The Simplest Steps That Lead to the Biggest Impact on Candidate Experience

In November, there were 10.9 million open jobs in the United States, a number that has more than doubled since the depth of the pandemic. With the Great Resignation upon us, workers are in a strong position in the labor market, leading many employers to wonder what they can do to hire talented people to fill those open positions — particularly given that 9 out of 10 organizations reported difficulty in hiring.

Granted, most elements of the labor market are out of your control. You can’t set unemployment benefits, for instance, but you can — and should — control the candidate experience.

And you should. The No. 1 reason job-seekers decline an offer is because of a negative experience during the interview process, according to CareerPlug. Likewise, Deloitte reports that “87% of talent say a positive interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once doubted.”

But too often, firms resort to gimmicks to attract people to work for them, rather than fixing their hiring practices: Organizations are hiring social media influencers to promote openings. They’re making stale pop-culture references alongside outdated team photos. They’re pretending that things like “flexible opportunities” make them stand out from the competition, instead of being the bare minimum. 

Reactive recruitment strategies like these are not sustainable. For example, a signing bonus might attract a candidate who has competing offers, but what happens next year when that worker feels underpaid by comparison?

Here’s what you can do right now – simple steps that don’t demand completely upending your entire process — to improve candidate experience at your organization:

Don’t ghost. As one career advisor wrote in Forbes, “At a minimum, companies should always acknowledge receipt of an application. Further, if they use an algorithm to filter applications, they should avoid sending immediate rejection emails. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to spend a decent amount of time applying for a job, just to receive an immediate rejection.”

Don’t overlook employees. Furthermore, once you’ve identified the candidates you’re most interested in, it can be welcoming to send a video message. As long as it doesn’t feel stilted, a quick hello from your CEO or another leader can let people know a lot about your corporate culture, without any adding incremental effort.

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Don’t over-structure interviews. Find ways to break free of rigid question-and-answer formats. One leader recommends structuring them around the skills you’re looking for via open-ended questions that can spark creativity. For example, to assess tech-savviness, you could ask engineering candidates how they would design an app for a certain task. For sales candidates, ask them to demo software they’re familiar with. As a Harvard Business Review article points out, this flexibility lets candidates “pick the topics of discussion themselves, as opposed to us thrusting ideas upon them.”

Don’t forget the runners-up. At the end of the process you’ll often find people who you would hire but you can’t. These silver and bronze medalists are still among your best candidates. Don’t toss them aside!

These applicants are where the greatest hiring inefficiency exists. Begin by sending a thoughtful rejection email or text that provides closure. Studies suggest that a timely, customized rejection letter can improve people’s fairness perceptions and intention to reapply.

Don’t restrict yourself to the status quo. To maintain engagement beyond a rejection, Ben Martinez, a recruiter with Sumato Coffee Company, mails the top tier of rejected applicants a bag of coffee with a handwritten thank-you note. “I do this as a warm way to let certain applicants know that I’m interested in staying connected for any future roles where they’ll be a better fit,” Martinez told LinkedIn

As you push to close the recruitment gap, remember: You don’t necessarily need to overhaul your entire hiring process. By taking simple proactive steps — rather than resorting to lame gimmicks — you’ll be better able to fill your open positions in a sustainable way.

Pooja Maggon is global head of HR at eTeam and High5. With extensive HR leadership experience, Maggon believes people are at the core of organizational success and has enjoyed helping companies of all sizes build world-class organizations. Across various industries, she has led large teams in the development of global functions for all areas of human resources.

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