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Survey Says: What Candidates Want from Employers During the Application Process

By Kevin W. Grossman

Survey Says: What Candidates Want from Employers During the Application Process

What do candidates want from employers during the application process?

You could guess answers all day, “Family Feud”-style. But we don’t have to guess — we asked over 90,000 candidates what they expect from the hiring process in the 2018 CandE survey. They answered a variety of questions about the candidate experience, and also gave the experience a rating of 1 to 5 stars. Their insights provide a valuable snapshot of how candidates perceive the application process today.

When it comes to the candidate experience, there’s little margin for error in today’s hiring market. Organizations that meet candidates where they are — and provide what they want — have a better chance of hiring the people they need to have greater organizational success.

So what do candidates want? It all boils down to one important quality: respect.

Candidates Want a Simple Application Process

Eighty-four percent of candidates in the latest CandE survey were external, meaning they weren’t applying for positions in their current organizations. This means they’re likely to spend time away from their current job to pursue an opportunity. You can show you value busy candidates’ time by making your application process simple and quick.

The numbers help highlight the issue: Forty-eight percent of North American candidates who gave a 5-star rating for the application process said the application was very easy, while only 9% who gave a 1-star rating said the application was very easy.

Also, it pays to audit your questions to ensure that you only ask for necessary information, and to make sure that the application itself isn’t clunky.

Embracing mobile technology can make the process even easier. The number of candidates using mobile applications increased from 2017 to 2018, and that number will only go higher as more organizations tailor their application processes for mobile tech. About 18% of candidates in the 2018 survey said they applied via mobile. This may seem like a relatively small number, but it’s up 31.4% from 2017.

Taking all of these steps will ensure a better candidate experience. About 43% of candidates who gave a 5-star rating to the application experience said their application took less than 15 minutes to complete.

Candidates Want a Fair Application Process

The perception of fairness plays an important role in the candidate experience. Our survey found vast differences in candidate satisfaction in the area of perceived fairness. There was a 128% difference between those who felt they were being treated the most fairly — with ratings averaging 4.4 stars — and those who rated application fairness the lowest, around 1 star.

In other words, if a candidate doesn’t think they have been treated fairly, the whole experience tanks.

Candidates Want to Be Acknowledged

Finally, candidates desire acknowledgement. Regardless of whether they’re hired, they want recognition of their time and interest.

In 2018, nearly 66% of candidates received an automated “Thank You for Applying” message. While that may seem like a good figure, it’s actually a 4.6% decrease from 2017.

Troublingly, we noticed the same downward trajectory of candidates who received a message about the next steps in the application process. Only 29.3% of candidates said they received a reminder, a 13.8% decrease from 2017. Even worse? Forty-six percent of North American candidates told us that they had not heard back from employers two months after they applied.

I’ll be frank here: Even though you’re not going to hire everyone for your job, you need to treat all candidates with respect and courtesy. Small gestures can go a long way toward improving perception of your employment brand. And with the power of automated tools, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be sending these emails. It’s a small step — but as the survey says, it means a lot.

For more information on how you can better tailor your candidate experience to what candidates really want, read Talent Board’s 2018 CandE Report.