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11 candidate experience best practices to implement this year


In the post-pandemic workplace, where remote job opportunities abound, candidates have more options than they’ve ever had. That’s the mindset you need to take in order to create better hiring processes and avoid a bad candidate experience, especially now that competition is fierce for top talent during what’s being called The Great Rehire.

In order to keep candidates interested in your company, you have to make a memorable first impression, which all begins with a stellar candidate experience.

What is meant by candidate experience?

The candidate experience is how a job seeker views a prospective employer’s hiring process based on all their interactions with the company — from filling out the application to onboarding (should they get hired and accept the position).

Why candidate experience matters

The candidate experience is important because it serves as an introduction to your company and your culture. If your recruiting and interviewing practices are inconvenient or frustrating, candidates will likely give up on your company. On the other hand, providing an exceptional candidate experience will make job seekers eager to work for your company, and with a streamlined process, help you snag top talent faster, before they get other offers.

Use these candidate experience best practices to create a hiring experience that makes your candidates excited to join your team.

How to improve your candidate experience

1. Understand the ‘why’ behind the hire

It’s not uncommon for businesses to eagerly fill a new position, only to find months later that the role is no longer fulfilling vital organizational needs. This is why the hiring process should begin well before you have a hiring need with a long-term growth strategy, including personnel structure. Take the time to envision your company or department three years, five years and even 10 years from now before deciding on the best role to fill in order to make that vision a reality. 

2. Be clear on who you’re looking for

Decide ahead of time what skills or experience, if absent in your candidate, you would be willing and able to train for. This is in terms of both their skills and qualifications as well as who would be a good fit for your culture. Keep this picture of your ideal candidate consistent throughout the entire hiring process.

In your job description, make sure to communicate what you’re looking for as precisely as possible to ensure you get qualified applicants and don’t waste anyone’s time — job seekers’ or your own time. Also, be as authentic as possible in your description. For example, don’t say you’re offering a hybrid role if employees are only allowed to work from home occasionally. Make sure what you’re advertising sets proper expectations for prospective employees.

3. Streamline the process

Try to cut down on the length of your hiring process as much as possible. Applicants may get annoyed or move on to new opportunities if your process drags on for several weeks. And remember, as mentioned above, you’re probably not the only company your candidate is talking to.

Hiring a new team member is undoubtedly a big deal, so it’s important to make sure you’re hiring the right fit – both culturally and professionally. But having a candidate visit the office more than twice in one month before offering a decision is too much.

Combine stages of the process. For example:

  • Combine interviews so your candidate can speak with multiple managers simultaneously.
  • For for a sales job, combine the manager interview and role-playing exercise into one day.
  • If there’s preparation involved, provide the directions and your expectations prior to the interview. This way, your candidates are ready to get started immediately.
  • Consider scheduling a virtual interview instead of trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules for an on-site interview.

4. Make it easy to apply

The application process is one of the most important aspects of a positive candidate experience and can make the difference between getting a flood of qualified applicants, or hardly any at all. First and foremost, in today’s world, an easy application process is typically:

  • Mobile-friendly – The majority of job seekers are now applying on their phones, as oftentimes they already have a job and don’t want to use their work computer for filling out applications. 
  • Automated – Utilize autofill capabilities where candidates can fill out the whole application just by uploading their resume. Also, reduce the number of questions to only what’s essential.
  • Easy to follow – Using something like an applicant tracking system can make the application process easier for candidates thanks to automated communication updates and integration with background checks and other forms so that candidates can complete all the application steps in one place. It can also benefit employers by allowing them to stay organized as well as reach out in the future to previous applicants for other positions.

5. Know your DEI strategy

In today’s workplace, job candidates are eager to know what policies prospective employees have in place regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. This makes it important to know what your DEI strategy is before you place your job listing.

Merely hiring diverse candidates for the sake of saying you value diversity isn’t enough – candidates want to know how they fit into the organization and will ask, “Why me?” Be prepared to discuss your DEI strategy and what diversity, equity, and inclusion look like for your particular business. 

6. Your interviewing managers must be prepared

For candidates, there’s nothing worse than a hiring manager who walks into an interview and looks at your resume for the first time. They will likely feel disrespected as well as dissatisfied with their candidate experience.

Anyone going into an interview should:

  • Know the candidates’ qualifications and experience. Yes, you’ll likely hear all about those things again in the interview, but that’s okay. This gives you an opportunity to deconstruct and dig into the information further. 
  • Review all the materials candidates provide before the interview, including portfolios and sample work.
  • Familiarize yourself with the companies your candidates worked for or the schools they attended.
  • Prepare the interview questions – and be intentional about what you’re asking candidates to ensure they fit what you’re looking for, according to the vision established in number one above.

All of this pre-work will help you construct strong questions.

7. Make candidates comfortable and show respect

In addition to showing up prepared, it’s important to make the candidate feel at home. Offer them a glass of water. Give them the opportunity to ask you anything. Make light conversation.

If you can avoid it, don’t bring your cell phone with you, even if you plan on leaving it face down on the table. Think about it: What if the candidate’s phone went off in the interview? How would that make you feel?

Receiving or answering a call during the interview makes candidates feel like they don’t have your full attention. This time is about them. Show them you value their time by giving them your undivided attention.

8. Treat all candidates equally

Let’s say the first 10 minutes of the interview are going great. Then, when asked a question about their familiarity with a software program integral to the role, they stutter and stumble, causing you to realize they don’t have the required skills.

Don’t stop listening to them. Don’t cut the interview short. Continue the interview. You may find that their personality and other skills still make them a qualified candidate. Even if you don’t hire them, you should continue to make a good impression as a representative of your company. After all, you never know who they know or what they might say to other potential candidates. And if you respectfully pass on hiring them, chances are they won’t rush home and write a scathing online review of your company. Which brings us to…

9. Have someone monitor Glassdoor

Most candidates will investigate your organization online, and nowadays, you can safely assume their research will inevitably take them to Glassdoor, which allows candidates and employees to write a review of their professional experience with a company. 

Inevitably, someone is going to feel wronged or be critical of their experience with your organization, especially if they weren’t hired. After all, as with most reviews, people are more likely to take the time to complain online about a bad experience than to report positive feedback. 

To fully understand your company’s image and mistakes, assign someone to monitor Glassdoor. Ask them to take note of common complaints or serious claims so they can be investigated and addressed to prevent similar issues in the future. It’s critical to keep your brand strong in the Glassdoor community. These types of rumors can spread quickly, poisoning a candidate’s perception of your company before they even start the application process.

10. Maintain good communication

Maintaining good, timely communication is critical to a positive candidate experience. Let candidates know what the hiring timeline looks like and be as transparent as possible about where they are in the process. Candidates aren’t on the market very long — on average, they spend just 10 days shopping for a new position — and they likely have other interviews scheduled and offers on the table.

11. Don’t leave out onboarding

Finally, the hiring process doesn’t end with the offer letter. Be intentional about the entire onboarding process for every candidate. Especially with virtual positions and in hybrid work environments, new hires can have a harder time feeling connected with their new team. Well before their first day, email your new hires an agenda, training timeline, and meeting invites so they know what to expect when they go live in their seat. If they work from home, have all their needed supplies and equipment shipped to their house before their start date.

Think of some creative ways you can expose them to your company culture and get them excited, such as sending them a personalized video of their new team welcoming them on board. 

Learn creative ways to attract the best talent. Download our free e-book, Building a better team: how to attract, recruit and hire top talent.