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How to deliver an outstanding job candidate experience that wins over top talent


Here’s the reality of the job market:

  • Competition for talent is extremely tough.
  • The unemployment rate is low, meaning that most of your prospects are currently working. Your competition for hiring talent isn’t just other companies in your industry – it’s also the job a candidate already has and may be happy with.
  • With demand for top talent outweighing supply, job candidates hold the advantage.

What does this mean for your company and its hiring practices? First impressions matter and you must deliver a positive, frustration-free candidate experience that entices people to join your business.

Let’s explore the most important tips that address the biggest candidate complaints about the recruiting and hiring process.

1. Get savvy about job descriptions

Job descriptions are often the first thing a prospective employee reads about your company or an open position – you need to get them right to convince people to take the next step and apply.

Too often, job descriptions are:

  • Overly long
  • Boring
  • Missing key details that candidates actually care about

Instead, job descriptions should be:

  • Concise. Most candidates now read job descriptions on a mobile device, and 100 bullet points or long blocks of text can get cumbersome.
  • Clear in defining the role and describing the most important job responsibilities. No candidate wants to feel misled about what the job really is.
  • Inclusive. Use language that doesn’t inadvertently target – or repel – certain demographics over others.
  • Focused on the things that differentiate your company and really matter to candidates. These include 1) company culture; 2) stability; and 3) flexibility. (Did you know that job postings containing the words “flexible,” “hybrid,” or “remote” usually get an overwhelming response compared to the minuscule response for job postings referencing fully onsite work?)
  • Transparent about benefits and the salary or salary range. Some states require the inclusion of salary information on job postings, but regardless of where your business resides, it’s a good idea.

Many of us are accustomed to having a salary conversation toward the end of the hiring process, but it should be one of the first topics discussed. No candidate wants to put in the time and energy to go through your hiring process only to discover the salary isn’t what they expected. It’s a waste of your time and theirs. (Plus, applications tend to increase when salary and benefits are included in job postings.)

2. Make it convenient and easy to apply

Candidates should be able to apply online directly from a link in the job description. And they shouldn’t have to go through multiple hoops to submit an application. Instead, the application should be short, simple and to the point – only taking a few minutes to complete. Otherwise, the candidate may just give up and exit the application prematurely.

A major candidate annoyance is uploading a resume, and then having to complete a separate form that requires them to retype much of the same information from their resume. Consider using a technology that auto-populates application form fields with information from the candidate’s resume to cut down on tedious work.

3. Embrace technology, but understand its limits

Speaking of technology, there’s a big push for artificial intelligence and systems that can enhance the efficiency of the recruiting process. Your company should deploy some of the advanced technology available that can make the process faster and easier, as well as improve communication, help HR professionals keep track of where candidates are in the process, gather recruiting data and enable analytics. A great example of a useful recruiting-related technology is an applicant tracking system.

However, don’t forget the human touch – recruiting is a people-centric function. Many recruiting tasks can be aided by technology, but technology can’t entirely replace the people who perform them.

And never prioritize the convenience of HR professionals to the detriment of the candidate experience. For example, asking candidates to record responses to automated questions as part of an initial interview may save HR professionals time, but it’s pretty cold and impersonal for candidates. No one wants to engage with a computer as their first interaction with a company.

4. Communicate in a timely manner

There may be valid reasons on your end for getting stuck in a holding pattern with the hiring process. Perhaps another task has come up that’s greater priority. Maybe senior leadership has paused some new hires.

But from the outside perspective of a job candidate, lack of news is frustrating and insulting. People like to know what’s going on and be kept in the loop. No one enjoys being “ghosted.” If candidates stop hearing from you for a while, they’ll assume you’re no longer interested and move on – and they’ll probably also be resentful about the treatment they received and less likely to engage with your company going forward.

That’s why you should maintain regular communication with candidates about:

  • Personal feedback
  • Where they are in the process
  • What the next steps are and the anticipated time frame
  • The reasons for any delays

Also promptly:

  • Answer any questions they may ask
  • Thank them for any material submissions or participation in interviews

5. Streamline the hiring process

Hiring a new employee is a big deal, and it’s understandable that your company wants to be thorough in hiring for the right skills fit as well as the right cultural fit.

But if you take too long or put up too many hurdles, there’s a chance that candidates can lose patience and interest. Remember: The majority of candidates are currently employed and they can’t risk their position to engage in a lengthy, multistep hiring process with your company. Their time is valuable, too.

It can also send the wrong signals about your company. To many candidates, a slow and complex hiring process indicates that an organization is inflexible and incapable of innovation and quick, effective decision-making.

You must shorten and streamline the hiring process.

So, what is the optimal number of interviews and skills assessments?

  • For interviews, two to three total.
    • Conduct first interviews virtually to save time.
    • Consolidate interviews and bring decision-makers together to conduct panel interviews, if necessary.
  • For skills assessments, the maximum is two.

This should offer plenty of opportunity to get the information you need from a candidate to make a decision.

6. Be prepared for the interview

A job interview is a critical opportunity for hiring managers to probe beyond the information listed on a resume and get to know the candidate on a deeper level.

For candidates, it’s incredibly frustrating when a hiring manager clearly hasn’t done their homework and seems unprepared by asking them to regurgitate what their resume says. It can feel like their time is being wasted or the hiring manager didn’t consider them important enough to learn about.

Before an interview, study the materials provided by the candidate, including portfolios or sample work. Familiarize yourself with the companies they’ve worked for or the schools they’ve attended. This will help in crafting smart, candidate-specific follow-up questions.

7. Show respect

During an interview, demonstrate that the candidate is your top priority and has your full attention. Although you may be busy and have a lot on your mind, you don’t want to appear rude and disrespectful.

Some good practices:

  • Silence your cell phone and put it away, out of sight.
  • Turn off notifications on your computer.
  • Close off your office space.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Display active listening skills.

8. Provide a consistent candidate experience

Delivering a positive candidate experience is easier if your company can make it a consistent experience that can be replicated.

  • Establish a hiring process and apply the same steps to each candidate.
  • Have standard communication checkpoints.
  • Write general scripts for communications, which should be personalized to each candidate.
  • Ask the same core questions of each candidate, combining both behavioral and skills-based questions.
  • Rely on an objective rating system to grade candidates and make decisions.

9. Monitor online employee reviews

Most candidates will perform online research about your company as part of their own due diligence, which includes reading reviews from current and former employees. A negative review – or a negative reply from your company to a review – can definitely sour their experience and overall view of your company.

Your company’s HR team should monitor online employee reviews proactively and respond in a polite, professional way. Don’t let negative reviews sit unaddressed.

10. Notify candidates of the final decision

Even if you didn’t select a candidate for one open job, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit for another job in the future. In today’s competitive job market, it’s smart to cultivate a pipeline of vetted talent.

That’s why you should maintain bridges with candidates. This involves sending a respectful message that another candidate was selected for the job, but you’d like to stay in touch for future opportunities. Ask their permission to retain their contact information. This can blunt the sting of rejection and communicate that you value them.

After all, the surest way to alienate a candidate and eliminate the possibility of future engagement is to tell them nothing, leaving them wondering what happened with the job and why they weren’t hired. It tells them “you weren’t important enough to notify,” which can mar an otherwise positive candidate experience.

Summing it all up

Ensuring a positive job candidate experience comes down to treating others the way you would want to be treated in their position – being professional, communicative and respectful. Otherwise, you risk not just annoying a job candidate, but also negative word of mouth and harmful dings to your company’s reputation that can reverberate into the future. We’ve outlined the steps you can take to avoid job candidates’ most common frustrations with the recruiting and hiring process.

To learn more about delivering an enjoyable, hassle-free candidate experience that makes people excited to join your company, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to attracting, recruiting and hiring top talent.