Learn How UST Ensured a Greater Return on Referrals

Dive into the data with us and learn how brand affinity shapes the candidate experience and explore the CandE case study with UST

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Apr 24, 2024

Brand affinity and candidate experience are closely intertwined, significantly influencing candidates’ willingness to refer others. This means that candidates with some form of connection with a potential employer, such as current employees or alumni, are more inclined to refer others than those without such connections.

In our analysis of the 2023 CandE Benchmark Research (with data collection ongoing for 2024), we observed that North American candidates who lacked any prior relationship with the company they applied to were 65% less likely to refer others than current employees (22% versus 43%). It’s important to note that we focus on definitively positive responses (such as ‘extremely likely’) and distinguish them from those simply ‘likely’ to refer.”

For candidates who followed the company because of its thought leadership or innovative practices, their extreme willingness to refer was 51% higher than those with no relationship with the company.

The differences are less for every other candidate population group below who had some affinity with the company for which they had applied (regardless of how far they got in the recruiting process). However, their likelihood of referring others remains higher than those without prior relationships.


However, it’s important to note that when we ask candidates later on in our survey research the likelihood they’ll share their negative experiences with their inner circles (close friends, family, colleagues, etc.), the percentages exceed 50% across all populations mentioned below. Specifically, the range falls between 50% and 60% in North America, EMEA, and Latin America, with even lower percentages in APAC.

The point is that candidates will still share negative experiences regardless of affinity. This is also true of their willingness to share positive experiences (consistently 70%- 80% worldwide).


Despite the positive sentiment skew observed in the APAC research data, most candidates are still open to sharing their negative experiences. What’s intriguing about our data is that the mix of companies and candidates is different yearly, but their responses have remained fairly consistent over time.

The percentage decreases when we consider the number of candidates openly sharing their positive and negative experiences online, such as through social media posts, Glassdoor reviews, Indeed reviews, and similar platforms. Nevertheless, there are still significant populations willing to share their experiences publicly. The consistency of this data reveals that employers cannot afford to ignore the impact of candidates sharing their experiences online.

It’s important to note that when it comes to sharing positive and negative experiences, about a third of the candidates worldwide tell us, “This information is private, and I don’t
share publicly.” That’s because most candidates don’t want to shout from the rooftops when they don’t get the job, only when they get it, no matter how good or bad the experience was. But our research tells us that most are willing to share every year, which can definitely impact an employer’s business and brand.

CandE Case Study: UST

For more than 24 years, UST has worked with the world’s best companies to make a real impact through transformation. Powered by technology, inspired by people, and led by their purpose, they partner with their clients from design to operation. Together, with over 30,000 employees in 30+ countries, they build for boundless impact—touching billions of lives in the process.

(You can download our latest global 2023 CandE Benchmark Research and all case studies here.)

1a. What changes have you made to your candidate experience recently?

A. Streamlined Communication: We’ve revamped our communication processes to ensure candidates receive timely updates at every stage of the hiring process. This includes acknowledging receipt of applications, setting clear expectations for the interview process, and providing constructive feedback after interviews.

B. Personalized Touch: We’ve introduced personalized interactions by assigning each candidate a dedicated point of contact. This individual serves as a guide for candidates, addressing their questions and concerns and providing them with a more human-centered experience.

C. Educational Initiatives: We’ve launched organization-wide training sessions and internal campaigns to emphasize the importance of treating candidates as human beings. This includes empathy-building exercises and understanding the impact of a positive candidate experience on our employer brand.

D. Data-Driven Feedback Loop: We’ve implemented a feedback mechanism to gather insights from candidates about their experience. We’re actively soliciting feedback through surveys and interviews to understand what’s working and what can be improved.

1b. What improvements are you most proud of?

A. Faster Response Times: We have significantly reduced the time it takes to respond to candidate inquiries and provide feedback after interviews. This has minimized the uncertainty that candidates often face during the hiring process.

B. Higher Candidate Satisfaction: Through our feedback mechanisms, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in candidate satisfaction scores. This is a clear indicator that our efforts are paying off.

C. Enhanced Brand Image: Our emphasis on humanizing the candidate experience has positively impacted our employer brand. We’ve received unsolicited positive feedback from candidates who have appreciated our approach.

D. Increased Referrals: Happy candidates are more likely to refer other talented individuals to our organization. This has led to a rise in the number of quality referrals we receive.

1c. How do you know that your changes are making a difference?

A. Surveys: We regularly conduct post-application and post-interview surveys to gather quantitative data on candidate satisfaction. We track key metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and candidate feedback.

B. Feedback and Testimonials: We collect qualitative feedback through open-ended questions and encourage candidates to share their experiences in their own words. This provides valuable insights into the emotional aspect of their journey.

C. Data Analysis: We analyze our time-to-hire metrics, which have improved significantly. We also track our offer acceptance rates, which have shown an upward trend since implementing these changes.

D. Referral Rates: The increased number of quality referrals we receive from candidates is another clear sign that our changes have positively impacted their experience and perception of our organization.

2. Why did you decide to change how candidates were being treated? What data or evidence prompted you to do so?

A. Competitive Hiring Environment: We operate in a highly competitive job market where top talent is in great demand. We recognize that providing an exceptional candidate experience is not just a matter of goodwill but a strategic necessity to attract and retain the best candidates.

B. Negative Impact of Poor Experience: We reviewed our attrition and offer acceptance rates and observed a correlation between a negative candidate experience and these metrics. Candidates who felt disregarded or frustrated during the application and interview process were more likely to decline offers or leave shortly after joining.

C. Feedback from Candidates: We actively sought feedback from candidates who had gone through our hiring process (Thanks, CandE!). Many shared their frustrations about long response times, unclear expectations, and a lack of personalized communication. This qualitative feedback highlighted specific pain points that needed addressing.

D. Organizational Culture: Our organization recognized the need to foster a culture that values empathy and human connection in all aspects of our business, including the hiring process, which drove the desire to align our candidate experience with our broader values.

3. How did you build support and commitment within your team and the broader organization? How did you demonstrate the importance of candidate experience?

Internal Communication:

A. Educational Workshops: We organized workshops and training sessions for our HR and hiring teams to raise awareness about the importance of candidate experience. These sessions covered the impact of candidate experience on our employer brand and the organization’s overall success.

B. Sharing Data: We shared relevant data and candidate feedback with our teams. By presenting concrete evidence of how candidate experience affects attrition rates, offer acceptance, and referrals, we made a compelling case for change.

C. Leadership Buy-In: We gained the support of key leaders within our organization by presenting the strategic value of candidate experience improvements. Their backing was essential in driving the necessary changes.

Empathy Building:

A. Putting Ourselves in Candidates’ Shoes: We encourage team members to empathize with candidates by asking them to imagine going through our own hiring process. This exercise helped them better understand the frustrations and concerns candidates might have.

B. Storytelling: Sharing real-life stories and testimonials from candidates who had positive or negative experiences with our organization made the importance of candidate experience more relatable.

Continuous Feedback Loop:

A. Regular Updates: We kept the entire organization informed about the progress of our candidate experience initiatives. We shared success stories and acknowledged improvements made by different teams.

B. Acting on Feedback: We actively sought feedback from employees about the changes we were implementing and incorporated their suggestions where relevant. This made the process more collaborative and encouraged commitment.


A. Cross-Functional Teams: We encouraged cross-functional collaboration to improve candidate experience. Involving teams from different parts of the organization highlighted that this was a shared responsibility, not limited to HR alone.

4. How do you measure candidate experience? How do you report on your recruiting process? How do you use that data to demonstrate financial impact and manage recruiter and hiring manager behaviors?

Measuring Candidate Experience:

A. Net Promoter Score (NPS): We regularly send out NPS surveys to candidates after key touchpoints in the hiring process. This simple score indicates the likelihood of candidates recommending us to others, providing a quantitative measure of their satisfaction. (Thanks

B. Candidate Satisfaction Surveys: We use candidate satisfaction surveys to collect detailed feedback on their experiences. These surveys include questions about communication, clarity of the process, and overall experience. (Thanks CandE!)

C. Interview Feedback: We encourage candidates to provide feedback on their interviews, both quantitative and qualitative. This helps us understand the quality of our interviews and identify areas for improvement. (Thanks CandE!)

D. Time-to-Hire Metrics: We track the time it takes to move candidates through the hiring process. Longer times may negatively impact the candidate experience, so we closely monitor and optimize this metric.

E. Offer Acceptance Rates: We measure the percentage of candidates who accept our job offers. If this rate increases, it can be a positive indicator of a better candidate experience.

Reporting on the Recruiting Process:

A. Quality of Hire Metrics: We analyze the performance and retention rates of hires from different stages in the hiring process. This allows us to connect hiring outcomes to the quality of the candidate experience.

B. Candidate Journey Maps: Visual representations of the candidate journey help us pinpoint areas of friction and opportunities for improvement. These maps provide valuable insights for process enhancement.

Demonstrating Financial Impact and Managing Behaviors:

A. Cost of Vacancy: We calculate the cost of keeping a position vacant and demonstrate how a poor candidate experience can lead to prolonged vacancies. Reduced time-to-fill and higher offer acceptance rates can lead to significant cost savings.

B. Referral Impact: We measure the increase in quality referrals from candidates who have had a positive experience. This demonstrates the financial value of a good candidate experience.

C. Offer Declination Costs: We calculate the financial impact of candidates declining offers due to a poor experience, factoring in the cost of extended searches and potentially higher salaries offered to attract top talent.

D. Employee Turnover: By linking candidate experience to employee satisfaction and retention, we can show the cost savings associated with reducing turnover, which often results from a negative hiring experience.

E. Behavioral Feedback: We use data and feedback to manage recruiter and hiring manager behaviors. If feedback suggests a particular individual or team consistently provides a subpar candidate experience, we address this issue through coaching, training, or process changes.