It’s too easy to begin viewing a candidate as a product—a collection of skills and experiences that we as recruiters can deliver to our client. Unlike a product, though, a candidate has a choice about whether the new opportunity that your client offers is the right decision for them. That pivotal decision is influenced by a great number of things—chief amongst them is the candidate’s experience during the hiring process.

The candidate experience is comprised of multiple stages and spans from the moment they begin filling out an application to when they start their new position. If a candidate has a negative experience, it can have a significant and noticeable impact on both you and your client. For that reason, it is important that you identify areas in your recruiting process that may cause a candidate to have a negative experience and address them.

The Importance of Candidate Experience

There are various factors that contribute to a candidate accepting an opportunity with your client, and candidate experience can be a significant component of that decision. Candidate experience is so important because it encompasses all of the interactions—both online and in-person—that they have with you during the recruiting process. It even includes some interactions that you may not even think about, like job postings.

Each interaction that you have with a candidate has the potential to be either positive or negative. The difference between the two can be slight and while you may think that you consistently provide a positive experience, you cannot always know what kind of experience a candidate is having. Unfortunately, an estimated 60 percent of candidates had reported having a negative experience during the recruiting process, according to the Human Capital Institute. What’s more, 72 percent of those candidates shared their negative experiences online. That can have a long-term damaging impact on your brand, as 55 percent of candidates stated that they avoid certain organizations after reading negative reviews online.

That is why you need to identify every interaction that you have with a candidate and approach each one as if you are making a first impression. By placing the candidate experience at the center of each aspect of your recruiting process, you can better secure qualified candidates, reduce time-to-fill and improve your employer’s brand.

The Most Common Reasons for a Negative Candidate Experience

A candidate may have a negative experience for any number of reasons—some of which may even be out of your hands. However, more often than not, their experience has been colored by some part of your recruiting process. Here are the top five most common reasons for a candidate to have a negative experience:

  1. Poorly written job description: Most likely, the first interaction that a candidate will have with you is through a job description. Even though writing these are an integral part of your job, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are always effective. Often, poorly written job descriptions provide vague expectations and requirements for the position. In fact, an estimated 72 percent of hiring managers believe that they provide clear job descriptions, yet 64 percent of candidates disagree, according to a survey conducted by international talent management firm Allegis Group.

  2. Lengthy job application: The thought process behind lengthy job applications is that it’ll weed out candidates that are not as committed while at the same time ensuring that you are able to collect enough information for an in-depth profile on them. However, 60 percent of candidates said that they had quit an application either because it was too long or too complex, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

  3. Lack of communication: The most common reason for a candidate to have a negative experience is lack of communication. According to a survey from CareerBuilder, 75 percent of candidates never hear back after applying for a position. Candidates want to be updated throughout the process about their progress, even if it’s only to notify them that they are no longer being considered.

  4. Unpleasant interview experience: Regardless of how well your interactions with a candidate have gone, it’s often not until the interview that they make up their mind about the position and your client. A negative interview experience can completely undo all of your hard work. In fact, 83 percent of candidates have said that a negative interview experience changed their mind about a role or company they once liked, according to a survey from LinkedIn.

  5. A long process: Identifying the ideal candidate can be a time-consuming process. However, candidates don’t always understand that. That is why a long process was a contributing factor to 83 percent of candidates’ negative experience, according to a research report from software research company Software Advice.

Best Practices to Improve Candidate Experience

The margin between a negative and positive candidate experience is often narrow. One misstep, one oversight and a candidate’s opinion can quickly sour. However, their experience can improve just as easily. All it takes are a few simple changes to certain key aspects of your recruiting process. Here are five best practices that you should consider following to improve candidate experience:

  1. Outline your recruiting process: Take a moment to identify each interaction that you will have with a candidate throughout the recruiting process. For each, outline your responsibilities, what information candidates would need to know and when you should contact them. When you’ve finished, review each interaction as if you were a candidate going through the process to ensure that each is simple and clear.

  2. Be transparent with the candidate throughout the recruiting process: Open, honest communication is the most beneficial action that you can take to improve candidate experience. At predetermined intervals—such as after any interaction that a candidate has with you—inform them about whether they are still being considered for the position. This should include providing them with confirmation emails after they submit something to you as well as information about what they can expect next in the process. If a candidate will no longer be considered for a position, you should let them know as soon as possible but you shouldn’t wait longer than two days to notify them.

  3. Write clear job descriptions: Any job description that you write should be clear and unambiguous. The simplest way to achieve this is by avoiding buzzwords and using simple language. In addition, organize the required skills and job responsibilities in bulleted lists to improve readability. You may also want to include the date of when you’d no longer be accepting applications along with your contact information.

  4. Simplify the application process: A job application should be short and contain only the most pertinent questions for a candidate to answer. An easy solution to ensure that candidates are able to quickly and efficiently complete an application is to enable resume parsing. You may also want to make your application mobile-friendly, so candidates can apply even if they are away from their computer. In addition, you should set up your job board so candidates receive a confirmation email after they submit their application.

  5. Offer flexible interview options: As candidates have other commitments outside of the recruiting process, it’s important that you offer flexible interview options. This includes providing a wide range of available interview time slots to better accommodate their schedule, and video interviews in case they are unable to come to the office for an in-person interview. However, if you do offer to do a video interview, make sure that you have a strong internet connect, your mic works, and that your video quality is crisp and sharp.

How Your ATS can Help Improve Candidate Experience

Designed to automate your recruiting process and dramatically reduce your time-to-fill, your applicant tracking system (ATS) should be able to help you improve candidate experience with the following features:

  • SMS messaging: Text messages have an open rate of nearly 100 percent, which is impressive considering that email only has an open rate of 20 percent, according to SMS marketing firm Txtsignal. For that reason, communicating important information with candidates—such as interview details and updates—through texts can not only keep candidates informed but help facilitate communication. In addition, candidates in general prefer to communicate through texting rather than email.

  • Personalize and automate emails: Making sure that candidates stay informed throughout the recruiting process is essential to a positive candidate experience. An easy way to achieve this is by scheduling automated, personalized emails to be sent out at predetermined intervals.

  • Calendar sync and meeting scheduler: Candidates often have busy schedules, so offering them a simple, hassle-free way to set up a meeting or interview can help eliminate all the back-and-forth often associated with scheduling.

  • Resume parsing: Completing a job application shouldn’t be a cumbersome and time-consuming process for a candidate. That is why, your ATS should be able to quickly parse a candidate’s resume to help expedite the process.

While the above features may not be standard with all applicant tracking systems, they are the ones that would most positively impact candidate experience. If you’re curious about what features CATS offers to help improve candidate experience, you can visit our features page here.

A Quality Candidate Experience Means Quality Candidates

As a recruiter, you should always be thinking about what a candidate’s experience is like as they go through the recruiting process. A negative experience can not only cause you to lose a qualified candidate but also damage your client’s brand. However, the difference between a negative and positive experience requires just a few simple adjustments. By focusing on providing a positive candidate experience, you can improve the quality of applicants you are able to source.

For more information about how you can benefit from CATS, contact us today at or 952-373-4010.

Industry, Recruiting