The candidate experience is a crucial yet often overlooked component of the recruitment process. From sourcing to interviewing and closing, every step of your interaction with potential employees lays the foundation for a lasting relationship. But why exactly is it so important to create a good candidate experience, what causes poor experiences, and how do we measure and improve it? Let's break it down.

The Strategic Advantage of a Superior Candidate Experience

The candidate experience extends beyond being a mere nicety; it serves as a strategic advantage in the competitive business environment. Here's why:

  • Elevate your offer to acceptance rate: By providing a positive candidate experience, you increase the probability of applicants accepting your offer. This efficiency reduces the costs associated with sourcing, interviewing, and closing candidates.
  • Boost referrals: Candidates with a positive experience are more likely to refer others to your job openings, thereby strengthening your sourcing and top-of-funnel recruitment.
  • Enhance your brand reputation: The recruitment process often provides candidates with their first impression of your company. A seamless, respectful process bolsters your brand.
  • Outshine competition: In a market where talented candidates often have multiple job offers, providing an excellent candidate experience can make your organization stand out and become the preferred choice.
  • Attract and retain premier talent: Top talent is drawn to companies that value them, a message clearly conveyed through a positive candidate experience.

Recognizing the Pitfalls: What Leads to Poor Candidate Experiences?

A candidate's interaction with your organization leaves a lasting impression. The following factors often contribute to poor experiences, and being aware of them can help you steer clear:

  • Lengthy Interview Process: Lengthy interview processes can drain a candidate's energy and enthusiasm. Respect for the candidate's time by streamlining interviews can go a long way in enhancing their experience.
  • Excessive Number of Interviews: Bombarding candidates with too many interviews can be overwhelming and may come across as disorganized.
  • Lack of Feedback: Providing clear, timely feedback is essential. It shows respect for the candidate's efforts and helps them grow, regardless of the outcome.
  • Unengaged Interviewers: Interviewers who seem uninterested or unprepared can send a message that the company doesn't value its candidates or employees.
  • Dehumanizing Automation: While technology is a great facilitator, over-automation of the process can rob it of the human touch, leading to impersonal interactions.
  • Irrelevant Skills Assessment: Evaluating candidates on skills unrelated to the job can frustrate them and skew your assessment of their suitability.
  • Lack of Diversity: Diversity in the interview panel showcases an inclusive culture and helps candidates from varied backgrounds feel represented and comfortable.
  • High-Pressure Environments: High-stress interviews can be off-putting. Instead, aim for an environment that allows the candidate to perform at their best.

Avoiding these pitfalls is crucial in maintaining a positive candidate experience.

Gauging Your Candidate Experience: The Key Metrics

Assessing your candidate experience is crucial. Consider the following metrics to evaluate your process:

  • Offer to Acceptance Rate: The ratio of offers accepted to offers made reveals the efficacy of your hiring process. If your offers-to-acceptance rates are consistently below 50%, there is certainly room for improvement in your candidate experience.
  • Referrals: The number of referrals you receive from applicants or employees is a good indicator of their confidence in your process.
  • Candidate Net Promoter Score (NPS): An NPS above 20 is a positive sign, while above 50 suggests an excellent candidate experience.

The Candidate Experience Continuum: From Subpar to Satisfactory to Stellar

Based on observing a wide range of interviewing processes, from startups to unicorns, here's how we distinguish a stellar experience from a subpar one.

Response Rates Between Each Round:

  • Stellar: A response within a single day for each round shows respect for a candidate's time and reduces anxiety.
  • Satisfactory: A response within 2-3 days is considered reasonable in most industries.
  • Subpar: A response time extending beyond 5 days can cause frustration and doubts about the organization's efficiency.

Full Interview Process Times:

  • Stellar: Wrapping up the entire process in under 2 weeks shows organizational efficiency and respect for candidate's time.
  • Satisfactory: A process lasting around 3 weeks is considered standard.
  • Subpar: Extending beyond 4 weeks, the process risks losing the candidate to other faster-moving opportunities.

Support & Prep:

  • Stellar: Candidates receive comprehensive interview process information, including types of interviews, duration, sample questions, salary range, and a dedicated company buddy for coaching. They also have the option to choose their preferred interview experience (e.g., live coding vs. take-home exercise). There's a recruiting point person accessible via email for queries and tailored feedback after each round.
  • Satisfactory: Candidates receive an overview of the interview process and the preparations required. There's a designated point person for queries, and feedback is provided for each step.
  • Subpar: Candidates are left in the dark about the number and type of interviews, receive automated emails with no personal contact, and lack feedback.

Note: While some improvements may seem minor, collectively they can significantly elevate the candidate's perception of your organization.

Low Hanging Fruit to Improve Your Candidate Experience

Here are some initial steps you can take to enhance your candidate experience:

  • Implement a Candidate NPS survey: An effective way to capture candidate feedback and identify areas for improvement.
  • Analyze your online reputation: Platforms like Glassdoor can provide invaluable insights into your hiring process from the candidate's perspective.
  • Prepare comprehensive prep guides: By providing candidates with clear expectations, you empower them to perform at their best.
  • Utilize data analytics: Data analytics can help improve your hiring process. Track the time spent in each stage, identify where candidates often drop off, and measure how many job offers are accepted. These data points can help you find and fix issues, leading to a better process for future candidates.

For more significant improvements:

  • Provide post-interview feedback: A significant portion of candidates express dissatisfaction with the lack of feedback post-interview. Providing constructive feedback after each interview shows that you value the candidate's time and effort, and it can dramatically improve their experience.
  • Offer salary transparency: Clear communication on salary ranges upfront can foster trust and set accurate expectations from the start.
  • Reduce Interview Process Duration: Strive to get your full interview process down to 2 weeks. A streamlined and efficient process reflects positively on your company's operations and respects the candidate's time. It also lessens the likelihood of losing candidates to other opportunities due to protracted timelines.

The candidate experience is an ongoing journey that requires constant evaluation and improvement. By putting in the effort to create a more positive and transparent process, you're investing in your organization's future by attracting and retaining top talent.