The Importance of Candidate Experience and how it Affects your Employer Brand by Mile Živković on Feb 26, 2019

In the world of services and consumer goods, the customer is always right. In the world of HR – is the applicant always right?

As the job market is getting hungrier for new talent and the focus is shifting from employers to candidates, it’s becoming increasingly important to concentrate on candidate experience in the hiring process. The employers know it – 82% of them say that the candidate experience is extremely important to them.

However, reality paints a different picture. Only 46% of candidates say that employers treat them with the same respect and accountability as the employees already working for them. Clearly, candidate experience is a large part of how clients perceive a company and how likely they are to apply and accept an offer.

Here’s why it’s important and what you can do to improve it.

Why is candidate experience important?

For applicants looking to join a company, candidate experience is a great reflection of the overall experience of being employed at that company. In a recent Careerbuilder research, it was shown that 68% of candidates think the way they are treated in the hiring process reflects how the company treats its employees.

The second biggest reason why candidate experience matters so much is that the demand is higher than the supply. In other words, there is a deficit of talent on the market and candidates expect better treatment if a company wants them on board. Not to say that candidates want to be pampered, but 43% of candidates in the previously mentioned research say that they have higher expectations for treatment from prospective employers.

In other words, the candidates know there’s plenty of fish in the sea and if you’re not treating them with fairness and dignity, they will move on to another employer.

How to improve the candidate experience

Unlike other elements of a successful employer brand, improving candidate experience doesn’t take significant time, expertise or resources. Here are a few ways you can treat your candidates better.

1. Don’t waste candidates’ time

As they apply for a job, 55% of candidates will give up on a position if they don’t hear back from the company after two weeks of applying. It’s simple – there are lots of opportunities and job to apply to, and if you’re taking too long, the candidates will go to an employer that appreciates their time more.

Moreover, if you want the best candidates out there, you really have no time to waste. According to research, the best talent on the job market is gone after just 10 days. If it takes you weeks just to weed out the first batch of applicants, tough luck.

There are plenty of ways to cut down on your time to hire, but the first step is to analyze your current processes and find out the biggest time drains.

For example, Toggl and other companies with remote roles waste the most time in the beginning stages, as there are lots of unqualified candidates. To cut down on sourcing, Toggl used Hundred5 to save more than 22 hours per single opening.

One of the easiest ways to save time is to make the application process quicker. As we’ve mentioned in the last article on optimizing your hiring process, 20% of all applicants will quit half-way through the application if it takes more than 10 minutes to complete. In other words, the longer the application process, the lower will the number of successful applicants be.

2. Set clear expectations

As an applicant, one of the worst feelings is applying to a job and not knowing what happens next. Will an HR manager contact you within a week? Will you ever get an answer? Has your application been thrown into an HR abyss and landed in some recruiter’s spam folder?

One of the easiest ways to improve your candidate experience is to let candidates know what they can expect in terms of communication immediately in the job ad. As always, there’s a discrepancy between what employers think they are doing and what candidates perceive.

Namely, only 47% of candidates state that employers set clear expectations for communication at the beginning of the hiring process. On the other hand, 78% of employers feel that they are doing a good job at setting expectations up front.

The solution is simple: at each step of the hiring process, let candidates know what happens next and when they’ll hear from the recruiter, HR manager or someone else from the company.

3. Get feedback from the candidates

How will you know what to improve if you don’t ask? To learn what needs improvement, simply ask the candidates that have gone through certain stages. For example, you can send a simple poll to everyone who’s gotten to the interview stage of the hiring process and ask them about their thoughts.

Alternatively, you can do some social listening. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times before, but my favorite section on the Glassdoor website are the company reviews. Besides finding out more about the company, you can also learn about their interview process:

interviews at gsk solutions

You can find out how difficult the interviews are, how happy the applicants are with the interview process, as well as some questions from the interview itself. You can use these findings to improve your current hiring processes, but also to learn from the competition and companies who are nailing their employer brand game.

4. Have a clear process for every step in hiring

Job applicants who are well informed about the stages in the hiring process are more likely to be satisfied with the company and have a better candidate experience. While transparency should be a core value for your company in general, transparency in hiring is essential in providing a better experience for your applicants.

In other words, let your candidates know the exact process of application, selection and hiring as they apply. That way, they will immediately know what they can expect, when they will hear back from you and how strict your selection process is.

This can be as simple as providing a timeline on your job ad with the stages in the hiring process. Or you can go out of your way like Johnson and Johnson, who created an entire platform for their applicants, called Shine. Using Shine, candidates can log in, take a look at where they are in the hiring process and even enjoy some content related to their position and working at J&J. Is this the future of hiring? It’s unclear how many candidates actually use the platform – but Shine will definitely improve the company’s employer brand.

5. Be responsive

How many job applications get an actual response? Not that many, as it turns out. Only 14% of all candidates from a survey state that they are happy with how responsive companies are during the hiring process.

So, why don’t companies respond to candidates? As the survey above mentions, there are several reasons, including:

  • Too many candidates
  • Too little time to respond
  • They think they don’t need to respond to everyone
  • Company policy is not to respond
  • Etc.

As I mentioned earlier, the problem of too many candidates can usually be traced to inadequate sourcing processes. Once you have a few dozen qualified candidates, it’s much easier to reach out to them than it would be to send emails to 1,000 applicants.

For example, when candidates apply for the position of Digital Marketer at Hundred5, they do a pre-employment skills test, which weeds out unqualified candidates immediately. What’s even better is that candidates immediately get notified if they are going to the next round or not – based on the results of their test.

Responsiveness is a major part of candidate experience and will greatly affect the candidate experience. Even beyond that, candidates that get timely responses are likely to become and stay customers. As research shows, 67% of candidates say they’re more likely to buy from a company that gave them timely updates during their application.

Candidate experience and employer brand

As you could probably guess, candidate experience plays a major role in your overall employer brand. According to research, 95% of recruiters say that it has an impact on employer branding.

Much of this importance could be attributed to the power in candidates’ hands. Unlike a few decades ago, if a candidate is unhappy with some part of the application process, they can choose to share their thoughts with the world. Facebook groups, Twitter, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Reddit – all present perfect opportunities to let the world know about your horrible ATS or the hiring manager that promised to get in touch but never called back.

Out of all the aspects of building an employer brand, this is the one that is easy to impact and that can show immediate results. Companies that actively work on improving their candidate experience will have higher amounts of qualified applicants and eventually build a reputation of a desirable employer.

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