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Hiring 101

How to Create a Positive Candidate Experience (And Why You Need To)

The obvious goal of the hiring process is to identify the right person for the role. Yet while this is the primary focus, it’s important to also think about what the process is like from the candidate’s perspective.

“The candidate experience has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the hiring process and directly influences a candidate’s perception of the company’s culture, values, and professionalism,” explains Managing Partner Matt Erhard. “A positive experience can lead to enhanced employer branding, higher acceptance rates, increased candidate referrals, and a larger talent pool.”

In other words, by improving the candidate’s experience, you can also create a more effective hiring process and a better overall perception of your brand. Candidate experience is shaped at every stage of the process, from the initial job description and application through interview rounds, candidate selection, and onboarding.

Which leads to the question: What are the factors that influence a candidate’s experience, and how do you ensure it’s a positive one for your applicants? Here are the key concepts to focus on.

1. Clear, transparent communication is essential.

This starts by ensuring applicants understand the role and the company’s needs before they even start the process. Emphasize clarity over cleverness in job descriptions to ensure candidates understand the expectations and requirements of the role.

Follow this up by advising candidates selected for interviews of what the entire hiring process will look like, including the number of interview rounds and when you expect to make a decision. If that changes down the line, reach out to candidates to let them know.

Recruitment Director Aman Sodi advocates for proactive communication. “I always aim to ensure I provide an update to candidates before they even have a chance to check in with me or ask for one. Even if I don’t have an update, if it’s been a few days, sending a simple email letting them know I am thinking of them and will circle back as soon as I know more goes a long way.”

“Regular updates on the status of the application, including acknowledgment of receipt and timely feedback, demonstrate respect for candidates and keep them engaged throughout the process,” says Senior Bilingual Recruitment Consultant Melanie McQueen.

Amanda Graham, Recruitment Director in Summit’s Toronto office, seconds this point, adding, “It is all about consistent communication—send regular follow-ups with the candidates to touch base, even if you don’t have a solid update at that time. Transparent communication—share as much as you can with the candidate about the recruitment process and updates. Open communication—make it clear to the candidate that you are there if they ever want to touch base throughout the process.”

This includes providing constructive feedback, even to candidates who are unsuccessful. Receiving feedback allows job seekers to improve their application or interview approach for the future. That helps them feel like they at least got something out of the process, even if it wasn’t the new job they were hoping for, and that leaves them with a more positive impression of your company.

Serena Milani notes, “Not providing adequate feedback is a common mistake that recruiters make. Candidates invest time and effort in the application and interview process, especially if they do multiple interviews or meet with the client, and they appreciate receiving feedback to help them understand areas for improvement.”

She also stresses the importance of closing the loop. “Not providing closure or notifying candidates when a decision has been made can leave them hanging and create a negative impression of the company.”

2. A fast, efficient recruitment process provides a better candidate experience.

“Create a streamlined application process and make it user-friendly,” suggests Recruitment Consultant Mariah Beahen. A seamless application platform can significantly enhance the experience compared to more manual application processes. A survey reported by SHRM shows that 60% of job seekers quit online applications because they are too long or complicated, evidence of the importance of a simple and straightforward application process.

Efficiency during interviews and candidate assessments is also critical to ensuring a positive experience for applicants. Remove any unnecessary steps, and save more complicated or time-consuming assessments for later stages. A lengthy interview process often translates to longer decision times and both can be frustrating for candidates.

“When the process drags out too much, top candidates who are in high demand will have time to go to competitors,” Recruitment Consultant Melissa Krakana explains. Long interview processes can negatively affect your business in other ways, as well. “The company’s reputation of being a slow decision maker or having poor communication can also damage your employer brand. This can be viewed as a red flag that business decisions will be made just as slowly, or that communication will be inadequate if a candidate were to join their team.”

3. Give each candidate personalized and individual attention.

Nobody wants to feel like their employer sees them as a faceless cog in a corporate machine. A recruiting process that’s impersonal or overly automated can send the impression this is exactly the kind of workplace the candidate will enter if they’re hired. As Recruitment Consultant Braeden Demchuk says, “Candidate experience is the first impression your organization leaves on what may become your new team member. Having a negative candidate experience can turn away the top talent your organization seeks.”

Gail Eckert agrees, and suggests always remembering the human side of the equation when hiring. “As much as we like to rely on automated tools such as CRM, ATS, and AI, I truly believe that a personalized process is the best. The candidate experience and overall engagement and impression of the company’s brand is elevated with personal interaction.”

This doesn’t mean technology should play no role in your process. “Utilizing applicant tracking systems, interview scheduling tools, and candidate feedback surveys can help companies improve their candidate experience and gain insights into areas of improvement.”

The key is to find a balance. Use technology and tools to make your process more efficient and improve communication, but not so much that candidates wonder if they’re talking to a machine. Personalized communication at key stages helps you engage with candidates in an authentic way. As Amanda Graham says, “Candidates should view you as a trusted advisor who is acting as an honest and helpful partner to them throughout the process.”

You can do that by demonstrating professionalism and empathy in all your interactions and tailoring communication to candidates’ specific needs. The more the candidate feels their unique value is seen, and their unique concerns addressed, the more likely they will be to have an overall positive impression of the experience, regardless of its outcome.

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How to Create a Positive Candidate Experience (And Why You Need To)

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