For years, the best employers have prioritized “the candidate experience”—the idea that job seekers who are treated professionally and courteously are more likely to accept an offer. Companies that treat candidates well are more attractive as places to work, recruiters say. That helps them attract the most promising recruits and land the best talent.
On the other side of the coin, treating candidates casually or, worse, rudely can discourage them from considering a position with your company at all. They might start to wonder whether you’d treat them any better once they came on board.
Besides that, a poor candidate experience can be dangerous to your reputation. In today’s connected world, job seekers are quick to share their impressions–and complaints–with their friends and colleagues, in-person or on social media.
That’s why it's important to treat candidates with the same care with which you treat your customers. By treating job seekers professionally and respectfully, you demonstrate that you care about the well-being and success of your employees, respect their skills and talents, and value both their time and the contributions they make to your company.
Sometimes, in the crush of doing business and managing to-do lists, it can be easy to unintentionally slip into the wrong kind of approach for talent acquisition. When that happens, employers end up chasing the best candidates away, even when they’ve made an attractive offer for a promising job.
Providing a solid candidate experience is a mindset. As you begin to correspond with and interview prospective employees, always consider how the process looks from their point of view. Make sure to avoid these common traps employers can stumble into when they get distracted from the human side of recruiting.
1. Don’t Act Like It’s All About You
Especially today, when the job market is seeing record levels of unemployment, it’s tempting to think candidates are “desperate” for work. Some may be, but recruiters say that solid performers – in most any industry, doing most any kind of work—are always in demand. But if you treat candidates as if they’re a commodity, then you may only hear from are those who’ve been left behind.
Instead, it's critical to treat every candidate as an individual, to stay in communication, and make them feel cared for throughout the recruiting process.
2. Don’t Make Them Jump Through Unnecessary Hoops
When scheduling interviews, skills exams, tryouts, or anything else that requires candidates to connect online or in-person, make the process as simple as possible. Clunky tools send the message that your company is not current with the latest technology. Clunky processes warn that a prospective employer is saddled with an inordinate amount of bureaucracy.
3. Don’t Make Them Wait
Reply to each candidate’s emails, texts or phone calls in a timely fashion. When they follow up to inquire about the status of their application, for example, don’t reward them with silence.
Being proactive is a plus, as well. If you plan to ask someone in to meet your team, let them know as soon as you’ve made the decision. If you’ve shared their resume with other managers because other opportunities may be appropriate, tell them. No candidate will complain about hearing from you too often.
4. Don’t Lowball
Research market rates for salary and compensation, and also investigate the benefits and perks that other companies in your industry or market offer. Younger workers, especially, tend to do their research in these areas, so employers need to be as prepared as they are.
At the same time, ask current employees what they value most about working for you. Many workers say intangibles like meetings with executives and regular check-ins are worth more than vacation days or gym memberships.
5. Don’t Act as if One Size Fits All
Several generations are co-mingling in the workforce today, so no one communications channel can reach everyone. Recruiters emphasize the importance of “meeting candidates where they are.” Be prepared to engage with some workers by email, for example, and others by text message, according to their preference. When conducting video interviews, connect on platforms that are commonly available and simple to use, such as Zoom or Google Meet. If your company uses video tools that are part of a broader recruiting platform, provide instructions on connecting in advance.
6. Don’t Ask Unrelated Questions
You probably already know that some interview questions can’t be asked. For instance, queries about race, religion or age all touch on topics related to “protected classes,” and can point to interviewer bias, which can lead to legal or regulatory troubles.
That aside, some questions can annoy candidates without providing much useful information in return. Recruiters and career coaches say questions such as, “Why should I hire you over other candidates?” are counterintuitive: You’ve already indicated they can do the job by inviting them to interview in the first place. Asking candidates to describe themselves in X number of words, or describe what their colleagues would say about them, don’t shed light on their skills and experience. And, do you really expect anyone to honestly answer, “What’s your greatest weakness?”
Instead, consider good interview questions such as those that ask candidates to describe their previous experience, to provide examples of a time when they overcame an obstacle, went above and beyond, or proved a particular skillset.
Even when the unemployment rate is high, it’s important to think about what your hiring practices say about your company. After all, you want to hire the best candidates available—and so do your competitors. The most talented, most committed and most valuable workers are always in demand.
It’s easy for employers to say, “People are our most important asset.” When you treat employees and candidates the right way, you’re actually demonstrating that yours is the kind of business people want to work for.