By: Megan Cowman on May 4th, 2023

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Candidate Experience Surveys Can Reveal Your Hidden Hiring Problems

Recruitment outsourcing

It’s every hiring manager’s nightmare.  

After months of screening and interviews, you’ve finally identified the perfect candidate. You’re getting ready to make an offer when you get an email from the candidate that says:  

Thank you for your consideration, but I am withdrawing my application.  

Often, this is because another employer has moved faster and made an offer. Other times, it’s because something about your culture made the candidate say, “Yikes”. Either way, it’s a sign that something's wrong with your candidate experience.  

Negative experiences can happen for any reason

As a recruiter, I’ve many job seekers pull out because of a poor candidate experience.  

For instance, one highly talented candidate had made it through to the final round of interviews. She was excited about the new position, and we were excited about hiring her. The final interview went ahead… and then she contacted me to say that she was withdrawing her application.  

This candidate agreed to give me some confidential feedback, during which she admitted that she had withdrawn because of the interview experience—in fact, it was all down to one interviewer. This person’s conduct had been so unprofessional that the candidate wondered if it meant that the whole organizational culture was toxic. In the end, she decided to walk away and search for somewhere more welcoming.  

Worst of all, this particular interviewer was not a key decision-maker. They didn’t need to be involved in the interview process at all.  

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What makes for a bad candidate experience?  

Remember, an interview is a two-way process. You’re seeing if the candidate will be a suitable fit, but they’re also deciding if your office is somewhere they’d enjoy spending 40 hours each week.  

Anything that makes a bad impression could drive away great applicants. Common candidate pet peeves include:  

  • Slow communication: Waiting for a job offer can be nerve-wracking. Job candidates get frustrated if they don’t get timely updates about their current progress through each stage of the hiring process.  

  • Repetition in interviews and assessments: Candidates often complain about attending a second interview where they answer the same questions as last time, or provide information they gave in their initial job application. This can feel like a waste of the candidate’s time, plus it slows down the overall hiring process

  • Unfriendly interviewers: Interviews are often the first face-to-face contact between your organization and the candidate. You both need to make a good first impression, which doesn’t always happen.  

What kind of behavior should interviewers avoid? I’ve spoken to quality candidates in the past, and they’ve complained about interviewers who were:  

  • Not fully prepared to conduct the interview 
  • Not dressed appropriately  
  • Being cold, unwelcoming, or acting as if the candidate was imposing on their time 
  • Not giving their full attention when the candidate spoke 
  • Getting distracted by their phone or computer (especially during virtual interviews) 

From an employer’s point of view, this is all pretty concerning. How do you know if this kind of behavior is happening in your recruitment process?  

One simple way. Ask the candidates.  

How to conduct a candidate experience survey 

A candidate experience survey is a great way to get feedback on your recruitment process. This feedback will give you an applicant’s perspective on your recruitment process, which will highlight areas that need improvement.  

Here are a few best practices to help you get the most from candidate surveys: 

  1. Make them anonymous: Anonymous surveys usually provide the most honest feedback. You can set up an online survey tool like Typeform or SurveyMonkey. 

  1. Send survey invites as soon as possible: Don’t leave it too long after your final contact with the candidate. Ideally, try to reach out within two weeks of the last interview.  

  1. Include anyone that attended an interview: You don’t need to survey every single job seeker that applies, but it’s a good idea to request feedback from anyone who attended an interview or met with a team member. Remember to also include new hires—they’ve been through every stage of your recruitment process

It’s a good idea to have this as an ongoing process. Assign someone on the recruitment team to send surveys and collate them into regular reports. 

Using candidate experience surveys to create a better candidate experience 

Once you’ve gathered and analyzed this feedback, it’s time to put it into practice. Here are some steps we would normally recommend for creating a more positive candidate experience:  

  1. Discuss candidate feedback with the hiring team: Set up a regular meeting with everyone involved in the hiring process, including HR, senior leaders, and hiring managers. Spend some time going over the positives and negatives that emerge from employee feedback.  

  1. Look at ways to project company culture and employer brand: Your recruitment process is a chance to show off your company culture, especially during face-to-face interviews. Candidate experience surveys will tell you if you’re successfully showing your team in a positive light—or if you need to rethink the way you communicate your culture. 

  1. Streamline the interview process: “Too many interviews” is a common complaint. Take a look at how many interviews are included in your process—and ask if each interviewer needs to attend. Also, make sure that all interviewers share information and avoid repeating questions.  

  1. Communicate interviewing best practices: Interviewing isn’t as easy as it looks, and most interviewers would benefit from some coaching. Create some training materials to help interviewers, including a list of interview Dos and Don’ts. 

  1. Offer ‘lunch & learn” sessions for interviewer refreshers: Occasional refresher training will help keep everyone sharp. You can do these as a fun lunch-and-learn session and give everyone a chance to ask questions or raise concerns.

  1. Provide extra coaching where needed: If you get feedback about an individual interviewer, it’s a good idea to talk to them directly. Explain the importance of a good candidate experience and offer coaching to help them conduct better, more focused interviews. Schedule a follow-up to see if they require further coaching.

  1. Monitor relevant data: Surveys aren’t the only way to track the candidate's journey. Other metrics tell you a lot too, including time-to-hire, offer acceptance rate, and DE&I statistics. Make sure you also keep an eye out for reviews and comments on Glassdoor and social media sites like LinkedIn.

The candidate experience is always evolving, so it’s important to keep running surveys and responding to feedback.  

Let Helios help you create a great candidate experience

The candidate journey starts with the application process and continues through to onboarding. Getting it right is always a challenge, and a positive experience isn’t always guaranteed.

It’s much easier when you’ve got a little help. Helios HR are the go-to experts for HR consultancy, and we know how to make talent acquisition less of a chore—for you and for potential candidates. Our team can help you secure top talent and build a hiring process you can be proud of.

Want to improve hiring outcomes and grow your employer brand? Book a call with a Helios HR consultant today!

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