Have you ever wondered what makes a candidate apply for a job? Or, more specifically, what makes them apply to your job openings?

Many recruiters, hiring managers, and HR departments are asking themselves these questions in the midst of a worker shortage as they look into what worked in the past, what changed, and what can be done to bring in those badly-needed new hires.

how to improve the candidate experience

Recruiting new hires has never been easy–in good or bad times. There are times when there is a slew of applicants who are not necessarily qualified or have the right aptitude for the job, but at least you’re getting a response! Then, there are other times you can hardly get anyone to apply. Either way, it’s frustrating.

You can’t control the labor markets and the application flow. But one thing you can control is the candidate experience. And that’s what’s going to give you a greater chance of getting the right people to apply for your job openings.

In this post, we’ll answer your questions like:

  • What is the candidate experience?
  • How does the candidate journey impact the candidate experience?
  • How can you improve the candidate experience to get more applicants?

Let’s dive in!

 

What is the candidate experience?

According to Hire Vue, candidate experience is “how candidates perceive and interact with the hiring process. The key components of candidate experience are the job application, the screening methods used to filter candidates, and the interview process.”

candidate experience - what is candidate experience

The candidate experience is an important component of your recruiting and hiring. Especially as 63% of applicants say they would reject a job offer after a bad candidate experience. 

The candidate journey + candidate experience

To understand and improve the candidate experience, you have to start by looking at your current candidate journey.

The recruitment industry has spent years researching what makes a candidate not only look at a job ad, but also apply, show up for the interview, and most importantly, show up for the first day of work. They have interviewed thousands of candidates from every industry and skill set, and although every candidate’s journey is unique, to them, we know they have a lot in common, including walking through five general steps.

Here are the five steps of the candidate journey:

steps in the candidate journey

  1. Awareness: The potential candidate hears about your company through word of mouth, job advertisement and marketing, and local or national news about your company.
  2. Interest: The potential candidate asks their network for information about the company or researches by reading about the company and opportunity.
  3. Consideration: The candidate begins to think how this opportunity will improve their work-life through money, community, hours away from home, work from home options, etc.
  4. Intent: The candidate is ready to dive deeper and see what it takes to make a move.
  5. Inquire/Apply: The candidate submits contact information, resume, or application.

You can’t control all aspects of the candidate journey, but if you put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and embrace the steps they go through, you will start to think like a job seeker. This will, ultimately, help you understand and improve the overall candidate experience.

 

6 quick tips to improve the candidate experience

Starting a new career or changing jobs is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, and you must add that to the equation, as in, how are you making it easier for the candidate? Once you accept that it’s not about you, the company, but them, the qualified candidate, you are well on your way to improving the candidate experience. Here are additional tips to improve the candidate experience to try.

1. Talk to your current employees

Let’s start with the most underutilized data that you have at hand–your current employees. When did you last ask the successful new hires, AKA happy employees that joined your organization within the last 6-24 months, why they applied to your company in the first place and what they thought about the candidate journey and candidate experience?

Finding out what convinced them to join your company, how they experienced the application process, and finally, if the job turned out to meet their expectations can help you make improvements to the candidate experience.

Here are some questions to ask your current employees:

What was the most important factor(s) that made you apply for the job?

Don’t be surprised if it was wages and commute time. But keep it open-ended. Maybe it’s your company’s reputation or culture, your benefits, work from home flexibility, or the hours for shift work.

Was the application process easy?

In a hot candidate market where there are more jobs than candidates, the first part of the application process should take less than five minutes and preferably be mobile-friendly as over 90% of applicants search for jobs using their smartphones. Resumes and references can be submitted later. No, really, the most important thing is to get a potential candidate’s contact info when they show interest!

improve the candidate experience - mobile job search stat

Did you hear back from us in a timely manner? 

One of the biggest complaints from job seekers is not hearing back at all or that too much time goes by before they get a response. Anyone using an applicant tracking system should at least add the automated response to all applies!

Once you started, did the job meet your expectation?

If not, it’s time to look at the job ad. Are you advertising the true job or are you using outdated job descriptions and expected requirements?

Using the knowledge you gained by asking your own employees about the “whys,” you now have better insight and understanding of what you can do to improve the candidate experience.

2. Make it easy to learn about your company

During the Interest stage of the candidate journey, your potential candidates may be researching your company to learn who you are, what you do, and what people like about working with you. Make it easy for them to find this information by investing in recruitment marketing strategies like a careers page on your website, social media advertising about your open positions, and reputation management, including responding to and sharing employee reviews or testimonials.

This is crucial as nearly 40% of job searchers say they will move on to another job listing if they can’t find information about a company quickly.

By making it easier for candidates to find information about your company, you can improve the candidate experience and increase the likelihood of them taking the next step to apply.

improve the candidate experience - careers page

An example of a careers page with helpful information about the company.

3. Apply to your own job

In order to think like a job seeker and really experience the candidate journey (and see how you can improve the full candidate experience!), you might want to apply to your own job.

Here are some ways to do that:

Read your ads: Would you come to work for “yourself?” Did the ad include some of the great feedback you got from your current employees?

Time the application process: Using your phone (if that isn’t an option, there is more work to be done), apply to your job. Remember, if it takes more than three clicks and longer than five minutes, you probably lost the candidate.

improve the candidate experience - apply for your own job

Look at the job ad requirements: Are the current job ad’s requirements really required? Possibly time to edit out the nice to have skills vs. the must-have. Or make it very clear the nice to have is just that–not required.

Analyze the tone: Is the tone friendly and are you talking to the candidate? No one likes to be addressed in the third person. For example: Candidate must have 3+ years of experience vs. 3 years of experience preferred, or, even better, if you have 2-3 years of experience and enjoy being >>job title here<< we look forward to hearing from you.

After your audit is complete, make the necessary changes and updates so you can improve the candidate experience during the application portion of the candidate journey.

4. Provide multiple interview options

Another way to improve the candidate experience is to give the candidate options for their interview. Some candidates may still be uncomfortable visiting in person or may have an easier time scheduling an interview if they can call in for a video conference. Ask them what would be easiest and best for them and their schedule.

improve the candidate experience - provide multiple interview options

This shows that your company prioritizes them before they’re even employees and may make the difference between them choosing your company over another.

5. Follow up with all candidates

This is one of the most important ways to improve the candidate experience. Remember, no response from companies after applying or interviewing was a top complaint from candidates!

Make sure to thank everyone who interviewed within 24 hours and let them know if they are being considered for a follow-up interview or not.

Let those who were not interviewed know that you have gone in a different direction. There are many systems that can automate this for you!

6. Act quickly

Another way to improve the candidate experience is to make the entire candidate journey as fast as possible—from application to hiring. Candidates are typically looking for a position they can start quickly—or at least within a couple of weeks. And many candidates won’t wait for your offer if they have multiple on the table. In fact, the data shows that top candidates stay available for just 10 days before getting hired!

improve the candidate experience - hire quickly

Make sure your company can act quickly to extend an offer to the right candidate and let others know you’ve made a decision so they can move on to other opportunities. You don’t want someone to snatch up your perfect candidate because you were working through paperwork and approvals!

 

Think like a job seeker to improve the candidate experience

The candidate experience is all about how candidates perceive and interact with the hiring process. Focusing on that and not what makes hiring easiest for you can make finding and attracting quality candidates more effective–which will make hiring easier for you in the long run!

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