What’s New and Fresh in the Candidate Experience? Absolutely Nothing

By Kevin Grossman – Published July 13, 2022 on

As the leader of Talent Board and the Candidate Experience Awards, I’m often asked about the evolution of the candidate experience. What has changed in the decade that my organization has researched these experiences? What’s new and fresh?

Frankly, I could answer these questions any number of ways. I could talk about the succession of recruiting technologies that have streamlined candidate experiences over the years. Or how the application process alone has undergone a series of transformative shifts. Or the ebb and flow of candidate resentment over the past decade and the forces driving it. Or how the “power” in the jobs market has shifted from employers to job seekers and what that means to the candidate experience.

I could also talk about how in the early returns from our 2022 candidate experience benchmark research program, candidate resentment is down 29% from 2021, and candidates’ willingness to refer is up 10% from last year. That’s definitely a positive trend, and we’ll see where it all ends up when the program closes August 31 and we begin our complete review of all this year’s data.

As I said, I could reply in many different ways. But I usually answer by saying that what’s new and fresh in the candidate experience is…absolutely nothing.

That might sound glib, but I’m actually trying to be helpful. I’ve found that people who ask what’s new in the candidate experience typically don’t want a history lesson. What they really want is to know what’s happening today. More specifically, they want to know which recruiting tools, strategies, and best practices support the most successful candidate experiences right now. They’re interested in learning how to differentiate their company in today’s fiercely competitive talent market and how to better engage qualified candidates.

That’s why my “absolutely nothing” response isn’t as silly as it might seem. It cuts right to the heart of this basic fact: The qualities that made up a great candidate experience a decade ago still make up a great experience today. And job seekers continue to crave these qualities from potential employers:

  1. Frequent and respectful communication
  2. Insights into your company and its culture
  3. Plenty of feedback

1. Frequent and Respectful Communication

Each phase of the candidate experience offers employers critical communication touchpoints: pre- and post-application, for example; before and after interviews, screenings, and evaluations; even during the job-offer phase, where poor communication can still cost you a great candidate.

Employers that take advantage of as many of these touchpoints as possible — letting candidates know where they stand and what’s next every step of the way — are going to be the real winners in the competition for talent because they’re offering the kind of respectful experience that candidates are eager to return to again and again, even after they’ve been rejected for a particular job.

Now that talent shortages are a real concern for so many employers, recruiting teams are raising their communications game, taking steps to be more informative and responsive across the entire candidate experience. They’re using chatbots and more advanced conversational AI tools, text messaging, employer branding and marketing campaigns, and good old-fashioned emails and phone calls to keep candidates engaged. And they’re communicating through an extensive array of channels and platforms, including job boards and specialized talent communities, LinkedIn and other social media, and their own careers sites and employer marketing materials.

This surge in candidate communication is a welcome sign. Just a few years ago, many employers were getting away with less-than-stellar (if not downright poor) communication. Candidates would apply to jobs and never hear back. Others would email or call recruiters and still not receive a response. Others, lucky enough to get a chance to interview, would end up being ghosted by recruiters or hiring managers when interview time rolled around.

Some of these missteps are still occurring, of course, and they add up to one huge lost opportunity. In fact, Talent Board’s research shows that 11% of North American candidates voluntarily removed themselves from the recruiting process in 2020 because of poor communication. That’s literally hundreds of thousands of candidates whom employers never had the chance to meet or assess.

But the situation isn’t all bad. Back in 2017, Talent Board’s research revealed that more than half (52%) of all North American candidates were still waiting to hear back from employers more than two months after applying to a job. In 2021, this percentage had been substantially reduced to 23%, a welcome improvement.

As with so many aspects of the candidate experience, there’s no formula for great communication — but great communication is a hallmark of every great candidate experience.

2. Insights Into Your Company and Its Culture

Employers sometimes make the error of thinking that candidates only want to know about a job’s responsibilities and what it pays. That’s simply not the case.

Talent Board’s research clearly shows that job responsibilities and compensation are just scratching the surface of what candidates want to know.

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