Fixing the Broken Candidate Experience

Jennifer Way, who consults with companies to improve the effectiveness of their recruiting efforts, talks about the rather imperfect experience job candidates are having when they apply for jobs, and what can be done about it.

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11 Comments on “Fixing the Broken Candidate Experience

  1. The candidate experience is controlled by people. As far as “Candidate Care” goes, some people care, some people couldn’t care less. To think that individuals directly involved in the candidate care experience will change or be influenced by surveys, education, tips, or suggestions is folly. Even if there were an impact by implementing these things, by her own admission Ms. Way states there is no accurate way to measure it. Perhaps this is because “candidate care” is neither defined nor standardized… nor should it be (IMHO).

    What I find most interesting is invoking the help of the hiring manager in the process. In the half-dozen corporate worlds I’ve worked in and the hundreds I have consulted for, the vast majority of the time the hiring manager – by POLICY – was not permitted to discuss the things most relevant to the candidate. That is, where do they stand in the ranking of all candidates, salary and benefits, and most importantly, reasons for non-selection. These were the exclusive domain of the Human Resources department and were provided to the candidate by HR in the most watered-down and generic forms possible… specifically crafted to guard against legal challenges.

    Removing these stifling policies would do two things quickly and clearly. First, hiring managers would be called to task on how they interact with candidates – not only in the “legal” sense, but in the personal sense as well. It is very difficult share honest information face-to-face with a stranger when the news is not good. The hiring manager “wheat” will separate itself from the chaff. Is there any recruiter alive who hasn’t gotten serious feedback from the candidate after a poor interaction with the hiring manager? Second, the hiring managers will either change, leave, be fired, or develop a new-found respect for the role of the recruiter. A win-win for all aspects candidate care.

    Unfortunately this approach precludes the role of the corporate lawyer who earns their keep by controlling honest communication. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

  2. I’ve said this before and I’ll probably be saying it again:
    Most companies don’t care about the ordinary candidate’s hiring experience, because they neither want to nor have to. If they did, much could be remedied by simply hiring one or more $2.00/hr (or less) Virtual Assistants to make sure that each and every candidate is professionally (if not actually pleasantly) treated.

    Am I missing something here?


  3. Keith – I see your point but doesn’t that just perpetuate the vanilla (albeit pleasant) approach to saying nothing of any real substance to candidates? Personally, I’d rather hear nothing than be sweet-talked into an empty hole.

    Allow actual communication… and actual reform and/or reward will follow.

  4. Jennifer makes many excellent points. 1. Define your experience standards. Set internal expectations and work toward them. 2. Begin to use what you have. No new $ investment, just get more out your technology – call your ATS rep and get another level of training 3. Attract few candidates – employer of choice and rampant “attract them all” sourcing models clog the pipes with resume spam.

    What we need to hear more about is how decision support should be at the core of the candidate experience. The candidate and the recruiter must both be in a better position to make a career decision as a result of the experience. Making it FEEL better, while important, is not the issue, nor is it what in the end will create a differentiated workforce. A favorable candidate experience should be table stakes.

    A candidate experience that collects better candidate data can make all the difference. A candidate experience that is grounded in research adds decision science and creates competitive advantage.

    The two are not mutually exclusive either. I have been writing and interviewing people on improving the candidate experience at ERE in San Diego. You can find them on my blog here.

  5. I would love to see the “research” related to the “candidate experience”. I’ve asked for this sort of data many times in these forums – along with the research on “best sources” – and I have yet to receive one relevant scientific reference.

    There are two sides to the candidate experience and I believe we are discussing the subjective experience of the candidate. More specifically, how the *company* affects the subjective experience of the candidate.

    In most organizations this is the general domain of the marketing department. In recruiting, we go WAY past general perceptions and put real people in front of other real people. We write personal letters and ask very personal questions. This puts marketing in the category of the hype and tripe that it actually is. When we drink a Coke, do we *really* want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony? Or just catch a sugar rush, a caffeine buzz, and slake our thirst?

    Of greater interest to me would be a study of the stakeholders’ perceptions of the recruiting and hiring experience. If those directly involved in the process thought it was disingenuous and rigid, how would that invoke a change to the existing processes? Conversely, how would good perceptions of the process be translateable to other areas of the company with high customer interactions?

    Give recruiters and hiring managers the opportunity to personally screw up by holding them accountable for defined etiquette, manners, AND hiring goals. Keep the winners, lose the losers and we’ll quickly see that honesty is the best policy.

    Optionally, we can continue sending candidates along the scripted track of policy-driven canned protocols, wishy-washy communications, with microscopic legal review of every utterance, letter, and email. Follow that up with “How-Did-You-Feel-About…?” candidate surveys and pretend we can have an effect on outcomes.

  6. Actually, Dave makes a good point that measuring subjective perception just to make candidates feel good is a bit silly. I couldn’t agree more. And candidate experience as a simple experiment in PR is definitely letting the tail wag the dog: word on the street says what it will, and goes where it will, regardless of an employer’s best intentions or efforts to make it go away.

    But follow the money with me for a moment.

    There is a lot of research available that empirically links customer loyalty to business revenue (check this out for a start: Additionally, more research is available that empirically links employee loyalty to customer loyalty (look here:, and here: ), and demonstrates that higher levels of employee loyalty can lead to increased profitability and other productivity measures (the reverse is also true, by the way). So clearly, loyal employees do influence tangible business outcomes.

    Now let’s talk about research in the area of employee attrition. There is also quite a bit that shows employee engagement is linked empirically to employee turnover rates (this is an interesting read for starters: I won’t open the can of worms here about the cost of attrition – no one in our industry can actually agree on the formula, but we do agree that the cost is substantial – so let’s just say that disengaged employees are expensive.

    So if engaged employees are good, how do we increase that outcome? At Improved Experience the research into candidate experience is showing that engagement begins early. Without divulging privileged client data, we are seeing a decided link between engagement before hire and retention in the first year of employment.

    From my perspective, measuring candidate experience is critical if you want to understand and strategically influence business outcomes like productivity and profitability.

    But (as I said here last week), measuring candidate experience that “happens” isn’t what it’s about either; measuring experience that is strategically designed to deliver competitive advantage through talent for your business is one of the most important things you can do. Everything else in recruiting stems from there.

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