How to Improve Candidate Experience by Gary Buswell on Nov 23, 2017

This article explains why candidate experience matters more than ever before, how much it affects your company’s growth, and ultimately – what are the 15 actionable steps you can take to create a positive candidate experience.


With companies fighting over the best talent, offering a positive candidate experience is more important than ever before. It can give you the all-important edge over your rivals, and help you to attract candidates of the highest quality.

Research carried out by the Talent Board in 2015 showed that people can change how they view your company depending on the recruiting experience. 

33% of candidates with a negative experience said they would share this on social media, whereas 41% of the candidates with a poor experience said they were no longer interested in taking up employment with the company. 

Conversely, 78% of the candidates with a positive experience said they would refer someone to the company in the future.

33 percent of candidates with a negative experience would share this on social media.

These numbers are just one example of why candidate experience matters more than ever before. 

Your candidate experience goes hand in hand also with your employer branding efforts. 

In addition to attracting top talent to your business, ensuring a positive candidate experience will help to boost your brand. If you’re seen as a good performer during the recruitment process, candidates will have more confidence in your capabilities as an actual employer.


To make sure that your company offers a good experience for the candidates, you need to look at the whole recruitment process – from the moment a person looks at your job ad to the onboarding processes post-interview. 

Most of the recruiting experience from a candidate’s point of view boils down to three broad areas:

  • Communication
    This involves everythingfrom the initial acknowledgment that an application has been received through to constructive feedback at the final stages.
  • Personalisation
    Warm, approachable tone to emails, carefully planned interviews – these are just a few examples how to make the candidate feel welcome. 
  • Speed
    Candidates don’t want to be bogged down with lengthy application forms, confusing job descriptions or labyrinthine processes. Neither do they want to be kept waiting for weeks or months to hear the outcome of their application. That is where the importance of ease and speed come in. 


So, knowing why the candidate experience matters and how much it affects your company’s growth, the question is: How to improve it? 

Here are 15 handy tips on how to make your candidate experience better in every step of the recruitment process.

#1 Get the externals right

According to research, a quarter of all job-seekers now use social media as their main tool when looking for work. This means that your company website or social media is likely to be the first point of contact a potential candidate will have with you. 

This is your first opportunity to impose your employer brand values. Make sure that your careers site is consistent with the rest of your website and social media pages in terms of branding. 

#2 Clearly explain the recruitment process

It is important to explain what steps the application process includes, and approximately how long it will take. Outlining all this may take an hour or two, but it can save you a lot more time later,  as you no longer need to explain these steps to every candidate separately.

For example, Zapier has made an excellent job explaining how their application process looks like. Simple and straightforward, right? 

Image source

#3 Simplify the job application

Statistics show that lengthy and tedious application processes weaken the recruitment experience. In the Hays Group study, 25% of candidates didn’t complete the application process because it was too long. 

In another study by Career Builder, 40% of applicants felt that the application process has become more difficult in the last 5 years.

A great way of simplifying the application process is to start with a short and engaging skills-based quiz. The ‘test-first’ approach can make wonders to your candidate experience because the candidates will immediately get to know if they are qualified for the job or not. 

Here’s an example of how the ‘test-first’ approach works when using Hundred5:

  1. The employer sets up a short 5-15 minute skills test to automatically pre-screen all candidates
  2. Candidate applies for the job by taking the short test
  3. Candidate will immediately get the results and a clear overview of what will happen next
  4. From there on, qualified candidates are being invited to the interview, whereas everyone else is being automatically contacted and handled by the system.

#4 Write a clear job description

Job descriptions are a key to delivering a positive candidate experience – and a good job description starts with a good job title. 

In a 2012 survey of over 2000 job-seekers, 64% said that they were put off applying for a job because of a confusing job title.

Unfortunately, confusing job titles are very relevant especially today. If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a bit, you probably noticed a trend. There’s an increasing number of quirky job titles, such as ninja, guru, rockstar and similar.

It’s important to keep job descriptions clear yet detailed. Give full explanations of required attributes and responsibilities. Avoid jargon or vague statements. 

Tip: For more ideas on job ad design and job posting, read on How to Make a Job Ad That Attracts Candidates (with Examples).

#5 Offer a great mobile experience

Today, over 60% of Americans conduct job searches from their mobiles. This means that offering a good mobile-friendly recruiting experience is more crucial than ever before.

Make sure that your website and any other tool that the candidate needs to use when applying for your job opening is mobile-friendly.

For example, we at Hundred5 know that most applicants apply for jobs on their smartphones. That’s why we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the system work seamlessly on mobile devices. 

This is what the candidate sees when applying for a job through Hundred5 skills test:  

#6 Maximise human contact

Work is a social as well as an economic activity. This is your chance to present a friendly, welcoming employer brand making candidates feel at ease. Lack of personalization can be off-putting. 

Things you can do to make the process more candidate-friendly are ongoing regular communication (including thank you and follow-up emails), using the phone rather than email to communicate during the later stages, and ensuring interviews are an open and honest dialogue rather than a robotic Q&A.

#7 Contact applicants fast 

Nobody likes to being kept in the dark. Not providing your candidates information on what’s going on with their application is one of the main reasons for why your candidate experience is failing. 

You should always make sure that you update each candidate on their application process, even if it’s just an automated response saying you won’t be taking things further. 

Using the skills test method allows you to effectively sidestep this problem as each candidate is given instant feedback on their test results. It’s a win-win situation as nobody is kept in limbo, and your employer brand is strengthened. 

Read on: How To Speed Up Hiring Process (Without Hurting Quality)

#8 Give freebies to candidates

Giving a little something to candidates is a gesture of goodwill, thus is more likely to generate positive candidate experience. Free merchandise (t-shirts, stickers, pencils, etc.) is fairly inexpensive to produce and is a good way to gain visual exposure for your business.

Tip: If you offer a skills test as part of your application process, it’s smart to give free merchandise to high-scoring candidates. This could even be used to attract passive candidates to apply for the role.

That’s how we usually do it: 

#9 Have a good rejection process

If you have a large number of applications, personalized rejections won’t be possible during the early stages. Try to send early rejections from a human email address (so the candidate can reply if they want to) and offer some hope of remaining in contact (‘keep an eye on our careers board for future roles‘). 

When informing unsuccessful candidates at the interview stage, do it by phone (or personalized email) and offer constructive feedback.

#10 Remember that the interview is a two-way process

The interview is where you will get the chance to make the biggest impression on the candidate. It’s not just about assessing the candidate, they will be assessing you too. 

A recent LinkedIn survey found that 77% of candidates base their final decision on their interview experiences.

If you want to be creating a positive candidate experience, don’t expect them to do all the work while you rattle off a list of interview questions. Do a bit of reading up on the candidate yourself, explain why you’re interested in them and be prepared to answer questions about the company and its values. 

Tip: If you have time, you could also incorporate a short tour of the company premises.

#11 Offer feedback after interviews

If a candidate makes it to the interview stage, they will naturally expect a more personalized follow-up than after the earlier stages, regardless of the outcome. 

Offering feedback will help to ensure a positive candidate experience. According to the LinkedIn survey, 94% of candidates want feedback after the interview. This doesn’t have to be too in depth, just a couple of pointers on what they did well and where they might look to improve in the future. Enough to make them feel like this has been a worthwhile learning experience.

#12 Ask candidates to give you feedback and learn from it

As well as an opportunity to give feedback to candidates, it’s also a chance for you to gather feedback from them on the recruiting experience. 

The best way to learn how to improve candidate experience is to quiz the candidates themselves. What did they think was done well and what could be improved? Would they recommend you as an employer to apply to?

Keep it a fairly brief and don’t force it (you don’t want the feedback experience itself to ruin the candidate experience, right?). Workable has put together a great tutorial on how to make a candidate experience survey, which you can find here.

#13 Don’t be afraid to be fun or innovative

Injecting a bit of fun into proceedings is a good way of attracting candidates and creating a lasting impression. 

Think of things you could do that might make you stand out from the crowd. Changing the venue or style for interviews maybe, or perhaps organizing a short fun event for shortlisted candidates.

Another option could be to jazz up the early application process. Use a fun well-designed skills test that offers instant feedback on your score rather than have candidates laboriously completing forms and crafting cover letters.


To improve your candidate experience, make sure your application process is fast and simple, you offer feedback to the applicants and keep them up to date about the process. 

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