CandE Research Takeaway #9: Candidate Experience Perception Gaps

This is part nine of Talent Board’s 10-part “CandE Research Takeaways” series. The previous posts are available on our Articles page.

Employers and candidates frequently view the candidate experience quite differently, and this gap in their perceptions generally skews in a predictable way: employers tend to rate their candidate experiences higher than candidates do.

We’ve seen this trend year after year across a decade of Talent Board research. However, 2020 was a year of unpredictability and, as our latest research shows, the usual perception gaps separating employers and candidates narrowed or all but vanished at nearly every stage of the candidate journey in 2020. This held true in every region we surveyed.

The reasons behind this shift are clear. First, employers delivered an exceptional level of transparency and empathetic communication to candidates in 2020, as the pandemic drove unprecedented numbers of job seekers flooding into their talent pipelines. Second, candidates were more forgiving toward employers because they knew what employers were up against—simultaneously fielding record numbers of job applications, coping with their own workforce issues, and trying to keep their businesses afloat. (To read more about all of this, check out my previous post.)

This mutual empathy proved to be a unifying force and upended the perception gaps that usually divide employers and candidates. It’s a shame we can’t adopt these more compassionate mindsets permanently, and it will be fascinating to see how things shake out in 2021.

A Stage-by-Stage Snapshot of 2020

You can view all of the perception gap data and charts—along with how candidate experience ratings are calculated and converted into Net Promoter Scale (NPS) scores—by downloading our 2020 Research Report. But in terms of the big picture for 2020, here’s a stage-by-stage snapshot of how perception gaps shifted in North America:

  • At the Research stage—Both groups rated this stage of the candidate experience “amazing” in 2020 (with employers’ rating slightly more positive), and there was a mere 5-point gap between the ratings of employers and candidates here. To give you some perspective, this gap was 40 points in 2019, and employers’ ratings were in the “amazing” category while candidates’ ratings were in the lower range of the “okay” category.
  • At the Apply stage—There was a 15-point gap between employers and candidates in 2020 at this stage, with candidates rating their experiences higher than employers did. The candidate ratings fell into the “amazing” category while employers rated their own experiences just “okay.” Again, for perspective, this gap was wider in 2019 and the ratings were flipped, with employers rating themselves more highly than candidates.
  • At the Screening/Interviewing stage—There was just a 3-point gap between the ratings of employers and candidates in 2020 at this stage, with employers rating themselves very slightly higher. All of the ratings among both groups fell into the “amazing” category. The gap at this stage in 2019 was significantly wider (19 points), with employers’ rating their experiences “amazing” while candidate rated them just “okay.”
  • At the Offer stage—There was an 8-point gap between employers’ and candidates’ ratings at this stage in 2020, with candidates rating their experiences higher than employers did. And all of the ratings among both groups fell into the “amazing” category. Overall, the 2020 ratings in this stage were similar to those in 2019.
  • At the New Hire stage—We saw the largest gap in the 2020 findings at this stage—a 36-point spread between employers and candidates. Again candidates rated their experiences higher than employers did. Just as in the Apply stage, candidate ratings at this stage fell into the “amazing” category while employers rated their own experiences “okay.” Overall, the 2020 ratings at this stage were similar to those in 2019, although employers rated themselves more harshly in 2020 than they did in 2019.

The one trend that remained constant from 2019 involves candidates who are rejected after the screening/interviewing stage. As it does every year, rejection resulted in candidates rating their experiences more negatively than employers in 2020. No surprise there, right? Interestingly, though, the gap between candidates’ and employers’ ratings was 27 points in 2020, up from 19 points in 2019. Again, given the professional and personal difficulties candidates faced last year, the increase in their negative ratings are understandable.

In my next and final post of this series, I’ll focus on the business impact of the candidate experience. As always, if you’re interested in how your company’s candidate experience stacks up against your competition, join our 2021 CandE benchmark research program.


Be safe and well.

Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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