Candidate Experience – What is it and how to survey it?

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Candidate Experience – What is it and how to survey it?

Candidate experience is an increasingly hot topic in data-driven HR. If you care about conducting an effective recruitment process, you surely care about the experiences of the candidates during the recruitment process. In this post, I’ll tell you what candidate experience is and how you can survey it.

What is candidate experience?

Candidate experience is how job seekers perceive an employer’s recruitment and onboarding process. To start off, an effective recruitment process is beneficial for both employee and employer and fulfills the needs of both sides.

Why is candidate experience worth measuring at all? Companies have been caring about client experience for years. They’ve been trying to learn candidate’s needs and expectations, and identify the factors that influence their experience the most. This is important for a number of reasons.

  • It is increasingly difficult to persuade a passive candidate to participate in a recruitment process.
  • An eRecruiter survey showed that two-thirds of employers claim to care about candidate experience at every stage of the recruitment process.
  • At the same time, 57% of candidates say that companies don’t care about people who are applying for a job!
  • Candidates increasingly share their experience with others. Websites like Glassdoor make the recruitment process very transparent and negative experiences will be publicly shared.
  • The Talent Board reports that 73% of candidate was never asked for feedback on their experiences in the application process
  • According to Career Arc, nearly 60% of candidates have had a poor experience, and 72% of them shared the experience either online or with someone directly.

An example: Virgin Media turns down almost 150.000 applicants in a typical year. In 2015 this equated to upsetting over 7.500 customer applicants enough to cancel their contracts and switch to the competition. By providing an excellent candidate experience, Richard Branson was able to save $7 million in lost revenue.

Customer Experience Survey Questions and Factors

Recognizing applicants as (potential) customers helps to provide a better candidate experience

The candidate experience survey

One of the easiest ways to survey candidate experience is utilizing the Net Promotor Score (NPS) method. This method has been used for years to measure the level of client experience in the field of candidate experience. After all, during the recruitment process the candidate is your client. Candidate experience survey questions worth asking, are:

  • How willing would you be to recommend applying to companyX to other candidates? Check on the scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is „I strongly don’t recommend” and 10 is „I strongly recommend”.

The next candidate experience survey question depends on their answer to the first question.

  • “Promoters”, who checked 9 or 10, you can ask: What did you like most during applying to the company X?
  • “Passives”, who checked 7 or 8, you can ask: In your opinion, what should we change first in our recruitment process?
  • “Detractors”, who checked answer between 0 and 6, you can ask: What are the areas in our recruitment process that in your opinion need to be changed?

The answers to these questions help to map the candidate experience

Customer Experience Rating

Calculate candidate experience and take the next step

After subtracting the percentage of the Detractors from the percentage of Promoters, you can calculate your NPS. Why is this worth doing?

First, you can survey your basic level of candidate experience. This level can increase when you take action based on the feedback given by candidates in the open questions. This is the main purpose of carrying out candidate experience survey: working on changes to the recruitment process based on expectations of candidates from your target groups.

You can try to impress candidates by getting them an Uber to the interview (yes, that’s a real example). You can also adjust the recruitment process to their expectations (e.g. by changing the order of recruitment stages or shortening the duration of the entire recruitment process).

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Download Syllabus is an excellent example of a company that is doing this right. They use a number of best practices to optimize candidate experience.

What else is worth asking when measuring candidate experience?

Perhaps your company has more or less defined standard of treating candidates during the recruitment process. Candidate experience research is a great way of checking how effective this standard is applied.

How many candidates received feedback on the recruitment process they participated in? Ask the candidates. Do you try to give feedback that is more than the general „thank you, but we’ve chosen a more suitable candidate” formula? Find out how the candidates assess the level of the feedback.

What if both candidates already employed in the company and external candidates participate in the recruitment process?

It’s beneficial to assess both groups. Analyze them separately and compare the results. Generally, NPS result of employees participating in in-house recruitment will be higher than that of external candidates. Of course, with this target group, the bar should be set even higher because they are already your employees. We want them to feel exceptionally well during the recruitment process.

Additional indicators of candidate experience

Finding out how willing applicants are to recommend their experience to other candidates is a starting point of what you can do to verify candidate experience. Another vital indicator will be the percentage of extended employment contracts after the trial period. If it’s high (over 80%), that’s great! That’s proof that recruited applicants fit the employee profile. In other words, they’ve met the business expectations and the reality of their work corresponds with the expectations created during the recruitment process.

And if the percentage of extensions after the trial period is lower than, say, 50%? It’s worth analyzing why that’s happening, especially if candidates leave by their own choice. This could mean that the candidate had a different expectation. Maybe vital information about work conditions wasn’t shared during the recruitment process?

How can you learn what you’re doing wrong? Try the next step:

Research on employees that stayed with the company after the trial period

Employees who stayed at the company for 3 to 6 months are particularly helpful when gathering feedback on candidate experience. They still remember well what the recruitment process looked like. They can also compare it to their experience when applying to other companies (AKA your competition).

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Simultaneously, they can compare the expectations with which they started working with the reality of work. You can use anything that positively surprised them to inform new candidates even better during their recruitment process.

One more indicator – number of applications on recommendation of candidates

If you’ve already started to improve candidate experience in your company’s recruitment process, good job! Don’t forget to ask candidates to recommend their experience to others.

You can encourage the candidates to do that after finishing the recruitment process. Ask if they know a candidate who would be interested in the offered position. If the candidate felt properly “taken care of” during the recruitment process, he/she will be likely to recommend someone else. This even holds true when they resigned from the process or weren’t hired.

You can also add a link that will make sharing information about the job offer easier. You can include this link in a “thank you” e-mail to participants of the candidate experience assessment. Do remember to track the number of applications!

Number of spontaneous applications

An increasing number of spontaneous applications is a proof of increasing knowledge of employer’s brand. It is also an indicator of a good opinion on the company, built through experience offered both to present and potential employees. Thus, it’s worth measuring.

If you were under the impression that candidate experience is a “soft” HR area, I hope you’ve reconsidered by now. Measuring candidate experience is worth it since there is no better source of information on what should change in your recruitment process than by asking candidates. They’ll be the best source of ideas worth implementing.

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