A poor candidate experience can cost your company millions every year and can turn away great prospects from applying. But if candidates have a positive experience, they’re twice as likely to recommend the company or even become a customer themselves — even if they don’t ultimately get the job.
That’s inspiring but it isn’t always easy to achieve, despite your best efforts and intentions. When you’ve got a lot of candidates moving through the pipeline and your work is piling up, keeping every candidate engaged in the process and excited about your company can feel like a near-insurmountable task. But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of simple strategies you can use that won’t take up hours of your time or require an extravagant budget.
If candidates see you putting in the effort, they’ll appreciate it — and feel more confident about moving forward with a role. With that in mind, here are eight easy ways to impress and delight candidates and make your hiring process stand out.
1. Do your research and take personalized notes on your candidates
A well-prepared candidate researches the company they’re applying to or interviewing with. You can immediately show them you care by returning the favor.
If they’re a candidate you’ve sourced, reference something specific from their social media profiles when you first reach out. It might be a particular skill or achievement that caught your eye on LinkedIn, or something funny they mention in their bio. This simple tactic can increase your response rate by 10%, signaling to candidates that you’re paying attention.
Before every phone screening and interview, give the candidate’s resume a thorough read and jot down key accomplishments so you don’t forget to mention them. That way, you’ll be able to ask more specific questions about how certain projects came to fruition and what challenges the candidate faced, rather than ticking boxes on a generic checklist. You’ll learn more about the candidate, and they’ll know you’re a recruiter who really does your homework.
2. Don’t just talk about company culture and values — help candidates feel them
According to Gallup research, your company culture may make or break your chances of attracting the top 20% of talent. Candidates want to learn about why your employees love working for the company — but simply telling them may not be enough to seal the deal.
Anyone can say they have an amazing culture. You can go above and beyond by helping candidates feel why it’s so amazing.
Sharing pictures and videos of real employees in real situations on your career site is a good place to start. If you have a volunteering program, for example, a video of employees out making a difference in the world can be very powerful.
Getting the candidate’s prospective future team involved in the recruiting process is also an easy way to help them experience the culture in an authentic way. If they come in for an onsite, encourage the team give an office tour, or have the candidate eat lunch with them. Hearing about the culture from people they might soon be working with can make it feel more real — and they’ll probably appreciate the moments of levity between the more serious interviews and talks.
You can also use the interview as an opportunity to highlight your company’s core values and talk about how employees live them every day. Everyone wants to feel fulfilled at work, so discussions like these can prove incredibly meaningful for candidates.
3. Maintain strong lines of communication throughout the hiring process
One of the fastest ways to leave candidates with a bad impression of your company is to ghost them — even if it’s inadvertent.
On the flip side, that means that one of the best and quickest ways to boost their engagement and win their trust is to stay in touch. That’s true even if a candidate doesn’t make it past the screening stage.
Recruiting expert Stacy Zapar sends every applicant she rejects a personalized email. She uses a template to save time, but always includes her name, role, and an invitation to stay in touch. In doing so, she not only closes the loop and gives candidates closure, but grows her network with people who might be right for future roles.
For candidates who do move onto the next stages, take the time to send regular status updates — even if the only news is that there is no news. This is especially critical during the interview and offer stages and may be the thing that keeps candidates interested, even if other companies start making offers.
Of course, when you have a lot of candidates moving through your pipeline, it’s easy to lose track, and the lines of communication can become a little blurred. Using an applicant tracking system (ATS) can help you stay organized and avoid losing candidates to the dreaded black hole.
Launching this fall, LinkedIn Talent Hub is an ATS that will bring all your most-used tools together on a unified platform. Your entire team will be able to access candidates statuses directly through your ATS — ensuring no one sends a duplicate email or assumes their coworker has already reached out.
4. Give candidates advanced notice about who — and how many people — will be at their interview
If a candidate comes in to interview expecting to speak to one person, sitting down in front of a panel of eight may really throw them off their game. You can set them up for success early on by letting them know exactly who they’ll be interviewing with and what the day is going to look like.
A few days before the interview, email candidates an agenda — including the names of everyone they’ll be meeting, the breakdown of each panel, and the focus areas each interviewer will be covering in the interview. If the schedule is still somewhat up in the air, you can let them know that the list may change slightly, depending on people’s availability. This lets them know you’re actively thinking about their experience and are dedicated to keeping them informed.
Linking to the interviewers LinkedIn profiles is also a simple but effective way to show them you’re rooting for them, giving them the tools to do some research. By empowering candidates to step into the room with confidence, you give their confidence in the company a healthy boost too.
5. Be transparent about the downsides of the job (without being too negative)
No matter the job or the industry, there will always be highs and lows — and candidates expect this. What they don’t expect is for you to tell them about these downsides. Doing so can help them view you as a company that has their best interests in mind.
Throughout your conversations with the candidate, don’t obscure the negative aspects of the position. If they may sometimes have to deal with difficult clients or meet extremely tight deadlines, that’s something the candidate probably wants to know about.
You don’t want to belabor the point, but a little candor can build a lot of trust. You can use transparency to your advantage by highlighting how your organization supports employees through these challenges. This tactic may also help you find people who thrive under pressures that would push others away.
6. Think carefully about your environment and consider getting out of the conference room
The environment in which you choose to interview can impact a candidate’s overall experience just as significantly as any words that are said. And a bland, predictable, or stuffy room may color their perception of the company.
If you prefer to interview in an office or conference room, take a few extra moments to make sure it’s comfortable and appealing. Open a window to let some air circulate before they come in, clean up any clutter, and let people know not to disturb you.
It’s also worth considering the temperature in the room. Since office heating systems were designed with men in mind, they can often leave women shivering — leaving some candidates uncomfortable and distracted. If you’re unsure, ask the candidate when they come in if the temperature is right for them, letting them know their comfort matters to you.
Depending on your location, you can also consider interviewing in a more interesting or casual location. Mercedes Benz, for example, interviews some candidates inside its cars. Candidates expect an office setting, so switching things up can be a pleasant surprise.
7. Keep your promises as much as possible
A critical yet sometimes neglected way to improve the candidate experience can be pretty simple: Keep your promises.
If you say the interview will take place at a certain time, do everything you can to stick to the schedule. The candidate has likely shifted their own schedule around to meet with you, and they may have childcare or other time-sensitive concerns to worry about. Being punctual reinforces that the interview is important to your company and that you respect the candidate’s time.
After the interviews are over, set a timeline for when they should expect to hear from you, and do everything in your power to stick to it. If you realize you won’t have a final answer for them by the time you promised, let them know as soon as possible. This waiting period can be nerve-wracking, so making it clear that you’re sensitive to their feelings and focused on keeping them informed may be what cinches their decision to accept an offer if one is extended.
8. Be thoughtful about how you deliver rejections, too
Delivering bad news is never easy. But rejecting candidates in a perfunctory or impersonal way — or failing to deliver the news and leaving them hanging — is a surefire way to sour their experience and damage your reputation. If they’re customers of your brand, it may even make them think twice about using your company’s products or services again, which can have a big impact on the bottom line.
Sending a considerate, personalized rejection email within a reasonable timeframe can speak volumes about the company. Carving out time to connect via phone can also be beneficial. It shows the candidate that their experience is a priority for you and leaves the door open to reconnect — especially if it turns out they’re a better fit for a future role.
If you’re able to share any specific feedback about their strengths and areas of improvement, do so — 94% of candidates are eager to hear it. And if your company has a policy against that, you can still gather feedback from rejected candidates about what you could have done to improve their experience. With that feedback in your back pocket, you’ll be in an even better position to make your process better and not repeat any mistakes.
The devil is in the details
Small details can make or break the candidate experience. Exceeding a candidate’s expectations and wowing them with your thoughtfulness and attention to detail is what will ultimately leave them with the best impression of your company, even if they don’t get the job.
It’s clichéd to say but thinking carefully about how you’d want to be treated can help you spot potential problems with your process and smooth out any wrinkles before the candidate sees them. If the process feels like it was designed by humans with humans in mind, it’s in good shape.