Have you ever stopped to really think about the personal circumstances behind the job application you’re reviewing?

Good candidate experience hinges on personal touch points, such as the acknowledgement of a CV or feedback after an interview. We know that these actions can contribute to a candidate feeling more valued.

Commercially, the benefits of good candidate experience are akin to those of customer experience: a positive brand perception and applicants who are moved to share their experience with friends and families.

However, when we stop to consider the emotional journey of a candidate in more depth, the importance of candidate experience can take on an even greater significance.

1. Looking for a new job

Let’s start with the first stage of the candidate’s journey. They’ve decided to start researching their options and looking for a new job. There could be many reasons why this is the case.

Perhaps they were made redundant from their last role. Perhaps they’re feeling unfulfilled in their current job and are in need of a change. Maybe they have a hostile manager. It could be that they’re returning to work after an absence due to illness.

If some of these reasons do lie behind the decision to seek a new job, it’s likely a candidate may be feeling vulnerable.



What would be good candidate experience at this stage?

If you want to reach out to that candidate at the beginning of their journey, your careers site needs to say: ‘Hello, we’re a happy/supportive/progressive employer who can offer you the culture/stability/stimulation you’re looking for.’

How? The copy, imagery and branding on your careers website needs to instantly convey your values, USPs and working culture.

What’s more, it needs to be easy to navigate. Your candidate might be put off organisations with a cluttered careers website. Make it quick and simple for them to understand who you are, find, search and view vacancies, and understand how to apply for a job.

2. Applying for a new role

You’ve done it! Your careers site has successfully wooed a candidate and now they’re about to take a deep breath and start their application.

At this stage, candidates are likely to be either excited at the prospect of applying or very, very tired after a lot of searching. It’s vital, therefore, that this next part of your candidate experience doesn’t let them down.

What would be good candidate experience for the application stage?

A straightforward application process is essential. Make it too complex or clunky and you’re in danger of dampening your excited candidates’ enthusiasm and of frustrating your tired, embattled applicants.

If you’re using recruitment software, you should be able to configure application forms for each of your vacancies to ensure you’re happy with their length and complexity.

Some organisations may take advantage of features like ‘Apply with LinkedIn’ or submitting your CV via Dropbox for an enhanced candidate experience.

And remember you can help improve your own experience here too. If your recruitment software offers features such as pre-selection questions or ‘killer’ questions, these can quickly help you filter out unsuitable candidates, saving you valuable time during your screening processes.

3. Waiting to hear back

The time between applying for a role and receiving a response can feel like it is never-ending for some candidates. The initial euphoria at finding the dream job and the energy to apply has dissipated, and now every email and phone call is pounced upon. Will today be the day they hear?

At this point in the applicant process, morale is low. So how can you help to bring positivity to your candidates and make their experience better?

Good candidate experience at this stage would be…

…a consistent and comprehensive level of communication, starting with an email acknowledging receipt of the candidate’s CV. Phew, they’re reassured that their application hasn’t fallen into a black hole. Ideally, provide a timeframe for when you’re aiming to let them know about the next stage of your selection process.

Once you’ve shortlisted candidates for interview, it’s time for another communication to those unsuccessful applicants. If you received a lot of applications, individual feedback at this stage is rarely possible. Candidates do understand this, and often a concise but personable message about high volumes of applicants, strong calibre of CVs or candidates with more relevant skill sets will still be welcomed by a candidate over receiving nothing at all.

Your recruitment software can help to manage and streamline your candidate communications, as it should enable you to send personalised and branded emails in bulk to save you time and resources.

4. After the interview

The candidate’s emotional journey may well fluctuate between hopeful highs and desolate lows following their interview.

How can you provide good candidate experience?

This is where feedback can turn a disappointing and negative experience into one which offers the opportunity to learn and develop one’s employability. Giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates can help to reinforce that the time they spend applying and subsequently interviewing for a role has been worthwhile.

Feedback can also forge a stronger relationship between candidates and your organisation, resulting in a more positive perception of your brand and, potentially, applications for more suitable roles in the future.

Remember to ask candidates for their feedback too – it can be hugely enlightening and could help to enhance some of your processes.

When we follow the stages of a candidate’s emotional journey, it’s clear that good candidate experience can provide support, insight and positivity for candidates.

A candidate should not be made to feel like they’re undergoing a clinical, transactional process. There needs to be some reward for applicants, even those who are unsuccessful, in the form of feedback and communication.

That’s why good candidate experience is so important.


About the author

Tristan Potter

From candidate experience to flexible working, and from supporting graduates to ATS reports; Hannah's written it all over the years! Hannah has contributed to publications as diverse as The Guardian, UK Recruiter and University Business. She is also the wordsmith behind our whitepapers and guides, from GDPR to Employee Volunteering.