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Ways to improve candidate experience

Improving the candidate experience is always a worthwhile endeavor, both as a matter of professionalism and as a way to attract better talent. And that’s not all, according to research from CareerArc, 72% of applicants who had a negative experience told other people about it, either in person or by posting in online forums like Glassdoor.

This means that offering a good candidate experience isn’t just important for attracting applicants, it’s important for protecting your brand.

In this article, we’ll go over things employers can do to make sure the candidate experience is a good one.

What is the Candidate Experience?

The recruiting experience is what it sounds like — the experience that candidate has from the time they first engage with a listed vacancy to the time they are either selected or non-selected for the role.

The first impression the candidate will have of your company is the job description, so be sure that you’ve taken the time to craft one that is well-written and on-brand. If your description is a mess, contains red flags or other errors, the candidate experience is over before it has even begun, as the applicant will pass over your posting for something that seems like a better fit.

In addition to making sure your listings are well-written, there are other things that you can do to make your company stand out, such as creating a branded, content-rich careers portal. These portals are a space where you can show candidates why your company stands out from the crowd, and why they should want to work with you. Highlight things like company culture, benefits, current employee testimonials, and recent cool projects on this page.

One important note about branded portals, whatever you do, do not force candidates to create a username and password for your site in order to log in. There is no reason that this should be necessary and many candidates will feel that it is disrespectful of their time.

If the candidate does apply to your position, then the experience starts from the first contact between your organization and the applicant.

Communication — The Key to a Positive Candidate Experience

The single best thing you can do to ensure your applicants have a good experience is to keep them in the loop, nobody likes being ghosted by a potential employer. The further along in the hiring process the applicant gets, the more important clear and regular communication becomes.

The first thing here is to always send a confirmation email when you receive an application. This lets the candidate know that they are now in your system, and that they don’t need to follow up until they next hear from you.

If a candidate does not get a confirmation email from you, they are likely to assume that they accidentally input the wrong email address in the application, and fill out the application page again.

If it’s going to take you a little longer than you anticipated to make a determination as to the applicant’s status, that’s fine! But write to the applicant and tell them this directly, rather than emailing them two weeks later than you had said that you would.

No matter how clear your application process is, there will always some applicants who have questions. So make sure your recruitment team’s contact information is available in your branded portal and be ready to clearly and concisely answer them if asked.

UX, Questions, and Other Hidden Blocks

Another aspect of making sure you candidates have a good experience is ensuring that the UX on your application form is user friendly. At a minimum, this means it needs to optimised for mobile as well as web.

You also need to think carefully about what questions you ask on your form. If you are going to mark a field as required, be sure that it really is required. Don’t make all fields required just because you think that you will be able to get more and better information this way — you won’t.

Another major «don’t » is asking about salary history. Never do this. Applicants universally find this question off-putting, and in the event that their previous salary was less than what they think the market will bear, they’ll just lie on this section anyway. The only exception to this rule is government contractors who are legally required to collect this information for reporting reasons.

Test Tasks

Test tasks are a common and necessary tool in the hiring process, and they are excellent for assessing an applicant’s skills and abilities. However, there is etiquette surrounding their implementation. 

The first rule for any test task is to make sure that the scope of work is a reasonable one.  Especially in the early parts of a hiring process, an unpaid test task should not require a huge time commitment from the applicant — it should be something that they can complete in a few hours. 

If you ask an applicant to complete a task that represents a whole day’s worth of labor, they may suspect that your company is just using the vacancy to get some free work done, rather than assessing skills.

And even if they don’t suspect this, applicants have other responsibilities in their lives, including their current job. If the test task is too time consuming, they may simply conclude that it’s not worth putting in the time just to have a chance of getting to the next interview.

If you need to test a wide variety of skills for your position, it’s better to spread these tests out across the hiring process, rather than dumping all of them on candidate at once.

For example, you can send a smaller technical task, before the first interview, and if the applicant successfully completes it and then passes your first in-person interview, you can then invite them back for an on-site technical task.

If your test task is too long, this is definitely something you can expect applicants to mention on the candidate experience questions section of Glassdoor.


If you need to reject a candidate, do so as soon as you can. This can take the form of a polite email or phone call, but do make sure you personalize it.

What you should never do is write the applicant to schedule a next interview or call, only with the intention of telling the applicant that they have not been selected. If you contact the applicant to for example, schedule a follow-up meeting for the next week, they are going to think that this is the next interview stage and be very unpleasantly surprised when it is a rejection.

As we mentioned earlier, when rejecting an applicant, especially when it is someone who completed several interviews and made it far along in the process, it is best to provide as detailed feedback as you can on the person was not selected for further consideration, in kind but clear language.

This way, the applicant knows how they can improve for future job opportunities.

For example, if they did not pass the technical task, tell them exactly which aspect of the task fell short so that they can brush up on the relevant skills. Or maybe in the final round of selection, there were several promising applicants, and the deciding factor was that one had several more years of industry experience than any of the others, etc.

How To Improve the Candidate Experience

What to do if you see areas where your candidate experience could be improved, but have too many other fires to put out to do a whole overhaul on the applicant experience?

Rather than reinvent the wheel yourself, it may be easier to choose an ATS that already implements best candidate experience practices. A top-of-the-line ATS will do at least these 3 things to make your candidates’ lives easier;

  • Make it easy to set up a streamlined mobile application process
  • Make recruiting faster by storing all data in one place
  • Reduce burden on your human HR staff by parsing resumes and sending only the best ones to you for consideration

The above functionalities are must-haves for any ATS, but new technology is allowing them to go even further.

Employa, for example, does all of the above, but also enables you to engage in regular, human-like communication with applicants; asking them to clarify any red flags, soliciting additional information about their skills, and sharing the vacancy’s status with the candidate throughout the application process (eg. If it is still open, how many others applied and what the applicant’s chances of selection are).

Explore recruitment as a service with Employa! Try out our free demo to see how Employa can help you attract top talent through a best-in-class candidate experience.

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