apply. Keep the lines of communication wide open.
But what if you want to provide an exceptional candidate experience? In the eyes of a job seeker, what sets an awesome experience apart from one that's just good? Here are eight expert-backed ways to provide the best candidate experience, so you can recruit and retain the right employees.
1. Know your Stakeholders' Values and Align Them
Every recruiting process has stakeholders, and each one has a vested interest in the process. Typically, your stakeholders might include:
- the recruiter
- the hiring manager
- a member of the C-Suite
- and often others
Each stakeholder might value something different about the company's hiring culture and recruiting process. And when it's time to decide, misaligned values will create a bottleneck. This then leads to frustration for everyone involved – including the candidate.
For example: say a role opened and you're in the midst of recruiting for it. A hiring manager, a recruiter and a director are all involved, and no one's on the same page. The recruiter favors speed during the recruitment process, but the hiring manager values communication. The hiring manager thinks they'll get to make the final call, but so does the director.
To avoid this bottleneck, clarify expectations and align values before recruiting someone new. Sit down with your stakeholders and have a serious conversation about what values are prioritized in this process. In this video, HR expert Dawn Burke explains how aligning your stakeholders' values improves the candidate experience.
2. Turn your Recruitment Process into a Loop
The typical recruitment process looks like a funnel. At the top, you pick ten great candidates for the role. As interviews go on, you funnel nine of these candidates out and you're left with one – your winner. This system is bad news for the candidate and for the organization.
Instead of this "funnel" approach, HR industry analyst and influencer Ben Eubanks suggests turning your recruitment process into a loop.
You might be missing out on amazing candidates because your hiring process has a beginning and an end for all candidates. Think about it: you can only pick one person for this job, but the runner up might be perfect for another opening. But, because of the way your recruiting process works, there's no way to re-funnel that person back in.
If you can put your top-tier runners-up into a pool so that when other positions open, you can easily funnel them back into the hiring process. A structured approach will work more efficiently and the candidate's experience will improve because they'll feel valued instead of rejected.
And for the organization, you don't have to say goodbye to the valuable "silver medalists" just because there was a candidate who was a little bit better. This "loop" approach makes it easier and quicker to hire top talent.
3. Stay Engaged with the Candidate (Even After the Offer Letter is Signed)
One stage where organizations often drop the ball is during "preboarding". This is that period of time between the candidate accepting your offer and their first day. The preboarding period can last days, weeks or even months, and it's often undervalued.
We often assume that because the candidate is officially hired, we don't need to keep communicating all the time and we should start working on an onboarding checklist instead. But that can't be further from the truth.
In this video, Sharlyn Lauby explains why that assumption is killing your candidate experience and why it's important to engage more during the preboarding stage.
What happens is that the candidate signs the offer and informs their current employer that they will be leaving. That's when things can get messy because (if you picked a good candidate) the company might do a lot to get the employee to stay. They might offer:
- a higher salary
- a new title
- greater responsibility
- more scheduling flexibility
- better benefits
To improve the candidate experience and hire talent faster, stay engaged with the candidate during this time. Don't email them twice a day explaining how jazzed you are to have them join the team, instead try to create a welcoming experience. Let them know you'll be going for lunch on day one. Send weekly learning content. Make a video touring the office. Create a "yearbook" of their new team.
The reason this improves the experience is that it reassures the candidate that you're invested in their success. It gives them the information they need to have a great first day. And, it lowers your odds of being ghosted, so you don't have to start over from scratch.
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4. Think About the Experience Even Before They Apply
You might be spoiling a candidate's experience before you've even received their resume. The way that employees and customers speak about your organization could have a direct impact on the candidate's feelings.
The candidate experience begins from the moment the person engages about your company, not with your company. Those who hear only negativity about your company will have a poor candidate experience from the get-go.
To improve the candidate experience, stop thinking that it begins when a person lands on the careers page. Much of the candidate experience (at least initially) rests on the shoulders of the customer and employee experience. Those too might need work.
5. Be Honest with the Candidate (and Yourself)
Organizations that mislead candidates spoil the candidate experience and harm the entire company. At one point, all your employees have been candidates and you've had to describe the company culture.
In their first few weeks, employees who came to expect one thing will realize that the truth was sugarcoated. They'll see that the reality isn't at all what they envisioned. In this video, Steve Simpson explains this mismatch between expectations and reality, and the damage it can really do:
While it might seem counterproductive if your culture is a work in progress, it's better to be honest with your candidates. These employees are going to uncover the truth eventually. If there's a mismatch when they do, they'll look back on their experience with distaste (even if it was otherwise seamless).
6. Don't Lose Sight of The Real Recruiting Mission
While the candidate experience is important, it shouldn't be prioritized over the real mission: hiring the right person. A study done by Leadership IQ found that 46 percent of new hires "fail" within the first year and a half. A great candidate experience can't make up for the fact that the organization is recruiting and hiring the wrong employees.
With so many new hires failing so quickly, each of their candidate experiences turn from good to bad. If a process is failing half the time, it's not a good one. And the process can't become more successful by improving the candidate experience. Instead, focus more on finding quality candidates. Their experiences will naturally improve as well because they'll be a better fit for the role and company.
7. Don't be Afraid to Give and Ask for Feedback
In the HR space, we've long been told not to give candidates feedback. But this tip is old and outdated, and feedback isn't something to avoid anymore. If your goal is to improve the candidate experience and hire top talent, you should provide feedback. You should even ask for it too.
In this video below, Tim Sackett offers his two golden rules for giving candidates feedback:
The first rule is to be consistent. Define who you're going to exchange feedback with and how you'll do it. It may not be worthwhile to call every single person who fills out an application on your website but reach out by email to those who make it to interviews.
The second is to make sure what you're offering them is meaningful, not critical. Explain why they were a fit, or why they weren't. What was their most enticing skill? What was their strongest characteristic during the interview process?
To provide a valuable candidate experience and attract great talent, give meaningful feedback. Whether this candidate got the job or not, there's something both parties can learn from this experience to make it better each time.
8. Use Technology to Pinpoint Areas for Improvement
When direct feedback isn't enough, technology and metrics are a great way to identify areas that you can improve in your candidate experience.
You can use video technology to record interviews and dramatically shorten the screening phase. Tool metrics can show you the exact moment candidates are dropping out during the process. All the data created by technology gives your team insight into areas that might be holding you back.
And while technology can pinpoint areas for improvement, these benefits can only happen with the right technology in place:
Use a Recruiting Technology Checklist to guide you in the technology buying process. Whether you want to give candidate feedback, stay engaged during preboarding or streamline your entire TA strategy, the right HR technology will help you do that.