7 tips to improve Candidate Experience

Candidate experiences are like my DIY projects at home. Forever a work in progress. So for now, let’s ignore everything you could do, and focus on what you should do. Task number 1: think like a candidate, not like a recruiter.

A change of perspective may be the most important change you’ll ever make. Seeing the world of employment from a graduate or school-leaver perspective. Seeing your opportunities through the eyes of a skilled professional. Seeing what your candidates see and understanding the career decisions they make. Seeing who your real competitors are – and seeing exactly how you look in comparison.

It can raise some interesting questions. At the very least, it can help you see what you should do next to keep one step ahead.

The competition for talent

We talked in a previous post about competitive insight allowing you to understand how you can differentiate your business to the right candidate. By looking at direct competitors and those companies in your target market, you know how your proposition competes.  But you can only do this  by giving an honest evaluation of yourself and your competition.

Aside from what you think you are saying or communicating, have you looked at what is visible from the candidate perspective before they apply for a job with you? What are your chances of them understanding your culture and seeing where they could fit? You may think that you have a better proposition than most in your market, but what if it isn’t clear from your careers site? What if you don’t have a careers site? (Then you at least need some campaign pages or a microsite to facilitate your hires…but that’s a story for another post)

You can’t control what other companies do, but you can get ahead of the game by understanding their brand strengths and weaknesses, along with your own. And by using this to leverage your brand to attract the right people knowledge is power after all.

1. Be the candidate

Take some time to navigate your own careers site. How easy is it to use? Do you use video to engage and tell stories? Is it very text heavy? Do you segment the proposition by role type, location, graduates/EIC? Are your values visible? Are they the same as everyone else in your industry? (I’ve got another one coming on that!

2. Be honest

Give yourself a score out of 10 for all the areas you think are important, do the same for 3 or 4 “competitors” (for talent). Be honest and look at the final scores.  If you are top, that is great! But what if your competition are doing the same, and they are about to launch a shiny new website which will out do yours? What are the areas you could improve on and why wouldn’t you do it anyway? It’s all about getting ahead and staying there.

3. Be real

It isn’t just your careers site that promotes your brand, look at social media, review Glassdoor scores – again, include your competition in your research. What about your recruitment team? Who answers the phone/email/live chat when a candidate wants to find out about you? Do you use agencies? What do they say? Do you respond to every candidate that applies? As a candidate what would be the most upsetting thing to read on a careers site or in an automated application response?

“Due to the volume of applications we receive, we only respond to those who are successful” this is only marginally worse than adding a timeframe – “if you do not hear within 2 weeks then you have not been successful”, don’t even bother adding “we wish you luck in your search”.  Do you? It doesn’t feel like it…maybe it is because you are drowning in unsuitable applications…and you are losing the will to live?

Either way, it gives the impression that you’re not thinking about the candidates who put time and effort into their applications.

4. Be brave

So you’ve reviewed and there are clear areas for improvement.  Of course there are.  Everyone can improve, always. But how much room for improvement do you see? And could this improvement (which will require time and probably investment) reduce time and investment in the future? What if you implemented something which increased views on your website, made applications easier for the candidate, gave people a really good feel for your culture… but reduced applications? That isn’t a bad thing!

What if the reduced applications meant your messaging was working – those who don’t fit, don’t apply. Your recruitment team have less irrelevant applications, less people are “rejected” by you.  When you tell them they are not being taken through to the next stage it’s less time consuming. And if you can’t tell them at least there will be less people feeling frustrated by a lack of response.

In 2014 the Virgin Media Insights team cross-referenced candidates who were unsuccessful with people who left Virgin Media and 7,500 people cancelled their contracts in the month after their application. This translated to £4.4 million in lost revenue…. Just putting that out there…. it’s been out there for a while, since 2014… but some of you haven’t read or digested this statiscit yet…. Or maybe you did, but you weren’t brave enough to do anything about it, or you thought it didn’t apply to you?  You don’t have to be a consumer brand to lose out because of bad candidate experience.

5. Be better

Looking at yourselves with an honest and critical eye, and comparing yourselves to your competition can give you a great business case to fight your cause. This can’t do anything except make you better, and if you can get people to agree with you and act on it, you can improve your quality of hire, time to hire and cost per hire.

Then think again about all those candidates who apply for a job and never hear anything.  Maybe they weren’t quite right, maybe they will be in the future. Maybe their friend or family member would be – but if they don’t have a good experience with you, they won’t recommend you as an employer, they won’t necessarily buy your services or products again, and if you are a charity – how many others may now be getting donations which were once coming your way? All because you didn’t have time to reply to all applications, maybe because you receive too many applications… ah, back here again.

6. Be the candidate again

Go on then… what are you waiting for? If you don’t have time to do this, then find someone to do it for you. Ask a colleague, an intern, a family member? I’m serious, anyone with PowerPoint skills and a set of criteria can “be” the candidate to a certain extent. Or ask me*

*Disclaimer, I won’t do it myself… we have a whole team of people who are dedicated to Employer Brand research.  8 of them, and they are members of the Market Research Society too…. I can have it back with you in 10 days…. I’ll (They’ll) even do it in your own company branded PowerPoint deck if you like… ?

7. Be the geek

Oh you’re still here… because you want to know more now? You’re a data geek like me?

Here’s one tip you may not know about – just find a company with a job on LinkedIn, click on the job and scroll down to see insights… then compare these insights with your competition (the competition for talent I mean…. Just checking!)


  • Where do your ex staff go to?
  • Where do you make the most hires from?
  • What universities do you/your competition hire from?
  • What trends are there?
  • Are there any companies in your sector that you don’t hire from / who don’t hire from you?
  • I wonder why…. I don’t know, I just wonder…