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Ask a Hiring Expert: How to Create an Exceptional Candidate Experience

Editor’s Note: We have produced a brand new video to accompany this content. 

Creating a positive candidate experience should be a top priority if you want to attract the best talent and gain a reputation as being a great place to work. In this four-minute clip, CareerPlug’s very own Director of HR, Natalie Morgan, shares how we go about creating a great candidate experience for every candidate that walks through the door.

Candidate Experience: Why Does It Matter?

People talk. No matter the experience a candidate has with your company, you should assume they are going to tell others about it. As that experience compounds, your company builds a reputation, and your employment brand is influenced for better or worse.

As the unemployment rate remains low, it remains a candidate’s market. People — and especially top talent — have the choice of where they work.

When you remove the hassle and communicate openly with candidates throughout the hiring process, they’re more likely to speak positively about your company — whether or not they’re hired.

Candidate Experience Improves Recruiting? Prove It.

Improving the candidate experience helps companies. We know from industry data that the easier it is to apply to a job, the more applicants the job will receive. On the flip side, the more questions and steps you add to an application, the higher the applicant drop off rate.

According to Indeed, applications with 20 screener questions lose 40% of candidates.

I’ve heard hiring managers say that long applications weed out “lazy” applicants from the ones who “really want” the job. That’s really not the right way to hire. Ask yourself instead: Is a talented candidate likely to complete an hour-long application without any other interaction with or investment from the company?

Your recruitment strategies shouldn’t keep a great candidate from getting in the door.

Comparing Two Examples of Candidate Experiences

The key to creating a great candidate experience is to empathize: imagine the candidate’s perspective.

If you’ve been a job seeker recently, this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. If you haven’t, take some time to talk with a current or recent job seeker you know. How much do you understand about the hiring process from their point of view?

Let’s imagine two distinctly different candidate experiences.

Candidate Experience #1

Imagine you’re a job seeker searching for jobs online. We know that 38% of candidates spend 1-2 hours researching a new opportunity. Let’s assume you fall within this percentile, pouring over company websites and seeking out social media presences.

When you click “apply” on the first job, you’re asked to create a login. You do, heading to your email to confirm and follow a link that leads you back to the job application. You fill out the application, uploading your resume and then retyping your work history into separate fields.

By the time you submit the application, nearly an hour has passed.

Then you wait. Eventually, you do hear something a few weeks later when you’d almost given up. At this point, the company details aren’t as fresh in your mind, and you have to brush up again.

You’re not clear on who you’ll be meeting with or what to prepare for each interview. An interviewer keeps checking their phone or working on their computer during the conversation. No one has reviewed your resume. You have to constantly repeat what you typed on the initial long application.

Between interviews, you wait some more. You must constantly follow up with the hiring manager to learn about the next steps in the process.

The recruitment process is a mess. It’s frustrating! You were interested in the job, but if the hiring process is any indication of what working at the company would be like, you’re not interested after all. Offer or not, you’ll pass.

Candidate Experience #2

The second job you applied to gives you hope. You enter a few key pieces of information and upload your resume.

No special login required. No retyping your work history. It takes under 5 minutes. The hiring manager responds within a few days to set up a phone screen.

Throughout the process, you get emails about your candidate status. You know what to expect from each interview, including what to prepare and who you’ll be meeting.

You feel welcomed and respected by the interviewers and can tell they came as prepared as you did. You have time to ask your own questions, and the interviewers share realistic opportunities and challenges for the role.

The interview process is great! You are asked questions not only about your experience but about your goals and motivations. You can tell that your interviewers are truly trying to understand you. You get an opportunity to speak with someone on the current team or even shadow them.

If at any point in the process you don’t move forward, you receive a kind rejection email. If you are hired, there’s a celebration, welcoming, and a clearly documented job offer and compensation package.

Pretend this was your experience: What are you likely to tell your friends about this company? To apply for themselves? That you’re going to keep an eye on them in the future?

How to Improve Candidate Experience

how to improve candidate experience

Ultimately, you should strive for fewer roadblocks and more transparent communication in your hiring process.

For example:

  • Share company vision, values, and impact of the position throughout the recruitment process
  • Be upfront about compensation
  • Make the application process short and mobile friendly, with no login needed
  • Send interview confirmations that include office directions and who the candidate will be meeting
  • Don’t leave a candidate hanging for more than a week
  • Send rejection emails to all who apply
  • Use an applicant tracking system to make your hiring process consistent

What About Exceptional Candidate Experiences?

Much of what we’ve covered here is basic blocking and tackling: the foundational components of a decent candidate experience.

Some of these basics are exceptional in today’s hiring market. The bar is low but rising as more companies realize the value of candidate experience.

At CareerPlug, one way we go beyond the basics and create exceptional experiences is by sharing our company’s Vivid Vision. Our Vivid Vision is a document that details our company values, drivers, and goals for the next three years.

We also do a late-stage interview focusing on a candidate’s professional and personal goals for the next five years. We open a discussion about how CareerPlug can help them achieve those goals. We frequently hear feedback from candidates that this was their favorite part of our process.

Companies that go above and beyond actually go so far as to send a candidate experience survey to all candidates after the interview process has completed. The benefits of this are significant: even applicants who weren’t hired can hold your business in high regard if they’re given the opportunity to provide you feedback. Plus, that feedback could be helpful in improving your candidate experience. Win-win.


  • Candidate experience matters. Whether an applicant had a good or poor candidate experience, assume they will tell others. Over time, this affects your employment brand and talent acquisition.
  • Design your hiring process with candidate experience in mind by empathizing with the candidate. If you were applying to this job, what would you want your experience to be?
  • Fewer roadblocks and more communication will lead you on the right path to great candidate experiences.
  • Easy wins include creating shorter job applications, sending rejections to all candidates, and being upfront about job duties and compensation.

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