8 Ingredients for a great candidate experience

Two women sitting on couch clapping

3 mins, 24 secs read time

You do know that everyone you interview is going to talk about you, right? That's just human nature – and it's the reason a great candidate experience should be your top priority.

When a candidate sits alone in a conference room for thirty minutes because someone overlapped a meeting, that candidate will tell people about it.

If you're lucky, they'll only tell their friends – if you're not, they'll tell the whole world through Glassdoor.com. A few missteps here and there can make your company look completely disorganized to the outside world, and once that opinion's out there, it's difficult to reverse.

Here are eight ingredients for a better candidate experience

  1. Communicate. Always tell candidates what to expect next. Starting with the “we received your resume” email, keep them informed every step of the way. Send reminder emails, send thank you emails, and promptly respond.
  2. Promptly send rejection emails. Do it as soon as you decide not to move forward with a candidate. Don't chicken out—sending an honest rejection letter is always better than sending nothing. When I started doing this, I was surprised by how many people really appreciated this gesture. How do I know that candidates appreciate this? Over 25% of candidates I reject now send me a “thank you” just for letting them know.
  3. Surprise and delight your candidates. For example: send a driver to bring candidates to their interviews, or assign someone on your team to act as a “candidate concierge” to get water, etc. and personally make sure the candidate is completely taken care of.
  4. Challenge candidates. Top candidates appreciate being challenged. As long as the questions are relevant, a tough interview process drives home the point that your company sets a high bar and that you're serious about hiring great talent.
  5. Train your team. The way your interviewers conduct themselves will either sell candidates on the position or scare them away. Set up a brief (30-45 minute) training session to help them improve their interview skills and make sure they know how to answer some common questions that candidates will ask.
  6. Structure your interview process. Use a structured interview process - where each interview has a specific purpose and each candidate goes through the same set of interviews. This helps you make decisions quickly, it avoids overlapping interview questions, and it allows you to only have as many interviews as you need. More effective and quicker = win.
  7. Send candidates a survey. Thirty days after a candidate exits your process, send them a survey. No, really—do it. You'll gain valuable insight into your hiring process. A candidate in the running for a position won't give you honest feedback and thirty days is long enough for rejected candidates to give you feedback without spite. Keep it simple - maybe 5 questions: How was their experience overall - what was helpful and what was a hindrance? Did your team do a good job interviewing them? Did your team really find out who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are? Would they recommend our company to a friend? Would they apply again if another appropriate job came up?
  8. Include your receptionist or interview coordinator as part of your interview team. These people can provide surprisingly valuable feedback about candidates in terms of how they behave when they think no one is watching - was the candidate polite or condescending when interacting with the coordinator? Were they sloppy, or did they respond promptly and intelligently to emails?

The hiring process itself is a major factor in how candidates form their impressions of most companies. Unless you're a Google or a Facebook, most people don't know what it's like to work for you, so if your hiring team is disorganized or unprofessional, that's how the candidate perceives your entire company.

On the other hand, if a candidate has a good experience during your hiring process, then you can improve your “hiring brand”, making it easier to get good candidates who are excited about working with you.

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