Exploring the truth about candidate portals

Hiring team meeting in office

4 mins, 47 secs read time

It’s no secret that consistently providing a positive experience through every phase in your hiring process matters – from the look and feel of your career page to the preparedness of your interviewers. Each touchpoint can make or break a candidate’s decision to accept your offer.

As a hiring company, we’re always listening to our customers and their candidates’ feedback. There’s no denying that the number one complaint from applicants is that they often don’t hear back from companies after applying for a role, or are “ghosted” in the middle of the process. This can be incredibly frustrating, as candidates need to know their status with a company and to understand clear next steps. To many employers, an obvious solution for providing access to this information is a candidate portal – a website that candidates can log into to see the status of their application at any time without ever speaking with the hiring team. This should improve the experience, right?

Not quite. Plenty of applicant tracking systems offer candidate portals, yet the problem of candidates feeling like their applications have fallen into a black hole persists.

The real reasons companies leave candidates in the dark

In this post, we’ll dig into some of the reasons companies may not get back to candidates, why the candidate portal isn’t the best way to solve this problem and how companies are using Greenhouse to overcome it.

Reason 1: They’re not really sure of the candidate’s status

At many companies, the interview process can be unstructured, with no consistency in the approach for every candidate. The honest answer for the status of an application is frequently, “We don’t really know” and the recruiter is (rightfully) worried that communicating that will put candidates off.

Reason 2: They’re hedging their bets

Companies are often trying to keep as many candidates in the pipeline as possible. They may have someone in a late stage of the hiring process but don’t want to tell the applicants in earlier stages that they’re waiting on a decision for that late-stage candidate because the early stage people might give up. Ironically, this lack of communication often leads to a higher dropout rate because candidates are unclear on next steps and don’t wait.

Reason 3: Manually communicating with a high volume of candidates is challenging

With clunky tools, sending out emails to let someone know their status, good or bad, is manual and requires a ton of time and effort. And for busy recruiters who are juggling a multitude of tasks, they can’t always get to it – there are only so many hours in the day.

Why candidate portals aren’t the answer

Reason 1: They’re a pain for candidates

When applying for any role, they have to create yet another username and password. And since an overwhelming amount of applications now come in through mobile interfaces, it makes applying that much tougher. And if they want to reuse their information stored in their profile to apply for another role, they can’t curate their resume or application to the specificities of that role.

Then the candidate has to repeatedly and proactively check the portal, hoping that something has changed. All of the hard work and responsibility is on the candidate.

Reason 2: They require a significant amount of maintenance

In cases where a system is being used, hiring teams still have to establish an “external facing” status and an “internal facing” status. This double work is onerous and, more often than not, it leads teams to use broad, generic statuses that could apply to several steps at once (like “in review”), which doesn’t provide candidates with any helpful information or clear next steps.

Reason 3: They can only communicate what the companies put in the system

Unfortunately, these legacy applicant tracking systems often lack the comprehensive information needed to actually be helpful. Since so much of the recruiting process happens outside of the system, each candidate’s actual progress isn’t even dependably in the system.

So the candidate spends a ton of time getting this portal account set up, only to be disappointed with information that’s inaccurate, meaningless or not there at all.

Here’s how companies can use Greenhouse to overcome these challenges

Use case 1: Having a system that truly reflects reality

By incorporating the actual work of recruiting into the system, Greenhouse customers achieve much higher engagement from users, which, in turn, leads to much better data quality. Hiring managers can easily view the status of every role, which puts pressure on the whole team to keep the system up to date. This means that Greenhouse reliably knows the status of every candidate at any given time.

Use case 2: Always knowing each candidate’s status

One of the key Greenhouse features is an automated task management system that governs the next step for each candidate, making it clear where each candidate stands in the hiring process. And there are automated alerts for when something isn’t moving along smoothly, like if a candidate has stalled in the same stage for too long.

Use case 3: Proactively communicating with candidates simply and automatically

With features such as automated communication upon stage transitions (like “You’ve made it to the next stage, when can you come in for an interview?”) and the ability to reject and email a candidate with a single click, Greenhouse customers find it easy to keep their candidates well informed throughout the hiring process with reliable information.

Before investing in a candidate portal, we encourage talent teams and hiring managers to assess what candidates’ pain points really are, and understand that structured hiring is the answer they’re looking for.

Learn more about how to create a better candidate experience here.

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Alex Powell

Alex Powell

is the Director of Product Management at Greenhouse. He values customer insights and feedback and uses it to strategically shape the Greenhouse product roadmap. He is passionate about inclusive hiring practices and bringing them to life through relevant features and tools.

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