What the Candidate Experience Tells Candidates About Your Company Culture


When I hear or read things about the candidate experience -- how positively or negatively a job candidate feels they were handled by a company during the application and interview process -- I keep wondering  why can't companies just get it right?

Even more alarming is the gap between what hiring managers and candidates think.

According to Bryan Adams, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Ph.Creative, some 86 percent of in-house recruiters believe they deliver an “exceptional candidate experience,” yet 37 percent of job seekers believe they’re more likely to win the Lottery than receive detailed job feedback from their next interview.

How badly are job candidates treated?

As Adams told ERE.net, "Clearly something’s gone horribly wrong."

The problem is that organizations are not clearly communicating with candidates, and in many cases, aren't doing much at all to help them know where they stand in the hiring process.

According to research cited by Bryan Adams, here's how badly the treatment of job candidates has become:

  • Just 1 in 5 candidates felt that they were “informed” during their last job application process.
  • Nearly two-thirds of candidates felt either nervous, uncomfortable, or frustrated during their last job application process.
  • About one in five (18 percent) of workers felt more valued by the receptionist than the interviewer.
  • One quarter (1 in 4 ) job seekers believe interviewers don’t care about their goals or aspirations.

These are frightening statistics that reflect poorly on the brand of the organization doing the hiring. They send a negative message about the company culture that should serve as a warning to any and all applicants. In other words, if they  treat you this badly before you are even hired, how will they handle employees after they have come on board?


Brilliant marketing, or an ongoing black eye?

A few years ago, The Talent Board, which runs the Candidate Experience Awards, surveyed 45,000 job applicants about their experience. Here's what they found, according to Meghan Biro writing in Forbes:

  • Of those who had a positive experience, 61 percent would actively encourage colleagues to apply to the organization; 27 percent of those who had a negative experience would actively discourage colleagues from applying.
  • In addition, almost 40 percent of the positives would buy more of the goods or services the company sells, even if they weren’t ultimately hired; 30 percent of the negatives would buy less goods or services.
  • Finally, 50 percent of positives share their positive experience; 32 percent of negatives broadcast their bad news.
She adds this:
"In other words, a good candidate experience is brilliant marketing for an organization; a bad one is an ongoing black eye for people interested in your employer brand. Devastating as that is, this fact is even worse: a bad hiring experience may cause the right applicant to turn down the job. Top talent has no desire to work in a disrespectful organization with leaders who simply don't care about the recruiting process."

A hallmark of "world class HR"

My take: As Meghan Biro points out in Forbes, "Hiring lies at the very heart of HR and Leadership."

This is not only true, but it may actually be a bit understated, if that's possible. A few years back, I heard former General Electric CEO Jack Welch make the case that an organization's HR leader should be like the Director of Player Personnel on a baseball team.

In other words, HR should be about assembling, training, and maintaining the best possible talent to produce a winning team.

Jack Welch said this at the height of the debate over HR getting a "seat at the table," and as tired as that argument is, the underlying point is a good one -- that HR needs to be the leader of a company's talent management efforts.

One key to this is a good candidate experience.

As Meghan Biro writes,

"When candidates are hired after a positive experience, they hit the ground running, their commitment to your organization having been nurtured and strengthened during every step of the process. When candidates aren’t hired, they walk away feeling respected and appreciated, and are far more likely to recommend other talent look into your organization. This is world-class HR. And you can make it happen!"

How good is your candidate experience?

 Start by tracking and analyzing metrics that give you the full picture. For example, what is the time-to-hire for an average candidate interviewing with your company? Do you reach out to gather feedback from new hires (or the candidates you passed on) to find out how their experience compared?

Take that data and look to where you can improve the experience. Where did you succeed, and where did you fail?

Then lay out a plan for what you can fix. What tools or processes can you incorporate to streamline and personalize? For example, Checkster's Reference Insights and Interview Insights will save you considerable time during the candidates interview process, reducing your time-to-hire.

Take a step-by-step approach, asking yourself questions along the way: What do our communications look like as whole to the candidate? Did we give them a tour on their first visit to the office? How about their interactions with interviewers? Were they consistent in message? Caring? On-brand for our company culture?

You'll quickly find easy fixes, as well as uncover larger opportunities for improvements. This will set you on the path to happier candidates, and thus, happier employees. And be sure to continue to survey your candidates to mark the impact of all the improvements you've made. As your optimizations improve the candidate experience, you'll want to be able to demonstrate the difference you've made.

Editor’s Note: Talent Insider is fueled by Checkster, and Checkster has several products — like the Reference Checkup and Interview Checkup — that can help streamline your hiring and improve your candidate experience.