Waterfall

In a candidate-driven market, the candidate experience is more important than ever. Companies are beginning to realize that providing a positive hiring experience is integral to attracting the A players they need.

However, the candidate experience, as a concept, isn’t so cut and dry. For that reason, we’ve decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about what the candidate experience is and why it matters:

When Does the Candidate Experience Begin?

This question can be tricky to answer. The “official” starting point of the candidate experience depends, in large part, on whom you ask.

Some HR experts will tell you the candidate experience begins with a job seeker’s first interaction with your company, while others believe it starts when a candidate fills out an application. In truth, there is no objectively right or wrong answer.

However, most experts do agree a company’s brand plays a critical role in influencing a candidate’s choice to apply. Is your brand quirky and off the wall? Your business will likely receive more applications from creative go-getters, whereas a company with a by-the-books reputation will attract more buttoned-up types. For this reason, it may be best to say the candidate experience starts the minute a candidate becomes aware of your company’s brand.

When Does the Candidate Experience End?

While the beginning of the candidate experience may be up for debate, the endpoint is more defined. A candidate turns into an employee on their first day in their new position, and the onboarding process acts as the transition from candidate experience to employee experience.

What Do Candidates Really Want From the Candidate Experience?

Although the candidate experience at Zappos would be very different from the candidate experience at Apple, candidates do have some basic expectations that all companies must strive to meet. Here are a few questions you need to answer about your candidate experience to ensure it is up to snuff:

  1. Communication: What platform(s) will candidates and recruiters use to communicate? How quickly will responses be returned by both candidates and recruiters?
  2. Presumptions: What should applicants anticipate during the recruitment process? What overarching expectations does the company have for all candidates? How quickly do you want the process to move? What can candidates expect to gain from the recruitment process?
  3. Transparency: What is it like to work for your company, and is this information accurately communicated during the hiring process? How often can candidates expect to be updated on their progress in the recruitment process?

Is a Standardized Candidate Experience Important, or Should the Experience Be Tailored to Each Individual Candidate?

A structured process is crucial. Each applicant should fill out the same application, receive communications in the same manner, and be asked the same questions during the interview. This will not only help you evaluate candidates on a fair playing field, but it will also give you the opportunity to assess which aspects of your candidate experience are working wonders and which could use some tweaking.

Is There Really a Difference Between the Candidate Experience and the Employee Experience?

While the two experiences are similar, each occurs at a different stage in the talent life cycle. For that reason, each experience must have slightly different priorities. The candidate experience must be seamless and convenient, highlighting why an individual should choose to work for your company over another. The employee experience, on the other hand, should focus on supporting employee success, building teams, and planning career development paths.

While the specific form the candidate experience takes for your organization will depend on numerous factors, all HR thought leaders can agree on one undeniable fact: The candidate experience matters. Take time now to evaluate your experience, identify pain points, and make adjustments as needed.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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