Candidate Experience is something every person in the HR sector should be considering very carefully. Once, hiring was all about the employer. Now, it is not like this anymore, the candidates have great power and their opinion is more important now than ever. But, what is it?

What is Candidate Experience

The Candidate Experience is the entire experience job seekers have when they approach a company for work. It is the entire mix of feelings and sensations an applicant has during recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes. It is a very important matter, and a top priority for a company that cares about its brand reputation and awareness. How companies engage candidates affects both the company and the candidates. As top talent gets harder to find, the need for a truly world-class candidate experience intensifies.

Being in the technological and digital era is not that easy: information, facts, and rumors spread even faster than the light. If your company slips and does something wrong, everybody will know it in the blink of an eye.
The same goes with Candidate Experience: if a candidate has a really bad experience while applying for a position in your company, it is very likely that the news will spread out and many other applicants will know about it.
Making recruiting, interviewing and hiring a pleasant process is in the interest of a company:  research shows that candidates who had a poor candidate experience are far more likely to tell others not to apply to a company. So, not only you lose brand reputation, but also other possible talents.

Candidates experience survey

If your aim, as a recruiter, is to provide an exceptional candidate experience, you need to understand who actually applies to your job positions. Where do job seekers spend their time online? What does success look like to them?
This is why you should do a Candidate Persona, which is a powerful tool that involves creating a fictional character of how your ideal candidate looks like. You can get there via surveys, and data can be found by interviewing current, past, and lost candidates. It is a powerful way to understand how your candidates look like and how you can optimize the entire experience.

A good candidate experience survey helps you to understand the things that do not work in your company’s recruitment process. How can you survey your candidate experience? First of all, you can find and compare some survey software in order to find the one that fits. It is not hard, but you need to keep in mind few things before creating the survey:

  • Decide first whether you want to focus on the entire recruitment process or just one part of it.
  • Decide your audience: if you only send it to candidates you’ve hired, you have great chances you will get a higher grade. But if you really want to know more about your candidates’ experience and sensation about you, you should send the survey also to rejected applicants.
  • You need to inform the candidates: during the hiring process, you should inform all the applicants about it, unless they will possibly delete it in the emails. You should increase the chance of a reply by letting all the candidates know what they should expect.
  • Respect their privacy: chose a tool that keeps all the information anonymous, and protected.
  • Be short: if you are writing a really long survey, candidates will not be thrilled to do it. Create a brief survey, something that takes 3-4 minutes max. And, remember to thank all the candidates at the end of the process, by saying something like: “Thank you for your time” or “Your opinion helps us get better”. Let you candidates know your purposes, and aims.
  • Do open and closed-ended questions survey: open-ended questions give better insights into an applicant’s point of view, but closed-questions are faster to reply to and way easier to measure.

How do you measure your candidate experience afterward? You should be doing it with the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a simple method to measure customer experience, popular among marketers who want to track the reputation of their brand. Accumulating high satisfaction scores can be a great boost to your company’s ego, but don’t neglect the red flags that appear in your results. Do not underestimate even a single one of the feedback, because they show a lot about your candidates. Your results also show more than the numbers itself: if you have a 100% satisfaction rate, maybe you need to start surveying a different kind of audience. If you are getting a low response rate, maybe your delivery method is not successful.

Candidate Experience best practices

We already talked on our blog about the Cisco Systems Candidate Experience lesson, but there are much more to learn from. For example, we want to present the Virgin Media story.

A few years ago, Graeme Johnson, the former Head of Resourcing at the British cable and mobile provider Virgin Media, had quite an experience with Candidate Experience. Johnson was new on the job and wanted to examine how candidates who had been rejected felt about Virgin Media’s brand. And, after some research, one experience stood out: the story of Louisa, a hairdresser from Manchester. Louisa was not qualified for the position, but she has a lot of enthusiasm, so she got an interview. Unfortunately, what happened is that the experience was so bad (from a grumpy receptionist to an interviewer who left the room to take a phone call and returned ten minutes later to say he’d “heard everything he needed to hear”) that Louisa even decided to cancel her subscription to Virgin Media cable (and that she would have told her sister to do the same).

As Johnson started to understand how bad candidate experiences affected the Virgin Media business, the first step was to examine the behavior of the rejected candidates. He incentivized the team by making videos of how company leaders wouldn’t want their friends and families being treated in an interview (and he even got the sales director to introduce a new award for the team member who had been giving the best candidate experience).
Now, Virgin Media has actually created a movement around candidate experience, and leaders praise how it turned out.

Proving the importance of the candidate experience has been hard for pretty much all recruiting teams. In today’s hiring environment, candidate experience is more important than ever, but this idea is not necessarily new or even innovative. In fact, it’s been discussed and analyzed for years. So, it is about time every recruitment team thinks about the hiring process from a different perspective: the candidates’.


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