Having a strong, seamless candidate experience is critical to attracting the best talent in today’s competitive market. And most companies think their interview process for job seekers is pretty solid. In fact, 77% told a Randstad Sourceright study that their candidate experience is “either excellent or very good.”
But candidates don’t agree. The same study found that 84% of candidates searching for a job had a negative encounter during the recruitment process. And more than half of those surveyed said they’d had more than one bad experience.
After speaking to hundreds of recruiters and hiring managers, I’ve found that that the disconnect largely comes from a lack of introspection and ego on the part of many companies. If I were to bring up poor candidate experiences, most would shake their heads and say, “We don’t have that problem—candidates love us, and we get new applicants every day!”
But data doesn’t lie.
So many companies are blind to their own negative candidate experiences because their egos keep them from getting a holistic perspective—especially when a company is awarded “Best place to work” and has an uptake in applicants.
Instead of zooming out to collect feedback from candidates going through the recruitment process, they’re zeroing in on what they’ve done “right.” But listening to job seekers’ feedback and trying to understand their struggles is essential to creating an experience that attracts the best talent.
Here’s why so many companies misunderstand their candidate experience and how any business can improve their own:
Ego causes a misalignment between ideals and execution.
Sometimes, a company will put an interview process in place that seems to check all of the boxes.
The hiring manager clearly communicates exactly what’s needed in a hire. The recruiter jots these details down, verifies them, and creates a great job description that also includes how many interview stages a candidate can expect during the process. The hiring team has a beautiful careers page, with all of the benefits and salaries detailed.
The company has checked an ideal off: clearly communicate expectations so candidates are adequately prepared for the interview process.
So, armed with the knowledge that there will be a certain number of interviews, assessments, or phone calls for them to complete, the candidate begins the process.
And then, something odd happens. The candidate is asked to get on the phone with someone new between the second and third interviews. Or they’re asked to complete an extra assessment, making it a five-step interview process instead of three. And when the offer comes, the base salary is for $8,000 less than what was published—and the candidate has no idea why.
At this point, the candidate is confused and frustrated, wondering why the agenda was even communicated to them if the company wasn’t planning on adhering to it.
The company is likely thinking, “Look at how well we communicate everything upfront. We’ve done everything necessary to create a seamless candidate experience.” But that’s ego talking—and the gap between a company’s ideals and execution is painfully clear.
Ego doesn’t leave room for honest feedback.
A lot of companies will review their recruitment methods and come to the conclusion that they deliver a strong candidate experience. “Just look at all these positive reviews! It’s clear that we have a great candidate experience.”
This is another situation where the ego creates a false sense of accomplishment. Many companies only ask for feedback from the people who got the job. They don’t bother to talk to candidates who weren’t given offers—or didn’t accept the offer.
The problem here is two-fold. First, when you survey only the candidates you hired, you’re missing out on a significant portion of the people who went through your interview process. You typically reject more people than you hire. Second, the people you’re collecting reviews from—those who’ve been recently hired—are incentivized to say good things about their experience. It’s possible they felt the recruitment process was a pain in the neck, but they love their new job and don’t want to say anything negative about the company.
Keep in mind, it’s possible to have a great work environment and company culture, while simultaneously offering an inadequate candidate experience. When people say they love working at your company, that has nothing to do with the recruiting cycle.
To drop the ego around your candidate experience, focus on empathy.
Creating a great candidate experience really comes down to understanding the challenges candidates go through in the job search and recruitment process. If you can empathize with their struggles, you’ll naturally want to improve the way you treat them.
To improve your company’s process, begin by gathering anonymous feedback—including from people who didn’t get the job. You can start with candidates who made it to the final stages but didn’t get an offer. Set up an automatic email with a short and sweet message: “Thank you so much for your interest. While this isn’t the best time to work together, we appreciate you taking the time to interview with us, learn more about our organization, and share your experiences. We’re always looking to make our candidate experience better, so we’d love it if you could offer some anonymous feedback on how you felt going through our recruiting process.”
The questions don’t have to be extensive, either:
• How many interviews did you have?
• What was the best part about the process?
• What do you feel could have been improved?
• Was there any part of the interview process you felt was repetitive?
• What was the most frustrating part of the process?
Once you’ve gained a better perspective of what candidates are actually experiencing, you can begin to make improvements. And if you continue gathering and implementing feedback from candidates, you should see their assessments evolve over time.
To do our part, our team at Edvo not only provides honest feedback to candidates but also to our employer partners. After each interview stage, candidates share how they felt about the experience while it’s still fresh in their minds. Because the feedback is anonymized, candidates openly share their thoughts. Once we have a large enough sample size of candidate feedback, we share the notes with the hiring team so they can have verified data on their candidate experience.
Grappling with honest feedback and setting ego aside is not easy. But if you want to hire the best and provide a strong candidate experience, then you have to be willing to critically analyze what you’re doing now—and what you could be doing better.