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The importance of a high-quality candidate experience

Samantha Hickey, talent practice director at CEB, now Gartner


First impressions matter, particularly in the world of work where they can be the difference between getting a job or not. While it has traditionally fallen to the applicant to put their best foot forward, organisations are damaging their reputation by failing to deliver the same courtesy to candidates.


According to a study of nearly 4,000 people by CEB, now Gartner, one-in-four candidates had a negative recruiting experience during their most recent job search.


The recruiting black hole

Digging deeper into this data reveals poor communication is the main driver behind bad experiences and candidate dissatisfaction. The analysis shows that these candidates were victims of the “recruiting black hole,” which happens when potential employers go silent during the process.


This black hole includes companies who fail to acknowledge that CVs and applications have been submitted, do not provide feedback to candidates on how they’re progressing through the hiring process, or share insight on how they performed in interviews.


Worse still, they often fail to let applicants know they have been unsuccessful in securing the job. Even the lucky few that do progress through to the next round are likely to be kept in limbo for roughly three months before securing the job.


Organisations wouldn’t keep their customers or prospects in the dark – not responding to a query, ignoring a proposal request or failing to get in contact about a delayed order – but it’s a recurring problem for job candidates.


First impressions count

The business impact of a poor candidate experience is undervalued and creates significant reputational risks for employer and product brands.


One-in-three candidates tell their friends about their negative recruiting experience, and may even take to social media to vent their dissatisfaction. Furthermore, one-in-five candidates will stop using or purchasing products or services from that company altogether.


On the flip side, when companies get the candidate experience right, it has a knock-on effect after the candidate joins the organisation. New hires apply 15 per cent more discretionary effort and are 38 per cent more likely to stay with the organisation. Put simply, happier employees work harder.


Employers do not have bad intentions, but expectations and technologies have changed and hiring processes have not kept pace. Recruiters are going head-to-head for the same talent and must improve and differentiate their candidate experience in order to compete.



There are four things organisations need to know and do to make the right impression on candidates and create a better hiring experience:


  1. Job candidates expect a straightforward experience online. People use their mobile device for a whole host of activities now, from shopping to banking, however mobile job ads are rarely clear or intuitive in the same way. Organisations should ensure that their career sites, application processes and assessments are easy to use and optimised for mobile.


  1. Candidates want greater transparency. They want to know more about the job they’re applying for and what they need to do to get it. Companies are missing a trick by not providing applicants with more information upfront about the day-to-day requirements of the role and the stages in the hiring process.


Setting candidates expectations in advance helps them to make informed decisions about whether it’s the right job for them and allows them to choose to continue with the application process or self-select out.


  1. Job candidates want to give and receive feedback. Having put in time and energy to progress through the hiring stages, jobseekers want feedback on how they performed, how their qualifications stack up, how they scored on assessments and how they could improve for future opportunities.


Companies don’t have to share a full feedback report, some simple hints and tips on what to do next time can improve the candidate experience. Some firms signpost to other jobs openings that the candidate might be more suited to. It is also important to capture candidate feedback routinely to surface issues and understand engagement across the stages in the process.


  1. Candidates want status updates. There are critical touchpoints in the job application process where candidates want to hear from a potential employer. These communications don’t have to be highly personalised, but they do need to be clear, action-oriented and set expectations on the next stage(s).


A firms acknowledging when applications have been submitted, assessments fulfilled and interviews completed. Organisations also need to let candidates know if they’ve been successful or not in securing the job.


Successful organisations realise that the recruiting process plays a critical role both in acquiring quality candidates and improving performance once in role.


Now is the time for companies to use technology to create a more engaging, rewarding and interactive experience for candidates, which will also ensure that recruiters identify the best-fit job applicants effectively, quickly and efficiently.  The recruiting relationship is a delicate one and a transparent, well communicated process can significantly transform the candidate experience and lead to better hiring outcomes. 


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