8 Smart Ways to Improve the Candidate Experience

If job candidates go through a frustrating application process with your organization, even if they get the gig, how will the experience affect their perception of your company?

Remember, you want eager, excited employees at the outset. If a candidate has an exasperating onboarding experience, their attitude going in might be less-than enthusiastic. That doesn't make for a good first day—or first 90 days—does it?

Not to mention, word will get around about your company's poor candidate experience. Consider some of these revealing stats:

poor-candidate-experience[Sources: Career Arc, Software Advice]

Taking time to create better candidate experiences is good for candidates and the company doing the hiring. You'll generate goodwill with people (even if they don't become employees), and you'll gain a hiring advantage, something that's especially important when competing for top talent.

Here are eight smart ways to improve the candidate experience so that you and your applicants can reap the many benefits.

1. Make it a mobile-friendly recruiting experience.

According to Recruiting.com, "43 percent of smartphone owners have used their devices to look up information about a job and 18 percent to submit a job application. If you're not providing an end-to-end mobile recruiting experience you're losing out on prospective candidates."

This is where quality applicant tracking software (ATS) can come into play. Opt for a system that focuses on the candidates' needs as much as HR's. Yes, the hiring manager will need an easy way to organize and manage applicants. But applicants also need an easy way to apply for the open position and check the status of their application.

Increasingly, this means allowing people to submit their information online—and often from their mobile devices and from within the specific app or platform they're using, such as LinkedIn or a job platform like Indeed. 

mobile-apply[Source: Indeed]

Creating a positive mobile recruiting process also means effectively communicating with candidates via text. Recruiting.com reports that applicants between the ages of 18-44 prefer texting as their means of communication.

Again, a quality ATS can go a long way in making for a better candidate experience. But the vendors you use during the hiring process (like a background check company) should also integrate with your ATS so that the process remains seamless from soup to nuts. (Psst: Here are the applicant tracking systems that Good Egg proudly integrates with.)

2. Avoid a "one size fits all" application if you're hiring for vastly different positions.

The skills a copywriter needs will vary greatly from the skills someone will need to manage workers in the warehouse. Your application should "speak" to the position you're hiring for.

Yes, certain fields in the application will apply to everyone across the board, such as contact info. But other fields will likely be custom to the position. For example, the manager for the warehouse position shouldn't see a field that asks for links to writing samples.

Another thing to keep in mind: make the application only as long as it needs to be for any given position. Studies show that applicants will give up on applications that are overly long or complex. Software Advice says, "Fifty-five percent of job seekers say a long application process contributes to a negative candidate experience."

3. Customize the hiring workflow.

If you have an ATS, resist the temptation of using the ATS's baked-in options "as is." Instead, take advantage of anything you can customize.

For example, a quality ATS will likely have multiple email templates for communicating with candidates. Customize them. Don't use whatever boilerplate text they've plugged in. Instead, customize the messages so that they . . .

  • Sound human
  • Accurately reflect your brand

Applying for a job is stressful enough. Imagine getting an email that simply says, "We have received your application."

And that's it.

What sort of impression does that make? That the candidate is special? Or that the candidate is one more "number" in an endless number of applicants?

4. Personalize communications whenever possible.

People respond positively to their first name. It's true for marketing messages (think subject lines that contain your first name), and it's true for email communications with candidates.

You're no doubt already gathering people's first names when they apply. So, use their names when communicating with them.

Remember, a quality ATS should allow you to customize communications using the person's first name. So instead of receiving a soulless email that begins, "Dear Applicant," the friendlier email would say, "Hi Erica."

5. Kill the crickets.

Nothing is worse than hitting "submit" on an online application and that's it—no confirmation that the submission was successful, no update about next steps, no response ever again.

How common is the "no response ever" scenario? Much more common than you might expect.

candidates-rarely-receive-notice[Source: Career Arc]

This has a rippling effect: The majority of those who don't hear back say they doubt a real human looked at their application (goodbye trust!). These candidates are also 3.5 times less likely to re-apply to that company down the road.

Again, your brand is being affected by your hiring process, whether you realize it or not.

This no-response approach is especially problematic if your company has been promoting a "people first" vibe. An experience like this will call those people-first messages into question.

What can you do? Well, if your system has it, enable the feature that allows candidates to request a copy of their application to automatically get emailed to them once they hit "submit." This will provide applicants with peace of mind that their application did indeed go through.

In addition, make sure you have an automated communication (email or text) in place that thanks someone once they submit their application. If possible, your response should include details on what the candidate can expect next. For example, something like, "We'll be reviewing resumes through the end of September. We'll be conducting interviews the first two weeks in October. If we're interested in interviewing you, you'll hear from us by THIS date."

Keep the cadence in mind. If someone transitions to the next step in your multi-step process, that's the time to notify the applicants who didn't make it through AND to send communications to the candidates who did make it through about next steps and timelines.

And yes, you should notify candidates if you're passing on them. Rejection stings, but no response is even worse. In fact, the Career Arc survey notes "60% of candidates say that better communication throughout and after the application process would make the most positive impact."

6. Be transparent—and reasonable—about any additional steps that applicants need to take.

Different positions require different skills. No surprise there. During the hiring process, certain positions might require additional steps or even skills tests to assess a person's abilities. In your job posting, make sure you clearly explain any additional steps outside of the standard resume and cover letter.

Be reasonable about what you're asking people to do—and when you're asking them to do it. A test project that requires multiple hours of an applicant's time might be better suited further down the hiring process rather than a first step. Your mileage will vary depending on your company and the types of workers you're recruiting, but be thoughtful about how much work and time you're asking people to put in up front.

7. Streamline the background check process with candidate text messaging.

Background checks are a big part of hiring—and they can have a big effect on the overall candidate experience.

If you're truly committed to improving the candidate experience, you should work with a vendor (like us!) that can kick off the background check process via text, which, as noted above, is fast becoming people's preferred method of communication.

Not only will text messaging make candidates happy, it will also make you happy, since background checks that are kicked off via text are completed faster, which decreases the overall turnaround time.

8. Request/monitor feedback—and act on it!

Conducting regular surveys about candidates' experiences only makes sense if you commit to reviewing the results and making improvements based on the feedback.

Pay attention to what candidates are saying. If you're hearing the same complaints, like the application is too long or the online system often freezes, do something about it.

A good place to look for candidate feedback is on sites like Trustpilot. And remember, while you want to pay attention to the negative feedback, you also want to promote the positive feedback. If you've done the work and improved the experience for your candidates and you're seeing this reflected in the online reviews, share this information in your recruiting materials, like the Career page on your website.

Remember, taking the time to improve the candidate experience not only benefits the applicants themselves, but also your company.

Good luck as you make changes. And be sure to reach out to Good Egg if you want to discuss ways to improve your background check process.


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Danielle Deutsch

Posted by Danielle Deutsch

Danielle is the Senior Digital Marketing Coordinator at Good Egg & Foley Services. In her spare time you can find her either visiting an aquarium, enjoying a Broadway show or competing in a Crossfit competition.

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