The Importance of Candidate Experience and How it Affects Recruiting

Doug Horn on November 18, 2014 9:38:00 AM EST


With bright eyes and high hopes, jobseekers apply for positions within companies for which they would like to work. These can be millennials looking for their first job out of college, people for whom the recession has hit hard, or currently employed workers looking for a change of scenery. Yet for each group, one thing remains constant: if the candidate experience is not enjoyable, those people will likely come away with tainted views of the company to which they applied.

Applying to jobs can quickly become a demoralizing process if companies do not pay special attention to the candidate experience. Updating one’s resume and specifically tailoring cover letters for each job gets tiring, and if no one is responding, it can feel a little bit like getting stood up for a date.

Some businesses believe that the failure to acknowledge a job application will not harm their company’s reputation, when in fact the opposite is true. A study by Career Builder found that 44% of workers who did not hear back from an employer when they applied for a job said they had a worse opinion of that employer. A separate study found that 32% reported that they would be less likely to buy a product from a company who did not respond to their job application.

There are certainly organizations reading this and saying, “But how can we possibly respond to every applicant? That’s a waste of time and resources. It’s easier to just ignore the ones that we don’t want.” This all may be true, but just because something is easier, does that necessarily make it the right business move?


In today’s world, where something posted online can spread with the speed of Captain Trips, probably not. Just look at Comcast, who took a big hit to their (already pretty terrible) reputation when a phone call of a man attempting to cancel his internet service and repeatedly getting stonewalled by the customer service representative went viral. Not only did it take an ocean of damage control to deal with that fiasco, but Comcast won the prestigious “Worst Company in America” award thanks in large part to it.

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Granted, that may be a customer experience issue, but businesses should not be so naïve as to think candidate experiences within the recruitment process will simply stay within the company. In fact, 78% of workers said they would discuss a bad experience they had with an employer with friends and family, while 17% said they would post something about their negative experience on social media. An additional 6% said they would blog about a bad experience.

Another important factor in creating a good candidate experience is ease and fluidity of application. A study by Dr. John Sullivan and Associates found that in general, 90% of candidates who reach a career site do not actually apply. There are a myriad of issues that cause that number to be so high, but the most significant one is probably that 70% of companies force their applicants through a “maze-like microsite,” as Meghan M. Biro puts it, and then fail to acknowledge their application through an email or phone call. Even when applicants are contacted, 21% of recruiters are reportedly not enthusiastic about the company in question being an employer of choice, which adds an entirely different layer of complexity to the candidate experience.

These things all add up to affect a company’s recruiting. How can businesses expect to attract the best and brightest when their entire system to engage applicants is inherently flawed? When it comes to candidate experience, employers should A) take a look at the Candidate Experience Awards (CandE Awards) for examples of what companies are doing right and B) remember these three tips to ensure they’re doing all they can to entice the top talent.

1) Try to respond to every application with some semblance of speed. If the quantity is simply too much to handle manually, look into automated services.

2) Do not underestimate negative recruiting experiences. Scorned candidates can be vindictive, and if one of their blog posts or tweets goes viral, the PR department is going to be busy.

3) Simplify the application process. Get rid of any unnecessary roadblocks that get in the way of interested parties submitting their resumes.

This simple advice could be all the difference from providing a nightmare candidate experience to one that jobseekers rave about to their friends.