Candidate Experience Review: The 100 Best Companies To Work For

Do the 100 Best Companies To Work For according to Fortune and Great Place to Work also ensure a fair and positive candidate experience? Why does this matter? And how does a great candidate experience benefit a company and its employment brand?

Why Does the Candidate Experience Matter So Much?

“100 Best Companies To Work For” and “Great Place To Work” are proud designations that thousands of companies strive to earn and hold onto every year. They signify that an organization offers a truly superior employee experience. But to become an employee of one of these organizations, a job seeker must first pass through an organization’s candidate experience. In fact, the candidate experience and the employee experience are NOT separate experiences; they are intertwined experiences for those lucky enough to be hired and retained.

When the candidate experience is a good one, new hires can begin their employee experience extremely motivated and primed for success. When the experience is a poor one, motivation, productivity, and even retention beyond the first few months are threatened. This alone makes the candidate experience absolutely crucial. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What about all of those candidates a company doesn’t hire? Even if it hires dozens, hundreds, or thousands of employees annually, the employee experience affects this limited number of individuals. The candidate experience, on the other hand, affects a phenomenally larger number of individuals – hundreds or thousands of individuals for every open job who don’t get hired.

All of these people form opinions about employers based on their experiences as candidates regardless of how short or long that experience is. Whether they simply read a few job descriptions and move on to another employer, or take the time to submit an application, or undergo an assessment, or make it to the screening and interview phase, these people form and share their opinions publicly across employer review sites, social media, job communities, and their personal and professional networks. They also decide whether or not to apply to other jobs with that company, refer their friends and colleagues to that company, and even purchase or forgo purchasing its products/services.

Even companies that earn the designations of “100 Best Companies To Work For” and “Great Place To Work” are subject to the impact of delivering a poor candidate experience and the public damage that can do to their employment brands, and the candidates’ willingness to ever apply again or refer others. In short, every company should be as protective of and diligent about its candidate experience as it is about its employee experience.

Do the 100 Best Companies To Work For Also Deliver Fair & Positive Candidate Experiences?

Our guess would be yes, based on their rigorous employee experience methodology that evaluates and certifies thousands of organizations in America’s largest ongoing annual workforce study. It’s based on over 870,000 employee survey responses and data from companies representing more than 6.1 million employees for the 2022 rankings.

But then again, when you do the math, there are millions of candidates competing for those over 6 million jobs at the Best Companies to Work For, including those employees the companies are struggling to retain these days. At Talent Board, we know the happiest candidates are only those who are hired (and retained) at the end of the day. For the rest of them, it’s about whether or not they felt their recruiting experience was positive and fair or not.

For 11 years Talent Board has been measuring the candidate experience at companies big and small across industries. We’ve worked with over 1,200 companies and have surveyed over 1.25 million candidates to date. Out of all the companies we’ve worked with, 75% of them have over 2,500 employees. While our benchmark research program is anonymous and confidential for all companies that participate and for the candidates they survey for feedback, there are companies that we recognize publicly and win our CandE Awards as we call them (CandE being short for Candidate Experience). Those that have above average candidate experience ratings across these four key ratings we capture each year: 

  1. A very positive overall candidate experience rating (based on a 5-point scale)
  2. An extremely likely to apply again candidate rating (based on a 4-point scale)
  3. An extremely likely to refer others candidate rating (based on a 4-point scale)
  4. And great experiences where candidates said they were willing to increase their business relationship with the employer via applying again, referring others and making purchases when applicable (based on a 4-point scale)

All of the above ratings are also easily converted to Net Promoter Score (NPS), a measurement that more and more companies are using to measure candidate and employee experience. Although we can’t tell you how many of the Best Companies to Work For have participated in our research over the years because of our confidentiality agreement, the number that have won our CandE Awards is quite small – only 14 companies including Accenture, Capital One, Hilton, West Monroe, and a few others have won CandE Awards to date.

We decided to conduct our own candidate experience review of the Best Companies to Work For, based on those companies in our research with above average ratings, but only focused on two stages: candidate research and candidate application. This is as far as most job candidates get in the hiring process. We would argue that on average these are also the least personalized and “human” experiences for candidates, external candidates and internal candidates (current employees) alike, and the most difficult to provide and sustain a quality candidate experience for. It’s also where many candidates with potential are screened out automatically impacting a company’s ability to fill jobs they’ve struggled to fill. 

What we do know from our research is that current employees rate their internal candidate experience much higher than those who have no relationship with the company they’re interested in working for. For example, current employees applying internally for another job have a 130% higher “willingness to refer others” than those candidates who had no relationship with the company. Candidates who were “fans” of the company’s products and/or services, and those who were customers, also rated their candidate experience higher. 

So even with the increase of redeployment during the pandemic, the vast majority of candidates are still external in our research (and in the real world). For our candidate experience review, we’re treating each Best Companies to Work For as objectively as possible through the eyes of external candidates. 

We created a comprehensive checklist for reviewing the research and application stages that our team followed to ensure consistency during each company review. We will also apply for a recruiting job at each company; we wanted to experience applying for a job through the eyes of recruiting professionals themselves. If there are no current open recruiting job requisitions, then we’ll apply for another position.

Our results will be based on a simple point system – either the companies follow the proven practices from our research, or they don’t. We’ll share our results once we complete our review and write them all up into a report. Again, our hypothesis is that the 100 Best Companies to Work For will do their best to ensure a fair and positive candidate experience. 

We’ve already begun our review, and sadly this is what we’ve found so far:

  • The “gates” that are still around the recruiting teams – no-reply emails, no email or phone number, no live recruiter chat or chatbot available on career site 
  • The lack of chatbots overall to help answer candidate questions at scale 
  • The lack of career path examples and A-Day-In-The-Life examples
  • The lack of multiple languages available for the website and application
  • The lack of timely disposition emails for unqualified candidates 

However, it is refreshing to see so many authentic employee video testimonials. That’s definitely a plus and something candidates tell us in our research what they want a lot more of. Also, the application process on average takes less than 5 minutes, which is a growing trend we’ve seen over the past few years. We’ll see what else we find once we finish conducting this review. 

Once we’ve completed our review, we’ll rank the companies by research and application stages and write up our overall takeaways. Our plan is to release this report in conjunction with our 2022 Talent Board CandE Winner announcement in mid-September. Again, to be clear, the happiest job candidates are only those who are hired at the end of the day (and those retained through internal mobility). For the rest of the candidates, it’s about whether or not they felt their recruiting experience was positive and fair, or not.

There’s also still time for companies to participate in our 2022 candidate experience benchmark research program. Learn more about it and register today here


Be safe and well.

Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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