Improving the Candidate Experience

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Improving the Candidate Experience

The UK continues to suffer from a shortage of candidates, driven by factors such as subdued economic conditions, skills gaps resulting from the pandemic and fewer well-qualified candidates entering the market from Europe. On the flipside, rising living costs are prompting candidates to explore external opportunities offering higher salaries and benefits as well as a step-up in their career. With this in mind, your ideal candidate is also likely to be your competitor’s ideal candidate, so you need to secure them before they choose a different role.

Candidate experience can be summarised as how job seekers feel as they go through the recruitment process. It includes all stages of recruitment; advertising, application, selection, interviewing and then the offer and onboarding process. If candidates have a negative experience at any of these stages, it can leave them with a bad impression of your business which can affect your ability to hire as well as the company’s reputation as an employer.  A positive candidate experience is as much a marketing as a human resources tool. As well as enabling you to hire the best candidates, it also enhances employer branding and loyalty.

Here are some suggestions that might help to improve candidate experience;  

The application process

The first thing to consider is the candidate. If you lead with what the candidate wants at each stage rather than with traditional employer branding and 'sell' messages which focus on your organisation and its history, it sends the message that you are a people-focused business. With automated software such as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), this isn’t always easy, but you can still take steps to make them less clinical and as human as possible.  

Candidates often find application forms time consuming, impersonal and repetitive. One of the things they really dislike is uploading their CV to a portal, and then having to duplicate all the information into an application form. A good way to check your application form is to fill it out yourself from beginning to end, then think about where you can simplify the process.

·       Do you need to register or login to complete your application form?

·       Are all the questions necessary, or is the information already on the CV?

·       Does the application form take less than 10 minutes to complete?

·       Can you complete the application form on a mobile device?

·       Is your application form jargon-free and easy to navigate?

Secondly, poor communication from employers is often cited as a frustrating part of the job searching process. Many candidates never hear anything back after applying, which can lead them to believe that their application hasn’t even been viewed. This is simple to address; even when rejecting candidates, a brief acknowledgement of the application and thanking them for the time they took to apply can make a big difference to their perception of your company. Failing to communicate means they are much less likely to reapply to your company in the future, which might be for a job that they would be perfect for.

Shortlisting and rejecting

When you have shortlisted a candidate, it’s particularly important to keep in touch with them throughout the process, and to set out clearly the anticipated timelines. Lack of communication risks losing candidates to another employer; candidates very rarely only apply for one role at a time. Things to think about:

·      Do you communicate with candidates at every stage of the process?

·      Do you personalise automatic emails wherever possible (candidate's name and the role applied for)?

·      Do you acknowledge all applications and set out a timeline for the process?

·      Do you let candidates know if they have not been shortlisted?

·      Do you thank all interviewees for attending?

·      Do you send personalised feedback to unsuccessful interviewees?

The interview process

It’s worth taking sometime to prepare for interviews rather than ‘winging it’ to ensure that both you and the candidate get the best out of each other.

 ·     Ensure the candidate has a full job description before the interview

·      Read the candidate's CV and make notes about areas you want to explore

·      Consider what the candidate might be looking for, such as salary & benefits, flexibility, reporting and team structure, opportunities for progression

·      Put together some specific interview questions and perhaps some tailored questions for that candidate

·      Consider using the same questions for every candidate to keep the process as fair as possible

·      Make notes! A word of caution - don't write anything discriminitory or rude, or that you wouldn't say to the candidate

·     Follow up promptly with personalised feedback


Making an offer

If you're going to make an offer, make it fair, and stick to the script. Nothing is more frustrating for a candidate than getting through the process, only to have the employer change the job requirements or terms at the offer stage. Receiving an offer at a lower salary than they were expecting, or with additional responsibilities not previously discussed, can make things very awkward. An offer at a lower salary than advertised is one of the most common reasons for candidates to share negative experiences on social media or review sites such as Glassdoor. Even if they do accept a lower offer, they may feel under-valued or slightly cheated, and might leave as soon as a better offer comes along.

Making a lower offer might seem like a smart way to save money, but a good candidate probably won’t waste their time negotiating with you when they have other options open to them!

Keeping things ontrack

Another reason why employers lose the candidate they want is that the process simply takes too long, especially when the market for top talent is tight. The candidate either loses interest or accepts an offer elsewhere, so it’s worth looking at ways to reduce your time to hire.

·      Identify your exact requirements before you advertise the role

·      Ensure that all the relevant stakeholders are involved from the start (get sign off!)

·      Keep the number of recruitment stages to a minimum

·      Prioritise your 'essentials' and where you can compromise, so you can make an offer to an 85% or 90% candidate, rather than waiting for the 100% candidate who may never materialise. If you're still looking for Mr/Ms Right after 3 months, review your plan as you may need to make some adjustments.


You can of course also use a specialist recruiter such as Tarsh & Partners to handle shortlisting, communications and feedback on your behalf.