It’s no secret that competition for the job market is heating up. And as the fight for top talent gets more intense, so has the focus on two of the most important words that can set businesses apart from the rest: candidate experience.

Now that information – both positive and negative – about companies is more readily available, and candidates are less restricted by geography, the increasingly competitive job market has meant that every aspect of the hiring process matters now more than ever. But building an engaging candidate experience is a lot harder than it seems. It requires thinking about every step of the journey to ensure that the message is consistent across the board — and ultimately, that your company is one worth working for.

As the first stage job seekers interact with your company, the candidate experience is highly crucial because it immediately influences their decision to apply to your company and subsequently, accept your job offer should they be selected. There are, however, still businesses that do not fully appreciate the sizeable ripple effect of the candidate experience.

According to our Talent Trends 2021 report, 73% of respondents recounted frustrating experiences during the interview stage and stated that these dissatisfactions would eventually affect their decision to accept a job offer.

So, what can you do to improve this process, and why is it important?

What makes a great candidate experience?

The interview process can be tricky to navigate. We’ve found that the three most common frustrations faced by candidates are a lack of follow-up; a lack of transparency regarding job expectations and remuneration; and an unnecessarily long and tedious interview process, which can often be easily mitigated with the right knowledge and tools.

Creating a better candidate experience requires businesses to review their recruiting process from pre-application to onboarding. To start, make your candidate’s job search process as fuss-free as possible. This means ensuring that your company website’s careers section and job descriptions are clear and straight to the point while keeping your online job application process seamless. Making your careers page engaging and as easy to find as possible, while giving clear application instructions, are also practices you should implement.

Candidates don’t enjoy feeling left in the dark, and a lack of communication is frustrating. Respecting the candidate’s time with the right number of interviews and following up quickly absolutely impacts their overall experience. Even the most sought-after brands have needed to reassess their candidate experience.

According to Google’s oversight of its own hiring process, four interviews are more than enough to make an informed hiring decision — all you have to do is ask the right questions. Those who make it through should be kept updated on the remaining steps of the interview, such as who will be carrying out the interview or what test assignments can be expected.

The onboarding process plays just as important a part in the candidate experience as the other stages of hiring. Being consistent from pre-application to interviews and finally, the moment when the candidate officially joins the team, is indicative of how a company truly values its people.

The candidate experience has never been more important, now that hiring in most parts of the world has moved online. In fact, 86% of organisations made the switch to virtual interviews during the pandemic, which has forced businesses to rethink how they can connect and provide information to candidates to the same extent as they would for physical, face-to-face interviews.

Giving candidates projections for the business, both during and after the pandemic, can also help establish trust and prevent blindsiding in the future. Making digital interviews convenient by utilising video technology, and closing the loop with regular check-ins and feedback, can eliminate any gaps in communication.

Why should you care about the candidate experience?

Employer branding

The candidate experience is important, and that’s not only because 65% of candidates say a bad interview experience makes them lose interest in the job. It’s also a major component of employer branding: how companies treat their employees can define their brand and reputation for years to come.

Interviews are innately awkward since they are essentially intimate conversations with a complete stranger. Because the candidate is in a vulnerable position, taking some time to make them feel more comfortable during the interview will make them want to tell other people about their experience. Rejected candidates who had a poor experience will also likely tell others, creating negative publicity that will affect your ability to attract potential talent in the future.

Glassdoor has also found that its users read at least six reviews before forming an opinion of a company. In addition, 70% of job seekers now look to reviews before making career decisions.

Research by Talent Board, a not-for-profit organisation focusing on candidate experience, revealed that as many as 35% of job candidates who had a bad experience with a company share it via social media, as well as by writing reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed  — so a candidate’s experience will often travel quickly via word of mouth.

Keep your customers

Revenue is another reason why the candidate experience is so crucial today. Businesses that fail to provide the same experience for their prospective candidates as they do for their customers is costing some companies millions in lost revenue.

Virgin Media, for example, receives 150,000 applications every year, but only hires 3,500 of them. Because of lapses during the interview process, 7,500 of these applicants in 2015 were sufficiently upset enough to cancel their contracts and sign up with Virgin Media’s competitors instead, costing the company US$6 million in lost revenue each year. The company updated its hiring process to focus on creating a candidate experience so positive that it would even attract new customer opportunities from the people it engaged with, despite not landing the role.

Just as a company assesses the suitability of a candidate, job seekers are always evaluating whether the company is a good fit for them. By grasping the importance of a candidate’s journey and designing the recruiting process around respect, trust and welfare, firms are sharpening their competitive edge in the burgeoning job market.

Download our Talent Trends 2021 report for insights on how you can improve your company’s candidate experience.

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