Candidate experience is more than just an HR buzz phrase.  The way companies recruit their tech teams has changed. It’s had to.

The tech job market is strongly candidate-driven; an arena in which firms are all vying for the top industry talent.  Companies don’t pick talent anymore; the talent picks you.

So what exactly is the ‘candidate experience’ and why is it so crucial?  More importantly, what can you do to make sure that your organisation’s candidate experience is productive, professional, and (if possible) pleasurable.

two casually dressed women sit talking across a table

What is candidate experience?

Candidate experience is one of the most important concepts in modern-day recruitment.  It happens every time you hire, whether you pay attention to it or not. It refers to the candidate’s overall perception of a company’s recruiting process.

It sounds simple, but in fact, it’s quite a complex problem.  For instance, how do you measure it? Who defines what success looks like?  How can you improve it for every candidate at every stage of the hiring journey?

When the recruitment industry talks about candidate experience, they are referring to all candidates; past, present, and future.  It’s important that each candidate comes away with a positive overall interaction.  This includes how they feel at each stage.  As they reflect on their experiences, are they positive? Would they feel they had been treated respectfully and responded to in a timely manner?

close up of male hands typing on a laptop keyboardping on a laptop

Why is candidate experience important?

You may be asking, ‘But if I’m not hiring them, then why does it matter?’.

Here’s why.   Imagine the scenario.

You have a job opening. You publish this role, and you receive an inbox of applications and CV submissions. These candidates receive automatic email confirmations. One, possibly two, maybe even three weeks go by, and most candidates receive nothing more.  These candidates feel frustrated, angry, and rejected. The best-case scenario is that they complain to family or friends. The worst-case scenario is that they take to a review site, like Glassdoor, and make sure everyone knows that your company’s hiring process is lacking.

As a result, your company, and your employer brand is negative.

Young female bites down on her pencil in frustration

The candidate experience is a process.

The recruitment and candidate journey is a process. It includes different phases, and while these get more personal as you get nearer the end hire, the earlier stages are no less important.  Every interaction affects your candidate’s experience.  You need to provide an exceptional encounter at each phase.  Sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring and onboarding are all critical components of the hiring journey.

Why is positive candidate experience important?

A positive candidate experience leads to considerable long-term benefits for your company.  In the short term, candidates who had a positive candidate experience are more likely to accept your job offer or apply again in the future. They are also more likely to refer others.

This is your best job advert of all.  You will have more applicants and more hires of better quality, reduced cost per hire, and a faster fill rate.

This army of candidates turned brand ambassadors will talk positively about your company and your business for free to their contacts and across social media.

81% of candidates will share a positive experience with family, friends, and peers, and 51% will share their positive experience on social media sites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn.

an african american candidate is being interviewed by two young professional women

Why is a negative candidate experience so damaging?

A poor candidate experience can have huge consequences for your recruiting process and your business.

Unhappy candidates do the same as happy ones, just in reverse! They are less likely to accept your job offer when it comes, they won’t reapply, and they won’t recommend.

Unhappy candidates are disastrous for your hiring process, but it can go further. If an experience is particularly bad, candidates may even boycott your company. They may stop buying your products or using your services.  They may leave negative remarks on social media accounts and encourage others to do the same.

You could be disregarding the actual implications one candidate can have.  However, it’s worth remembering that candidate experience applies to ALL candidates. Past, present, and future.  How many candidates could have gone through your processes over the years? Plenty probably.

The most famous example of this candidate damage comes from Virgin Media.  The company calculated that it lost $5.4 million to bad candidate experience.

a young attractive professional woman sits in front of her laptop looking bored

Top tips to improve candidate experience.

With that in mind, how can you improve the candidate experience through your application process?

Write a clear job description (JD)

Your JD should be a clear and accurate explanation of the job and responsibilities.  Candidates also wish to know at the very first stage about the salary range, benefits, and company values.  Often, this will be the very first touchpoint candidates have in the process, so it needs to be an honest, candid, and transparent introduction to the role and organisation.

Be clear about your recruitment process

Setting expectations about the recruitment process is very important in delivering a positive candidate experience.  Knowing early on about what they can expect can ease candidates’ self-doubt, nervousness, and confusion.  You should make it very clear what exactly your hiring process will look like. How long will each stage take?  Will there be a telephone interview? Who will be present at face-to-face interviews?  These are all things that you should aim to communicate at the very beginning.

a red for hire sign on a metal post

Improve your website

Your website is your most valuable recruitment asset.  If you have a Work for Us section, you could consider turning this into an information resource for candidates. Can candidates find the information they need about your recruitment processes?  Your resources should be useful, relevant, and informative.

Enable easy application processes

It has been suggested that the average candidate spends 3-4 hours on each job application and that 60% of job seekers give up mid-application if forms are long or complex.  This is especially true of top-tier and passive candidates, or those who are not fully invested in wanting a new job.

To ensure you offer a user-friendly system, try applying for your own jobs and see how you find it.

Think about;

  • Is it easy?
  • Can you apply across all devices…desktop, mobile, tablet?
  • Is the form too long?
  • Is it intuitive?

Once you have had a go, ask yourself “can I make this easier, shorter, or more user-friendly?”  Consider asking for only what you really need at this first point of contact.

Respect candidate time

Candidates want the hiring process to be brief and be responded to in a timely manner. According to LinkedIn, it generally takes 2-3 months for candidates to move from application to hire.

This is problematic because, in today’s candidate-driven market, top-tier talent only stays on the market for an average of 10 days.  Great candidates with key skills have masses of opportunities. The more time you take, the more offers you will have to compete against.

What constitutes a ‘timely response’?  Most candidates report that 3-5 working days is an acceptable time frame.


The number 1 frustration among job seekers is a lack of response from employers.  Candidates hate to be left wondering, so make sure to communicate with your candidates regularly and on time.

Become an interviewing pro

An interview is a pivotal place on the interview journey. It is likely to be the first face-to-face contact you will have. For some, it will be the last. Either way, you need to make a great lasting impression.

LinkedIn suggests that 83% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked. On the reverse, 87% of talent say a positive interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once doubted.

Top tips for offering a great interview experience include:

  • Keep the interview period short
  • Offer candidates an opportunity to learn about the role and the company
  • Offer a tour
  • In later stages, invite leadership in for a meetup
  • Follow up promptly with feedback

Give and ask for feedback

Feedback helps candidates improve as professionals. Again, LinkedIn reveals that 94% of talent wants to receive interview feedback.

There is some data to suggest that how you deliver feedback makes a difference to candidate experience.   77% of candidates said they prefer to hear good news over the phone. If you have bad news to deliver though, consider sticking to email; 65% of professionals would prefer to read that they didn’t make the cut.

Remember that the unsuccessful candidates need feedback too. If the feedback is constructive, they will be 4 times more likely to consider your company for a future opportunity.

Feedback about your process is just as important.  Don’t just give feedback, ask for it too. The insights you get can be invaluable for improving the hiring process for future candidates.

Maintain candidate relationships

A candidate’s experience doesn’t end when you decide not to hire them. Candidates that aren’t a right fit for one role may be perfect for a future role.

Keeping in touch with high-quality candidates can significantly reduce recruiting and hiring cycles in the future. It is a great opportunity for building your talent goldmine teaming with perfect fit candidates.

You can build and maintain a professional relationship with rejected hires by;

  • Delivering the news thoughtfully
  • Give feedback
  • Ask for feedback
  • Connect on LinkedIn
  • Add them to email campaigns that may be of interest
  • Invite them to meetups or industry events you may host

How do you measure candidate experience?

Measuring and then analysing your current candidate experience is the first step to improving it.

This is where candidate feedback becomes crucial.  As candidates exit the recruitment process, send a candidate feedback survey to all the candidates no matter if they were hired, declined, or dropped out along the way.

Your questions should include both open and closed questions to measure the experience, pinpoint areas of improvement and highlight what your candidates feel you are doing well.

You also have the option of using social media as a metric. Sites like Glassdoor offer an unfiltered analysis of your candidate experience; both good and bad.

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  • The candidate journey refers to the overall perception of a company’s recruitment process.
  • The ‘candidate’ refers to all candidates…past, present, and future.
  • Candidate experience can make or break your recruitment process and company bottom line.
  • There are ways in which you can improve the candidate experience of all applicants.
  • These include communication, having a clear JD, setting accurate timeframes, and being transparent about the hiring process.
  • Candidate experience is hard to measure.
  • Candidate feedback questionnaires should be distributed to all candidates no matter how far they went along the journey. These responses are the most useful way to get an insight into the hiring journey from the perspective of applicants.

Let us help you deliver a first-class candidate experience. Our seasoned recruitment team can help you impress top-tier candidates at each stage of the process. We can help formulate your job description and then guide you and your candidate right through the application process.

For more information on how we work, reach out to us today.

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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