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As companies seek to improve their access to top talent the focus on the candidate experience over the last few years has been significant. This can only be a positive for the millions of applicants a year who are subjected to a wide array of application and onboarding processes, but with all the different aspects to the recruitment process how do you ensure your candidate experience is second to none whilst still delivering the level of screening you need? From messaging to meeting them on their first day we outline 5 simple steps to improve your candidate experience.

There seems to be a recognition from many that identifying and retaining the good candidates relies on us delivering a level of consistency in service and focus in providing a highly engaging candidate experience during all of their interactions with our organisations regardless of the outcome of their application.

That said, our research still suggests that 46% of candidates rate their candidate experience applying for jobs as poor to very poor, and worse 64% said they share information about their candidate experience via social media.

It should go without saying that the ideal candidate experience is professional, yet personal and underpinned by your core values. In spite of all the articles written about this subject, sometimes it appears that some organisations lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with people, all of whom are different. Too often talent is subjected to an impersonal and vanilla flavoured experience where businesses focus on pushing out a list of what they want, instead of investing more time in developing a deeper understand of what the person they want needs and personalising the approach.

Our research into this subject with our RPO customers has identified five key areas you should review to deliver a positive candidate experience.

1. Candidate Engagement

Contact with candidates in the pre-application stages is often driven by recruitment marketing efforts as you attempt to inform and educate them about your organisation, culture, working environment, CSR initiatives, the roles and what they involve, the teams they will be working with and the projects they could be working on. While we all need to appeal to a broad base on candidates, at a variety of levels, it is important we do this consistently in the external market, through careers site and any supporting collateral. As the majority of candidates aren't actively looking this means providing relevant information to support the decision to change employer as well as what the role will be. The challenge is often that the message required for one audience isn’t appropriate for another due to some of these differences.

This is an area that we have found creates a significant point of different for employers. When they have developed a detailed understanding of their target audience and ensured a strong alignment to their information needs throughout their recruitment communications the results are clear. Creating tailored content for multiple segments in time consuming and hard to maintain but this creates stronger engagement with applicants. It creates a positive initial experience of the organisation that inspires candidates from the outset.

2. Building Engagement

Once a candidate has been engaged, whether through your proactive sourcing efforts or because they have contacted you to express an interest, it is now your responsibility to understand that candidate's individual needs and wants. You should then use subsequent interactions to focus on providing more detailed information around the business area, realistic job previews around the role, benefits and rewards or any other need your candidates might have. This doesn’t always have to be via phone and email. Candidates have a wide range of communication styles and preferences, from advertising to careers sites, community based forums or on a personal one to one basis, today there are a variety of mediums you can employ to meet candidate needs.

These follow up engagement activities support a candidates decision to self-select, or de-select, themselves from an application process, which in turn empowers them and ensures that candidates at this stage are left with a positive impression of the organisation irrespective of whether they decide the progress or not.

3. Providing Support

Pre and post application support is critically important to candidates and also gives them an insight into the organisation and what it might be like to work here. If you are the type of organisation that promotes investment in learning and development but doesn’t take the time to support candidates as they take an often life changing decision about a change in employer or career, then your talk and walk just don’t align and the warning bells start to sound!

Support can be delivered in a number of different ways, from the level of advice provided around the recruitment process on the careers site, through guides to interviewing sent to candidates in advance and then on-going personal support via the phone or email to help deal with any queries.

As a minimum you should provide proactive support and guidance to educate candidates on the recruitment process, and addresses specific questions or queries in a timely manner to maintain a positive impression of your organisation and what it would be like to work in the role.

4. Ensuring that assessment is a two way process

The assessment stage in any recruitment process has the potential to be a difficult one emotionally for applicants. This includes, ensuring job seekers are provided with information and guidance around the assessment processes to enable them to prepare and perform to the best of their ability on the day, that hiring managers are fully briefed to sell the organisation and address any questions that the candidate might have, and that feedback following the interview is provided swiftly. If  this feedback is negative it should be delivered with a constructive angle. This all contributes towards driving the best possible candidate experience and one in which we are enabling the applicant to evaluate whether your offer is the right one to accept.

5. Sustaining our efforts through the notice periods

Having invested significant time and effort in finding great people to hire, the final crucial stage is the onboarding process. Here you deliver support to candidates through the pre-employment and their first few weeks and months. Basic information such as confirmation of start date, where to report on day one and to whom, assignment of assets/hardware and booking onto induction and training programmes should be provided in advance. This is a part of most organisation's process where a wide range of teams suddenly get involved and life potentially gets quite confusing for new starters.

Simple changes to communication channels so that your new hire maintains has a single contact can make this process so much smoother and avoids the pitfalls associated with questions and queries getting lost between teams.

As we have seen there are a number of ways, all within our control, that can improve the experience of candidates. One common, and ever present theme is remembering our new employees are people with the same hopes, concerns, questions and aspirations as we all hold. Let’s not expect them to be happy with anything that we wouldn’t accept ourselves. 


Jon Mannall
EMEA Managing Director and Global Head of Sales, Solutions and Innovation, Hays Talent Solutions

Jonathan is the EMEA Managing Director and Global Head of Sales, Solution and Innovation for Hays Talent Solutions, having joined Hays in 2011. Previous roles held at Hays included Client Director, Service Delivery Director and Head of Sales for the UK. He is now responsible for leading the approach to engaging and securing new clients and to ensuring that the products and services offered by Hays Talent Solutions continue to meet the changing needs of our global, regional and local customers. For more information about Hays Talent Solutions, visit our website

Prior to joining Hays, and after completing his Masters in Philosophy and Management, Jon worked in the RPO and MSP sector for 10 years with a range of Financial Services, Public Sector, IT & Telecommunications, and Insurance clients in Sales and Operations Director roles.

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