Candidate Experience

January 4, 2021

Mark Rader

6 Simple Ways to Create a Better Candidate Experience

6 Simple Ways to Create a Better Candidate Experience
Mark Rader

The experience your organization delivers to job candidates can improve your brand image, attract better talent, and increase your offer acceptance rate…or do just the opposite.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 56% of rejected applicants who had a positive candidate experience would consider working for that organization in the future. On the other hand, a Human Capital Institute study found that 72% of applicants won’t hesitate to share their negative candidate experiences online, an outcome that could seriously hamstring your recruiting efforts considering that 55% of people won’t even consider applying for a job at a company with a negative overall Glassdoor rating.

So how can you create a positive candidate experience that creates more friends than foes? Here are six tips:

1. Write better job descriptions

Your advertised job description is the first point of contact most applicants will ever have with your company—so it’s important to get it just right. If the description is too long, many qualified applicants will feel overwhelmed or lose interest, and bail. If the description is too vague, you’ll attract unqualified candidates and increase the chances of hiring someone who isn’t a great fit.

Here’s how to hit the sweet spot:

  • Make it clear which qualifications are job requirements and which are “nice-to-haves”.
  • Edit for brevity. Sometimes asking a colleague to review your draft can help.
  • Avoid jargon and stale buzzwords like “team-player” or “guru”.
  • Make your job posting more engaging by using active rather than passive verbs. (“The director drives the overall strategy” instead of “The director is responsible for the overall strategy”.)

One of the best ways to get to the root of your needs—and create a more accurate job description—is to work with I-O psychologists to complete a comprehensive job analysis.

2.  Make it easier to apply

Job seekers expect the application process to be as easy as buying something online: click a few buttons, enter a little information, and you’re done. Here’s how you can meet that standard:

Simplify your application form

A study by the Human Capital Institute found that 60% of candidates gave up on their application because it was too lengthy or complicated. Streamline your top-of-funnel process by collecting high-level, job-specific qualification information only as a first step.

Invest in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Don’t make applicants cut and paste information from their resumes into your own company-specific form. Using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will allow you to scan resumes formatted as PDFs and Word documents for relevant information instead.

Optimize for mobile 

According to a study done by The Undercover Recruiter, 89% of applicants say their smartphone plays a critical role in their job search. So optimize your company website—and your careers page specifically—for mobile search. Make your content easy to scroll through by using short paragraphs, sub-headers, and bulleted lists, whenever possible.

A study by Glassdoor found that blue-collar workers (and those with less formal education) are more likely to use their smartphones as primary job search tools than more educated, white-collar workers. So when you optimize for mobile, you’re also supporting your organization’s inclusion efforts.

3. Consider adding hiring assessments to your screening process

According to a recent Talent Board research report, organizations who invest in hiring assessments “improve the candidate experience and strengthen their overall quality of hires.” 

Assessments don’t just benefit employers, either: A study by Hausknecht, Day & Thomas found that candidates actually like the inclusion of cognitive and personality assessments because they feel they’re being assessed more accurately. And a 2016 study by Speer, King & Grossenbacher states that candidates view longer assessments as more fair than shorter equivalents because they feel they’re being given a chance to showcase their abilities.

If you’d like to give candidates the option to see their assessment results, make sure to format the feedback so it’s easy to understand. This act of good faith resonates especially with rejected applicants who can use the insights to rethink or refine their job search. Receiving these helpful insights could also motivate them to reapply to your company in the future.

4. Up your interview game

According to a recent LinkedIn Talent Trends Report, 83% of applicants who had a bad experience during their interview changed their mind about the job—and the company. To create a less stressful interview experience:

Let candidates know exactly what to expect

Give clear directions to the office if the interview is onsite, and if it’s a video interview, send a link well in advance. Also, be clear about the steps involved in your hiring process and who will be present in every interview, so candidates can properly prepare.

Be respectful

Begin interviews on time. Warm candidates up with some small talk. And come to the interview having already reviewed the candidate’s resume and cover letter. If you spend the first few minutes of the interview playing catch-up, applicants may notice and feel slighted.

Use a structured interview process

Research shows that structured interviews—in which every candidate is asked the same questions in the same order—are more predictive and fair than unstructured interviews. If you do use structured interviews, consider telling candidates—and explain why. They’ll appreciate knowing you’re committed to fairness.

5. Communicate well and often

When it comes to communicating with applicants, the more you’re in touch the better. So make a point to:

Share helpful company information early on 

A study by Glassdoor found that applicants who felt well-informed about the company they were applying to were 35% more likely to have a satisfying experience, which ultimately helped those companies retain their new hires.

Send interview invitations and rejection emails ASAP

Whether you’re sharing good or bad news, responding to candidates within a few days of them applying will show that you respect their time. (With an ATS, you can automate these messages, so you’re not accidentally leaving anyone in the lurch.)

Add a human touch wherever possible 

Use a human email address ( instead of a generic department address ( Acknowledge the follow-up thank you notes you receive. And when you’re delivering rejection notices, make sure to acknowledge your applicants’ enthusiasm for joining your company and thank them sincerely for their time. 

6. Survey applicants for actionable feedback

One of the best resources for improving your candidate experience are the candidates themselves. So survey them to uncover which parts of your candidate experience are (and aren’t) working:

Ask 6-10 questions about the entire process 

Did your candidates feel the recruiter was helpful? Was the application process easy? How likely are they to apply to your company again, based on their experience? A list of questions that cover the full range of the hiring process will help you pinpoint areas for improvement.

Consider including both closed and open-ended questions

If your question is straightforward, a few multiple-choice options or a “yes-no” checkbox will do the trick. But if you’re asking candidates to share an opinion or describe their experience, include a short-answer field that gives them ample space to work with.

Be strategic about when you survey candidates

A candidate who’s still in the running for a job is unlikely to share honest feedback about your process because they want to remain in good standing. Likewise, a candidate who has just received a rejection letter may not be in a position to offer clear-headed feedback. Send your surveys a week or so after a position has closed to mitigate this kind of situational bias.

Attracting and landing top talent is never easy. But following these six simple candidate experience tips can go a long way towards helping your recruiting and hiring teams meet the challenge head-on.

Want more ideas for improving your candidate experience?

Download your copy of
The Case For Investing In Candidate Experience: Three Strategies for Success (and A Look at the Research) below.

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