2021 CandE Research Takeaway #10: The Business Impact of the Candidate Experience—Referrals

This is part 10 of Talent Board’s 10-post series on Key Takeaways from our 2021 benchmark research report. All previous posts in the series are available on our Articles page.

Referrals are among the most coveted outcomes of providing a positive candidate experience. To put it simply, the higher the quality of your company’s candidate experience, the likelier candidates are to refer colleagues and friends to you. This is confirmed yet again by Talent Board’s latest benchmark research.

We surveyed thousands of job candidates in 2021, roughly 30% of whom said they were “extremely likely” to make referrals as a result of their positive experiences. Remarkably, nearly 90% of these people were rejected for the jobs they applied to—meaning that even the candidates you turn down can be a source of referrals and advocates for your employer brand if they feel their experiences with you were positive and fair.

When you think about the sheer number of people your candidate experience touches, you quickly understand we’re talking about huge pool of potential referrals and brand advocates here.

Of course, referrals aren’t the only business benefits you’ll reap from delivering a positive candidate experience. Satisfied candidates are also significantly more willing to increase their relationships with you (even when they don’t get the job) in all sorts of ways—including applying to your jobs in the future, purchasing your products/services, and influencing the opinions and purchases of others. But many TA teams are particularly interested in those precious referrals these days because of the talent losses their companies have suffered over the past year or so.

Plugging Into Passive Talent

Like employee referrals, referrals from candidates can help your company tap into an especially challenging but valuable talent pool: passive job seekers. According to LinkedIn, 70% of the entire workforce is made up of passive talent, and nearly 90% of all active and passive candidates are open to new job opportunities. This means that, despite their categorization as “passive talent,” people who receive a referral from a colleague or friend will very likely check out the job or employer being recommended to them.

However, their interest won’t last long if they’re subjected to a poor candidate experience—one in which researching the potential job/employer isn’t easy or informative, information about the company’s culture or work environment is lacking, employee testimonials are nowhere to be found, the application process is too lengthy or complex, etc. In fact, a negative candidate experience is so off-putting that more than half of all job seekers said it would actually keep them from accepting a job offer, as IQTalent Partners noted in a recent blog post.

As I’ve shared throughout this “10 Takeaways” series of posts, there are a number of actions you can take to create a positive experience for your candidates including:

Also remember that your entire candidate experience and all those potential referrals are still on the line even when you’re coming down the home stretch—i.e., when you’re making job offers. In today’s highly competitive talent market, if you’re slow to make offers, you risk losing candidates to competitors who act more decisively. Our 2021 research reveals that, if you make a job offer within one week of a final interview, your candidate’s willingness to refer others increases 79% and their willingness to increase their relationship with your brand increases 80%.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts and found some actionable insights along the way. Here’s to building great candidate experiences—and to continually raising the quality of those experiences in the days ahead.


Be safe and well.

Kevin W. Grossman, Talent Board President

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