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First impressions matter, even in business. Make sure the experience is smooth, from the first time you make contact with a potential job candidate through to the date of hire. Continue reading for our guide to building a great candidate experience.

Defining the candidate experience

A lot of human resource experts, especially individuals who spend a lot of time in the hiring process, talk about the candidate experience. The candidate experience includes everything from a candidate’s initial contact with a company and every interaction leading up to when the applicant is hired. The purpose of focusing on candidate experiences is to help candidates familiarize themselves with the culture of the company and help set realistic expectations for the employee’s future with a company. A lot of these hiring experts feel that this first impression is essential for acquiring and retaining their employees.

Why worry about the candidate experience?

A quality candidate experience sets the tone for the employees’ time with an organization. Starting off on the wrong foot, many times, can indicate signs of future turbulence. A poor first impression combined with low quality new employee onboarding tactics can lead to higher turnover rates and fewer applicants.

In addition to attracting potential new hires, which is a very difficult task. Companies can set themselves apart from the competition by establishing high quality new employee onboarding processes. This crucial element of the hiring process is ongoing, and employers that want more applicants and higher employee referrals for internal positions, want their employees to have more favorable opinions of their organization. Much of that is derived from the experiences they have with current employees and the company’s brand. If you want talented candidates to apply to your organization’s jobs, or want them to refer other skilled people to apply, you need to build a positive brand perception and encourage a welcoming company culture.

Breaking down the candidate experience

In order to achieve the high quality candidate experience, employers and hiring managers should be asking: “What are the key areas where candidates will come into contact with my brand?

First impressions – The first time an applicant comes in contact with a hiring manager is not the first time they come in contact with your organization’s brand. Nowadays that first contact is done primarily online, so employers have to build a relationship through your brand before candidates even apply for a job.

Your brand can include such things as:

  • Social media
  • Advertisements
  • In-person events (tradeshows, career fairs, networking events, etc.)
  • Company reviews (i.e. Glassdoor)
  • Content (blogs, articles, webinars, etc.)
  • Job postings, job boards and your career site
Actively manage your employer brand

Application and Interviewing process – Consider how long it will take for a candidate to apply for a position. How many steps is the application process? Is your career site and application accessible via a mobile or tablet device? Have you properly set expectations so a candidate understands what job they are applying for? Does the candidate know where he/she stands throughout the selection process? Hiring managers should communicate these things effectively throughout the entire recruiting and hiring process.

Employees research your company before applying

Onboarding – Onboarding is still part of the candidate experience. New employees won’t stay, or won’t stay long, if the hiring process stops once a job offer is accepted. Ensure your new hires feel comfortable and capable of performing well.

Getting hired takes a long time

Post hire – Consider evaluating the candidate experience with surveys and through exit interviews and performance reviews. Ask candidates, new hires, and current employees for their opinion on their candidate experience to get an accurate read. Does the process feel well-organized and efficient? Does the candidate feel well informed of the expectations for their position?

How to say no the right way

If you decide not to hire a candidate, how you say no matters. First off, always let candidates know they didn’t get the job – even if they didn’t interview. There’s nothing worse than waiting to hear back from a company, only to be left hanging. Think about it: Only one person gets the job – but hundreds could interview if you’re a large company. There’s a lot of potential for negative or positive reviews and referrals. How you reject means a lot for your brand. Be personable - Don’t reject candidates via email after they came in for an interview. Consider offering constructive feedback about why a candidate didn’t get the job; most people will thank you for that later.

Tips for optimizing your candidate experience

  • Don’t rush. Getting high quality hires takes time. Just not too much time- keep the candidate apprised of the situation at every step of the process.
  • Define the job properly. The gap between what is expected and between what the employee is capable of could cause problems if not accurately described.