Definition

candidate experience

Contributor(s): Patrick Thibodeau and Emma Snider

Candidate experience reflects a person's feelings about going through a company's job application process. In broad terms, candidate experience can boost or decrease an applicant's opinion of the hiring company for reasons that may have little to do with the actual open position. For HR professionals, presenting a positive candidate experience is an increasingly important piece of recruitment duties, and they are turning to technology for help. The business challenge is to create a good candidate experience for hundreds or thousands of job applicants annually whom HR managers will never have personal contact with.

Candidate experience may be part of talent management software and recruitment management systems. It benefits from advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that attempt to personalize a candidate's experience but also strives to make recruiters more efficient.

At its best, an online job application process should clearly state job requirements, be quick to complete and thoroughly explain next steps to a candidate. In-person interviews should aim to appropriately discuss a candidate's skills against an open position's needs, and candidates who are not offered a job should be turned down in way that still leaves them feeling good about a company. Those factors all can increase candidate experience.

However, many things can derail a candidate experience, such as an unnecessarily long or complicated online application process. Some problems are the fault of hiring managers. For example, interviews can be disorganized, too long or not show respect for an applicant's time. The candidate may have responded to a job ad that incorrectly details the skill needs.

Why candidate experience is important

Candidate experience, good or bad, can have long-term effects on customer relationships and recruitment efforts for the following reasons:

  • Many job applicants are also customers who may think highly of a firm's brand and products. If they apply for a job and feel that their application fell into a black hole, brand loyalty may suffer.
  • Employers may get applicants who are not right for a current opening but are potentially excellent hires for subsequent openings. Firms want to add these candidates to their talent pipeline or talent pool and alert them to future opportunities. Even if candidates don't get a job on their first try, a good candidate experience will hopefully encourage the applicant to try again.
  • An applicant who has a negative or unsatisfying experience with a prospective employer may tell others, which can hurt recruitment. Talent Board is a nonprofit group that conducts annual surveys of hiring firms and job seekers. According to its research, 35% of job seekers will share their negative experience in job hunts on social media, and 51% will share a positive experience.

Creating a great candidate experience

Chatbots are gaining in importance in improving candidate experience. Employers are adopting chatbots that use natural language processing (NLP), an AI technology that attempts to understand the meaning and context of a human's responses to queries.


A short primer on why candidate experience is critical

These conversational chatbots can guide or coach someone through a job application process. The chatbot system can answer questions, assess a prospect's skill and even recommend jobs that an applicant may not have even thought about.

The chatbot system can also save time, as the technology potentially takes on some of the work, such as answering questions, that a recruiter otherwise needs to make time for.

Another aspect of a good candidate experience is transparency. Candidates should know where they stand in the application process. Otherwise, applicants may feel ignored.

Candidate experience best practices are broad

Improving a candidate experience also involves every aspect of a recruitment process. Some further best practices include the following:

  • Companies should create an attractive web user interface (UI) and use an intelligent job search engine that can bring up a range of jobs that might fit a candidate's search.
  • Job applicants also want to be able to apply quickly. An increasingly common approach is enabling someone to paste a LinkedIn profile link instead of a resume.
  • A wide range of employees may be tasked with helping with candidate selection and may participate in interviews. Firms are including these employees in recruitment training to help them ask appropriate questions in an interview.
  • To measure candidate experience, some firms follow up with applicants, whether they were hired or not, and ping them with a survey to get feedback on the application process.

A good candidate experience also constitutes a new hire's first impression. This may help put the employee onboarding process on the right foot and improve employee engagement scores down the road.

This was last updated in November 2018

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