5 Keys to Driving Candidate Experience

Many HR and talent acquisition professionals know that a positive candidate experience is critical to attracting top talent. Ninety-six percent of candidates say a positive experience would encourage them to refer someone else to an organization, which results in a strong network for companies to recruit from.

The main challenge companies face today is understanding how to drive the candidate experience. To drive yours forward, you must fully empathize with candidate emotions during the hiring process. In other words, understanding the psychology of candidate experience is the key to driving it.

Technology is a part, psychology is the whole

Your candidate experience is more than a set of web pages and forms, more than click-throughs from job boards and an application-completion ratio. It’s a series of emotions a candidate goes through on their journey in your hiring process.

There’s no better way to understand your candidate’s journey than by putting yourself in their shoes. In retail circles, this is commonly referred to as “mystery shopping,” a practice that reveals the customer experience from merchandising to the cash register. As a talent leader, “mystery shopping” your own candidate experience will help you understand the journey your candidates are on.

The candidate journey

Ready to mystery shop? Let’s follow the experience of “Paula the Programmer.” She’s a software developer who has received an intriguing email from a recruiter. She’s what many folks would call a passive candidate – just interested enough to want more. We’ll illustrate her journey, paying close attention to her emotions at each step of the process.

1) Discovery

In today’s job market, there is a high demand for software developers. In our case, Paula receives a typical InMail message from a corporate recruiting pitching a hot opening with a growing company and the opportunity to influence the direction of the company.

More than 66% of emails are opened on a mobile device 

Let’s assume Paula receives the email via her Gmail or Yahoo! account. The email from the recruiter or friend likely provides links to: 1) the job description, and 2) the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile. It’s also likely that Paula is viewing the email on a mobile device, because more than 66% of emails are viewed that way. You can bet that candidates like Paula are following suit. When Paula opens your email on her phone, what is she likely to see? And more importantly, what will she feel? Will she get enthusiastic or think it’s just another job?

2) Research

If the pitch intrigues Paula, she’ll start researching specifics of the role and opportunity. In fact, typical candidates will visit 10 or more websites to find the most relevant information. In reality, they are piecing together your employer brand story during this research phase.

Candidates want as much information as possible

One of the first things Paula does is search Google for your company name and a job title or location. When doing a Google search, there are five places Paula likely arrives at: the front page of your career site, Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn and other job boards.

What would Paula see if she searched your company and job opportunities on Google? Try running searches specific to certain jobs and company locations. Take a look at several of your hiring managers’ LinkedIn profiles. Check your Glassdoor page by reading reviews and looking at the posted photos. Look through as many pages as you can to experience the story through Paula’s eyes.

3) Decision

Paula decides to submit her application, a big step. She had her interest piqued, did her research and is ready to move forward.

Paula takes action by applying for the job or asking for an introduction from one of her connections. Most companies have an 80% drop-off rate during their application process, according to iMomentous. Think of all of the excited and engaged candidates that may have gone by the wayside.

A busy developer, Paula has only a few minutes to complete her application. She wants the flexibility to apply via her mobile device during her evening commute or the bus ride home. Unfortunately, many application processes are not geared towards working candidates like Paula who have little free time to suffer a lengthy application process. Many forms ask candidates to create a login, write a cover letter or attach a myriad of documents. Even after documents are attached, they may be asked to retype everything.

If you have five or more steps in your application process, you’ll experience a high drop-off rate. Paula will only complete the process when she is in active job-seeking mode or really excited about the position.

Pro Tip: Complete your own application process on a mobile device. If you’re going to great lengths to attract top candidates, you’ve got to get the mobile application process right. Is it easy to navigate? Is it easy to attach your profile and supporting documents from an iPhone? These are critical to raise your completed applications rate.

4) Communication

Communication is essential during the entire process, from the moment Paula submits her application.

At this stage, Paula is experiencing a range of emotions. She’s guardedly optimistic, but excited about the prospect of interviewing with your company. However, her enthusiasm is tempered by negative experiences she has had applying for jobs in the past. Notably, Paula is concerned about having her application fall into a “black hole,” where she receives no feedback at all. Avoiding this experience is a chance to create a positive candidate experience that sets your company apart from the competition.

Ninety-six percent of candidates will apply for jobs at a company they know will keep them informed

Fortune magazine reports that 96% of candidates will apply for jobs at a company they know will keep them informed during the application and interview process. Imagine Paula’s surprise if she receives a response within 24 hours. Even if it’s a rejection note, she has quick closure and can move on. Alternatively, let’s say you’re interested in Paula as a candidate. Showing her that your company is interested right away sets the tempo for your relationship through the hiring process and beyond. You’ve got an opportunity to engage while Paula’s interest in the job is at the highest level. You can also put her at ease, which fosters more transparent interactions.

It’s important to know how to communicate with people, and to keep them informed early and often. Paula is more likely to will tell her friends about your company if she has a positive candidate experience – even if that means being rejected.

5) Resolution

Integrity Search conducted a survey in which 38% of candidates cited “lack of feedback” as their number one frustration with the interview process. Paula’s full of energy as she goes through the interview process, but nearly half of candidates see their excitement turn to frustration when they don’t get timely communication and resolution.

Thirty-eight percent of candidates cite lack of feedback as a top frustration

Let’s assume the best for Paula. She accepts an offer to work at your company. From the moment she submitted her application until the moment she signed the offer letter, how much time passed? Do you have a decisive process or one drawn out with multiple layers of bureaucracy and decision-making?

When it comes to final in-person interviews, let candidates know the outcome as soon as you know. It’s the right thing to do, they’ll respect you for it, and it drives a better candidate experience. In today’s world of consensus decision-making it’s not easy to reach swift conclusions. However, timely and decisive resolution is invaluable to quality candidates like Paula.

To learn more, check out this recap from our webinar 5 Steps to Managing the Candidate Experience.