A Great Candidate Experience is Critical

The competition for top talent is fierce and it’s critical for recruiters, hiring managers, and leadership to guarantee a positive candidate experience for every candidate. This includes the candidates you screen out. Candidates cannot feel like their resume or CV ended up in a dark hole with no communication.

If an individual took the time to apply to a job posting or job board ad, you should give them the courtesy of a response, even an automated response is sufficient. Or you can include a disclaimer that reads: We appreciate you applying for our position but “only candidates meeting the criteria outlined will be contacted as part of our initial screening process.” If they don’t hear back, they understand they were screened out.

execunetselect-shaking-hands-happy-teamEighty-two percent of candidates who have a positive experience with a company, say they’re “extremely likely’ to refer their friends and colleagues. So, a simple way for you to attract the best talent is to improve the candidate experience. Just imagine the benefits of positive social media posts, improved word of mouth advertising, and increased referrals of top talent!

First let’s review the reasons why many candidates who are never contacted or interviewed, have a negative experience with your hiring process. A negative experience could simply reflect a poorly written job description. Candidates who are not qualified respond to a job board or website posting thinking, they are qualified and expect at a minimum to hear back on their resume or CV submittal. They are screened out because they lack certain credentials, skills, or experience that often were not listed. This causes the candidate to be confused or frustrated and obviously their experience is not positive.

To resolve this, update the job description before a job is posted and include performance objectives that make it clear what a candidate must achieve in their first 6-12 months. When a candidate understands expectations, they can now make an educated decision if they are qualified for the job.

Next, think about your online process to apply for a job. A confusing, unresponsive, or lengthy online application can cause you to lose top talent. It can take as long as two to three hours to respond to some job board posting. Often candidates log out due to frustration or a lack of understanding of the online application process.

The solution is to revamp your online application process to a user-friendly process that takes no more than 20-30 minutes. The answers should determine if this candidate should be screened in or out. More in-depth information can be obtained during interviews.

Third, is the inability to talk or chat with someone who could answer questions about your online process. Often it is impossible to reach a human being unless you know their extension or the spelling of their name. This is not information a prospective hire would possess, and they become a frustrated candidate.

Call your company after hours and experience what a prospective hire hears. There could be a special extension for potential hires that leads to FAQs on your website that would answer their questions. The other solution was mentioned above – simplify your online application to be short and less confusing.

Let’s now discuss what causes a negative candidate experience when candidates are interviewed. The main problems are delays when a candidate arrives, an unprepared interviewer, courtesy interviews, irrelevant questions, and a lack of feedback.

Never Keep Your Candidate Waiting

“You’re sorry to keep me waiting? I don’t believe you!”

No matter how qualified or experienced a candidate is, a job interview can still be a daunting situation. So as a recruiter it’s important that you make the candidate feel comfortable and relaxed.

Try not to keep them waiting. Assuming they are on time, then meet with them immediately. There’s no need to pretend you’re more important than they are, or that you’re any busier than they are. Making them wait in your reception or in a meeting room is like a dentist keeping a patient waiting, unsure of how painful the next 45 minutes will be.

One more thing on this topic: If for whatever reason you do keep your candidate waiting, please offer them a glass of water. Then when you eventually meet with them, please avoid the all too clichéd (not to mention overused) “So did you get here OK?”. Unless they look like they fell off the ferry or have been caught in a tornado, then just assume that they had no problems finding your office!

Prepare in Advance for Every Interview

Never begin an interview without reviewing the candidates’ paperwork in advance. Block out 10-15 minutes before each interview to familiarize yourself with their work history. Also prepare your interview questions in advance, so you consistently ask candidates the same questions. This will ensure that you can properly evaluate one candidate vs. another.

Interview at least 20-30 minutes – When an interview is scheduled whether it is virtual or in person, that person deserves at least 20-30 minutes of your time. You initial screening process should determine whether candidate have the skills, experience, and stability you prefer.

When you have questions prepared in advance and give everyone the same opportunity to answer questions, even a candidate who appeared not to be qualified, could end up being your best hire. This also helps eliminate emotion and bias from your interview process.

The best interviewers have realized they should not be talking more than 30% of the time. You should ask open ended questions, listen to responses, validate your understanding of what they said and move on to the next question. Always give candidates the opportunity to ask you questions at the end of the interview. Their questions almost always reveal their priorities.

Provide Feedback

Be kind when providing feedback. Your first words should indicate that they are not going to get the job. Works like “unfortunately” or “I don’t have the news we were expecting” are the best to start out your conversation.

It also helps to let candidates know if you’re not going to hire them as soon as possible, once you know you’re screening them out. You don’t want them to feel like their resume or application ended up in a deep black hole! You can set up an automated response to candidates who apply and aren’t being considered.

Thank them for their time, stress the great things about them and then give them something concrete that would help them in their future interviews. Just telling a candidate they are not a “fit” doesn’t help them.

Never inform a candidate they have been screened out by email or text. They probably took time off work and did the best they could during your interview process. You owe it to them to pick up the phone and have a conversation.

The Impact of a Negative Candidate Experience

I participated on a panel discussing the importance of a positive candidate experience with major corporations at a Summit. One panel member who was the VP of HR for a major Pizza Chain admitted that candidates who did not receive a response after applying for a job, stopped buying their pizza.

When candidates have a negative experience after applying for a job, they’ll often write negative posts on social media. Even worse, these individuals will often stop buying your products or services, will not provide you with referrals, or ever consider applying to your company again for employment. That could be extremely costly and have a negative impact on your ability to hire the best people.

During the weekly live webinar, I conduct for job seekers, they don’t know who I am – so they complain about recruiters and hiring authorities all the time. One of their greatest complaints is that we don’t care about them, we only care about filling open requisitions. It’s up to each one of us to change their perception and provide them with a positive experience whether they are hired or not.

You hire or place a very low percentage of the candidate who answer you job board ad, website posting or were recruited. When you add to that the number of unsolicited resumes or CVs you could be talking hundreds or even thousands of candidates per month who did not achieve their goal, which was to get hired or placed by you.

We created a white labeled Career Portal for candidates we don’t hire or place, to show them techniques they can use to escalate their job search. We also provide live weekly webinars for these job seekers and as a result have dramatically improved the candidate experience. Providing alternative resources gives them something “to do” while they search. If you would like to review what we’ve created go to www.happycandidates.com

Whether you develop a resource for candidates or just make changes to ensure they have a positive candidates experience, it is well worth your time and effort. The competition for top talent continues to increase. A disgruntled candidate will tell at least 10 friends how appalled they were with their interview experience. And there’s no stopping the damage they could bring to your reputation when they begin their social media tirade. It’s time to make sure that 100% of the candidates who apply with your company have a positive experience.


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Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno, author of HIGH-TECH HIGH-TOUCH RECRUITING: How To Attract And Retain The Best Talent By Improving The Candidate Experience, is an internationally recognized recruiting expert who has a proven track record of helping recruiters and talent acquisition professionals become more successful and less stressed. She has created several popular LinkedIn Learning courses and is president of Good As Gold Training, HR Search, Inc., and Happy Candidates.

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