Dear Claudia,

At our company, the customer is King. Every system is designed around a great customer experience, and lots of money is spent on understanding and anticipating their needs. At the same time, we struggle in recruiting to provide a similar experience for candidates (even though many of them are customers too); hiring is very decentralized, so the business units play a big role and the outcome is varied from one division to another. What can I do as a recruiter to make candidate experience more consistent and positive at my company?

Champagne Taste, Beer Budget

Dear Champagne Taste,

Wow – can I say how exciting it is that you’re even thinking about this question? There is so much talk about candidate experience in recruiting, and a general sense that it goes no farther than words for most. That you want to align your company’s messaging and delivery of candidate experience says a lot about you as a recruiter and a strategic business partner.

Some believe that candidate experience is the natural by-product of a hiring process – that if they fix the process, candidate experience will be fixed too. The problem with this approach is that nothing is “fixed” or static in an equation that involves people; needs change, technology changes, and what creates a great experience today may be somewhat irrelevant tomorrow.

I believe that candidate experience can be intentionally and intelligently designed to make most everything else in the talent management process (from attracting talent to keeping it) easier and less expensive. In that context, here are a few things to think about when planning an optimal candidate experience at your company:

Map the desired experience.
What are the basics of candidate experience? In my estimation, they have to do with collecting the information necessary to make a decision, and setting/meeting expectations for what will happen next. Ask candidates to provide information on a need-to-know basis; not when they need to know something, but when you need it to proceed efficiently to the next step in your hiring process. Then plan your candidate communications so they always know what to expect next, and plan your process to ensure that is what happens.

Beyond the basics, what are the “concierge” extras that you would like to ultimately give candidates? How do you know that those things are really important to your candidates? Find ways to listen and discover the needs of your candidates, just like you would if they were customers.

Automate the transactional.
Anything routine in your hiring process has high potential for automation. Resume collection, status updates, feedback – all of this can and should be automated to free up internal resources for relationship building and hiring.

Close the feedback loops.
Change happens. Anticipate it by ensuring that you provide opportunities for candidates, hiring managers, interviewers, and recruiters to tell you what is working and what could be improved. There is NO substitute for the voice of the customer, and the insights into quality of process and results will amaze you.

Champion a champion.
In terms of implementing changes to improve candidate experience in your world, it’s important to understand your sphere of influence and leverage that of others. If you lack HR or recruiting leadership in this area, find and partner with a division leader who is as passionate about customer experience as you are about candidate experience, and start there. Measure your progress in terms of time, cost, and quality, and demonstrate some success in this division before expanding more broadly in the company.

I applaud your efforts to drive positive change, Champagne Taste. Write back soon to give us an update on your progress!


In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage quality in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Do you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Drop me a line!

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Claudia, excellent suggestions and fully agree with your comment that candidate experience should be analyzed separately from the recruitment experience.

In a previous company we got fantastic feedback from candidates by simply advising our receptionist of all candidates that were coming in for interviews. We introduced this change after a particularly embarrassing situation where a candidate was left sitting at reception for a considerable period of time due to confusion.

In fact, the receptionist became a critical link in the process and by welcoming the candidate in a positive manner, the dynamics changed - candidates were more relaxed, managers didn't keep candidates waiting and the whole process just seemed to go a lot smoother.
Charles, this is a great example of concierge service that costs nothing at all to implement. We did something similar at a previous company too, where the candidate was greeted with a personalized packet of information that contained some literature about the company, and a letter that told the candidate what to expect at each step of the hiring process, and who they could contact with questions. It cost us time and materials, but made a big impression on our candidates.

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