Candidate Experience is a term being used quite a bit in talent acquisition and recruiting teams, but what exactly is a “candidate experience”?

What is Candidate Experience?

Candidate experience is the sum of interactions that an individual has with a company, or the company brand, where they might seek employment. These experiences might come from word of mouth referrals, search results from a job board, a couple of visits to the companies career site, good or bad mentions in social media, or from disgruntled candidates who applied and never received a response. Any one of these interactions could be positive or negative for a company, but most companies don’t know what candidates think of them. In many cases, employers don’t have a way to measure or survey their candidates or applicants.

So Why does Candidate Experience matter, and why now?

Candidate experience matters because candidates have more employment options than ever before. With job aggregators and Google For Jobs posting nearly every job online, it’s common that online job boards are going to show not just your companies jobs, but your nearest competitors. I’d argue that prior to job aggregators and “All Jobs Everywhere”, candidate experience wasn’t as important, because there were fewer employment choices during the “Hidden Job Market” days. With more job options, candidates can look beyond just pay. They want to know more about hours, shifts, flexibility, PTO, company culture and of course working with companies they are attracted to, or align with.

Candidates now have multiple ways to share their experience working at a company, or how they were treated during an interview. They have access to insider employee ratings through sites like Glassdoor, with CEO scores and employer benefits ratings.

To Understand your Candidate Experience, you have to understand your Recruiting Funnels.

Recruiting Funnels are the processes, or steps, or interactions, that occur between a potential employee and anyone that might influence a potential employee; including, the company’s brand reputation, career site, job descriptions, job application process, employer branding, interview scheduling, offer process, rejection process, and possibly onboarding.

While each department in your business might have it’s own recruiting process, there are often a lot of similarities. In smaller companies, the recruiting process is often left up to someone in human resources, a recruiter, or a hiring manager. In recruiting, many of the steps are manual, creating no consistency, and therefore producing inconsistent results. With inconsistent processes and no way to measure a candidates opinion, it’s impossible to know what’s working and what’s not.

In bigger companies, there’s often a handful of existing software solutions that don’t talk to each other, but are required for recruiting and HR compliance. Are these technical issues causing candidates to drop out of the recruiting process? Is the process, from finding a job to applying, and hearing back from a recruiter, taking too long?

The typical Recruiting Funnel might start at job posting on a job board, with interested candidates then applying on the employer’s website.

When was the last time you searched for your own companies jobs on Indeed or Google for Jobs, and tried to apply with the mindset of a candidate who has never seen your company before?

Whether you’re marketing on job boards like Indeed, or putting ads in a porta-potty, it’s important to understand every aspect of the candidate journey. How many clicks does it take to apply? How long does it take? Is the process easy to complete on a mobile phone?

From the initial first interactions to the completed application, the scheduling of an interview, to the uncomfortable rejection email”, what was the experience like for the candidate?

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

– Peter Drucker

If your Candidate experience isn’t up to par, what do you do?

If you think your candidate experience needs work, and that’s probably everyone, the first thing you have to do is document the process and the weaknesses, or problems. One way to measure how your candidates feel about the process is to survey them with a candidate experience survey.

If you want to improve something and get senior management to support your plan, you need to speak their language. In many cases, that means data and numbers. You’ll need to define the problem in measurable terms.  You’ll need to measure the cost of fixing the problem and the return on investment.  Creating an ROI for recruiting and fixing the candidate experience isn’t always going to be plain and simple, but there are ways. If you’re going to sell your idea to a VP of HR, or CFO, they want to see how you plan on tracking the results of the investment.

Consider alternative, or “out-of-the-box” solutions, that can make it easier for candidates to apply, while integrating to your existing tech stack. Consider adding a text to apply recruiting chatbot, that can pre-screen candidates. Look at your recruiting funnels for areas where you can introduce recruiting automation solutions, to remove manual tasks, or speed the hiring process.

The Economic Cost of a Bad Candidate Experience

A couple years back the Director of TA  at Virgin Media in the UK, released one of the first P&L affects of poor candidate experience on the overall companies bottom line. The negative impact of Virgin Media’s poor candidate experience was costing the company more money than the entire recruiting annual budget. After some exhaustive financial analysis, they could prove to the CEO and CFO that a bad candidate experience was actually costing the company money because those poorly treated applicants/customers were canceling their cable subscriptions. 

Like most things, it does take time for companies to understand the problem, adopt solutions and then create and manage solutions to institutionalize change to the new normal.

Benchmark your Candidate Experience against the Best.

The CandE awards started out of the passion of some of our industries’ most thoughtful leaders, like @GerryCrispin, @ElaineOrler, and @KevinGrossman with the intention of measuring and understanding companies who were tackling the problem head on, and then making those best practices available for other TA teams to learn from and replicate.

Some of the tools used to measure candidate experience, include Survale, a survey tool, that helps survey candidates about their experience with the company and the recruiting process. While many recruiting teams know about Glassdoor ratings, it’s also important to note that there are lots of employee review sites, and companies like Ratedly, founded by long-time industry insider Joel Cheesman, (also a co-host of one of the best HR and Talent acquisition podcasts (Chad&Cheese) aggregate employer reviews from multiple sites, making it easier to track and manage.

No matter what tools you use, it is possible to document and measure your candidate experience. Only then, can you start making measurable improvements.

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