What the Candidate Experience Really Means in Recruiting & Hiring

Barry Lenson

As the economy reaches near zero unemployment, the role of candidate experience in the hiring process has become more important than ever. However, recruiting leaders and HR teams have scaled down since the recession. With an increased workload, many are struggling to find ways to provide a great experience, manage their requisition load, and also find time to engage using a growing number of digital multi-channels including social media, increased importance on SEO and search engine optimization, job boards, mobile career sites, and so on.

The Candidate Experience, Defined

Candidate experience is defined as how job seekers perceive and react to employers’ sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes. It has proven to be directly tied to recruiting performance, making it one of the most highly regarded talent acquisition topics today.

Read more about the History of the Candidate Experience.

If a job seeker had a poor experience during an interview a decade ago, he or she would be less likely to apply again in the future, accept a job offer, or buy that company’s products or services. They would also probably tell their inner circle about the poor experience.

That all still happens today, although the ubiquitousness of social media and employer review sites have dramatically expanded the dynamic and size of our inner circles. As a consequence, news of a poor candidate experience can travel much faster and further. Research shows that candidates who had a poor candidate experience are far more likely to tell others not to apply to a company, and may even write a negative Glassdoor review.

According to 2017 research from IBM on “The Far-Reaching Impact of Candidate Experience,”

better candidate experiences are linked to higher acceptance rates. The study reveals that candidates who are satisfied with their experience are 38 percent more likely to accept a job offer. Most candidates (over 60 percent) talk about their experiences with friends and family. With mobile and social media, feedback (good and bad) spreads faster than ever. This affects not only the reputation of the hiring organization but also their ability to attract other candidates in the future.

Additionally, candidates who had a positive candidate experience are twice as likely to want to become a customer of the hiring organization compared to those who had a poor candidate experience (53 percent vs 25 percent). Ultimately, candidate experience could even impact a company’s sales results.

On the flip side, a good candidate experience can lead to more (and sometimes higher quality) applicants, hires, and referrals. It can also result in lower costs per hire and time to fill.

The 2016 North American Candidate Experience Research Report compiled by the Talent Board reports that 41% of applicants who have terrible candidate experiences (rating them one out of five stars) say they’ll take their loyalty and money elsewhere. But for candidates with five-star experiences, 64% say they’ll definitely increase their relationship with the employer — even if they didn’t end up getting the job.

How Tech Can Help Improve the Candidate Experience

HR and talent acquisition practitioners have been hearing a lot about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and bots. The Harvey Nash Human Resources 2017 Survey found that 15 percent of HR leaders polled from 40 countries said artificial intelligence and automation are already impacting their workplace plans. Another 40 percent said they expect AI and automation to affect their plans within two to five years.

Two-thirds of senior talent acquisition and HR leaders (66 percent) would prefer to implement best-of-breed solutions over seeking, or waiting for, a fully integrated suite that provides all the functionality they may aspire to have. (Talent Tech Labs, State of Talent Acquisition Technology, 2017)

Using technology like chatbots and other automation can help streamline the recruiting process, at the minimum, but automating manual tasks. It can also help improve one of the biggest candidate gripes: Communication.

According to the Talent Board’s research, job seekers want (and increasingly expect) insight into two areas: how far along they are with the application as they’re completing it, and status updates as they go through the hiring process. In a sense, this all relates back to receiving regular feedback, which statistics reveal as one of the most important aspects of the candidate experience.

The Candidate Experience Starts with Communication and Managing Expectations

AI and chatbots aside, the best way to make an impact in the candidate experience is with consistent communication to candidates regardless of their place in your current hiring and recruiting process. Simply stated, job seekers want to know where they stand, and that starts with as something as simple as a status update communication every 7–14 days with a job seeker who has applied for a role via email.

“Candidates want to understand their progress,” says the Talent Board’s report. “When customers shop online, they have insight into how many steps are left before they complete their purchase. Candidates deserve a similar experience.”

New recruiting technologies have built-in workflows to ensure your candidates are informed at each stage of the application process, and the communication can be nearly 100 percent automated. Using recruitment software like Comeet enables you to automate and personalize emails to candidates, informing them of your hiring process and the next steps that will be taken.

Companies have invested so much time, money, and effort into a candidate applying for a job opening, it makes sense to continue to grow and build the relationship with them even if they aren’t the right fit for the role in which they applied. This means thinking about the hiring and candidate experience process as a long-term engagement that benefits the organization in ways beyond a single job posting and hiring. Doing so will save time and money and help boost offer acceptance rates (and your recruiting KPIs) for the longer term.

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