Candidate Resentment Is on the Rise

By Roy Maurer on, published on April 11, 2023

Research shows communication, feedback-gathering when hiring still sorely lacking

For the second year in a row, candidate resentment—a measure of negative experience with the hiring process—has risen around the world. The only region where candidate resentment didn’t rise in 2022 was North America, where it dipped but remains historically high, according to research from the Talent Board, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that produces the annual Candidate Experience Awards and releases the data that determines the winners each year.

The latest report is a comprehensive look at data collected in 2022 from 150 organizations around the world, in addition to survey feedback from 200,000 job candidates. The report contains reams of benchmarking data from each stage of the hiring process, and includes insights on many aspects of recruiting, including the technologies being used, average job requisition loads, and priorities for 2023. The following are a few key takeaways.

Candidate Experience Still Needs Improvement

Talent Board president Kevin Grossman explained that job seekers were more sympathetic toward employers struggling with an unprecedented set of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last couple of years, but “candidate resentment never really went away.”

And that’s worrying for many reasons, including the impact on a company’s ability to compete for talent, as well as its reputation and bottom line, he said.

The top three reasons for negative sentiment about the candidate experience were:

  • The recruiting process took too long.
  • The candidate’s time was disrespected.
  • Salary didn’t meet expectations.

“The global surge in resentment is most likely due to less transparency among employers, who were far more communicative and open during the early days of the pandemic,” Grossman said.

“Candidates feel like they are not being heard,” said Susan LaMotte, founder, CEO and principal strategist at exaqueo, an employer-brand consulting firm in Charleston, S.C. “The Talent Board data shows that we’re not really making much progress on candidate experience, after all these years.”

The candidate experience has not evolved in the same way as the consumer experience, which places a lot of value on getting to know the user from the beginning of the process, said Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, a digital recruitment marketing agency in the Boston area. “Companies have not really changed how they interact with candidates,” he said.

“Chat functionality creates more instant engagement, but personalizing that engagement is challenging. Career sites, the entry point for many candidates, are dated. How many companies are really proud of their career site?” Costa added. “People are starving for a way to connect with a company so that they can decide whether it’s worth taking a step closer to that company.”

Undoubtedly, technology can help improve candidate experience, but technology by itself is not a silver bullet for a bad hiring process, LaMotte said. Employers need to first come up with a strategy based on their own qualitative research. “You need to understand how your candidates feel,” she said. “That’s what our colleagues in marketing research do all the time, before taking action.”

For example, the length of the process is a common complaint from candidates—and technology can speed up the process considerably. “But what about the role that recruiters and hiring managers play in communicating the process?” LaMotte asked. “Candidates see the lengthy process as the problem. But unless you dig into why it’s taking so long, it’s hard to solution.”

There are, however, core best practices to follow to achieve a positive candidate experience, Grossman said. They include:

  • Providing consistent communication during the process.
  • Setting expectations about the process.
  • Asking for and providing feedback.
  • Being transparent and accountable.
  • Ensuring a high level of perceived candidate fairness. “When candidates feel like their overall experience is a fair one, as in they are truly ‘in the running’ for jobs they’re qualified for, they tend to rate their experiences more positively,” Grossman said.

Communication Is Lacking

Overall, employers are failing at updating candidates on their progress as they move through the hiring process, according to the research. One-third (34 percent) of candidates in 2022 reported not hearing back from employers two months after they applied, only 58 percent said they received an automated “thank you” message after applying, and most shocking, just 7 percent said they’d been notified that they didn’t get the job.

“What makes these statistics particularly discouraging is that more employers than ever are using automation technologies to strengthen and streamline the application process,” Grossman said. “Recruiters can easily handle increased volumes of applications and better manage the administrative side of the process. Automated communications can be triggered at various disposition stages. The fact that more than a third of candidates are still waiting after two months to hear about their application status seems like a major—and fixable—issue.”

Costa said the failure lies either with people not having defined their candidate workflow and processes, or a poor use of the technology they have. “Every ATS [applicant tracking system] or CRM [candidate relationship management system] has the capability to send out an automated message,” he said. “We see so many ATS implementations that are done hastily, and therefore the core functionality isn’t set up properly. If TA [talent acquisition] did an audit of the candidate workflow, they would see the gaps. Companies should be doing candidate experience audits on a regular basis.”

LaMotte agreed that configuring technology to automate messaging is a good step, but a candidate communication strategy is also critical. “Companies will need to figure out at what stages in the candidate journey they want to truly captivate candidates and in what stages it is OK to just satisfy them,” she said. “It may not make sense to captivate at all stages.”

As more employers adopt…

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