What is Candidate Experience in Recruitment?

Many employers and HR professionals are beginning to realize the role the candidate experience plays in a business’s ability to attract great people and make the right hires. 

At CareerPlug, we’ve always considered the candidate experience to be an important part of recruitment. This is why every year we publish a Candidate Experience Report that contains original survey data from job seekers regarding the hiring process. 

Let’s cover the basics and go over our research on candidate experience and how it can impact recruitment. 

What is candidate experience? 

The candidate experience describes the interaction that candidates have with a potential employer throughout a hiring process. This includes both passive interaction like your job posting and the application process, as well as active interaction like communication before, during, and after interviews. 

The candidate experience spans the entire hiring process. Some of the main elements of the candidate experience include:

  • Job posting
  • Preliminary assessments and phone screens
  • Interviews
  • Communication throughout the hiring process 
  • Job offer or rejection  

Why candidate experience matters in recruitment 

Now more than ever, candidate experience matters. The best candidates will always have options, but these days job seekers have more leverage than ever before. 

This means that candidates can be picky about where they work and the candidate experience might just make or break someone’s decision to say yes to a job offer. 

But don’t just take our word for it; take a look at the data: 

80% of candidates we surveyed said that a positive candidate experience influenced their decision to accept an offer, while 58% of job seekers have declined an offer due to a poor candidate experience. 

impact of negative candidate experience

Yep, you read that correctly. That means, that if you’re providing a poor candidate experience, over half of your offers for a job could be declined

That statistic alone is enough to prove the importance of the candidate experience in recruitment. Another thing to consider is how candidate experience affects your reputation and brand. 

Your employer brand 

Your employer brand is your company’s reputation as a place to work as seen from job seekers’ perspective. You can strengthen your employer brand by getting clear on your core values and highlighting those online. 

However, if you don’t live up to your values and/or give job seekers a bad experience in your hiring process, your employer brand will suffer. This is because job seekers and candidates are eager to share their experiences with a company in many online spaces. 

Our candidate experience survey found that 37% of job seekers reported that they have left a bad review online after a negative experience with a company. On the plus side, 61% of candidates said they have left a positive review, which means that whether you’re providing a positive or negative impression, word will spread! 

candidates leave negative reviews online

A negative employer brand will make it harder to attract and hire the right people for your business. Consider this: more than half of job seekers will abandon their pursuit of a job after reading negative online reviews about the employer. Fortunately, a positive employer brand can actually help you attract higher quality candidates

The data is clear! Providing a positive candidate experience can have drastic effects on recruitment success. 

What does an exceptional candidate experience look like? 

Now that you have a better idea of the importance of candidate experience, let’s talk a little about what an exceptional candidate experience entails. 

CareerPlug’s Senior Director of HR, Natalie Morgan, explains it best in this video: 

As Natalie explains, it’s important to consider the candidate experience from the candidate’s point of view. Here are some examples of what make up an exceptional candidate experience from that perspective:  

  • A strong and positive employer brand
  • An easy and quick application process 
  • Prompt communication during every stage
  • Interviewers that are prepared and respectful 
  • Clearly documented offer and compensation package

With these things in mind, let’s discuss some important changes you can make as an employer. 

How to improve your candidate experience 

All elements of the hiring process play a role in creating a positive candidate experience. We asked job seekers what improvements matter the most. Here’s what they said:

what improvements employers should focus on

Be honest and open 

The top three recommendations from job seekers all have to do with accuracy, transparency, and better communication. 

Job seekers want more information sooner, starting with a detailed job description. Include compensation and benefits in the job posting and make sure that you accurately describe the responsibilities of the role. 

Keep up the transparency throughout the rest of the process and make sure that all interviewers effectively communicate with candidates and leave them enough time to ask any clarifying questions they might have. 

Standardize your hiring process

When your hiring process isn’t standardized, it’s much easier for things to slip through the cracks. This means that you might be giving someone a poor candidate experience without even realizing it. 

If you want to improve your candidate experience, a great first step is making sure that all candidates go through the same protocol and receive equal treatment. This can eliminate hiring bias and speed up your hiring process. 

Consider creating a candidate experience checklist to outline the steps of your process and keep everyone on the same page. It’s also a good idea to use an applicant tracking system (ATS) like CareerPlug to automate those crucial steps. 

Analyze how you’re doing 

The best way to know where your candidate experience can be improved is to ask candidates that have actually been through it. This will help you focus on making the right changes. 

We recommend sending a candidate experience survey to all candidates you interviewed and asking for feedback. It’s also a good idea to ask existing employees what they thought about their experience and see if they have any suggestions for improvements. 

We’ve created a free candidate experience survey template that you can use to analyze how you’re doing. Click the button below to download.

Be open to both positive and negative feedback. Don’t be discouraged by the negative feedback – rather see it as an opportunity to improve your chances of making better hires. 

Ultimately, you should strive for a smooth hiring process with minimal roadblocks and honest and accurate information about the job throughout the process. 

Let’s sum it up with an easy reference for some do’s and don’ts: 

candidate experience do's and don'ts

Final thoughts 

The candidate experience has always been important, but our research shows that candidates care more now about the hiring process than they did before the pandemic.

job seekers care more about the hiring process

Job seekers also report that all parts of the hiring process influence their decision to accept an offer. Creating a good candidate experience isn’t always easy, but the willingness to improve your hiring process can bring you great results. 

A good candidate experience can help you make more hires and improve your employer brand. Communicating clearly and honestly, standardizing your hiring process, and asking for feedback are important steps toward a positive candidate experience and a successful recruitment.

2021 Candidate Experience Report

Access our original research report to learn more about the candidate experience including what job seekers want from employers during the hiring process.


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