Why Candidate Experience Matters More Than Ever

Woman waiting for job interview

We’ve all seen these numbers by now:

4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September of 2021.

Another 4.5 million quit in November. 

As we watch wave after wave of American workers resign, the message remains abundantly clear: employees are dissatisfied, and they’re making moves because of it. They’re also approaching their next job hunt with newfound clarity on what matters most: better pay, robust benefits, ample flexibility, and most importantly, a company that values its employees as human beings above all else. For hiring managers and recruiters, the stakes are high to offer a candidate experience that reflects these burgeoning values.

In a recent study, McKinsey found that that the top three factors driving “the great resignation” all stem from a sense of disconnection: employees “didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54%) or their managers (52%),” and they “didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%).” While these numbers are disheartening, they also present an enormous opportunity for talent acquisition professionals to turn the tables and offer candidates what they seek: a human-centered experience. While this may sound obvious – recruiting is a process between humans after all – we all know how quickly hiring can become impersonal. For example, in a poll created by Andrew Seaman, Senior Editor for Job Search & Careers at LinkedIn News, 93% of participants said they had been “ghosted” by potential employers after one or more interactions with them. And while any number of factors may cause delayed responses, smart leaders understand that from a candidate’s perspective, lack of communication is just one example of a red flag that can deter top talent and damage brand perception.

So what does it take to transform the hiring process to meet the rising expectations of today’s future employees? The key is to view it as a chance to build relationships, not as a transaction. Here are some tips on creating a personalized candidate experience, every step of the way:

Outreach – Start with a 1:1 Conversation.

More than ever, candidates are like detectives. Starting with the first impression, they’re looking for evidence that their future employer upholds similar values to their own. And in reality, first impressions are lasting ones, so the more thoughtful you are when sending that first email or direct message, the better chance you have of requited engagement. Instead of sending a generic-sounding email to a potential candidate, send a short personalized note introducing yourself, your company, the role available, and ask if they would be interested in scheduling a time to chat with you about the position available. Consider this initial conversation as the first building block of your working relationship – an opportunity to connect, discover what excites them, and exchange perspectives. 

Interviews – Ensure a Two Way Street.

Remember that, in the hiring process, both parties – the job seeker and the organization – are “auditioning.” Organizations who treat interviews like interrogations, expecting a mostly one-sided pitch from the candidate, will struggle to attract the right talent. A good hiring manager knows that an interview process is a dialogue and they’ll create an atmosphere to reflect this. Here are a few ways to continue relationship building throughout the interview process:

1. Communicate clearly and often – Transparency and responsiveness are especially important to candidates. In the current job market, they have options and may often be in process with more than one employer concurrently.  Be clear about interview expectations, time commitment, and job details upfront. Find out where they are in process with other organizations and work to adjust your timeline accordingly.  Give frequent updates on what next steps will be and when they will occur. 

 2. Represent your brand, and sell it – A relationship – even a working one – is a two-way street. This is why it’s just as important for hiring managers to sell candidates on their organization’s value proposition as it is for candidates to sell themselves. Your interview style and content should align with company values, and you should openly communicate those values when discussing the job. By the end of the first interview, candidates should know what you stand for and why your team is the one they want to grow with. 

 3. Stay connected, even if it’s not a fit Even if you realize during the course of the hiring process that a candidate is not the right fit for your particular role, take the long view and stay engaged. If the rapport is there, find out more about what drives and inspires them. Ask about skills they want to hone now and in the future, and keep notes; you never know what other opportunities might arise that call upon their expertise – or would be a fit for someone in their network. Thank them for their time and express enthusiasm on being connected. This will show that you’re interested in candidates not just to fill a need, but for what they uniquely bring to the table now or in the future. 

Onboarding: Lay the Groundwork For Success.

The onboarding process can be a time of uncertainty for a new hire. The transition to a new role, new organizational culture and new manager can be unsettling. Managers of new hires should be intentional about helping them connect with colleagues, learn how to navigate the organization and position them for a strong start:

A smooth onboarding is critical to setting anyone up for success – new hires and organizations only have one opportunity to make a first impression.

We’re seeing unprecedented shifts in the talent market. Organizations that focus on efforts of creating connection and making an emotional imprint in the hiring and onboarding process will have an edge on recruitment and talent retention. In the words of Maya Angelou: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”