The Best Way to Improve Candidate Experience

Candidate experience went from being a fairly new concept to quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of talent acquisition. Some of the acceleration is due to the pandemic, but the disparate parts of the recruitment, hiring and onboarding process have been understood for some time; it was the act of bringing them together that eluded many organizations. This leads to the question: That of all these different parts, what is the level that provides the most impact on candidate experience at your organization?

One type of challenge that comes up often in Brandon Hall Group research is a lack of pre-work. This can take many forms but in our most recent research, providing clear and honest job descriptions was a leading concern.

What Are Your Greatest Candidate Experience Challenges?

It is fair to say that a lengthy time-to-hire is also caused by internal processes that were not designed to be candidate-centric but made to meet the demands of hiring managers, department heads, recruiters and other stakeholders without considering the impact on the overall candidate experience.

The third-most common complication is with technological barriers. In this case, it is the online application process, but it can also be the employment portal, or lack of opportunities for feedback or messaging. As with the pre-work challenges, these are system problems that should be addressed as a whole.

The downside of a poor candidate experience is similar to making a bad hire. In both cases, the employee an organization gets is not up to the standard the organization expected. This means a less productive workforce, top- and bottom-line performance deficiencies, higher turnover and lower employee engagement. The most notable consequence Brandon Hall Group research found was in not getting the candidate needed for the role — nearly a quarter of all companies see a large percentage (10+%) just leave the recruiting process altogether.

Over the Past 12 months, What Was the Average Percentage of Candidates Who Dropped Out of the Recruiting/Hiring Process, Which Includes Interviewing?

The other bad outcome is from candidates who do not get the job. These are now ambassadors of the worst sort, using word-of-mouth and social media to infect the talent pool for future jobs that are posted.

Determining the most important aspects of the candidate experience is a complicated question, but one that can become easier by asking the right questions, including:

How can technology help create a better candidate experience or how is it currently standing in the way?

What improvements could be made to integrate of all parts of the candidate experience?

How do you now judge a successful candidate experience and what are the right interventions to change those metrics?

How does your internal candidate experience compare to your overall employee experience?

Brandon Hall Group research points to a specific area to examine when determining the most powerful impact point that affects candidate experience. After examining the post-interview/offer stage, the post-application stage and the interview process to see if there was a correlation between organizations that did well in those areas and aboveaverage growth in retention and offer acceptance, it was during the application and pre-application that had the greatest impact.

Two major factors likely play a part in this: one, more candidates than ever go through all of the early stages completely digitally with no human interaction; two, it is very hard to separate your external, customer-facing brand from your internal brand. Having a candidate experience that doesn’t take recruitment marketing, EVP and other candidate-centric ideas into consideration is damaging — not merely to your power to attract top talent, but also your ability to keep a satisfied customer base and maintain positive market perception.

If your organization struggles to improve their candidate experience, re-examine your efforts and activities in its early stages with an eye toward a more candidate-centric approach, as opposed to one that is designed for maximum internal efficiency. There are a number of concrete steps that can be taken to making a strong impact in this area, based on successful efforts uncovered from Brandon Hall Group research. The most effective actions are to:

  • Improve career site content.
  • Improve candidate communications/ nurturing (all types, all purposes).
  • Get candidate feedback about their recruitment through the hiring experience.
  • Enhance the online application experience.
  • Provide candidates with feedback about their progress during hiring process.

Remember that collecting feedback about the process is only useful if that feedback results in real changes. Candidates are often frustrated with hiring processes that make them feel dehumanized, so acknowledging their thoughts and suggestions can go a long way toward making a memorable impact on their experience.

The most impactful point of candidate experience varies by job type, industry and organization but the real takeaway is that all of the parts must come together to make a real impact on candidate experience. Even one missing link will break the chain that ties successful candidates to overall business success.


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.