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Navigating the Candidate Experience: Tips for a Seamless Journey

December 7, 2023

The candidate experience is a crucial aspect of hiring. If you want to attract and hire the best talent, you need to ensure your recruiting process is seamless and gives candidates a positive impression of your company. After all, even candidates you don't hire could become customers or help spread the word about your brand.

With some strategic planning, you can build a pleasant, memorable experience that wows candidates and leaves a lasting positive impression. This guide explores practical tips to help you strengthen your candidate experience and make your company stand out as a great workplace.

What is Candidate Experience?

Candidate experience refers to a candidate's journey and perception of a company's recruiting and hiring process. It includes every touchpoint from the initial job application to the final decision.

A good candidate experience means the process is smooth, transparent, and respectful. Given these conditions, candidates usually feel good about the company, whether they get hired or not.

Why is Candidate Experience Important?

Why is candidate experience so crucial? Quite simply, talent is your company's most valuable asset. 

As an experienced HR professional, you know that the best candidates have their pick of opportunities. If their experience with your hiring process is frustrating or disorganized, they'll withdraw from consideration or accept another offer. According to a CareerPlug survey, 49 percent of job applicants have turned down a job offer because of an unpleasant experience during the hiring process.

On the other hand, a thoughtful, streamlined experience will keep promising applicants engaged and excited about the prospect of joining your team. Once they join, it’ll also encourage them to help promote other open roles in your company (hello employee referrals!).

7 Tips for a Seamless Candidate Experience

Remember these tips to ensure candidates have a great experience with your hiring process.

Define your goals

The first step in creating a purposeful candidate strategy is to define your goals upfront. What specific outcomes do you hope to achieve? Your goals could include:

  • Increasing the number of quality applicants in your hiring funnel
  • Improving the offer acceptance rate from interviewed candidates
  • Upholding your company values throughout the hiring process
  • Reducing time-to-hire. 

With clear goals in mind, you can shape each stage of the candidate journey accordingly. For example, if increasing the number of quality applicants is a goal, you may optimize the job listing and application process to remove friction.

Write clear job descriptions 

Imagine the disappointment of realizing during the interview that the job description doesn't match the actual job — it would feel like a complete waste of time and you'd certainly feel upset! To avoid having this happen to your candidates, you must provide a concise but informative summary of the position and its key responsibilities. 

While some organizations think that jargon makes their job listings sound professional, one study found it actually prevents job seekers from applying. So, avoid jargon and keep it straightforward by:

  • For clarity, list the core duties and tasks associated with the role in bullet points. Use action verbs to describe the work.
  • Be specific about the skills, experience, and qualifications required. Include both essential and preferred qualifications.
  • Share details about company culture, goals, and growth opportunities if relevant.
  • If applicable, include information about the tools, technologies, and systems the candidate will use.
Streamline the application process

Make it easy to apply by allowing candidates to submit a resume without requiring a cover letter or references upfront. They can provide these later in the process if needed. This approach lowers the barrier to entry and allows more applicants into your pipeline.

Avoid long and complicated application forms. In reality, 46 percent of candidates will abandon an application in the middle if it's too lengthy. Limit the form to only the most essential fields like name, email address, resume upload, and a few questions about relevant experience and qualifications.

Allow candidates to submit their resume as a PDF or Word document upload instead of manually re-entering all their information into text fields. And finally, test the application form on a mobile device to ensure it's optimized for both desktop and mobile.

Train interview teams

Ensure anyone conducting interviews, whether in-person or virtual, is properly trained on your values and hiring criteria. Provide guidelines on:

  • Conducting structured interviews focused on the candidate's experience and qualifications.
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Taking unbiased notes during the interview

Ensure you have a diverse interview panel — both in job title and demographic background. This approach can provide varied perspectives and  76 percent of applicants state that diversity is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. To foster fairer evaluation, give the  interviewers interview scorecards or rubrics to assess candidates based on a set of criteria.

Personalize the experience

Personalize the experience by addressing candidates by name and demonstrating you've read their application. Send an introductory email highlighting relevant aspects of their resume that caught your attention. 

During interviews, show you understand their career goals and aspirations by asking thoughtful questions and sharing how the role may help them achieve those goals. Small efforts at personalization go a long way in making candidates feel valued and seen as individuals.

Finally, get to know candidates as people, not just resumes. Ask open-ended questions to learn about their interests, motivations, and what truly matters to them in a job. Showing genuine interest in candidates as individuals demonstrates empathy and builds rapport, helping create a more positive experience throughout the hiring process.

Improve your onboarding process 

Start onboarding as soon as selected candidates accept your job offer. A good onboarding process helps new hires become productive quickly. Tell them about the role, team, company culture, and next steps before the first day of work. This gets them excited and prepares them for what's to come.

Pair new hires with a mentor or buddy to help them navigate the organization and speed their transition. Create an itinerary for their first few hours and days, including introductions to key colleagues, an overview of responsibilities, and an office tour. . 

Keeping new hires engaged, challenged, and satisfied in their new roles can lead to — actively engaged employees including participation in employee resource groups, planning committees, or your employee referral programs (a great way to bring in top talent).    

Provide meaningful feedback

Let candidates know where they stand, even if they are no longer being considered. About 52 percent of job seekers stated that receiving job-related feedback by the end of the day was likely to increase their relationship with the company.

Call candidates not selected for an interview to thank them for their time. For those you do interview but were not hired, provide constructive feedback to help them improve for future opportunities. Share details about their strengths and areas for growth. Let them know they remain in consideration for other suitable openings.

Gather candidates' feedback

Remember to collect responses from candidates, especially those who made it far in the hiring process but were not offered the role. This will help you understand how to improve the hiring experience for future candidates. You can conduct an optional survey or send an email request for feedback. Ask questions like:

  • What aspects of the hiring process worked well for you? 
  • What could have been improved to make the process a better experience?
  • How well did the role and company culture match your expectations?
  • What additional information would have been helpful during the process?

Thank the candidate for their time and candid feedback. Let them know you appreciate hearing their perspective and that their comments will help strengthen the hiring experience for future candidates. 

Explore untapped recruiting potential 

You've now discovered an excellent roadmap for creating an incredible candidate experience — be clear on what you want to improve, clarify your job descriptions, simplify the application process, and keep candidates in the loop throughout, regardless of the outcome. 

If you are looking for ways to attract top talent, we recommend you consider an employee referral program. Check out how Bountiful helps you automate and scale your employee referral program, allowing employees (and external professionals) to refer top talent into your open roles. Combining a good candidate experience strategy with an innovative referral program will build a pipeline of high-quality candidates eager to join your team.

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