Main image of article How To Improve The Candidate Experience

While the tech industry is a hotbed of hiring activity, getting jobseekers to complete an application process can be difficult. A recent study found that over 60% of candidates quit filling out an application for a listing due to a variety of reasons, chief among them being job applications that are needlessly complicated or overly long. And then there’s the “black hole” issue, where candidates go the extra mile to submit their applications and hear nothing back—not even a confirmation that their application was received. So, this begs the question: How do you improve your candidate experience?

When candidates can’t figure out how to connect with you and your company, or the process of doing so is overly complicated, you run the risk of losing out on top-tier talent that could help propel your business to the next level. Not only does that hurt your business, but it hurts your brand. Candidates talk amongst one another and share their application experiences—in fact, a survey discovered that 60% of respondents had a poor candidate experience, and 72% of those candidates told others, or shared their experience online. And if you set yourself up with a reputation for being non-responsive, or if the candidate experience is too cumbersome to manage, you’ll get saddled with a reputation that will drive talent away.

So how can you make a candidate’s application journey a more positive experience? We have some recommendations:

The issue: Candidates can’t find your listing.

The fix: Make your company stand out.

True, it’s a competitive market out there—but there are still ways to help your company stand out from the crowd, even when you’re all hiring for the same position. It can be tempting to rely on perks and bonuses to lure in candidates, but don’t forget the importance of company culture, growth and advancement opportunities, and a company history that suggests job security and longevity. And make sure information on your company is easily accessible for them to research. Think of it in marketing terms: you want to entice them with the company brand, and sell them on a candidate experience that suits their professional lifestyle. Just make sure you hit on the key points succinctly.

The Issue: Candidates are quitting your job application before finishing.

The fix: Trim where possible.

It’s tempting to craft job postings that detail a position’s every requirement, diving deep into every small task and all the expectations you have of your potential new hire before asking the applicant to jump through multiple hoops to apply. Resist the urge. Job hunting is full-time work in of itself, and you want to make the process of applying easy so your candidate will actually take the leap. The more work you make them put into the application, the less they’ll want to complete it. One study found that completion rates dropped by almost 50% when applicants were asked more than 50 questions in an application, and conversion rates jumped by 365% when job listings took five minutes or less to complete. Create a positive candidate experience from the beginning by boiling down your job listing to its most salient points without sacrificing your brand in the process and save all the detailed aspects for the interview process.

The issue: Candidates can’t find your job application on their phone.

The fix: Make your application process mobile-friendly.

Studies have reported that 86% of candidates use their phones when they’re looking for work. Applications can look longer when viewing them on a smartphone screen instead of a computer monitor, so make sure to optimize your job postings for mobile use. Then, make them easy to apply to in case your candidate is intrigued enough to move forward right then and there. The more simplistic the candidate experience, the more likely you are to get a full application. Speaking of…

The issue: The application process is complicated.

The fix: Simplify the wherever you can.

Okay, sure—the last time you posted a listing, maybe you got a lot of candidates who weren’t properly qualified, so you want to circumvent that with a questionnaire. Or perhaps people misinterpreted the job duties, so you want to be absolutely crystal clear on every finite detail of the role by having them do a sample project. But this is an arena where you really need to pick your battles and decide what’s the most important for you as an employer, so you can make the candidate application process easier to handle.

Maybe instead of asking 50 questions, you ask five—and those who don’t nail those five questions don’t make it through to the next round. Or you ask for existing samples that mirror what the role entails, rather than having them create an entirely new sample. The less hoops professionals have to jump through during the candidate experience, the more likely it’ll be that they complete their application to work with you.

The issue: Candidates have no idea what’s going on with the hiring process—or even if you got their application.

The fix: Use application management systems and automated messaging.

It can be challenging to deal with a deluge of applicants in this hiring landscape, but that’s no excuse to go radio silent on applicants—especially if they’re a highly desirable candidate. Many companies rely on an application management system that helps manage the process, while letting candidates know where they stand every step of the way through automated messaging, from the moment their application is received, to when it was reviewed, to whether they move on to the next round. Even if you prefer an old-school manual review approach, having an automated messaging system can help your candidate feel less like a cog in the machine, and more like a viable option going through your company’s candidate process. Besides, if you pass on them this time, you may want to keep them in mind for future roles, so why not make the process a pleasant candidate experience?

And remember, a job posting is just one of many touchpoints of the candidate experience—there are so many more opportunities for you to make a connection with a candidate, and ultimately, make a good impression. Telephone screening interviews are always a good first step to take after the online application process, giving you a chance to connect with the candidate on another level. This is also a good opportunity for you to share how much you appreciate them taking the time to apply and having patience with the process.

You’ll have the opportunity to take that appreciation one step further with the in-person interview process—especially when it’s likely your candidate has surpassed a number of other applicants. Continue to acknowledge their dedication and hard work up to that point, and ensure everyone interviewing the candidate shares their appreciation as well. That’s not to say that you have to be disingenuous or overly flowery in your approach—more that it’s nice to acknowledge when someone is making an effort for you, and you want them to know that work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Plus, your candidate will feel more supported through the process, which will signal to them that yours is a company they can trust to have their back once they become an employee.

Lastly, there’s the process of the job offer, followed by onboarding—and yes, it’s still important to acknowledge these aspects as part of the candidate experience, as they’re not officially an employee until they complete these steps. Engage in negotiation with them in a way that doesn’t turn the process into a battle of wills, celebrate their official sign-on, and give them all the assistance they need—or the space they want—as they get up to speed in company policy.

The key to remember throughout this entire process is that there’s a person on the other end of that application, and that’s the person you’re going to hire and work with day after day. The more you support the candidate experience in a way that anchors their process, the better chance you have of landing a top-tier employee who’s willing to go the extra mile for you—because you did so for them first.