How to Create Great Candidate Experiences

According to a recent Top Workplaces study, only 56% of organizations believe their recruiting and hiring processes are highly effective. This aligns with candidate sentiment, as many surveyed job seekers feel frustrated with elements such as poor communication with potential employers, negative interview experiences, and unclear job expectations, just to name a few.

Although employers often have the upper hand, the power dynamic shouldn’t overshadow the importance of treating job seekers with the same level of consideration and respect as valued customers. Providing a positive candidate experience not only reflects your company’s values and integrity but also strengthens your employer brand and ability to attract and keep top talent under your roof.

Otherwise, you risk people losing respect for your organization as both an employer and a brand. In fact, more than half of surveyed workers say they’re less likely to patronize a business after a bad job application or interview experience.

In this guide, we’ll cover what candidate experience is, why it matters, strategies to deliver a delightful candidate experience, and best practices to keep in mind. Designing a positive candidate experience is a multifaceted effort, but you don’t have to do it alone. Combined with BambooHR Hiring & Onboarding, you can leverage these strategies to find and keep top talent engaged, collaborate with your hiring team, customize offer letter templates, quickly complete onboarding paperwork, and cement your company as a great place to work.

What Is Candidate Experience?

Candidate experience is how job seekers feel about your company after they experience your recruitment process. The process typically includes learning more about your organization, applying, being screened by a recruiter, interviewing with hiring managers, and potentially receiving a job offer.

Consistently providing positive candidate experiences is crucial regardless of whether an offer is extended. For instance, if your hiring process is streamlined, informative, and respectful of their time, top candidates are more likely to accept your job offer, having developed trust in your organization. Even candidates who aren’t selected may still view your company positively and consider applying again in the future. Plus, they might share their positive experience with other job seekers in their network or leave good reviews on sites like Glassdoor, strengthening your employer brand.

On the other hand, a bad candidate experience will cost you top talent both now and in the future.

Why Is a Good Candidate Experience So Important?

A good candidate experience isn’t just a nice-to-have but a strategic tool that can do wonders for your company’s reputation and, in turn, your bottom line. Here are some of the many benefits you can unlock:

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How to Create a Candidate Experience That Delights and Delivers

Between employers’ ghosting and interview processes that last several months, job seekers are resigned to the fact that finding a job is notoriously hard. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some strategies you can leverage to design a positive candidate experience from the awareness stage through onboarding—all while reinforcing your brand’s reputation as an employer of choice:

Make It Easy for Candidates to Learn About Your Organization

Job applications are time consuming, so many job seekers will first research your company to help them decide if they’d like to apply or not. Here’s how you can persuade them to hit that submit button:

Write Clear and Compelling Job Descriptions

With countless job postings competing for candidates’ attention, your organization only has 49.7 seconds on average to catch their eye before they move on. Writing a job description that attracts top talent is a balancing act of accuracy and brevity. Here are some vital elements to include:

  1. Relevant job title: While picking an unconventional job title may seem like a good way to stand out, you’ll likely make it harder for ideal candidates to find you. For instance, job seekers are more likely to search for “Sales Representative” as opposed to “Sales Superstar” positions. Stick to familiar job titles—there’ll be other opportunities in the job description to showcase your brand voice.
  2. Company introduction: This is the perfect place to share your organization’s mission and what makes your company culture unique. For instance, if you’ve earned any awards (e.g., Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For or Fortune Best Workplaces for Women™), list them here to make a strong first impression with candidates.
  3. Job summary: Give an overview of the role, explaining why the position is needed and the positive impact they can make. The goal is to get them excited about the chance to join your team.
  4. Job responsibilities: Collaborate with the hiring manager to develop a bulleted list of the essential job duties on an average day. Specifically, make your job description memorable by narrowing it down to five to nine tasks to avoid overwhelming candidates.
  5. Job requirements: Don’t conflate requirements with preferences, as having a laundry list can discourage high-quality candidates from applying. Focus on what they need to get the job done (e.g., industry-specific certifications, knowledge of pertinent software programs), not nice-to-have skills.
  6. Benefits: Simply put, candidates want to know what’s in it for them. Show them you value your employees as humans—not just business units—by offering competitive fringe benefits and perks. Some benefits, such as health insurance and 401(k) plans, are often seen as table stakes, while perks like free lunches and pet-friendly offices are bonuses.
  7. Required legal language: Consult with your legal team about any necessary disclosures you should make in job postings. For example, here at BambooHR, we note that we require all candidates who receive and accept employment offers to complete a background check before being hired.

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Streamline the Application Process

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 92% of job seekers abandon online job applications because of their length and complexity. Aside from keeping ideal candidates engaged, streamlining the application process will also speed things up for your hiring team. Here are some strategies to make it easier for candidates to apply:

Design a Fair and Engaging Interview Process

Once you’ve determined which candidates have passed the screening process, it’s time to narrow down the pool further and interview them individually. Consider the following best practices to help you minimize bias and hire the right person for the job:

  1. Assemble diverse interview panels. Getting perspectives from people of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, and job functions reduces the influence of personal biases. Be sure to train interviewers on ways to make the hiring process more inclusive and objective. [Note: Multiple perspectives are necessary, but limit the panel to key stakeholders only. Having too many cooks in the kitchen will make it much harder to reach a consensus.]
  2. Ask standardized interview questions. Base your questions on the job description’s requirements and competencies. Asking all the candidates interviewing for the same job position the same questions (including behavioral interview questions) in the same order is known as a structured interview format. This ensures consistency across interviews and makes it easier to compare candidates’ responses.
  3. Use interview scorecards. Also called evaluation forms, interview scorecards allow the panel to systematically assess candidates based on predetermined criteria and a consistent rating system. For instance, you might score candidate responses on a scale of one to five (with higher results indicating the interviewee possesses the particular skill) for different elements such as technical skills, soft skills, and overall culture fit.
  1. Follow up with interviewers. While the interviews are still fresh in their minds, have each panel member make notes and then debrief as a group to share feedback and decide which candidate(s) will advance to the next round.
  2. Keep candidates informed. Providing candidates with regular updates on the status of their application, next steps, and potential delays can help ease any anxiety or frustration they may be feeling, keeping them engaged. Even if you’ve chosen not to proceed with a candidate’s application, let them know as soon as possible to respect their time. If they request it, offer constructive feedback—your insight might help them land their next opportunity.

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Optimize New Hire Onboarding Experiences

At this point, you’ve selected your rockstar candidates, and they’ve accepted your job offer—hooray! Now it’s time to nail the onboarding process to retain the employees you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in during recruitment. In fact, you have an average of just 44 days to convince new hires to stay. Here are some ways to make a great first impression:

What Best Practices Ensure an Optimal Candidate Experience?

Creating a candidate experience isn’t a one-and-done feat. As you tweak your hiring process over time, keep the following questions in mind when evaluating if it’s as strong as it can be:

Is the Technology Involved Easy to Use and Understand?

As mentioned above, you can make your application process more user friendly by simplifying navigation, omitting unnecessary questions and steps, providing clear instructions, and offering a mobile-friendly design.

Plus, ensure your company website, social media channels, application platform, and other digital tools are accessible to candidates with disabilities. This may involve:

These measures can create a more inclusive experience for all candidates, regardless of their technological preferences or abilities.

Are the Interactions with Your Organization Attractive and Positive?

Candidates will have several digital and personal interactions with your organization throughout the recruitment process. To ensure they have a positive experience, put yourself in their shoes and make a checklist that may include questions like:

A seamless and engaging digital experience paired with timely and respectful communication can leave a lasting impression on candidates, even if they’re ultimately not chosen for the job.

Is the Experience Personalized?

Personalizing the candidate experience doesn’t always require grand gestures; often, small touches can have a powerful impact. For instance, when contacting top applicants to request an interview, addressing them by name and referencing one or two details that stood out from their application shows attentiveness and respect for their individuality.

And after a candidate has accepted your job offer, have them take a “get to know me” survey to find out their favorite snack, store, hobby, etc. Then, surprise them on important milestones, like their first day or completion of their first project, with something that proves you’ve been paying attention, like a gourmet gift basket.

It’s also important to keep in touch with silver medalists. Just because a candidate didn’t receive an offer doesn’t mean they weren’t a strong contender. The fact of the matter is you’ll only be able to choose one candidate in most cases, but you never know what the future will bring. Keeping great resumes on file and promising relationships warm will come in handy the next time a similar job opens up, saving you a ton of recruiting work.

Is Follow-up and Feedback Timely?

It’s a good rule of thumb to promptly follow up with all candidates, even if you’ve decided not to proceed with their application. Although not what they were hoping for, a rejection email, as opposed to radio silence, provides closure for candidates and shows your organization respects the time and effort they put into applying for the position. People will remember how they were treated during recruitment, so demonstrating professionalism will reflect positively on your employer brand.

What’s more, it’s crucial to keep your top candidates in the loop as well. Let’s say you’ve identified a frontrunner but some key decision-makers are currently unavailable, causing a bottleneck in the hiring process. If you don’t update the candidate early enough, they may assume you’re no longer interested and accept another job offer from a competitor who moved faster.

To avoid these pitfalls, consider using automated rejection email templates for efficiency while still personalizing them to some extent (e.g., greeting them by name as opposed to “applicant.”) and setting clear expectations with hiring managers about timely communication with candidates.

Is Your Organization’s Brand and Culture Clear?

If your company’s brand and culture aren’t crystal clear, you risk ideal talent scrolling past your job postings while potentially getting inundated with applications from unqualified candidates. We recommend conducting a brand audit that covers:

  1. Internal branding: Are your company’s mission, vision, and values clearly defined in an accurate and exciting way? Do the benefits you offer align with your values? For instance, one of our values here at BambooHR is Enjoy Quality of Life, so we pay our employees to go on vacation.
  2. External branding: Once you’ve established your brand identity, ensure it's consistent across all touchpoints, such as your job posts, company website, ads, and social media channels. In addition to understanding what your company does, candidates want to know what the culture is like. Share employee experience content like photos from company retreats or testimonials about the impact of your employee resource groups.
  3. Customer experience: Your company’s brand is more than just its products or services. Potential employees want to take pride in their work, so share customer case studies detailing how your company has made a difference.

With these strategies in your toolbox, you’re ready to design and deliver a candidate experience rooted in empathy. Happy hiring!

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