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7 Ways HR Can Improve the Candidate Experience In 2024

One major factor might be getting in the way of your talent search — a poor candidate experience.

Kathleen O'Donnell

by Kathleen O'Donnell - December 21st, 2023


It’s a job-seekers market today, with 1.8 open roles for every job seeker, and that means hiring the right people tops every HR team’s list of priorities. But one major factor might be getting in the way of your talent search — a poor candidate experience. Here’s what you need to know. 

How does your application and hiring process make applicants feel about your company? That’s your candidate experience, in a nutshell. The candidate experience influences how likely candidates are to apply for open positions, if they’re likely to accept an offer, and how they’ll talk about your company to their network. 

In other words, it’s absolutely essential to get it right!

Why Should HR Care About the Candidate Experience?

The candidate's experience matters because job applications and interviews are a two-way street. 

While you’re evaluating candidates to see if they’re a good fit for your organization, they are evaluating if they want to work there. If your company offers them poor communication, outdated application tech, and lengthy timelines, candidates will take that as a glimpse at how painful working for you could be, and the best ones will opt right out. 

Improving the candidate experience is especially critical right now as a talent shortage hits employers of all sizes. You just can’t afford to ignore your candidate experience if you want to attract the best people because they’ve got plenty of other options. Your candidate experience needs to actively win them over, not merely move them through your talent pipeline. 

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What Does a Good Candidate Experience Look Like?

We can all probably think back and remember a few poor experiences we’ve had while applying for a job. However, the good ones typically stand out because they respect job seekers — their other obligations, their expertise, and most of all, their time. 

7 Best to Improve the Candidate Experience

If your candidate experience isn’t up to par, here are the best practices to improve it and attract more top talent. 

1. Respect Your Candidates’ Time 

Your job applicants are busy people — they probably already have a job, family obligations, and a full life outside of work. If your hiring process doesn’t respect that, you’re not offering a positive candidate experience. 

Take a look at your existing processes to see how much time you require your applicants to give right now. Are you conducting three or four rounds of in-person interviews for an individual contributor position? Asking applicants to spend a whole day in interviews with every single member of your team individually? 

The first step to a better hiring process is checking the demands you’re putting on your applicants to see if they’re necessary and getting rid of the ones that aren’t.

2. Invest in New Technology 

Your candidate experience should show job seekers how effective and up-to-date your organization is, so make sure you aren’t using a job application system from a time before some of your applicants were born. 

If your system asks applicants to fill in their job experience manually and then requires them to upload a resume with identical information, it’s time to invest in a new one. With so many new HR tools on the market, there’s no reason to stick with a system that causes friction. 

3. Improve Your Careers Page 

Before they apply to your open roles, prospective candidates likely check out your website and browse your career page to get more info on your company. Make sure that page reflects the best of your culture. Share what makes your company special, what they will love about working for you, and how your current employees are thriving and succeeding. 

Don’t forget the basics of a good user experience, either. Ensuring your careers page is easy for candidates to find on your website, gives clear application instructions, and requires minimal information up front all make the application process smoother. 

4. Create Clear Job Postings

Vague, confusing job postings and descriptions put people off from applying to your jobs. If they can’t tell if they’re qualified, would enjoy the role, or what they are expected to achieve, many job seekers will skip right over it and head elsewhere. Be specific, clear, and direct in your job postings. Make sure that candidates know exactly what kind of position they'll be interviewing for!

One more thing – you should really consider including a salary range in your postings. While compensation isn’t everything, it’s a major reason why people switch jobs, and taking an applicant through one or more interviews before telling them how much the job pays isn’t a good experience. If their expectations and your comp aren’t aligned, you’ve now wasted time on both sides. 

5. Provide Timely Post-Interview Feedback 

45% of candidates say an employer has ghosted them — and 36% of the time, employers ghosted after one or more interviews. Applicants deserve timely feedback after an interview, even if it’s just to say you’re waiting on a decision and will keep them updated. Top talent isn’t going to wait around for weeks to hear from you – they’ll simply take another job and look back on their experience with your company poorly. 

Fortunately, you can automate a lot of routine communication in the hiring process. Sending applicants a confirmation that you received their application, a reminder of their upcoming interview, and a follow-up with the next steps via email can be automated while keeping your candidates in the loop. 

However, once you interview a candidate, you should send a personalized, timely note (from a real person, not a [email protected] email address) within a few days to let them know if they’re moving forward or not. They deserve that, at the very least, after investing their time in your hiring process. 

6. Give Candidates a Feel for Your Company Culture 

Happiness at work is about much more than performing tasks — company culture plays a huge role as well. So show candidates what your company culture is all about during the hiring process! 

Ask current employees to contribute their thoughts on your careers page and in interviews to give an accurate view of your company culture’s top selling points. Your Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) surveys are a great source of this information as well. 

Exhibiting authenticity is just as critical as putting your company’s best foot forward. You don’t want to attract candidates with a false impression because those hires likely won’t be a good fit – and that’s a recipe for a low retention rate. 

7. Send a Candidate Experience Survey

You won’t know how your candidate experience truly feels to applicants unless you ask them directly. Sending a candidate experience survey to applicants reveals their feelings about your hiring process and can highlight areas for improvement. Asking both successful and unsuccessful applicants about their experience is important because you want to get the full picture — even candidates who didn’t get the job talk to their networks, after all. 

With regular surveys, you can measure how your employer brand grows and improves over time (once you’ve implemented these suggestions!). Much like sending regular employee engagement surveys, you won’t know what your people think until you get their direct opinions. 

Keep in mind that if you’re asking candidates for open and honest feedback, you should offer them the same if they ask — particularly if they’ve interviewed at least once.

The Biggest Mistakes HR Teams Make With Candidate Experience

Hiring the right people for the right roles at the right time is a tough job. Sometimes that challenge means HR teams become too focused on what the company needs from applicants and job seekers. 

They don’t mean to ignore the candidate experience, but it slips under the radar for too long until hiring top talent is so difficult they’re forced to act. 

Some of the biggest mistakes HR teams make with candidate experience include:

  1. Not taking the time to understand the open role truly

  2. Writing job descriptions that neglect inclusivity

  3. Rejecting overqualified candidates

  4. Asking meaningless questions that lead to stock answers

  5. Not testing the candidates' skills

Don’t fall into that common trap! Learning to look at your hiring process through the eyes of applicants is critical to creating a better candidate experience. Put yourself in their shoes and see how your process measures up — and ask them what they think as well. 

Armed with that information, you can start improving your candidate experience today with better technology, clearer job postings, updated careers pages, and a more timely employee interview process, among other best practices. 

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Updated 12/21/2023

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