What is candidate experience and how does it impact your business? by Adrian Love on Jun 17, 2019

We’re all customers of some sort — we need to buy food, utilities, transport, medical and education services, among other goods and amenities to fulfil our basic everyday needs — there’s no getting away from that.

As a customer, it’s likely that at some point you’ve been on the receiving end of questionable service — maybe you’ve been left waiting in queue for a service that you pay ‘premium’ for, only to be left on hold to receive your ‘express’ service after the umpteenth transfer to a different ‘specialist’ within an hour. Or, you might’ve ordered a pizza through your favourite foodie app, only for it to be delivered overdue, cold, and without so much as a peep of an apology or compensation.

Frustrating? Yes. Unavoidable? Hmm, not really.

Although initially negative, these faults can serve some beneficial aid — they’ll help you decide much quicker on looking for better options, like the majority of people (67% – Kolsky) do after bearing a negative experience.

Been there? Who hasn’t! While making the switch, don’t forget to also leave an endearing online review for those who wronged you, and be sure to share it far and wide among your network too.

It’s a given that with a negative experience, emotions will shift and influence a customer’s perspective of a service provider. The easiest path to offload their perspective will always be the one of least resistance – online, with their family, their friends, their peers.

Now consider this, just as you are a customer, it’s also fair to assume that you’ve also been a job seeker at some point too — ultimately, income is required to pay for your basic needs.

Well, just as you may have undergone a poor experience as a customer, the same can also occur in your journey as an applicant, candidate, and even employee. Here, the same pattern of poor experience will influence your decision —as well as a wider audience’s perception of the company’s employer brand— to pursue further, or seek out greener pastures.

And so experiences interweave, customer to applicant, candidate to customer, employee to someone else’s candidate, employee, or advocate.

With so much margin for interchange and influence on a company’s brand, it’s important for employers to strive towards delivering a positive experience across the board.

So, where to start? Well, your candidate and employee experience should take highest priority, as you won’t have much of a company if you can’t hire and retain top talent.

What is candidate experience?

Candidate experience covers every touchpoint and engagement applicants will encounter throughout all stages of your company’s recruitment campaign(s) — more commonly known as the candidate journey.

A comparative model of stages within the candidate journey can be found in the domain of marketing and sales — where the end-to-end customer journey is mapped, measured, and later analyzed to reveal insights that could help guide customer-centric growth.

For example, in a customer journey map, customer experience can be measured via dimensions of user engagement and sentiment — such as the conversion rate of a subscription form, the NPS rating of a feature from specific user segments, or the (CSAT) satisfaction rating for support resolution time/quality.

The resulting data reports are then leveraged to understand and optimize customer outcomes, with an emphasis on the customer’s satisfaction therein. This holistic approach enables a solid base to identify and understand areas for further improvement throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

To build on the same context of the customer journey — every experience a would-be customer encounters can form and cement their view of your company (brand), which directly influences their confidence and decision to buy your product/service, or not.

These exact same principles are transferrable to the experience you build for candidates, as they engage with your company in their journey of discovery, interest, and consideration to become a valued member of your company, or not.

Taking into account globalisation and internet availability, every single touchpoint or interaction a candidate perceives as negative, along with the emotions that could evoke, can be easily condensed down into a message — to be vented on their social feed(s), or posted as a damning review on sites like Glassdoor. These public grievances are easily shared within their network, exposed within your network too, and visible to any future budding prospects who want to gauge whether or not your company is on par with their standards.

Your employer brand just got -50 XP in global credibility — lowering your chances of attracting and retaining top talent even further 🥉

What counts as a ‘bad’ candidate experience?

If you’ve ever had to look for a job, then at some point it’s likely you’ve also been subject to the less-than-cordial end of a company’s recruitment stick — whether that was submitting your application, and not receiving any confirmation nor status update thereafter, ever.

Or, maybe you’ve found yourself clicking on ‘Apply’ with such certitude that this was ‘the one’, only to abandon your application after getting prompted to fill in a wall of mandatory form fields, for the umpteenth time. All in vain of the tireless hours spent updating your resume —
y’ know, the one that was supposed to be automagically parsed into all fields via the fricking ‘Upload resume’ option.

Heck, it’s also plausible that you made it past the gauntlet of application milestones — from initial screening, video calls, and face-to-face interviews, only to get flaked off with some ambiguous feedback that someone else was chosen for the role, with the ubiquitous ‘We wish you luck in your continued search’ bestowed unto you, in place of any iota of constructive feedback.

All (first-hand) examples of bad candidate experience.

I digress. Let data speak for the 3 most common experiences candidates loathe;

#1 Lack of any update on their application status

Candidates that receive zero feedback are 3.5x less likely to re-apply to the company that has ghosted them

#2 Complex application processes

60% of applicants quit before finishing job applications due to their length / complexity

#3 Prolonged timeline for follow-up(s)

Of candidates that receive a notification, 51% claim it takes one month or more


Depending on the situation, any of the above scenarios would be, at the very least, downright frustrating.

At worst — when the need for employment is greater (extra mouths to feed, school or medical fees to pay), and the time spent already exhaustive… well, these stances, which could be construed as indifference, wouldn’t be so easy to just shake off.

Rather, they’d be enough to knock even the most resilient of job seekers into a dark place, a place where fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt reside, primed to reap damage on their psyche, and faith — in their fellow humans, and themselves.

So, how is it, that this is still such a widespread problem? In spite of advancements in both talent and communication tech, companies still struggle with delivering an experience that is equal, and human —  recent statistics indicate that 60% of candidates report a poor experience. All the while, hurting the bottom line of businesses that mightn’t even be aware of the correlation between candidate experience, and business results.

How can poor candidate experience hurt your business?

Ok, so you now know what candidate experience is, and what constitutes as bad candidate experience.. but still, why should you care, really?

Well, your level of caring really depends on how much you care about your employer brand, and how it influences the perception of your business — to both future candidates and customers alike.

To put into perspective the direct correlation between candidate experience and business outcomes, it’s good to use a tangible example.

Introducing, the Virgin Media case study

Losses of $6 million per year, due to poor attentiveness to their candidate experience 🤯

Ok, let’s say that your business model isn’t as public as a subscription media service, but something that’s somewhat lesser known — say that you run a business that sells bespoke diamond encrusted door knobs.

So, you might think that you shouldn’t be too concerned with the quality of your candidate experience, as they’re probably never going to be your future customers, right?

Err. Wrong!

Remember, even if there isn’t an explicit overlap of your customer and would-be candidate base, that’s not to say that there’s some dirt on your company’s past recruitment mishaps available somewhere among the internet’s ether of discontent — re: r/offmychest, or Glassdoor’s company reviews and ratings system.

Research indicates that 72% of candidates that reported a poor experience would share it online or directly with their peer group

There’s also an increasing trend among candidates to rely on third-party review sites to aide their career decisions, where trust in native career pages on company sites has significantly waned in their impact.

On average, would-be applicants read six reviews when gauging the quality and potential of a company.
More than ever before, the diffused experience of one candidate can influence the choices of hundreds of others

Source: Glassdoor’s HR & Statistics report for 2016

In all, with information readily available and easily shared, the strength of your employer brand is at constant risk of judgement — which, when deemed weak can have dire consequences not only to the health of your business, but also your ability to attract and retain top talent.

In today’s market, you can’t afford a poor candidate experience

With unemployment rates falling back down to a pre-recession level of 4.3%, there are currently more job openings left vacant longer, than the volume of job seekers required to fill them.

As demand exceeds supply by a count of 4.4 million job openings, this has naturally created unprecedented levels of ultra-competitiveness among employers to hire and retain top talent. Perks such as beer yoga Tuesdays, or Pug pedicure Fridays should convince them, n’est pas?

Candidates are fully aware of this deficit too — as they can, and often do receive several offers from different companies instantaneously (especially those with some remote work experience under their belt).

Today, the ball is no longer just bounced into the candidate’s court, candidates own the court. Within a candidate-driven market, general standards have also naturally raised to accommodate their expectations.

When that power shifts and prospects and candidates have multiple options, only recruiting approaches that have extremely powerful personalization, relationship building, and selling components will produce acceptable quality hires. Resources must be shifted to proactive approaches, like top performer referrals, direct sourcing, and identifying talent through their work, approaches that are specifically designed to effectively lure and sell fully employed top performers who are not looking for a job.

Source: Dr. John Sullivan, Professor & HR thought-leader, ere.net

So, what do candidates deem to be a positive experience? What are their expectations? How can you increase your traction in this candidate-driven market?

The makings of a positive candidate experience

Every individual is unique, so there’s no universal standard for a ‘positive’ experience — nor should you strive to please everyone.

Rather, the best way to deduce what is ‘positive’ can be done by inverting the 3 main pains faced by candidates.

Across the board, candidates expect to have an experience that is transparent, accessible, and timely.

Here’s a breakdown of each facet that contributes to a positive candidate experience;

Transparent

  • Candidates expect concise and structured job descriptions
    Job descriptions should clearly outline requirements in the form of must-haves, nice-to-haves, as well as include information on salary ranges, and possible career paths within your company. Vouch for using simple language over jargon, keep it short and to-the-point.

  • Candidates expect to know the stages and cadence of the hiring process, up-front
    Present the stages and approximate timeline of your hiring process by incorporating is as part of your application process design — either within your website or the emails that you send out to applicants.

  • Candidates expect to receive feedback at every stage of the journey
    Getting back to candidates, with either good news or bad, will demonstrate that you value their time and effort.

    If they’re not a fit, then let them know asap — in a kind manner, of course. If they’re considered for the next steps, then clearly state the process to align expectations.

    Remember, the specificity of feedback should correspond directly to how far candidates have progressed through your hiring pipeline.

Accessible

  • Candidates expect an application process that is accessible — which equates to one which is clear, simple, and user-friendly
    Here are a few pointers on how to make your application process optimal for all types of candidates;

    • Use clear navigation on your website so candidates can quickly find your current openings

    • Avoid systems that require candidates to create an account to apply — opt for a less strenuous flow. For example, one that uses email, or social log-ins

    • Ensure that your site / forms are mobile-friendly — mobile-friendly forms are proven to receive more candidates, compared to desktop-only sites / forms

    • Only ask the required questions and keep them relevant — this will shorten the application process, as well as the time spent screening answers

      Take note, that it’s worth to test your own application process end-to-end to identify any points of friction. Even better, If you have a UX professional on hand, then it would be good practice to leverage their expertise in auditing and improving the accessibility of all touchpoints in your candidate journey.

Timely

  • Candidates expect to receive updates on their application, promptly and often
    The quicker you get back to candidates, the better — a prolonged period of waiting can foster a negative outlook of your company among applicants, or even sway candidates to accept an offer from another company that’s more proactive/responsive in their communications.

    Here’s some methods that you can use to streamline communication in your hiring processes;

    • Incorporate skills assessment tools, such as Hundred5, to screen applicants up-front

      With skills-based screening tests,  you’ll be able to quickly identify the qualified candidates, from all other applicants that don’t quite meet the criteria for the job.

      As a result, you can give instant closure to those who fall short (kindly), allowing you to focus your time on communicating with the top candidates — further info on this below under ‘How we deliver a positive candidate experience with Hundred5, consistently

  • Create a collection of email response templates for each stage in the candidate journey
    Any given job opening could receive hundreds, if not thousands of applicants.

    It’d be unrealistic to send each a personalised response, so it’s recommended to have a collection of response templates for each given stage.

    Take note,  emails templates can also personal — by including the hiring manager’s name, or by sending emails via a team address (not via ‘noreply@’, ever).

The benefits of a positive candidate experience

By nailing this trifecta of transparency, accessibility and timeliness — your candidate experience will be better aligned with the expectations of job seekers in today’s ultra-competitive talent arena.

When these expectations are met, or even exceeded — then you will reap the long-term rewards a positive candidate experience can bring to your organisation;

Stronger employer brand

Candidates cycle into employees, and employees can cycle back into someone else’s candidates. Striving for a positive and consistent experience throughout will only benefit your company’s brand in the long-run.

Higher acceptance and retention rates

First impressions stick. By setting a positive impression from day one, people will be more motivated to become a member of your team, and have a greater probability of sticking with you longer.

Reduced costs and time per hire

Through auditing and optimizing your candidate experience, the overall efficiency of your internal processes and communications will be better. As a result, this will reduce your time-to-hire and hiring costs. Win-win!

Increased revenue

Strong employer brand + improved retention rate + reduced costs = revenue gains

Ok, the formula for revenue growth isn’t that straightforward.

Nevertheless, addressing these factors will contribute towards building, reinforcing and sustaining a solid foundation for business growth — just remember, strive for consistency too.

How we deliver a positive candidate experience with Hundred5, consistently

It might come as no surprise — but here at Hundred5, we use Hundred5 for all of our hires — as do our sister companies Toggl & Teamweek.

Hundred5 equips us, and our users, with tools to deliver a candidate experience that embodies simplicity, fairness, and transparency throughout the entire candidate journey.

Here’s how we achieve this with Hundred5, from a candidate’s perspective;

Simplicity

  • Applicants can register for Hundred5 Job openings via their social profiles — LinkedIn, GitHub, and Facebook is currently supported
  • With an intuitive design, Hundred5 screening tests are simple to use, and mobile-friendly

Fairness

  • Applicants have a clear view on the composition of job screening tests — the application page includes question count and test time limit, by default

  • With skills-based screening tests, applicants feel empowered to showcase their talent —  this levels the playing field, reduces bias, and encourages diversity in your hiring decisions

Transparency

  • Every applicant receives instant feedback on their test performance.
    Feedback includes their automatically graded test score, along with a customisable message for when they pass, or fail a test
  • Every applicant receives a follow-up email 20 minutes after submitting their test results — email templates can also be customised to your own need

Click below to see a preview of how the above elements are presented to applicants of a Hundred5 job opening.


How do candidates feel about Hundred5’s skills test approach?

A picture graph tells a thousand words — check out the gallery below to see what candidates love about Hundred5’s skill tests.

Conclusion

In today’s competitive talent market, establishing a good candidate experience is a must-have for long-term business success.

By meeting the expectations of candidates — swift follow-ups, direct and personal communication — you’ll have a better foundation to influence revenue, reduce hiring costs, and gain traction in attracting and retaining top talent — the lifeblood of every successful business.


If you’re just getting started with candidate experience, then it’s worth to first run an audit to map out your current candidate journey, measure it, and strive to make data and feedback actionable for continuous improvements. Beamery have an excellent piece on mapping out the candidate journey.

Alternatively, you could also join hundreds of other companies that are using Hundred5 to deliver a candidate experience that is simple, fair, transparent, and positive (for the majority).

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