Candidate Experience: A How-To Guide For Recruiting Professionals

The transformation of recruiting in adopting a candidate-first mentality is clearly underway. A recent survey of more than 100,000 organizations and job candidates found that improving the candidate experience is employers’ top recruiting priority right now.

What’s behind this recent drive to focus on candidate experience?

A big factor is that the candidate experience represents an opportunity to dramatically improve your recruitment process. Only 32% of candidates rate their most recent job search experience as “very good.” In fact, the experience of looking for a job is universally hated. 73% of candidates rate job searching as one of the most stress-inducing things in life, even more stressful than public speaking, doing taxes, or even getting a root canal.

Previously when the job market was weak, companies held the power and did not consider it important to invest in their candidate experience to attract and hire quality employees. Today, historically low unemployment rates means candidates have the luxury of being selective about which roles they choose to pursue.

Another important factor driving interest in candidate experience is the growing field of AI-powered recruitment tech. With this new technology, recruiters now have access to tools designed to address the long standing issues that have hindered their ability to offer a positive candidate experience such as the high volume of applicants.

78% of candidates believe that candidate experience is an indicator of how a company values its people and how they will be treated as employees. This means candidate experience has become an important competitive differentiator. To gain this advantage, companies are investing in their candidate experience with process improvements as well as innovative recruiting tech tools.

To help improve your own candidate experience, we created this how-to guide on how investing in candidate experience can help you attract and hire quality candidates more effectively and efficiently.

Section 1

What is candidate experience?

Candidate experience is how job seekers perceive and react to a company’s recruitment cycle including attracting, sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding.

A positive candidate experience rests on job seekers feeling like their time has been respected and that they have been communicated with transparency and clarity, regardless of outcome. This means that even if the candidate isn’t hired for the job, a positive candidate experience is important.

Because the vast majority of candidates are not going to be hired, how “non-hires” perceive your recruiting process may carry the most weight in terms of your employer brand and reputation. In fact, even after an unsuccessful interview, 67% would re-apply for a position at an organization if they have a positive candidate experience.

A great candidate experience is made up of several elements, including:

  • Reducing friction and repetition in the application process
  • Automating time-consuming, low-touch processes to speed up time to fill
  • Having mechanisms to communicate with candidates and answer questions as close to real time as possible
  • Following up with candidates who are passed over and letting them know of other relevant opportunities they might be interested in

Research by the Talent Board finds the winners of the Candidate Experience Awards (CandE Awards) have four best practices in common:

  1. They listen and communicate more often
  2. They set clear expectations about the recruiting process from pre-application to onboarding
  3. They hold themselves more accountable for candidate experience and measure it regularly and consistently
  4. They are perceived by candidates as having a fairer process (e.g., candidates believe they have been able to share why their knowledge, skills and experience deserves consideration for the jobs to which they have applied)

Section 2

The benefits of candidate experience for recruiters

While it’s obvious how a good candidate experience benefits job seekers, the ROI it has for recruiters is also invaluable.

1. Candidate attraction and conversion rates

5% of candidates rate “speed of response” as the most important step to establishing employer-employee trust. 84% of applicants expect some type of response early in the hiring process even if it’s just an automated email. This means speeding up your application process by reducing friction and automating manual, low-touch processes are crucial to a positive candidate experience.

Companies who improved their candidate experience by automating parts of their recruiting cycle through tools like email automation, AI resume screening, and chatbots have seen a 15% higher conversion rate on their career sites and a 23% decrease in cost per hire. Conversion rates improve because job seekers who are satisfied with the candidate experience are 38% more likely to accept a job offer.

2. Employer brand and increased profitability

46% candidates who have a negative experience state they’ll take their brand loyalty, purchases, and relationship somewhere else. On the other hand, 74% of candidates who rate their experience as “great” say they’ll strengthen their relationship with the organization by applying again, referring others, and making purchases when applicable.

As an example, Virgin Media was losing $6 million annually in potential sales revenue due to a poor candidate experience. When they revamped it, it became a $7 million revenue stream.

Section 3

The challenges of developing a positive candidate experience

Although candidate experience is the top recruiting priority for employers, there are barriers that need to be overcome to improve upon it.

1. Lack of awareness

A survey found 82% of employers think that a bad candidate experience has little to no negative impact on the company. This explains why candidate experience may have been neglected historically.

This perception is changing with the increasingly competitive recruiting market, the rise in employer reviews sites such as Glassdoor, and companies collecting their own data on how candidates rate their recruiting process.

2. High recruiter workload

According to SHRM, the average number of open requisitions for a recruiter is between 30 to 40. This workload makes it virtually impossible to offer a high touch experience for every candidate.

Without a set of recruiting tech tools to help, recruiters are unable to provide the speed of response and constant communication that job seekers rate as important to a positive candidate experience.

3. Misaligned expectations and processes

One of the top requests of candidates is to be notified when they’ve been rejected for the role. However, Ideal’s research found that on average only 31% of employers send an email when the candidate has been passed over. Not closing the loop not only loses the candidate for the current role but also lowers the chances of the candidate applying to future roles.

Top candidates are in high demand and they are estimated to be on the market for only 10 days. Ideal’s research found that the average time to fill for the financial sector is 25 days whereas the average time to fill across industry is 41 days. This significant disconnect means the vast majority of employers are losing out on the best talent unless they have tools and software in place to create a more efficient and streamlined recruiting process.

Section 4

Innovations in candidate experience tools

Successful recruiting is just not possible these days without being tech-enabled. Today’s job seekers understand that this reality. In fact, 82% of job seekers believe the ideal recruiting interaction is a mix between innovative technology and personal, human interaction.

The lowest hanging fruit for improving your candidate experience is speeding up your time to fill. New innovations in recruiting tech have been designed to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as resume screening software.

Improving communication is another major area of improvement for candidate experience. Tools such as email automation and recruiting chatbots are proving to be valuable for initial outreach, and rediscovering candidates in your existing database.

1. AI for resume screening

Resume screening software uses AI to learn the job requirements and automatically find, shortlist, and rank candidates with the right qualifications.

By speeding up the sourcing and screening stages, recruiters can reach out to candidates that much faster, overcoming the major challenge of misaligned expectations and processes.

Using AI screening software has the added benefits of helping you find the best qualified candidates out of a pool of hundreds or even thousands. The AI can find qualified candidates in a less biased way because it can be programmed to ignore demographic information such as gender, race, and age that can trigger unconscious bias at the screening stage.

Using intelligent screening to rank candidates from A to D, Hot Topic was able to double their hiring rate. By inviting only As and Bs to interviews, 80% of those interviews resulted in immediate hires.

2. Recruiting chatbot

The number one request of job seekers is “more communication”. Today’s candidates have a consumer mindset. They want access to information instantaneously and real-time feedback. This demand has led to the rise of recruiting chatbots.

Already a big part of our day-to-day personal lives, chatbots and virtual assistants are increasingly becoming prevalent in our professional lives. A recent survey found the majority of candidates are open to the idea of interacting with a chatbot during the initial recruiting stages.

For high-volume hiring, chatbots are the best solution to communicating with candidates at scale. A recruiting chatbot can answer FAQs about the company or role, conduct a preliminary candidate screen, and notify recruiters when to follow up with qualified candidates.

Sutherland, an IT service provider, built its own chatbot Tasha for candidates to interact with during the early screening stages. Sutherland leverages their chatbot to both improve their candidate experience and also provide a feedback loop. If a candidate does want to abandon the application process, Tasha finds out why and send this information back to the recruiters. This way, the chatbot helps identify problem areas that the recruiting team can strategize on how to address.

3. Rediscovery

Rediscovery software uses AI to find past candidates in your existing ATS database that are a good fit for a new role. Even if rejected, candidates who feel they’ve received a fair and positive candidate experience are four times as likely to be receptive to hearing from you again in the future and applying to other roles within the company.

Using rediscovery software, Indigo, a national leading retailer, tripled their qualified candidate pool. This is an important competitive advantage in the tight retail hiring landscape.

Section 5

A summary of candidate experience

86% of candidates believe employers should treat them with the same level of respect as current employees. In today’s competitive, hyper informed, and real-time feedback work environment, candidate experience has become the top priority for companies’ recruiting process.

Forward thinking companies understand how much candidate experience represents a competitive differentiator to attract and hire quality employees. These companies are leveraging AI-enabled recruiting tech to automate processes to decrease their time to screen, provide immediate communication, and offer continued engagement with relevant job opportunities to candidates who are passed over.

Companies who get this right will attract candidates with the potential to become their best customers, advocates, and employees by strategically investing in the right processes and tools to enable a memorable and rewarding candidate experience.

  1. Candidate experience is defined as how job seekers perceive and react to a company’s recruitment cycle including attracting, sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding.
  2. The benefits of a positive candidate experience are attracting and converting more qualified candidates while improving your employer brand and profitability.
  3. The challenges of improving candidate experience include a lack of awareness of its impact, high recruiter workloads, and misaligned recruiting processes and candidate expectations.
  4. Innovations in candidate experience tools leverage AI to automate resume screening, provide continuous, real-time communication through a chatbot, and rediscover past candidates who are qualified for current requisitions.

Candidate Experience: A How-To Guide For Recruiting Professionals

Remember to bookmark this post and keep it as a resource to answer all of your candidate experience questions!

Looking for a solution to help improve your candidate experience? Try our talent intelligence software!