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5 common culprits of a bad candidate experience

Justin Lowe Nov 6, 2018 9:00:00 AM

There’s been a lot of discussion about candidate experience in the past few years. Despite the uptick in attention, the reality is that many people in recruiting still struggle with fully understanding the term. This can, unfortunately, cause a waterfall effect of additional problems.

In short: candidate experience is the process of how you treat and interact with a candidate as he/she moves through your hiring funnel towards being a full-time (or seasonal, or part-time, or contract) employee. It applies to any type of candidate and how you treat them, essentially.

Some companies say worrying about the candidate experience of people who aren't even employees yet is a waste of time. But is it really? Here's an easy way to think about the ramifications of having a poor candidate experience: how much budget does your company devote to branding? Organizations often spend thousands, and even up to millions, working on their brand, including creating assets, content, advertisements, logos, and more.  But what happens if you build the strongest brand in the world, and then treat people poorly every time you have an open role to fill? A bad candidate experience can cripple all that branding work you're doing. If no one wants to work for you, and no one wants to spread positive word of mouth, the brand you've worked so hard to build can suffer and develop a negative reputation.

So, first let’s think about this. What makes a candidate experience negative?

Read more: Having a positive candidate experience can directly impact employers in these ways

Bad communication

This is far and away the No. 1 issue for most candidates. They often feel like they apply to a job and then hear nothing back ever again. That’s called “the candidate black hole.” Part of the problem is how ATS are designed, yes, and part of the problem is how busy recruiters get with task work. AI is supposed to alleviate some of the latter problems but until it does, take the time to check and see if you have any candidates waiting in limbo to hear about next steps.

Bad interviews

Interviews are often overly-generic and, if multiple stakeholders are involved, they can even be repetitive. Isn't it time we made interviews more relevant? This can be achieved by streamlining the application process, setting up phone pre-screens, and providing a structured interview approach. Doing this will help improve the candidate experience and might make the interview process itself more effective at uncovering great candidates. 

Unaligned job descriptions

Think about what goes into your job description. Are you trying to hire for everything and the kitchen sink? Do you recycling years-old descriptions instead of starting from scratch? Job role -- and how you communicate and define that job role -- is essential for companies, and they can’t afford to get it wrong. Take the time to think about what skills and qualifications you need to take a team to the next level, instead of clicking "send" on a description that might not be putting  your best foot forward.

Low-context or spammy outreach

We've all had those click bait messages or calls asking about our job status. You see this increasingly in tech roles, where seasoned tech professionals in a specific area -- say, personalization -- get dozens of InMail reach-outs about something totally different. It makes them distrust the company the reach-out is coming from, according to an increasing number of studies. If you're going to use this kind of outreach, have a strategy backing up what you are trying to achieve and understand the cost of how candidates might perceive the interaction.

Not understanding the full ecosystem

Candidate experience is a massive part of the hiring process, but it’s also deeply tied to the full-stack of the employee experience. Namely, if this candidate gets through, they need to be onboarded effectively (many don’t do that, sadly), and they need to be engaged as an employee. One thing flows to the next, after all. Ideally, the hope is that this person will be happy to stay for years and take on increasing levels of responsibility. It’s an ecosystem that depends on different layers of the organization working together. Yet many just isolate the idea of “candidate experience” from everything else, and that can lead to new employees having a disjointed experience between how they were wooed to the company and their daily work lives.

How do we fix it?

Now that we know a few of the common culprits of a bad candidate experience, what can we do to correct them? Here are some tips to improve your strategy:

  1. Shore up your communication: This is the most important. You can free up recruiter time with tech or use chatbots or automated emails after 1 week, 3 weeks, etc. -- but you absolutely need to make sure you are communicating with candidates and explaining where they are in the process. Don't leave anyone hanging.
  2. Use tech more wisely: It shouldn’t be “another thing to manage.” You should use it strategically and save time/money with it. Don’t just buy tech for tech. Buy the tech you need that will make your recruiters more effective at engaging and nurturing candidates.
  3. Have a strong workplace culture and make sure to showcase it.
  4. Treat everyone in the process with respect: Pretend all of them are your mom (provided you like your mom, which ideally you do).
  5. Communicate with those who own an employee's onboarding such as their eventual manager, their boss’ boss, their new team members, and anyone else involved in their daily work life. Make sure a good candidate experience flows seamlessly into the next stage of the process (typically onboarding).
  6. Re-evaluate what you’re doing every 2-3 months, if not monthly. Look at the data on communications sent to candidates to figure out who drops out of the funnel and where. You can also look at your salaries for different roles. Are they competitive in your local market?

The key take-away when talking about the candidate experience is that it all starts with simple respect and flows from there. Candidates are intuitive. If their experience applying to a company is negative, the chances of securing the very best person for the job might be a far harder than it could be.

What does the candidate experience look like at your company? Let us know if you have any tips on how to make it even stronger.

Topics: Recruitment, Hiring Strategies

Justin Lowe

Written by Justin Lowe

Director of Marketing and Sales