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 Why Candidate Experience Matters (and How to Improve Yours)

May 10, 2024

In a time when job seekers have more options than ever, a great candidate experience will make or break your success in bringing top talent on board. 

Attracting and retaining top talent is no longer just a goal for organizational success — it's a necessity. And at the heart of it lies the candidate experience. Encompassing all the steps between browsing your career site and signing the job offer, the candidate experience is the entire series of interactions a job seeker has with an organization. It gives candidates a glimpse into your company culture and employer brand, which means it’s a massive opportunity to show off the best parts of working for your organization.

Let's dive deep into what candidate experience is all about, why it matters, and how you can master it to elevate your recruitment game.

What is the Candidate Experience?

Candidate experience is more than just a buzzword, it's the heart and soul of how job seekers perceive your company during the recruiting process.

Put simply, it's the domino chain of interactions a job seeker goes through with your company from the first hello to the final decision. From scanning your corporate career site to hitting "submit" on their application, wading through the interview rounds, and (hopefully) getting that golden job offer or a gentle rejection — it’s all included. And, for 70% of candidates, the ride is longer and more demanding than ever before.  

But it’s not just about the process itself. It’s how your employer brand is woven throughout, setting the tone and making sure each step shows candidates you care about them. 

Key Takeaways

  • The candidate experience is the series of interactions a job seeker has with an organization throughout the recruitment process, from initial exploration to final onboarding. 
  • A strong candidate experience is crucial for employer branding, potentially converting even unsuccessful applicants into advocates and future employees. 
  • Keeping an eye on key metrics like time to hire, candidate drop-off rates, and interview-to-offer ratios will reveal areas for improvement and help refine your recruitment strategy. 

Why is Candidate Experience Important?

Imagine your dream candidates not just applying but seeing the journey through to the end, eagerly signing on the dotted line to join your team.

Sounds ideal, right?

Now imagine the opposite, full of rescheduled interviews, missing documents, and inaccurate job postings. Unsurprisingly, a bumpy ride can see candidates waving goodbye quicker than you can say "resumé." Nearly half of candidates have turned down job offers because they had a poor experience during recruiting.

Even if the stars don't align this time around, a great candidate experience might make the applicant stick around for the next big opening at your company or at least share their experience with others. Think of it as planting seeds — you never know when they'll bloom into your next star employee or a star referral. 

Moreover, a smooth candidate experience streamlines processes, reduces turnaround time, increases acceptance rates, enhances your candidate pool, and improves your employer brand — all of which ultimately save you time and resources in the long run. It's a win-win for both candidates and your organization. In today's digital age, where candidates have more options than ever, a great candidate experience will make or break your success in bringing top talent on board.

What are the Stages of the Candidate Experience?

To optimize each interaction and create a cohesive journey for job seekers, you need to first understand the stages of the candidate experience:

  1. Investigation: The initial phase is where candidates research your company and job opportunities.
  2. Application: The process of candidates submitting their applications.
  3. Screening: Reviewing and shortlisting candidates based on qualifications.
  4. Interview: Conducting interviews to assess each candidate’s fit.
  5. Offer: Extending job offers to successful candidates.
  6. Onboarding: Welcoming and integrating new hires into the organization.

When refining your recruiting process, keep each stage in mind. Aim for candidates to have a smooth experience at every phase for the best results.

How to Improve the Candidate Experience

Let's uncover some key tips and best practices to create a standout candidate experience that sets your organization apart.

Write Clear, Enticing Job Descriptions 

Craft job descriptions that make candidates say, "Wow, this is the place for me!" 

  • Speak human: Use language everyone understands, without the industry buzzwords. Skip the "ninja" and "guru" titles — they're more cringe-worthy than captivating. 
  • Must-haves vs. nice-to-haves: Be clear about what's essential and what's a bonus. List must-haves under requirements and save nice-to-haves for a separate section to keep things transparent and inclusive.
  • Structure for success: Organize job descriptions for easy digestion. Start with the juicy details about the job itself, use short sentences, present tense verbs, and don't forget those bullet points for clarity. 
  • Bias-free zone: Steer clear of biased or gendered language. Keep it neutral and welcoming to all.
  • Management insights: Include management details like who they report to and if they'll have their own team. It adds context and paints a clearer picture of the role. 

Learn More: How to Write a Job Description: Template, Tips, & Examples


Simplify the Application Process

Research reveals a whopping 92% of job seekers never finish their applications simply because there are too many steps to get to the finish line. Instead of asking candidates to complete a marathon of a process, make applying a breeze with these tips:

  • Easy access: Don't send candidates on a wild goose chase to apply. Make your careers page easy to find, or streamline it further with text-to-apply or QR scan-to-apply capabilities. 
  • Set expectations: Let applicants know upfront what they'll need to submit. No surprises = happy candidates.
  • One-stop shop: Keep it simple with a single, mobile-friendly page for the entire application process. Nobody likes jumping through hoops. 
  • Less is more: Only ask for the essentials. Keep it relevant and avoid unnecessary info gathering. 
  • Confirmation counts: Send a confirmation email once they hit submit. It's a small touch that shows you value their effort and eases worries applications didn’t go through. 

Communicate Consistently

Keep the lines of communication open and clear throughout the hiring process. Kick things off right with a prompt confirmation email as soon as a candidate applies. It's a small gesture that shows you value their effort and keeps them in the loop. 

Once you’ve decided whether to move candidates along, don't leave them hanging! Reports show that 54% of job seekers have bowed out of a recruitment process due to poor communication.

Send out rejection notices or interview invitations as quickly as possible, whether via email or two-way texting. Use a real, human email address when reaching out to applicants. It adds a personal touch and shows there's a person behind the screen, not just an automated system. 

6 Candidate Experience Best Practices

Keep these best practices in mind when creating unforgettable recruiting processes for your organization:

  • Personalization: Tailor your interactions with candidates to their preferences and backgrounds, which shows you value their unique skills and experiences. But remember, hiring managers are not legally allowed to ask certain questions, so stick to relevant, job-related topics.
  • Responsive feedback: Provide timely and constructive feedback to candidates, whether they're moving forward in the process or not. This leaves a positive impression of your organization because it shows you value their time and effort, and they appreciate the transparency.
  • Candidate experience surveys: Offer job seekers the opportunity to leave their own feedback about the experience. Get their input to help you fine-tune anything from job descriptions to interview questions.
  • Employee advocacy: Encourage current employees to share positive experiences about working at your organization. Employee testimonials and success stories can significantly impact how candidates perceive your organization.
  • Consistent branding: Maintain consistency in your employer branding across all touchpoints. From job postings to interviews to onboarding, ensure candidates experience a cohesive and positive representation of your organization.
  • Respect and professionalism: Treat every candidate with respect and professionalism, regardless of the outcome of their application. A positive candidate experience, even for unsuccessful candidates, can lead to referrals and positive word-of-mouth.

Learn More: Employee Recruitment Strategies: Hiring the Top Talent 


How to Measure the Candidate Experience

Measuring your candidate experience is your secret ingredient to fine-tuning your recruiting game plan. 

Think of these metrics like treasure maps — they show you where your recruiting strategies are hitting the bullseye and where they could use a little tweaking. They also tell you where to allocate your time, energy, and budget, so you're not throwing darts blindfolded. Here’s what to track:

  • Time to Hire: How fast can you say, "You're hired!"? Tracking this metric helps you streamline processes and minimize candidate wait time, and it measures your hiring process as a whole .
  • Time to Fill: This is similar to time to hire, but you measure it on a per-candidate basis.
  • Interview to Offer Ratio: Keep an eye on this ratio to ensure you're not ghosting potential stars or sending out too many roses.
  • Candidate Drop-Off (a.k.a., Bounce Rate): Nobody likes a disappearing act. High bounce rates? Time to rethink your candidate experience and keep those applicants engaged from start to finish.
  • Offer Acceptance Rate: Are candidates saying "Yes, please!" or hitting the reject button? This metric helps gauge your attractiveness as an employer and fine-tune your pitch.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): How likely are candidates to recommend your company to a friend? A high NPS is like a gold star — it means happy candidates who could become your brand ambassadors. 

It can be tough to keep track of this data in a spreadsheet, so make sure your HR software is equipped to monitor these key candidate metrics. So, don't just wing it — measure your candidate experience and make the smart moves to find and keep the best talent on the market.

Elevate Your Candidate Experience with Paylocity 

In today's wild job market, recruiters have to juggle manual tasks, communication snags, tons of candidate data, and EEO laws like pros.

To speed up hiring and get your top picks, you need killer job descriptions and an excellent candidate experience to avoid the bad vibes that can tank acceptance rates and hurt your rep.

With Paylocity, streamlining recruiting (and retention) is a breeze:

  • Maximize your reach: Reach more candidates with automatic posting to 20,000+ online job boards, including Monster, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. Boost the visibility of your open roles and drive applications with text-to-apply and scan-to-apply promotions. 
  • Make applying a breeze: Empower candidates to apply for openings by texting a defined keyword or scanning a QR code.
  • Drive candidate engagement at every touchpoint: Conveniently reach candidates by text or email, and track all communication within Paylocity. Enhance your job postings with an introductory video, offering job seekers a glimpse into your company culture. 
  • Keep compensation competitive: Browse market data directly within Paylocity to help define roles and compensation. This data will sync to the position in the future to simplify pay decisions. 

Request a demo to see how you’ll reduce the time to hire, increase applicant volume, and elevate the candidate experience with Paylocity. 

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Keep Your Workforce Ready 

Finding the right talent for your team can be challenging in today’s market. But with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be a strain on your internal resources as well. Our recruiting platform streamlines the process, bringing you an intuitive way to search for and engage with top candidates. With communication methods like texting and video, and data that helps you track progress, attracting and winning has never been easier.

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