Candidate experience: What success actually looks like

May 10, 2021 Updated: September 28, 2023 5 min read

Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people with many demanding responsibilities. Between filtering through resumes, screening applicants, and managing interviews, it can be hard to ensure every candidate has a positive interview experience with your company.

But the interview is the single most important touchpoint in the candidate journey. Your hiring success depends on a strong interview process. According to research from Brandon Hall Group, 90 percent of employers consider interviewing critical to success and 49 percent say the interview has the biggest impact on the candidate experience. Candidates share the same view. 83 percent of job seekers say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked, while 87 percent say a positive interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once doubted.

In this blog post, we’ll explore ways that talent acquisition teams can deliver a positive interview experience that results in a better candidate experience and, ultimately, better hiring outcomes.

5 Ways To Create a Positive Interview Experience

For candidates, the interview stage of the hiring process is when things start getting personal. The interview is their first glimpse of your company culture and the first chance they have to actually see you, hear you, and have their questions answered.

Candidates invest a considerable amount of time and effort into the process, often spending hours preparing for interviews.

Imagine a candidate spent 10 hours preparing for an interview with your company that went awry because it was poorly designed or executed? They’ll leave disappointed, frustrated, and likely with a lower opinion of your company as a potential employer. On the other hand, a positive interview experience leaves candidates excited, engaged, and more likely to consider your company as their first choice.

A great candidate experience starts with a great interview process. Recruiters and talent acquisition teams have to create an intentional, meaningful interview process to engage and win over the best candidates.

Here are five tips for creating an interview experience that is positive and productive for every candidate:

  • Speed up your hiring process
  • Let candidates know what to expect
  • Help hiring managers become better interviewers
  • Ensure interviews are inclusive
  • Ask candidates for post-interview feedback

Let’s dive into each tip individually.

1. Speed up your hiring process

It’s a job seeker’s market and 55 percent of candidates say they’ll give up and move on if they haven’t heard from an employer within just two weeks of applying. To keep them engaged and interested, you need to create a fast, efficient hiring process.

One way to drive efficiency in recruiting is to opt for video interviews. Not only do candidates prefer the convenience of video interviews—nearly 25 percent more job seekers prefer live video interviews to in-person interviews—they also accelerate the hiring process. By shortening the time between a candidate’s application and their scheduled interview, you can create a better candidate experience and avoid losing top talent from your hiring funnel.

2. Let candidates know what to expect

Candidates want a transparent interview process, with 82 percent reporting they expect employers to provide a clear timeline and to keep them updated throughout the process.

To meet candidate expectations, communicate early on what the recruitment process will involve. Share timelines, what candidates can expect, any specific ways they should prepare for interviews, and when you anticipate making a hiring decision. Make sure you are also keeping candidates updated in a timely manner on how they are progressing through the interview process. Candidates want and expect this information—make it a priority to give it to them.

3. Help hiring managers become better interviewers

It’s assumed hiring teams have the skills and knowledge required to deliver a great interview experience, but that’s usually not the case. Unlike great athletes, great interviewers aren’t born—they are developed through coaching and practice. Unfortunately, hiring managers and panel members often have little to no training in interview techniques.

Talent acquisition and recruiting teams can help hiring managers become better interviewers through ongoing coaching and feedback. Training hiring teams on complex interviewing techniques like combating biases, using structured interviews, and avoiding cliché questions can help them conduct interviews in a way that makes a positive impression on candidates.

4. Ensure interviews are inclusive

Candidates today expect a fair, equitable, and consistent interview experience. Research shows that 70 percent of candidates value a commitment to diversity in potential employers, and 33 percent of recruiters report that job seekers are inquiring about diversity initiatives more than they did in the previous year.

Adjusting your interviewing processes to be as inclusive as possible will not only improve your employer brand and the candidate experience, it will also improve the quality of your hires.

Leveraging structured interviews—where interviewers ask each candidate the same questions, in the same order—is key to a more inclusive interview process. Utilizing intelligent interviewing technology can also help organizations more effectively conduct structured interviews and reduce the impact of unconscious bias.

5. Ask candidates for post-interview feedback

When candidates have finished interviewing, it’s important to ask them what they thought of the process. Was it what they expected? Did they feel it was fair and inclusive? Conducting post-interview surveys can inform your interviewing strategy and help coach hiring teams on how they can deliver a better interview experience.

While it’s true that some candidates may feel hesitant about providing feedback that could be perceived as negative or a criticism, asking for candidate feedback will demonstrate your organization’s commitment to treating candidates in a fair and consistent way. And only when you take the time to truly understand the candidate’s perspective will you be able to deliver a better candidate experience.

Designing a Better Interview Process

Interviewing can sometimes feel a bit like the Wild West. With so much variation in interviewing processes, styles, and skills across hiring teams, it can be difficult for HR and talent acquisition leaders to ensure every candidate has a positive experience. By following these simple strategies, you can delight candidates from the first point of contact, make your interviewing process stand out, and provide an exceptional candidate experience for all interviewees.

In today’s job market, it’s the employers that focus on delivering a positive interview experience that will win the war for top talent. During the interview process, candidates work hard to make a great first impression. Make sure you, as an employer, are putting in just as much effort to do the same.

Doug Leonard

Doug is constantly working to make the hiring process more objective, insightful, and informed. As a trusted leader in the recruitment industry, Doug is always ready to guide candidates and companies to (and through) a person-first hiring experience.

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