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In the conditions of the current tight labor market, many TA teams are turning to leveraging Candidate Experience to increase their chances of securing valuable talent, especially in competitive industries.

Candidates are increasingly picky, and a negative Candidate Experience can lead to a star candidate withdrawing from the process, declining an offer, or simply ghosting your recruiters. 

This article will briefly discuss the benefits of improving Candidate Experience, and then dive into different ways to improve your Candidate Experience. 

As a Candidate Experience Analytics company, we have access to large and complex datasets that we can analyze to draw objective conclusions on what helps to improve Candidate Experience. We’ve drawn on our years of experience to collect the main takeaways on the most efficient ways to improve Candidate Experience. 

Benefits of Excellent Candidate Experience

The benefits of improving your Candidate Experience are varied, but here’s a short rundown of some of the more important benefits that you can expect from providing an excellent Candidate Experience. 

For a more detailed breakdown of these benefits, check out our Ultimate Guide to Candidate Experience. The guide is an excellent starting point if you're new to Candidate Experience, and underscores why TA leaders have been highlighting it as a core focus for a number of years now.

How to Improve Candidate Experience

The next section will dive into a variety of ways to improve Candidate Experience, drawn from our expertise as well as internal and external data.

Create Internal Alignment and Urgency

The most important step you can take in improving Candidate Experience is making sure that all involved parties share internal alignment and a sense of urgency around Candidate Experience. Crafting an excellent Candidate Experience is not just part of the responsibilities of the TA team, but it extends out to every part of the business that a candidate interacts with. 

This should involve senior management, such as the CEO, CFO, and CPO, all of whom need to be kept in the loop on the importance of Candidate Experience. The CFO should be informed of the major revenue implications of a negative Candidate Experience, evident in our VodafoneZiggo customer story and Candidate Experience Revenue Cost Calculator, or the classic Virgin Media case, which revealed that a negative Candidate Experience was costing Virgin Media $5 million per year. 50% of candidates with a negative Candidate Experience report that they will refuse to do business with the company in question, which should be a major concern for any company. 

The CPO should be aware of the major implications of a poor Candidate Experience or their Employer Branding. 77% of candidates who have a negative experience tell their networks about it, and a quarter will actively discourage their family and friends from applying. A positive Candidate Experience makes 66% of candidates more likely to refer others, even if they were rejected. If that’s not enough, candidates with a positive Candidate Experience are also 38% more likely to accept an offer. Treating your candidates well is an excellent way of attracting high quality talent to your organization. 

The CEO should weigh both considerations equally - both the revenue implications of Candidate Experience and its effects on your broader recruitment strategy, as well as the impacts of Candidate Experience on general brand perception. 

Once senior leadership has bought in, they can help steer the rest of your business in the right direction and maintain accountability. Naturally, hiring managers and recruiters have the largest  direct impact on Candidate Experience, and need to be closely aligned to deliver an excellent Candidate Experience. Having all internal stakeholders acknowledge the necessity of an excellent Candidate Experience is the first step to taking it seriously and prioritizing it as a core part of your TA strategy. 

Leverage Data-Driven Insights

When it comes to Candidate Experience, we’re reminded of Lord Kelvin’s classic maxim: “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it”. 

The first step of improving your Candidate Experience is measuring it in a reliable and consistent manner. Your candidates will tell you where you can improve, and automated analyses of Candidate Experience data can help identify which parts of your process need a tune-up. 

Measuring Candidate Experience can be done with Google Forms and spreadsheets, although it may be time intensive. Any starting point is a good one if it results in reliable, actionable data. 

Alternatively, you can use a premium automated solution like Starred, which comes with a number of benefits such as higher cost effectiveness, increased response rates, automated data analysis, expanded filtering functionality, automatic ATS integration, fully customizable and branded surveys, and much much more.

Once you begin to measure Candidate Experience and act on that data, only further measurement can tell you if candidates are reacting the way you want them to. Making sure that your data is reliable and representative of your candidates’ opinions is the most important part of building a base of actionable insights and a great way to improve Candidate Experience.

Tailor Questions to the Candidate

If you’re committed to measuring Candidate Experience at every stage of the process, then you have to use surveys that are specifically tailored to the concerns of the candidates you’re surveying. For example, candidates who are rejected after a phone screen will have different concerns than candidates who were rejected after an assessment or a panel interview.

Each different type of candidate should receive a specific survey tailored to their stage. Ideally, the survey should also come in your branding and be visually appealing. 

Thankfully, we’ve created a library of useful templates for Candidate Experience surveys, which include examples for different types of rejected, withdrawn, and hired candidates, as well as forHiring Managers.

Don't Forget to Give Feedback

Did you know that 76% of candidates say that not hearing back from someone after an interview is more frustrating than not hearing back from a first date?

One of the most impactful parts of Candidate Experience comes in the feedback given to candidates. Being rejected can be a difficult and emotional process for candidates, but receiving tangible feedback on how they could do better next time is a great way to turn around a negative experience.

40% of all detractors’ comments specifically discussed feedback, more than twice as often as the other main topics.

In the event that a candidate is rejected, our data from our 2022 Candidate Experience Benchmark Report as well as our Candidate Values Report shows that feedback is the single most impactful element of their Candidate Experience. In many ways, the data shows us that receiving constructive feedback can truly make or break a Candidate Experience. 

Being rejected is hard to hear for anyone, and the best results come from giving candidates honest and constructive feedback. If candidates are told why they are rejected, and come away from the process feeling like they’ve grown, then they’ll remember you fondly. 

Ask Candidates About the Assessment

This is especially important for rejected candidates, who are without a doubt the largest group of candidates. Making sure you have a quality assessment that is easily understood and perceived as fair is a key part of improving Candidate Experience.

According to our Candidate Values Report, we see that a high quality assessment is highly correlated with a positive Candidate Experience. This also means that candidates will be disappointed if the assessment is perceived as unfair or confusing.

A good example of the importance of the assessment comes from Twilio, where recruiters noticed that India was consistently outperforming other regions when it came to their assessments. It turns out that recruiters in Twilio’s India team had adopted a practice of doing a short 10-minute tour of the assessment tool with a candidate before they were asked to use it, which massively improved Candidate Experience. 

Twilio took this method and rolled it out to their other local teams, improving Candidate Experience across the board. 

Twilio Case Study on Improving Candidate Experience with HackerRank

Send a Survey Only After the Process is Finished

Time kills any Candidate Experience - so how often should you send a Candidate Experience survey, and what’s the best time to do it? 

We see that the best and most objective insights can only be drawn after the process has completed. If candidates receive a Candidate Experience survey while they’re still in the process, they’ll often give you perfect scores and high marks on everything to come off as motivated and eager to continue the hiring process. 

An example of a candidate who received a Candidate Experience survey before being notified of the final outcome

We see that timing has a large impact on how willing candidates are to answer your questions and report their Candidate Experience. Sending it at the right time is an excellent way to improve Candidate Experience and secure higher response rates. If you wait too long, candidates will lose interest and partially forget parts of the process, and will be less likely to report accurate information. If you act too quickly, candidates will still be emotional and will likely negatively skew their results or provide subjective and emotionally charged responses. 

Our industry expertise shows us that the optimal time to send a Candidate Experience survey is around 48 - 72 hours after the end of the process, from the time that a candidate is notified about the state of their outcome. 

Be Speedy and Responsive

Time kills even the best Candidate Experience. Our 2022 Candidate Experience Benchmark Report highlighted the importance of the overall speed of the process when it comes to withdrawn candidates. Withdrawn candidates mentioned Speed more than twice as often as other types of candidates, and speed came up in 50.4% of all comments from withdrawn candidates. 

Speed also matters to rejected candidates. Considering that 65% of candidates report not being informed on the status of their application, and 52% report only being informed about it after 3 months, it’s easy to see why 80% of rejected candidates who are informed about their outcome in a timely manner are willing to reapply. Plus, being rapidly notified makes them 3.5 times more likely to reapply.

Fixing this is not an easy task. In many cases, the challenge lies in logistical issues with processing candidates. Recent developments in recruitment technology have opened up new avenues in both processing applications and rapidly informing candidates on their status. Remaining responsive is ultimately the recruiters’ responsibility, so managers can also consider our recommendations on internal accountability under point 11. 

There are also a number of benefits that Candidate Experience measurement itself can bring to recruitment operations, which would increase hiring velocity and result in a more effective talent acquisition process.

Measure and Act on Diversity and Inclusion

According to our Candidate Values Report, Diversity & Inclusion has a high impact on Candidate Experience for both rejected and withdrawn candidates. 

According to a recent Gartner survey. 70% of Black, Latinx, BIPOC and Asian candidates report stopping an application short because their preferences did not align with the role. In most instances, these candidates also expressed doubt about the diversity of the team, and the management style of the potential manager. 

If your company already prioritizes Diversity & Inclusion, then make sure it’s being properly communicated to candidates. Consider asking candidates how they felt about the Inclusivity of your process, and act on the results. 

If a certain hiring manager receives lower inclusivity ratings from minority candidates, then that can be a sign that anti-bias training could be useful. 

For more on Diversity & Inclusion for Candidate Experience, check out our Inclusive Hiring Guide and our article, “Why Diversity & Inclusion Starts With Recruitment”. 

Keep Recruiters Accountable and Focused

One useful method is to begin leveraging Candidate Experience to directly inform recruiters and improve recruiter performance evaluations. Some of our customers, such as Adevinta and Immutable, have seen noticeable improvements to their Candidate Experience once they begun to use Candidate Experience data to drive internal accountability and praise highly performing recruiters.

Another good example is Elastic, who used Candidate Experience data to build out a Interviewer Training Program that was specifically tailored to their candidates’ immediate concerns. They also started a newsletter called Feedback Friday where candidates’ feedback - both good and bad - would be communicated out to the wider team.

Having recruiters regularly receive feedback about their performance based on Candidate Experience data is a good way to help continuous improvement of your Candidate Experience, and raise internal accountability. At the end of the day, having a good Candidate Experience requires an active commitment to improving it. 

Be Clear in Your Communication

Additionally, one of the other main takeaways from our data is that candidates highly value a clear understanding of the role. This is especially important for withdrawal rates - If candidates feel like they don’t fully understand what they’re getting into, then they will be more likely to report a poor Candidate Experience.

A lot of potential miscommunication surrounding candidates’ understanding of the role lies between the hiring manager and recruiter, as well. We’ve seen that working on improving Hiring Manager Satisfaction and building a strong Recruiter-Hiring Manager Relationship is key to providing candidates with a consistent understanding of the roles and responsibilities they are applying for.

This extends to job descriptions, internal communication, and external communication to the candidate. For the best results, recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates all need to be on the same page and have a clear understanding of what the job entails and what is expected of the new hire, hiring manger, and recruiter. 

Collect Feedback About Your Interview Process

According to our data, one of the most important stages of the hiring process is the interview. Our NPS benchmarks show that there is a significant difference between scores from candidates who were rejected before an interview and after an interview.

The line inside the boxplot marks the median, which is noticeably higher for Rejected after Interview.

This is understandable - candidates may be more upset about a rejection if they weren’t offered an interview in the first place. However, what is even more impactful is the fact that Rejected after Interview has the largest NPS spread. 

This shows us that Interviews have the highest risk/reward ratio out of all stages in the interview. If they are handled poorly, they will result in very dissatisfied candidates. However, if they are done well, then candidates will often be active promoters of your company and will enthusiastically refer others for the position.

Ultimately, your data will tell you exactly what can be improved with your interviews. Each company is different, and each recruiter and hiring manager handles them differently. The only foolproof way to consistently improve your interviews is by actively listening to your candidates and seeing what concerns they raise. 

Make the Application Process Simple

Last, but certainly not least, making the application process simple for candidates can work wonders when it comes to Candidate Experience. 60% of candidates report that they’ve stopped an application short due to it being overly complex or time-intensive. 

Candidate Experience starts with the very first interaction that a candidate has with your company. If your application process is long and convoluted, then you risk starting off on the wrong foot. 

One way to make applying easier for candidates is by simplifying the language used in job listings, making the position more appealing to a larger audience. Besides that, leveraging technological tools like LinkedIn Easy Apply can massively shorten the time it takes candidates to send in their CVs.

Investing in a Candidate Relationship Management platform like Guide is also a great way to make the post-application process less painful, and keep candidates engaged.

Another example can be found in our customer story with Adevinta, who cut down their interviews by 40% and saved candidates hours of time, boosting Candidate Experience in the process. 

Cutting down the complexity of the application process and making it simple will not only increase the amount of potentially qualified candidates, but it will also boost your Candidate Experience. 

Where Do You Stand?

Now that you’re armed with 12 different ways to improve your Candidate Experience, you might be asking yourself “how do I know where I stand currently”?

We’ve created the Candidate Experience Maturity Model to answer this exact question. It can act as a roadmap, a guide, or a piece of valuable context for what different levels of sophistication look like when it comes to measuring and analyzing your Candidate Experience.

For the best results in improving your Candidate Experience, you need an ironclad method for gathering and analyzing data at scale.

If you’re interested in taking your Candidate Experience to the next level, consider an automated solution like Starred, which automatically measures, processes, and analyzes your Candidate Experience data to provide you with the best insights into your hiring process.

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