How to improve the candidate experience

“It’s a pain.”

This is what you often hear (from both sides of the hiring equation) about applicant tracking software (ATS).

Candidates complain that ATSs are a black hole, and recruiters use ATSs mostly as a mere keyword search engine.

What started out as a solution has become part of the problem.

You know having a good, fast hiring process is crucial in landing top talent. You can’t just input everything in spreadsheets or you’ll wonder why you have so little time at the end of the day.

An ATS can come to the rescue and save you time, yet most mistake their ATS for a silver bullet. It’s easy with software to just step back and forget to add the human touch all together. You can easily approach candidates as just another piece of data to collect. But this is where your candidate experience begins to fail, hard.

The infamous chart above gets so many nods from job applicants because it’s so accurate. A negative candidate experience like the above is common but generally ignored by employers. Its cost may not be straightforward, but by no means should you underestimate it. Candidates with negative experiences are less likely to complete the application or hiring process. They will also tell their competent friends to avoid you at all costs.

And if they’re a customer or potential customer? Forget it, gaining (back) that customer-brand relationship is nearly impossible.

What you need to do to avoid this is keep a balance: use your ATS for productivity gains while also retaining the human side of your hiring process. Below, we’ll look at how to do that by examining what most often damages the candidate experience, and the tools and methods you can use to fix it.

1 – Writing detailed job descriptions

Mistakes: Job description lacks detail. No salary info. No benefits info. No info on hiring/interview process. No contact person’s info.

Why you should act: If candidates are unaware of your company, a job description is their very first touchpoint. You don’t want to make a bad first impression. Sadly, most job descriptions are laundry lists of skills that simply don’t work.

Lou Adler suggests a better way of writing job descriptions: make it performance-based. Describe what a candidate has to accomplish during a certain period on the job. Adler gives two examples: “Complete the detailed project plan for the new automated warehouse in 120 days,” versus “Must have 5+ years of logistics and supply chain management experience in high-volume consumer durables, plus 3 years of supervisory experience.” Any candidate would tell you the former is much more helpful in describing the actual job.

Research has consistently shown that regardless of age, candidates care most about benefits and salary. This may not be the first thing on their mind when they browse your job opening, but it could be the last thing they recall when weighing opportunities. If you aren’t sure about the exact number, or want to leave room for negotiation, presenting a salary range is the perfect middle way.

Finally, to ensure candidates don’t feel they are throwing their applications into a black hole, your job description should state clearly what the hiring process looks like. The name and contact details of the person in charge should also be present. This assures candidates that they aren’t just a cog in the system.


– Describe the challenges and goals in the first six months or one year on the job.

– Describe the application process as clearly as possible: how candidates will be evaluated, how many stages there will be. Even better: how long each stage should take, who will be in charge of each stage.

– Not sure if the job description is clear enough? Put it in a Google Doc so other members of the hiring team can comment/co-edit.

– State the benefits and salary range.

– Include contact details and the name of the contact person.

– Use an ATS that can import all candidate resume info straight into the database. Don’t force candidates to fill in everything they’ve just uploaded.

Continue reading →

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Hagi Trinh is an avid recruitment writer at Recruitee. The team is working on the greatest hiring platform of all time. You can sign up at to try it out and follow us on Twitter @recruiteeHR.

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