The experience that candidates (and eventually employees!) have with your company throughout the job application process and their employment with you shapes their perception of your brand. Whether applicants get the job or not, how your company treats candidates and employees must be a key part of your employer brand strategy. Once little more than an afterthought, the candidate journey is now considered pivotal to a strong employer brand.


why is candidate experience important?

Once upon a time, candidates came into the job market eager to please employers. Today, the tables have turned, and it’s employers who are tasked with impressing candidates. Sure, everyone’s still on their best behaviour during a job interview. But they’re also appraising their potential employer as much as they are being scrutinized by the hiring manager. They’re analyzing what their potential employer has to offer them in return for their services, and trust us when we say salary isn’t the only factor at play!

Today’s market is a candidate-driven one, where top companies must compete fiercely to convince the best up and coming talent to work for them. With many companies stepping up their game and competing to offer more attractive perks than the next guy, playing the game has become a necessity if you want to stand out and truly be considered as an option by the top-tier candidates with the tools, experience and ideas needed for success.

When companies fall short of this mark, they earn a reputation as difficult to work with or unattractive as an employer. Worse, one negative experience is no longer necessarily a contained event. With the rise of social media and online reviews, one intensely negative experience can have a ripple effect that taints other potential candidates’ views of your company. Get ahead of the problem by crafting a candidate experience that prioritizes candidates’ needs.

candidate experience by the numbers

If anecdotal stories about scathing online reviews crippling a company’s recruitment process aren’t enough to convince you that candidate experience is important, here are some statistics that might.

  • 60% of candidates say they’ve had a poor experience applying for a job
  • of the candidates that reported a poor experience, 72% told others about it online or in person
  • long, complicated applications were the top deterrent
  • the average application takes candidates 3 to 4 hours to complete, yet, employers only spend 15 minutes reviewing them
  • 65% of applicants say they rarely or never hear back about applications
  • 51% of candidates who do receive a notification, reported it takes a month or more
  • candidates who don’t hear back about their application are 3.5 times less likely to ever re-apply to the company

5 ways to improve your candidate experience

In today’s candidate-driven market, it's virtually impossible to run a successful business without offering an outstanding candidate experience. If you're interested in creating a more positive experience for your applicants, here are some best practices to follow:

1. be open about negative aspects of the position

It sounds counter-intuitive to some recruiters, but being open and honest about the role, including negative elements or challenges is actually seen as positive by job seekers. Honesty gives the impression your company is transparent and aware of shortcomings. What’s more, candidates who come into a role with their eyes wide open about the challenges they will face are more likely to be successful and less likely to feel disillusioned that the job isn’t what they were promised.

2. think like a candidate; put yourself in their shoes

All too often companies are concerned only about their needs and don’t stop to think about what candidates are looking for in return. At worst, companies can see themselves as a separate entity from their employees or think they’re ‘doing employees a favour’ by offering employment. Unfortunately, this is a surefire way to negatively impact the way that candidates think about your company.

Instead, hiring managers should make an effort to think like candidates and consider how they might respond in any given situation. If you were applying for a job at your company, what would you like to see on an application? When would you want to hear back from the hiring manager about the status of your application? Would you appreciate a phone interview, followed by an in-person interview, or is one or the other sufficient? When hiring managers and recruiters ask themselves these questions, they’re putting their candidates first and creating a positive experience that earns them a sterling reputation as an employer.

3. offer an office tour to candidates

One of the best (and easiest) ways to improve your candidate experience is to give candidates who make it to the in-person interview stage a tour of your office. It’s a small thing, but a meaningful one.

In addition to giving candidates a ‘feel’ for your office and culture (and thus allowing them to picture themselves working there) it can help them feel like a part of the team right off the bat. During a tour you’ll likely run into coworkers and colleagues giving the candidate a chance to gauge whether they’ll fit in and make a more rounded decision about whether this is the job for them.

4. personalize your interview process

Have you ever tried on a one-size-fits-all garment only to find it doesn’t fit ‘all,’ and that, somehow, you’re not the ‘all’ they meant? One size fits all interviews are the same. There’s no such thing as a perfect interview style that fits everyone. Sure, you might be able to make it work for most people if you stretch, but it’s never going to be as good as something tailor-made.

The more personalized your interview process is the better. When applicants are met by a cold, impersonal HR manager who knows nothing about them, they’re naturally going to feel less enthused about the role. For an interview to resonate with today’s engaged candidates, it’s important to take time to get to know the candidate before the interview. Read their resume and cover letter, check out their profile on LinkedIn or other provided social media profile. You’d be surprised how often interviewers go into an interview without knowing even the basics about the person they’re interviewing. When you get into the interview itself, ask personalized questions about the candidate’s experiences, skills and goals. Doing so, you’ll be able to connect on a more meaningful level.

5. make your application as simple as possible

Candidates have repeatedly said that a streamlined application process leads to a positive impression of the company they’re applying to. If you haven’t already done so, it might be time to audit your application process and think about how you would feel about it if you were a candidate.

Are there unnecessary questions you can cut? Are there fields forcing candidates to repeat information you could see on their resume? Is it over long or complicated? You might be surprised how far a straight-forward, painless application (and later interview and screening process) can go towards buying your brand goodwill. The simple fact is a lot of brands don’t take into consideration the candidate journey, so when you do your brands come across as in touch, relatable, even human.

A better employer brand starts here. If you’re not sure where your employer brand is verging off track, Randstad can help. Check out our Employer Branding Centre to learn how to take an active approach to enhancing your employer brand and applicant experience. A strong employer brand lays the foundation to attract the skilled talent that your business needs to be successful.

need help building your employer branding strategy?

stay up to date on the latest recruitment and labor market news, trends and reports


looking for talent? we are here to help!

book a meeting