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There’s been a lot of talking over how creating a positive Candidate Experience is vital for any business, yet we still see alarming stats. Since 2016, candidates’ discontent has risen by 40%!

Perhaps you’ve already started taking Candidate Experience seriously yourself and your NPS is not awful, but it could be improved. And so it should.

The question remains the same: how do you ensure a positive Candidate Experience?

We had the pleasure of interviewing Candidate Experience expert and Principal and Co-founder at CareerXroads Gerry Crispin. He told us about a Talentboard study involving thousands of answers from candidates on the fundamental elements that impact their experience. And they all fall into five requirements. 

The five most vital practices for a positive Candidate Experience are: 

  1. Closure
  2. Setting Expectations
  3. Fairness
  4. Listening
  5. Accountability 

They’re perceived differently based on the culture of the country you’re in and on a variety of other dimensions, but they’re the basis for how the candidates will perceive their experience with your company.

Instead of five, some boil it down to three main pointers:

  1. Acknowledgment
  2. Respect
  3. Closure. 

In other words, avoid for your candidates to feel:

  1. Frustrated
  2. Confused
  3. Disappointed
  4. Distracted

Candidate experience is a journey. It’s the sum of a number of micro-experiences. Addressing issues one by one without a holistic approach won’t translate into you creating a positive Candidate Experience. So let’s take a look at the entire process and spot some good practices for you to apply.

It all starts with a secure, properly organized, and presented career page, and a reasonable - no, scratch that, a smooth - application process. Don’t ask for any information you don’t really need, and even then, just ask for it once. 

The moment they complete their application, notify your candidates that you’ve received it. Let’s ban the resume’ black hole! This way you avoid frustration. Luckily, this step is far from difficult to comply with, as most Applicant Tracking Systems now come with tools for en-masse communication.

“Thinking that after a couple of months the candidate should already know that you’re not going to reach out to them isn’t going to be good for you. We know that, and we can measure that, too. And the ratings degrade the longer you wait.” - Gerry Crispin

Truly, all types of communication can be easily handled through technology, nowadays, so there are no excuses. You can reach your candidates via SMS or talk to them through a chatbot, too. Automation is key.

Since we’re talking about communication, don’t be misguided by automation as a concept: your messages should be as personalized as possible. “Treat candidates like gold - no, like human beings with feelings”, as Greg Savage writes in The Savage Truth. Candidates dislike being treated like a number. 

This is partially related to the size of your business, but if possible, once a candidate applies for a vacancy, give them a phone call. That’s what Starred did right after I applied for the position of Content and Social Media Marketer. We made sure we were aligned on what the role’s demands were, we discussed the possibility for me to commute if I'd gotten the job, and we got to know each other a bit. When I hung up the phone I was excited about my next assignment and I knew that Starred cared about people. I knew that I needed to land that job.

You should manage your candidates' expectations by making your hiring process clear to them. What comes after the first step? What’s the normal waiting time to hear if they pass the first round of selection? Make sure to keep them in the loop.

A pro-tip? “Don’t let candidates go into the weekend without an update. Nobody likes wondering all weekend.”
There’s only one tolerable form of limbo in this world, and it’s the dancing kind. 

Just like the application phase, the rest of the hiring process should also keep in mind the fact that your candidates’ time is just as valuable as yours. Keep it nimble. You know you don’t need four rounds of interviews to understand if someone’s a good fit for a role.
That being said, don’t forget to be reliable, too. Some of your candidates are taking time off their current jobs to take your assessments and attend your interview appointments. Canceling or lateness are close to inexcusable. Be sure to avoid both behaviors at all costs, and if it is impossible otherwise, at least make sure to properly apologize and make up for it.

But treating your candidates with respect goes beyond not wasting their time.
Ensure that your hiring managers are properly coached and that they show up prepared for the interview. Assure your candidates that you know that the vetting process isn’t one-sided. You should consider them a proper fit for your business; they should consider your culture and benefits a proper fit for their lifestyle and needs.
Here's a great example: Sherrie Suski from Tricon American Homes said that they use a “candidate decision matrix to assist our candidates in making the decision that is right for them, whether or not it is to join our company.”

You’ll ideally opt for structured interviews with questions pertinent to the role. Not too many, but not as little as to make the candidates think that the process is irrelevant to you. Spend at least 30 minutes of your time with them and actually listen to them, to give them a fair shot.

It’s now time to make a decision. Make sure that you’re objective. Check your bias.

If, after careful consideration, it all goes south, don’t ghost. Ideally, upon rejection, you’d reach out via email to those who’d just applied without participating in assessments or in-person interactions, and you’d call the rest. The timing’s delicate, too.
If you’re rejecting someone who’d only applied, please make sure to take more or less a week before reaching out or they’ll think they were discarded a priori - and everyone deserves to be taken into serious consideration. 
Otherwise, if, for instance, you’re rejecting someone after having interviewed them, try to reach out between 24 and 48 hours from your interaction. 

It’s wonderful what sharing your feedback upon rejection can do. See, sharing feedback increases your candidates’ experience by as much as 20%! Make sure that they walk out of your hiring process either with a job or with a clear idea about how it didn’t work out differently, but also with advice on how to improve.
You read that right! For the purpose of positive closure, when communicating to the candidate that, sadly, they didn’t land the role they applied to, you should help them move on. There are resources and tips that you can share with them, perhaps even embedding them in your rejection email. 

Feedback isn’t just to be shared, but to be gathered too, for your candidates to understand that you care about their opinion and you aim for constant improvement. Sometimes a few simple questions can suffice - we wrote a guide to help you ace it!

It’s also important to not lose talent just because they’re not a fit for a role, right here, right now. If you see any potential in a job applicant, invite them to apply to different jobs in the future. Entertain a talent community - it’s worth it, and it makes your candidates feel valued. 

Read also

  • 6 Reasons To Automate Candidate Feedback
  • How To Apply Nps To Candidate Experience
  • Why Feedback Is The Gamechanger In Building A Great Candidate Journey
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