Candidate Experience Explainer: Mastering the Fundamentals.

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Wowledge Expert Team
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Candidate Experience represents the overall impression and feelings a job applicant has about an organization throughout their entire recruitment journey. From finding and viewing the initial job posting, and completing the application to interviews, feedback, and onboarding, it encompasses every touchpoint a candidate encounters. This experience influences an organization's employer brand, affecting the caliber of applicants and their willingness to accept job offers. Given the impact of social media and employer review platforms, a positive candidate experience is critical for attracting top talent in today's market.


The value of creating an exceptional Candidate Experience

The business case for an exceptional candidate experience is clear: it enhances the employer brand, increases operational efficiency, and directly contributes to the bottom line by attracting top talent. Creating an exceptional candidate experience is paramount to the success of the attraction and hiring proposition.

  • Reputation and Branding: In the age of social media and platforms like Glassdoor, a negative experience can quickly tarnish an organization's employer brand. Conversely, a positive experience can bolster the company's reputation, making it more attractive to top talent. Candidates with a positive experience, regardless of whether they receive an offer or not, are much more likely to refer friends to the company.
  • Higher Offer Acceptance Rates: Candidates with a positive experience during the hiring process are more likely to accept a job offer. This reduces time-to-fill metrics and ensures top candidates don't slip through the net.
  • Cost Efficiency: A streamlined, positive candidate experience typically results in faster hiring decisions, reducing the costs associated with prolonged vacancies and extended hiring processes.
  • Enhanced Quality of Hires: By ensuring candidates have a clear understanding of the company culture and role expectations from the outset, there's a higher likelihood of securing candidates who are a good fit for both the position and the company culture.
  • Improved Customer Experience: There's a notable overlap between candidates and customers, especially in customer-facing industries. A negative candidate experience can deter individuals from engaging with the company as customers, while a positive one will draw candidates to a company's products or services.
  • Referral Generation: Satisfied candidates, even those not selected for a role, can become ambassadors for the company, referring other potential candidates in their network.
  • Long-term Growth and Innovation: Securing top talent directly correlates with a company's ability to innovate and grow. An excellent candidate experience pulls higher quality candidates into the fold as new hires, as they are drawn to the organization and feel valued from the outset.


The "moments that matter" in a Candidate Experience

The candidate experience encompasses multiple touchpoints, from when an individual becomes aware of an opportunity to when they onboard as a new hire, or even further, to when they leave and become an alumnus of the organization. 

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  1. Awareness: The initial discovery phase is where a potential candidate learns about an organization's existence, reputation, or a specific job opening. This could occur through job boards, social media, company websites, or word of mouth.

  2. Attraction: The phase where an individual becomes interested in the company and its offerings, shaped by employer branding efforts, employee testimonials, and other promotional content.

  3. Application: The actual process of submitting an application, which includes finding the right role, understanding job requirements, submitting a resume, and filling out application forms. The simplicity and clarity of this process can significantly impact the candidate's perception.

  4. Screening & Assessment: The phase where resumes are reviewed, initial screenings are conducted, and potential candidates might undergo assessments or tests. Prompt feedback and clear communication are crucial here.

  5. Interviews: This includes scheduling, preparation, the actual interview process (which could be multiple rounds), and post-interview communication. How candidates are treated during interviews, the quality of the interactions and the timeliness of feedback play significant roles in shaping the experience.

  6. Offer & Negotiation: Once a decision is made, this phase includes presenting the job offer, any negotiations related to salary or benefits, and the candidate's decision-making process.

  7. Onboarding: The transition from being a candidate to an employee, which includes paperwork, orientation, training, and introduction to the company culture and team.

  8. Feedback & Review: After the hiring process concludes, candidates might leave feedback on platforms like Glassdoor or directly to the company through a candidate experience survey. This phase offers insights for organizations to refine their recruitment processes.

  9. Rejection Management: For those not selected, it's crucial to communicate the decision respectfully and in a timely manner, offer feedback if possible, and leave the door open for future opportunities.

  10. Alumni Engagement: Even after the hiring process, candidates can become brand ambassadors or potential rehires in the future. Maintaining a positive relationship with them, especially those who had reached the latter stages of the hiring process without an offer (e.g., "silver medalists"), can be beneficial.

Each of these moments provides an opportunity for organizations to either enhance or diminish the overall candidate experience, and thus, it is essential to approach each phase thoughtfully and strategically.


How companies at different levels of sophistication approach the Candidate Experience

Organizations leverage relevant practices across varying degrees of sophistication as they evolve. At a core level, companies focus on operational efficiency, using highly structured and standardized/repeatable processes, ensuring a smooth application process through their interactions with candidates. At an advanced level, organizations invest in enhanced portals and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), multidimensional and structured interviews, and more advanced company/department/location opportunity information, prioritizing their employer brand and candidate feedback. Meanwhile, at the emerging level, companies deploy top-tier technologies, from AI for engagement to virtual reality for cultural immersion, emphasizing long-term relationship-building and a meticulously mapped candidate journey.


Understanding the roles typically involved in shaping the Candidate Experience

Everybody in an organization influences the candidate experience, even external players. Nevertheless, some roles are more critical in weaving a cohesive narrative and experience for candidates, ensuring they get a holistic and accurate picture of life within the organization.

CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer)/HR Leader: As the top HR executive, CHROs set the vision, strategy, and tone for the entire HR function. They understand the importance of talent for organizational success and are attuned to the broader trends and shifts in the talent landscape. CHROs ensure that candidates' experience aligns with the organization's values, mission, and culture. They advocate for resources, tools, and training to ensure every touchpoint in the recruitment process is intentional, respectful, and aligned with the company’s brand and ethos.

Recruiters: Often the first human touchpoint in the process, they get a feel for candidates' backgrounds, expectations, and personalities. By ensuring open communication, setting expectations, and providing timely feedback, recruiters help set a positive tone for the entire experience.

Hiring Managers: Provide clarity about the requirements and characteristics of the ideal candidate for the role. They give candidates a clear sense of the job's responsibilities and the team's culture by conducting respectful and informative interviews and provide essential insights into the environment and expectations.

HR Coordinators: Handle logistical details, such as scheduling interviews and communicating the next steps. They enable a smooth process that respects candidates' time and keeps them informed.

Onboarding Specialists: Prepare for the candidate's potential entry into the company. They provide seamless onboarding, ensuring that, upon accepting an offer, new hires feel welcomed, oriented, and valued from day one. They track and or oversee candidate (and then new hire) progress in form completion, offer letter acceptance, and onboarding progress.   

Talent Management Specialists or Analytics Teams: Collect feedback from successful and unsuccessful candidates about their experience. This feedback loop informs continuous improvements in the hiring process.

Marketing Specialists: Bring expertise in brand management, storytelling, and audience engagement to curate the company's reputation as an employer of choice in the marketplace. Their work shapes candidates' initial perceptions, drawing from authentic stories, testimonials, and digital content to make the company appealing. They're adept at crafting compelling narratives and visuals that resonate. In collaboration with HR, the marketing team helps shape and communicate an authentic employer brand, ensuring the organization's value proposition as an employer is clear, compelling, and consistent across all touchpoints. This not only attracts candidates but also gives them a genuine sense of the company's culture and values.

Each role intertwines, creating a cohesive and memorable candidate experience that reflects the organization's values and culture.


Key trends in Candidate Experience

Candidate experience has gained significant attention in the recruitment and HR community over the past few years. Recognizing the role of a candidate's experience in shaping their perception of an employer, companies have been investing in refining their recruitment processes. Trends impacting this capability include the leveraging of technologies, communications and tailoring to meet individual needs.

  • Technological Integration: As technology has become integral to candidate's daily lives, companies are harnessing tools such as chatbots, AI-driven assessments, and video interviews to make the recruitment process more efficient and candidate-friendly.
  • Personalization: Candidates now expect a tailored experience. This means understanding and addressing their needs, preferences, and pain points throughout the recruitment process.
  • Feedback Loop: Companies proactively seek feedback from candidates, whether they got the job or not. This feedback is invaluable for refining and enhancing the candidate experience.
  • Employer Branding: A company's reputation as an employer has become crucial. Companies actively showcase their culture, values, and perks through platforms like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and even TikTok to attract the right talent.
  • Holistic Well-being: Candidates are increasingly looking for employers who prioritize their well-being. This includes flexible working conditions, mental health support, and more. Having programs for these and promoting them are of equal importance.
  • Onboarding Experience: The candidate experience continues once a job offer is accepted. The onboarding process continues that experience and sets the tone for an employee's tenure at the company with a combination of exciting and informative resources and efficient processes that embrace and engage them from the start.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): Candidates, especially from younger generations, prioritize working for companies that value DEI. Transparent communication about DEI initiatives and progress is becoming a critical factor in the candidate experience.
  • Mobile-First Approach: With the ubiquity of smartphones, companies are optimizing their career sites, application processes, and communication methods for mobile use, ensuring candidates can easily interact from their devices.
  • Transparent Communication: Keeping candidates in the loop about where they stand in the recruitment process, even if the news isn't favorable, is vital for maintaining a positive candidate experience.
  • Human Touch: Despite the rise in technology, the human aspect remains irreplaceable. Candidates appreciate genuine human interactions, empathy, and understanding, which make them feel valued.

Overall, these trends reflect a broader shift towards valuing candidates as unique individuals and recognizing the role of their experience in shaping the company's reputation and ability to attract top talent.


Candidate Experience example

A relatable example of an exceptional candidate experience for a candidate going through the recruiting process at a company such as Deloitte might look like the following:

The candidate, a fresh graduate with a major in Finance, had aspirations of diving into the world of consulting. She had heard of Deloitte's reputation as a global leader and was keen on joining their team. When she saw an opening for an entry-level consultant position (Business Analyst), she decided to seize the opportunity.

Application Process: Using Deloitte's online portal, the candidate filled out the application and attached her resume. The portal was user-friendly, allowing her to track her application status. A week later, she received a personalized email detailing the stages of the recruitment process and an invitation for a preliminary phone screening.

Phone Screening: The candidate's first interaction was with a Deloitte recruiter who discussed her background, career aspirations, and understanding of Deloitte's work culture. The conversation was engaging, with the recruiter giving her insights into what it's like working at Deloitte.

Assessment Day: The candidate was then invited to an "Assessment Day" at Deloitte's office. Here, she participated in group exercises, case studies, and presentations that gave her a glimpse of real-world consulting challenges. Not only was it an evaluation, but it was also a learning experience for her.

Multidimensional Interviews: Post-assessment, the candidate had three interviews with senior members from Deloitte's consulting team. They delved deeper into technical aspects, her problem-solving skills, and her cultural fit with the firm. Throughout, the interviewers were cordial, ensuring she was comfortable.

Feedback and Communication: What stood out for the candidate was the feedback session. Irrespective of the outcome, Deloitte ensured that every prospect received constructive feedback. The recruiter discussed the candidate's strengths and areas of improvement, a gesture she deeply appreciated.

Offer and Induction: The candidate's skills and enthusiasm resonated with the Deloitte team, and she was presented with an offer. Along with the formalities, she was introduced to an "onboarding buddy" - a Deloitte employee who would help her navigate her initial days at the firm.

Looking back, the candidate was truly impressed by the transparency, professionalism, and warmth of Deloitte's recruitment process. It wasn't just about hiring; it was about finding the right fit and ensuring every prospect, irrespective of the outcome, gained from the experience.

Note: This narrative is constructed based on the shared experiences of candidates and interviewers from Deloitte. Specific details and certain stages may vary with time, as well as between candidates and regions.


Considerations and lessons learned in designing a Candidate Experience

Designing a candidate experience is like curating a journey that reflects the essence of the organization, its values, and its commitment to prospective talent. Keeping some key considerations and lessons learned in mind can help organizations craft a candidate experience that not only attracts top talent but also enhances the company's brand and Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in the market.

  • First Impressions Matter: The initial touchpoint, whether it's the job posting, the career page, or the first interaction with a recruiter, sets the tone. A clear, engaging, and informative first contact can make all the difference.
  • Stay in Touch: Candidates value transparency. Regular updates on the application status, interview feedback, or any delays demonstrate respect and consideration for the applicant.
  • Leverage User-Friendly Technology: Seamless technology, such as an intuitive application portal or well-organized virtual interviews, removes potential friction and provides candidates a smooth experience.
  • Feedback is Gold: Not only should feedback be offered to candidates, but their feedback on the recruitment process should also be sought. This offers invaluable insights into areas of improvement and communicates how much the company values them as an individual.
  • Empathize and Respect: Remember that job-seeking can be stressful. Empathetic interactions, flexibility with interview times, or simply offering a glass of water during in-person interviews can profoundly impact the candidates and their impression of the company.
  • Offer Realistic Job Previews: Providing candidates with a genuine glimpse into the role, its place in the team and larger organization, how it impacts and contributes to company objectives, the team dynamics, and the organizational culture can help in ensuring a good fit for both the candidate and the company.
  • Onboarding is Part of the Experience: The candidate's experience doesn't end with a job offer. A well-structured onboarding process makes new hires feel welcomed, valued and set up for success.
  • One Size Doesn't Fit All: Each role, department, or even geographic location might require slight modifications in the recruitment and onboarding processes. Flexibility and adaptability are key.
  • Stay Updated: The best practices in recruitment and candidate experience evolve. Stay informed about industry trends, technological advances, and feedback to refine the process continuously.
  • Guard the Employer Brand: Negative candidate experiences can easily translate into broader reputational risks. In the age of employer review sites and social media, it's essential to ensure every candidate, whether hired or not, walks away with a positive impression. Imagine the effect a good experience can have on college hiring when the students return to campus and share experiences with their classmates, regardless of their offer (or no offer) status.
  • Collaboration is Crucial: Designing a robust candidate experience is not the sole responsibility of the HR department. Collaborating with hiring managers, team leads, and current employees can lead to a more holistic and genuine recruitment journey.


Candidate Experience FAQs

What technologies can be leveraged to support the candidate experience?

Leveraging the right technologies can enhance the candidate experience by making the recruitment process more efficient, engaging, and personalized. Here are some notable technologies that support the candidate experience:

  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): These platforms manage the recruitment process from job posting to selection. They help streamline applications, store candidate information, and ensure consistent communication. Note that Recruiter attention to "moving" candidates as they progress is essential to supporting automated status communications.
  • Chatbots and AI Assistants: These tools can answer common queries, schedule interviews, and provide real-time updates to candidates. They offer immediate interaction, even outside business hours, which can be beneficial for both international candidates and those applying outside of the usual 9-5.
  • Video Interviewing Platforms: Especially relevant in today's remote-working climate, these platforms allow for face-to-face interactions without the logistical challenges of physical meetings. They can be used for both live interviews and pre-recorded screening questions.
  • On-Demand Interviewing: Allows candidates to answer interview questions on their schedules, providing flexibility and potentially speeding up the initial screening process.
  • VR and AR for Office Tours: Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) can offer candidates a virtual tour of the office, facilities, or workspace, giving them a feel of the work environment without a physical visit.
  • Feedback Platforms: These tools gather feedback from candidates regarding their experience with the hiring process. The insights can then be used to improve and tailor future recruitment processes.
  • Job Simulation Tools: They offer realistic job previews, allowing candidates to understand the nature of the job and the organization to gauge a candidate's fit for a role.
  • Employee Referral Platforms: These tools streamline the referral process, making it easier for existing employees to refer potential candidates, enhancing the trust factor in the initial stages of the candidate experience.
  • Digital Onboarding Platforms: Once a candidate is hired, a smooth onboarding process is essential. Digital platforms can offer interactive training, paperwork management, and initial introductions to the team.
  • Mobile Recruitment Apps: Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, these apps allow candidates to search for jobs, apply, and track their application status at their leisure.
  • CRM (Candidate Relationship Management) Systems: These are akin to customer relationship management tools but tailored for recruitment. They enable recruiters to nurture and maintain relationships with candidates, communicating company news and new job openings, and potentially converting them into employees in the future.
  • Data Analytics Tools: These tools analyze data from various stages of the recruitment process, providing insights that can help refine the candidate experience.

While technology can greatly enhance the candidate experience, it should be used in conjunction with a human touch. The personal interactions, empathy, and genuine interest from recruiters and hiring managers remain irreplaceable components of an exceptional candidate experience.


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Enabling practices and resources

Emerging Recruiting Strategy and Sourcing Practices to Streamline Talent Discovery.

Exponential technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI) continue to evolve in their application across functions and industries to solve complex problems and automate a wider range of activities.

Developing Intelligent Recruiting Strategies Using Data Analytics.

Data analytics is fundamental to optimizing the quality, speed, cost, and consistency of the recruiting process as well as enhancing the candidate experience. 

Using the Selection Process to Promote Inclusive Hiring and Address Unconscious Bias.

Every process that involves humans is prone to bias. The consequence of bias in the selection process is a homogenous workforce within a workplace that fails to benefit from a diverse array of skills and perspectives.

Crafting Job Profiles to Attract the Right Talent.

A well-crafted job profile is a critical alignment and marketing tool to attract the right talent to the organization and to the position in particular.

The Success Profile Tool: Specify the Background, Skills, and Capabilities Expected from Individuals in Key Roles.

A template resembling a job description further detailed with the competencies and useful experiences that separate minimum job requirements from the attributes and experiences of an individual who is viewed as highly likely to be highly successful in the role. 

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