How to create a great candidate experience from start to finish

As an employer, the chances are that you will have become aware of the term ‘candidate experience’.

Rather than dismiss this phrase as yet another buzzword, it is important that you take the time to learn what candidate experience means and the impact it can have on the calibre of individuals that apply to join your workforce.

What is candidate experience?

Candidate experience is defined as the way candidates feel about your business once they have gone through your hiring process. These feelings can be either positive or negative and will influence their decisions when it comes to applying for roles or accepting offers you make.

In short, a positive candidate experience will leave applicants and candidates with a great opinion about your company, further bolstering your employer brand. While, naturally, a negative experience will damage your employer brand, limit the talent that is attracted to your brand and even impact the quality of candidates that do apply.

It’s human nature to discuss our experiences, and with this in mind, it’s important to note that everyone you interview will talk about your business, and how the interview and hiring process was conducted.

It is important to remember that in today’s digital age, you are vulnerable to the things people are saying about your business online. Not only is social media widely used to air opinions, but the opportunity to leave reviews is widespread.

This weight of online reviews is becoming ever more critical as we move in 2020. For instance, Google is using ‘real world’ signals such as reviews as ranking factors for your website, improving or hindering your online visibility. When it comes to employer brand and candidate experience, review sites such as Glassdoor can place the business in either a positive or negative light. Individuals can anonymously review their experience as an employee or as a candidate. Negative reviews about your company can ultimately limit your access to high-quality candidates, and the only way to counteract the negativity is to change your approach to recruitment.

There is a real need for businesses to create a candidate experience that delights individuals all of the way through the process. Every touchpoint with a candidate is an opportunity to create a good impression.

In this resource, you will discover how you can use every stage of the hiring process to create a great candidate experience, hire talented individuals and drive your business forward.


Hiring to meet real objectives

Rather than treating recruitment as a way to just fill a vacancy that has been created, it pays to consider the core attributes and values that you would like to see in your next hire.

Before a job description is created, or recruitment begins, identify any gaps in the business that need to be filled.

This way you will be focussed on the type of candidates that will be best suited to the job, including skills, experience, personal and professional qualities. For instance, someone with an abundance of positive energy, that is engaging to talk to, will not only be great with clients – but will also positively impact the culture of your business and the team they work within.

Create clear and concise job descriptions

Promote your business

A job description may be the first touchpoint that a candidate has with your company, and it is a wonderful opportunity to create a great first impression.

Provide a glimpse into your company culture and personality by using your core values and testimonials from your current team detailing why they love working for you, or even including company photos.

We are in an employee market, whereby candidates are actively seeking out the best company to work for. It’s important to include the employee benefits such as health insurance, modern technology, holiday allowance, subsided meals or budgets for training and development.


It’s critical that job descriptions are clear and concise, rather than littered with jargon or industry buzzwords.

Although it’s commonplace to see job descriptions using ‘fun’ job titles such as, ‘director of first impressions’ – i.e., receptionist, this has potential to mislead applicants or unintentionally discriminate.

In doing so, you also run the risk of missing out on candidates who are qualified and experienced, but don’t quite understand what the role is for.

For instance, if you are hiring for a Call Centre Operative, but use the job title Sales Specialist, it’s likely you will be attracting the wrong candidates.

Avoid stereotypical language such as ‘passionate, result-orientated and good communication skills’ and be succinct about the qualities you are looking for.

In short – keep job descriptions short, professional and relatable. This isn’t to say that you can’t communicate your company personality, but the description should be accurate and speak to the candidate.


Avoid including extensive lists of requirements, you can find that in doing so, you alienate potential strong candidates. For example, does the role at hand really require degree-level education, or is this a ‘nice to have’?

It’s important to avoid confusing the two. Try to limit yourself to five core requirements that are critical for performing at a high level in this role.


What can candidates expect from a typical day working in the role you are hiring for? Rather than using an ambiguous description, bullet point specific responsibilities the role entails, including specific KPIs that will be measured.

For extra clarity, include details of reporting lines and company structure. This level of transparency gives candidates context, and an opportunity for them to find out more about the business.

Develop an accessible application process

Your ‘careers’ or ‘work for us’ pages should be easy for candidates to find, rather than hidden away, requiring candidates to spend a large amount of time hunting for vacancies on your website.

Make the application process quick and efficient.

Long-winded application processes repel candidates. To prevent this from happening, be upfront at the beginning of the process about what will be asked of applicant, and if possible, keep the process to one page of the website.

This way, individuals will know what will be expected of them when applying and won’t need to stop throughout the process to hunt for more information to include or upload.

Another element that deters candidates, is requiring them to create log-ins and profiles for your portal or system. This rings especially true if you are worried about information security and have created stringent rules for passwords.

When working with recruiters, it is also incredibly important to ensure that you have communicated your expectations and requirements when it comes to upholding your candidate experience and employer brand.

Improve your candidate experience at application stage by making it easy to apply, this includes:

  • Making the application process is mobile-optimised
  • Avoid restricting file upload sizes
  • Creating space for free-response answers
  • Seriously consider what is classed as a ‘required’ field
  • Send confirmation emails when an application is submitted
  • Personalise all communication, using candidates’ names

Work with recruitment partners who align with your candidate experience goals

As you look to develop your application process, make sure you develop your partnerships with any recruitment partners too. Choosing the right recruitment partners, to build your talent pipeline and to bring quality candidates for each role, will only help to enhance the candidates’ experience with your business.

The right recruitment agency should reflect the positive approach you take with candidate experience. You should feel reassured that they:

  • Can reflect your business values and culture to potential candidates
  • Effectively manage and communicate with candidates
  • Understand the fit and skills you are looking for with the role

This should all help to ensure expectations are correctly managed around what the role entails and the what is involved in the recruitment process. Recruitment agencies should even be able to promote your business and make the process seamless for candidates – recruitment is a very personal thing and you don’t want someone who is just looking to ‘make a sale’ as your first point of contact with a candidate.

Learn more about our approach to ethical recruitment and candidate experience

Communicate with candidates (and recruiters) at every stage

It is so incredibly important to communicate with candidates at every stage of the process.

Communication manages expectations, reinforces your employer brand and sets the tone for the rest of the candidate experience. Alongside expecting your recruitment partners to align themselves with the way that you communicate with candidates, you should also commit to excellent communication with them. This includes regular touchpoints throughout the process, providing feedback and guidance where you feel necessary. In order for recruiters to behave as an extension of your internal team, they should be treated as such.

Application confirmation

An application confirmation reassures a candidate that is has been successfully received, further to this, you can include information on when and how they will hear from you with regards to the next step in the process.

The power of conversation

When candidates make it through to the next stage of the application process, taking the time to have an informal conversation is a great way to introduce yourself, explain more about the role and the company and learn more about the candidates.

This usually takes place over the phone, in-keeping with the informal tone. In a conversation, information naturally flows, and each party can forge a connection with the other. The tone should be kept light and upbeat, providing a natural pathway for the next step of the process and making candidates feel more comfortable if they are set assignments to complete.

A process that may otherwise be delivered as cold and impersonal.

Early stage unsuccessful candidates

Should be treated with the same care and respect as those who are unsuccessful at the later stages. These candidates can remain in your talent pipeline for future roles, but a lack of communication is likely to deter them from applying with you again.

If possible, offer feedback or be transparent about why they didn’t make it further in the process this time.

Interview assignments

Setting interview assignments that are relevant to the role and showcase skills, experience and understanding of the role are an effective way to determine strong applicants.

Be sure that you have written a clear and concise brief for the assignment, that also explains its objective and the role it will play in an interview. From a candidate perspective, an assignment is a big investment of their time, and it pays to make yourself approachable and available for any questions they might have.

Be realistic and transparent with regards to the timeframe that you are setting and be sure to thank the candidate for the time and effort they committed to completing the assignment in a timely manner.

Communication continued…

There is nothing that dampens the candidate experience more than silence between interview stages. This creates confusion, frustration and anxiety in candidates and detracts from the employer brand.

You can prevent this by setting clear expectations and timelines when setting an assignment or once it has been received.

Again, valuable communication should be with both successful and unsuccessful applicants.

Interviews: managing candidate expectation

When an applicant has made it through to the interview stage, you are presented with an opportunity to ease nerves, be transparent and add value. You can do this in a number of ways.

  • Send a calendar invite to eradicate any confusion over dates, time and location.
  • The invite can also include information such as, the interviewing parties, including name, role and length of time in the business.
  • The length of time the interview will take and structure or agenda.
  • Dress code.
  • Any specific information with regards to directions, parking and entry into the office building.

Interviews: how to focus your attention and be present

Giving your full attention to the candidate and the interview demonstrates respect.  It also reveals that you value the opportunity to meet and learn more about the individual, helping you to establish a positive relationship.

When it comes to the way that this focus, present approach benefits the business, it means that you are going to get the most value out of the exchange, asking the questions that matter and develop an understanding of the individual’s personal code of ethics, as well as personal and professional goals.

To conduct a focussed interview with your full attention, you should commit to the following:


Review the candidate in full. Make sure you thoroughly review their CV, picking out areas that particularly interest you or which you would like to learn more about. Think carefully about questions you can ask around these items.

If it is available, you may also want to look at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile – not only what they post but the content that they like and share. Is there anything that strikes you or stands out, want to know more about? Note these down and share your thoughts in the interview.

Create a list of company and role specific questions, or perhaps there is something industry wide you would like to discuss. This isn’t about catching people out, this is about understanding how proactive and in touch they are with their role and chosen career.

Book a dedicated meeting room or quiet space ahead of time. There is nothing worse than being interrupted or distracted by being in a busy area of the office.

Arrange someone to greet the candidate when they arrive, and make sure they are comfortable. This person should know the name of the candidate, who they are meeting with and the location of the interview. The candidates should be offered a drink and shown where the toilets are.

Start the interview on time, outline the process or structure and make sure you have allocated enough time so that you don’t need to rush. You may have already outlined the structure in your pre-interview communication, but recapping doesn’t hurt.

Remember to take notes. Always take note, they are invaluable when assessing candidates and provide a basis for feedback.

Invite conversation, thoughts and questions from the candidate.

Remember to thank the candidate for their time, and advise when they can expect to hear something by. If they are no longer being considered for the role, the candidate should be notified quickly and feedback provided– they should not be given the silent treatment or left waiting indefinitely.

Candidate feedback

For fear of facing repercussions, businesses can feel apprehensive when it comes providing unsuccessful candidates with feedback. By creating a structure that can be followed each time, you can deliver specific and personalised information in a kind and considered manner. This type of feedback can be used constructively and proactively by the candidate to continue their job search and make them more inclined to apply with you again, should the opportunity arise.

When it comes to seeking to improve the candidate experience through feedback, this should be done consistently.

If you would like to speak to us further about creating a great candidate experience and starting your recruitment, please contact a member of the Anne Corder team today.