11 Small Details For A Better Candidate Experience, According to Experts

October 11, 2019

There are a lot of steps that go into a hiring process – whether it’s creating and posting your job listing, reviewing resumes, conducting phone screens, performing in-person interviews, drawing up the job offer, closing the deal and all of the communications and logistics that happen in between all of those steps. But while you and your team are probably very familiar with the details of the hiring process from this one perspective, the job candidates you’re evaluating are seeing your hiring process from a totally different perspective on the other side.

The questions you should be asking yourself are…

-Are you providing as great an overall candidate experience as you should be?
-Are you providing a positive, memorable experience that’ll leave the best candidates wanting to work for you, or are you only doing the bare minimum as you evaluate job applicants – without any thought of their candidate experience?

These are questions that any self-aware hiring manager and / or talent acquisition pro should be asking themselves as they try to attract and recruit all-star candidates into their organization. Because the reality is – it’s not enough to just post jobs and conduct your standard interviews at the bare minimum. Since top job candidates today have likely “seen it all”, it takes some thoughtfulness and effort in your candidate experience to get your company to stand out against other companies who are vying for the same candidates’ attention.

To get a feel for WHAT aspects of the candidate experience make a real difference for job candidates and how to improve yours, we asked a bunch of company leaders and hiring experts their perspective on the matter. Surprisingly, their insight had a lot to do with the same themes, which revolve around respect, communication and transparency (among a few other important things!).

Here are the 11 details we should all pay closer attention to for a better, more positive candidate experience, according to the experts:

1. Help them feel welcome from the start and value their time throughout

“On the day of the interview, we want every interviewee to feel comfortable in our space. We often:
– Have a designated point person to greet the candidate
– Offer water/tea/coffee
– Show them where the bathroom/closet is
– Have a resume and schedule printed for each person interviewing
– Ask some easy, leading questions to make candidate comfortable before jumping into the request for specifics”

– Kendra Frisbie, President of DECASO 

“Make it clear you value their time. Do your best to make the in-person experience as seamless as possible. Candidates often take time off work to come in for interviews, so it’s inconvenient if they’re left waiting for an unreasonable amount of time or are asked to reschedule at the last minute. It sends the message that they are not valued — even if that’s not your intention.”

– Amy Finn, Director of Candidate Experience & Marketing at WinterWyman 

“When meeting and interviewing the candidate: Find something to talk about that is NOT job/career related. This helps candidates get comfortable and feel like you are interested in who they are- not just a number in the race for the job. This benefits both of you- you’ll get a clear sense of who you may be bringing into the company culture and candidates can relax and do their best, showing their true colors. The topic can be anything you know or notice- maybe where candidate grew up (this might be on the application), interesting tie, scarf, bag/briefcase. You might share something from yourself- favorite food, tv show, movies, pets- to discover common interests. This authentic interest in the candidate makes all the difference in the experience you both have.”

– Laura MacLeod, LMSW, HR Expert and Consultant at From The Inside Out Project®

2. Make life easy for them

“At Chairish, we like to make our interview process easy, simple and speedy. When we meet with them in-person, we’re sure they spend time with all the decision-makers on the same day, which allows us to move forward almost immediately. We turn feedback around quickly, and our time-to-hire ratio is fast too, which is appreciated by the interviewees. The transparency and open dialogue we have with each candidate post-interview lets them know where they stand in the hiring process, which immediately puts them at ease. We’re a fast-paced company, so it’s important that HR moves quickly too!”

– Anna Brockway, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Chairish

“Streamline the interview process. This will only help YOUR chances, as the EMPLOYER, of gaining top talent. The more steps you add to your interview process (or even worse – the longer the waiting period), the more time you give the candidate to find another position. If possible, keep the interview process down to 2-3 rounds TOTAL.”

– Caitlin Morse, Senior Corporate Communication Consultant at Combined Insurance, A Chubb Company

“Make sure you give candidates all the information they need to arrive at the interview on time and as prepared as possible. Give them specific instructions on how to reach your offices and if/where there is parking around your building. Don’t leave the guess work up to the candidate. Let them know who they will be meeting with, especially if they should expect a larger panel interview.”

– Robin Schwartz, PHR MFG Jobs

3. Give them a chance to meet the team 

“While the hiring managers may be making the final decision as to who is hired, allowing the candidate to meet and speak with various team members still helps enhance the candidate experience. Allowing candidates to speak with team members gives them the opportunity to ask questions they may not ask hiring managers or hear the experiences of those who are “in the trenches” every day.”

– Robin Schwartz, PHR MFG Jobs

“A small detail that goes a long way in creating a great interview experience is introducing the job candidate to a variety of different team members from all levels of the company.

In addition to meeting with the hiring team and direct supervisor, we typically take candidates out to lunch as a group. This helps the candidate see what they can expect on a cultural level and if it’s the kind of work environment they’d enjoy going to day after day.

Having the candidate interact with a wider range of team members reduces the risk of biased hiring, ensures that the candidate is able to evaluate the company better and decide whether it’s a fit on their end, gives the candidate a chance to ask more questions and to answer more questions relevant to the position being filled, and serves as a team building activity for the internal company.”

–  Jim Morris, President and Owner of The Alternative Board Tennessee Valley

4. Show them your workspace

“Give an office tour. In order for a candidate to be able to picture themselves working at your company, they need to be able to visualize where they may end up working. Show them around and introduce them to your coworkers as you walk by (even if they’re not part of the interview). Provide as much of a 360 view of what their life may be like when working with/for you.”

– Caitlin Morse, Senior Corporate Communication Consultant at Combined Insurance, A Chubb Company

“I have found one of the best ways to create a great candidate experience is by starting the visit off with a tour of the facility. Showing them around provides a chance for friendly  conversation, which isn¹t as intimidating as professional conversation. This makes them feel relaxed and more comfortable by the time we get to the conference room for the interview. The candidates have a level of comfort with me and not as intimidated.”

– Vladimir Gendelman, Founder & CEO of Company Folders, Inc.

5. Be honest and transparent

“We hear consistently that candidates hate being strung along. If you don’t think you can work with a candidate, be honest. Most job seekers would rather interact with someone who is upfront and direct.” –

A lot of employers interview someone, and in an effort to make the situation less awkward, they give the potential future employee false hope. They will say they like the interviewee, and next week the interviewee will receive a call for a second interview. Except the interviewee never gets called back. I have seen some employees that are extreme people pleasers go one step further and even say the person is hired and he will hear back more information soon. When you try to make the situation less awkward, it actually becomes more awkward because next week you have to answer to this candidate why you changed your mind. Did you find a better candidate? Did you lie? How are you going to explain? It also wastes the person’s time. This person might stop looking for a job, relying on your promise of employment.

My advice is to be upfront. I have even told candidates they’re not the right fit within 1 minute of meeting them. One time, this college student came for an interview. I had my recruiting person screen them and send me the ones that would be a good fit. This college student somehow passed the screening procedures and came in. After the first interview question, I realized he is not the right fit. He just didn’t have the qualifications and experiences that I needed. I told him No offense, nothing against you, but you just don’t have the experience that I am looking for. I am sure you are a smart person, since you’re a computer engineer. But I just can’t hire you because I need someone experienced. Ya, the person’s ego might hurt a bit, but the person will be happy that you didn’t give them false hope and you didn’t waste their time.”

-Jesse Harrison, CEO of the Employee Justice Legal Team

6. Embrace candidate feedback

“Making a great candidate experience without candidates’ feedback is practically impossible. Some of this feedback will be negative, and that’s okay. Taken as a whole, candidate feedback will help you identify bottlenecks in your hiring process, potential legal pitfalls, and other areas for improvement. In the age of automation, having a human element – where possible – is crucial to helping you stand out from the competition. Embracing candidate feedback, positive or negative, will help you identify the areas where the human touch will have the greatest impact. Monitoring feedback is a small detail that has a huge impact on the overall experience.”

– Morgan Powell, Recruiting Manager at HireVue

7. Use a recruiting video

“We implemented a recruiting video about six months ago as part of our employee hiring strategy. I can already see the improvement in the quality of talent and the hiring process. Here are some thoughts on using video for recruiting that went into our decision to implement.

Tech talent wants to like feel like they are a part of the team. Using video as a magnet in the recruitment process helps young candidates feel immersed in the culture of the company. It is comforting, engaging and convenient to their lifestyle.

Tech talent can spot phoniness instantly. In providing a recruiting video, potential recruits receive a genuine sense that people enjoy working at the company, can be themselves at work, and collaborate well with each other. They prefer to work for companies that embrace the latest technology and sets itself apart. A recruiting video displays technologically savvy and employee-focus.”

-Ian McClarty, President & CEO of PhoenixNAP Global IT Services

8. Do something totally out of the norm

“Deviate from the usual Q&A format for in-person interviews. Have the candidate complete tasks and activities that simulate what it will be like to work with their future team to give them a concrete sense of their future work.”

– Adrian Ridner, CEO & Co-founder of Study.com

“Think of every step in the candidate experience as an opportunity to preview your culture. At Stories Inc, one of our values is Ownership, that means everyone has power to make decisions. So, that meant giving someone who was joining my team the opportunity to check my references. We shouldn’t start our experience working together with a power inbalance: I get to talk to your valued and fragile work relationships, so you can talk to mine.”

– Lauryn Sargent, Co-founder and Partner at Stories Incorporated

9. Communicate consistently

“Communication is one area where most companies absolutely drop the ball. Throughout the interview process, make sure that every single candidate in your pipeline is aware of where they stand, what the next steps are and when those next steps will occur. Candidates that are unsure of where they stand will start doubting your interest level in them and will start applying to other jobs. If you’re clear and timely in your communication to candidates, you reduce the risk that you’ll lose out on your next great hire.”

– Brad Owens Host of the Small Business Hiring Podcast and hiring and retention expert at HRcoaching.com

“Even if you don’t have a final update yet, keep in touch with the candidate to show you are invested in them. At Study.com, our recruiting team adheres to a policy of getting back to candidates within two business days of any phone or in-person interview.”

– Adrian Ridner, CEO & Co-founder of Study.com

“It is clear that candidates want a realistic overview of the job with a clearer understanding of the role and responsibilities. This should be done from the very start with clearly written job descriptions listing all the necessary requirements so unqualified candidates do not waste time applying for a job that they would never be considered for.”

– Crystal Huang, CEO of ProSky

10. Set and manage expectations early on

“When you’re interviewing candidates, let them know what your timeline looks like and how often you will be in touch. Whatever the response, it is crucial to have the expectations clearly outlined. The factors that give candidates negative impressions of companies vary, of course, but poor communication consistently tops the list. Job applicants expect a level of communication that they often do not get.”

-Amy Finn, Director of Candidate Experience & Marketing at WinterWyman

“A lot of the candidate frustration with the recruiting process comes from them investing a significant amount of time only to receive little to no feedback. When hiring managers or recruiters don’t clarify expectations and timelines, candidates are left waiting and wondering for further communication from the company, which eventually comes in the form of canned email responses that can feel impersonal and robotic.”

– Crystal Huang, CEO of ProSky

11. Train your employees to be good interviewers

“Invest in making sure your employees are effective interviewers for external candidates. Before conducting interviews, our employees go through a training process so they are accurately representing the Study.com culture and providing a great candidate experience.”

– Adrian Ridner, CEO & Co-founder of Study.com

“Make sure that all the interviewers are prepared (have specific questions to ask) for the interview. They should first SELL the opportunity, organization, team etc. and ONLY then jump into questions.”

– Saoirse Downey, Founder of Treasure Search Partners


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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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