It’s no secret that poor candidate experience can be harmful to an employer’s brand, but many organisations don’t know where to begin improving it. James Bull highlights the importance of asking candidates for feedback at various stages of the recruitment process, without overburdening them.

The way organisations view candidate experience has come a long way over the past 20 years. Back then you might have heard a senior executive say: “So what if a bunch of rejected candidates had a bad encounter with our company. At least we got the candidate we wanted.”

But at a time when candidates take to social media to share their experience with an organisation, such a short-sighted view has the potential to do real harm. People regularly share bad recruitment experiences online, damaging many employer brands.

Then there’s the financial cost; not only is a candidate a prospective employee, they might also be a potential or existing customer. Virgin Media looked into this in 2016 and found a poor candidate experience was costing it £4.4 million a year in cancelled subscriptions.

While many companies are talking more readily about the importance of candidate experience, very few are actually measuring it. For talent acquisition managers (TAs), understanding candidate experience is going to become increasingly important if they’re to attract the best applicants. But how can they improve something if they don’t know where to begin?

Map out the journey

Candidate experience is a complex thing, with multiple touchpoints. Firstly, TAs should sketch out the entire journey, starting from where the candidate enters the recruitment process and list each step until their placement ends. Once the basic journey is clear, they should go deeper and analyse the average period of time between steps, the conversion rating, the information they send and the contact they have with candidates throughout the process.

The reason for taking such a detailed look is that once the journey is properly mapped out, it becomes easier to recognise where each touchpoint corresponds with the workflow in an applicant tracking system (ATS) and TAs can identify where the key candidate drop-offs are. For example, it could be after the application is completed or after the first interview.

But while mapping out the touchpoints tells an organisation where it is going wrong, it doesn’t always explain why.

Ask the candidate

The best approach to finding out why the experience is falling short is to get insight from the candidates themselves. But that doesn’t mean sending an email to all applicants with a long survey at the end of the process, as some companies do. It’s far better to spread feedback invites across the key touchpoints and ask candidates to score the company at that point in their journey. This makes it more manageable for the candidate and allows TAs to gather insights on specific steps.

There is no need to overburden candidates with a feedback invite after every single phone call, but making sure you invite enough candidates to give feedback at each touchpoint is a solid start.

The right questions

The feedback requests companies send to candidates should be very specific. For example, after the candidate has sent their application they could be asked to score the usability of the job platform or the ease of uploading their CV. After an interview has taken place, candidates could be asked if they felt the interviewer was well prepared or if their time was respected.

There is no need to overburden candidates with a feedback invite after every single phone call, but making sure you invite enough candidates to give feedback at each touchpoint is a solid start.”

Some of the best learning might come from candidates that have been rejected. These applicants are usually very willing to share an opinion if they are asked in an engaging and respectful way. Useful questions could be whether the rejection feedback was clear and helpful, if the communication was friendly and if they felt their time was used efficiently. By being very specific and keeping feedback requests short, organisations are much more likely to get the rich insights they need.

Put it into practice

The potential learning that can be uncovered from candidate feedback is almost limitless. An organisation could discover that its landing page is confusing and not very user-friendly, which could generate ideas on how it can be simplified; or a company might discover that its interview process is impersonal, suggesting it should invest in training for the staff involved.

It is important that it acts fast on this feedback. The needs and expectations of candidates are continuously evolving, so it is critical that employers respond. It is also crucial that candidate feedback isn’t seen as a one-off; it should be part of the process at every round of recruitment.

If this sounds too time-consuming, there are tools that allow TAs to automate a feedback process and integrate it into an ATS. But if an organisation simply wants to increase engagement, requesting informal feedback is still a great start to help build a world-class candidate experience.

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