How Top Companies Are Improving Candidate Experience at Each Stage of the Hiring Process

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Feb 15, 2023
This article is part of a series called Surveys.

Something critical — and unusual — is happening in the world’s candidate experiences.

Employers in North America, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, and Latin America rated their own candidate experiences lower than candidates did in 2022, as revealed by Talent Board’s latest candidate experience benchmark research.

For example, in North America in 2021, employers rated their own candidates’ willingness to refer 64% higher than the candidates themselves did, while in 2022, employers rated themselves 12% lower than the candidates did. That’s a 51% decrease overall for employers’ self-rating in one year and it marks the first time in 11 consecutive years of Talent Board research that employers were more critical of themselves than candidates.

Driving this self-criticism were several trends in last year’s talent market, including a spike in candidate resentment, continued candidate ghosting, and employers’ widespread inability to fill open roles with new talent. By the end of 2022, many employers’ perceptions about the quality of their own candidate experiences had been turned upside down.

Challenges and setbacks aside, there were still companies that delivered outstanding candidate experiences. Talent Board’s research identified more than 60 of these companies based on the satisfaction surveys scores of actual job candidates.

The highest-rated candidate experiences consistently share a handful of common qualities. These include timely and frequent candidate communication, clear expectation setting by recruiters and hiring managers, asking for and giving feedback at each stage of the recruiting process, as well as a high level of perceived fairness. In fact, giving feedback to finalists is always a competitive differentiator for the highest-rated companies year after year.

Across the past decade, employers providing the highest-rated candidate experiences excelled at these particular recruiting tactics. However, the talent market shifted in unique ways over the past 12 to 18 months, and the companies providing 2022’s top candidate experiences adopted several additional tactics in response. Following are five that every employer should consider implementing at each major stage of the hiring process.

Talent Attraction Stage

If you think candidates only want to know how much a job pays and what its responsibilities are, think again — 48% of all North American candidates said content related to a prospective employer’s values was the most important type of content when researching jobs in 2022 (up an incredible 109% from 2021). And nearly a third want more information about each of the following: your company culture, diversity and inclusion, and why people want to work for your company.

The reason so many candidates find these aspects crucial is that they’re seeking stronger connections to their work and their employers — connections they say they’ve been lacking for too long. Companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences establish these connections from the first moments of a job search. Indeed, nurturing greater connection has even been identified as the antidote to turnover, quiet quitting, and poor commitment.

Application Stage

Employers have markedly improved the application process by streamlining application forms, implementing mobile application capabilities, integrating screenings and assessments, and the like. But they continue to falter over effective communication at this stage.

Last year, 34% of North America candidates had not heard back from employers one to two months or more after submitting an application. A mere 7% had been informed they didn’t get the job.

Miscues like these are easily fixable, even for the busiest recruiting teams, often through recruiting automation tools (such as CRMs and chatbots), which many teams already have. Solid communication at the application stage is a hallmark of the highest-rated candidate experiences because it improves perceived fairness, conveys respect for candidates, and helps keep qualified and future-fit talent in a company’s pipeline even after they’ve been rejected for a job.

The Interview/Screening/Assessment Stage

Certain kinds of interviews, tests, screenings, and assessments improve your company’s perceived fairness. For example, candidates generally feel structured interviews are fairer than unstructured ones, which is why more companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences use them to a greater degree than their competitors. (Keep in mind, candidates’ willingness to refer colleagues and friends increased 105% when they rated interview fairness high.)

As for pre-employment assessments and tests, those that made the greatest positive impact on perceived fairness in 2022 were simulated job tasks/activities, followed by games/puzzles, case study review/response, and behavioral and/or personality assessments.

Offer Stage

The talent market is currently so competitive that candidates are often considering more than one job offer at any given time. As a result, employers need to move with speed and decisiveness right up through the onboarding stage or risk losing desirable talent.

Companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences typically make a job offer within a week of the final interview.

In 2022, 62% of North American candidates in Talent Board’s research said that less than a week had elapsed between their last interview and their receipt of an offer letter, the highest percentage seen to date. Less encouragingly, nearly one-quarter of employers are taking up to two weeks to make an offer, and nearly 15% are taking three weeks to a month or more.

When employers did make job offers within a week of final interviews, candidates’ willingness to refer others increased 76% and their willingness to increase their relationship with the company jumped 77%.

Onboarding Stage

Many companies struggle with retention and continue to lose new hires — hourly and salaried professional — before they even start. Even the highest rated companies struggle with pre-boarding to onboarding.

Only 21% of the candidates from the highest rated companies and all other participating benchmark research companies said they were provided multiple options to communicate goals, meet key team members, and get questions answered prior to their start date. However, if they do experience this, their willingness to increase their relationship with the company increased 92%, a fantastic retention starter from the beginning.

Also, only 40% of candidates said they received a call from a hiring manager prior to starting, and only 24% received texts. But among those that do get a call or text, their willingness to increase their relationship increased 87%. The key here is that the more engagement prior to their start date, the better a retention starter it becomes.

Unfortunately, the percentage of candidates reporting great experiences fell in Talent Board’s 2022 research, while global levels of candidate resentment climbed. These may not be surprising trends, given how volatile and competitive the talent market has become, but they are reversible.

Implementing best practices like those outlined above will not only help you raise the bar on your company’s candidate experience but it will also give you an edge at various stages of the recruiting process — one that could easily mean the difference between winning and losing great talent.

This article is part of a series called Surveys.
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