Talent Acquisition

Why Startups Should Commit to a Positive Candidate Experience

By The Org

Last updated: Apr 5, 2023

    Table of contents

Contrary to popular belief, a job offer isn’t required for a positive candidate experience — but respecting applicants’ time and energy is. Here are the non-negotiables for attracting top talent and converting them on the merit of your employer brand.

Candidate experience is a longer phase in the employee lifecycle than many companies realize.

Done right, it’s the holistic recruitment journey from advertising a position to completing onboarding — and with so many organizations competing for the best talent, creating a smooth and positive candidate experience is a major part of employer branding for startups.

Candidate Experience 101

First things first. Here are the major factors comprising “candidate experience”:

  • Messaging to candidates: How recruiters and other team members communicate with candidates throughout the candidate journey — be it job posts, emails, sharing feedback, video calls, in-person meetings, or any other touchpoint in your hiring process. Messaging candidates should serve the purpose of informing your initial screening process.

  • Job advertisements: How well your job descriptions reflect your employer brand, company culture, and the reality of the role’s responsibilities and teammates.

  • Application process: How frictionless or not it is to apply to your open roles (e.g., whether candidates can save time by applying to your jobs with their LinkedIn profile) — and how your company handles notifications, updates, and feedback.

  • Rejections: How you approach rejection communications for unsuccessful candidates, and whether you offer constructive personalized feedback.

  • Onboarding: How you optimize the onboarding process to ensure new hires successfully navigate their ramp up period and feel right at home with their new responsibilities and team members.

A positive candidate experience begins with respect.

Contrary to popular belief, a job offer isn’t required for a positive candidate experience.

But being respectful of candidates’ time and energy is. Some ways to create fond memories of your candidate experience include:

  • Sharing the role’s salary range as early in the interview process as possible.

  • Giving candidates an accurate overview of what to expect at each stage.

  • Keeping the number of interview rounds to a minimum.

  • Offering compensation to candidates you ask to complete assignments or attend more than three interview rounds.

  • Sharing interview feedback as quickly as possible after each round so candidates can move onto other opportunities if necessary.

  • Personalizing rejection feedback for unsuccessful candidates.

Why startups should focus on candidate experience.

Think of candidate experience as a product your company sells to job applicants.

Just as we all look for product reviews before purchasing, candidates seek out employer reviews to see how your application process and employee experience sat with those who came before them and what they can expect —

Employer brand reputation is on the line.

Many organizations overlook the impact reviews about their candidate experience can have on their overall reputation — and their employer brand.

According to Glassdoor’s report on how to respond to employer reviews, 72% of job applicants have posted an online review about a negative candidate experience, and 55% would steer clear of certain companies because of a negative experience.

Reputation makes or breaks talent conversion.

Startups should aim for a five-star review from every applicant to ensure someone else's poor candidate experience doesn't impact their ability to attract and convert the best talent.

Otherwise there are a number of prices to pay in the recruiting process — and beyond:

  • Paying up to 10% more per hire to make up for a subpar reputation.

  • Attracting fewer applicants means spending more resources on recruitment campaigns.

  • A poor employer brand reputation among current employees can lower retention by 28%.

5 Ways to improve your candidate experience.

Here’s how to make sure candidate experience is a competitive advantage instead of a cost —

1. Create a candidate persona.

The first step is to create a candidate persona to document exactly the type of person your recruiters should target. These personas will help design messaging that speaks to your ideal applicants at every stage of the recruitment process.

Candidate personas also will allow recruiters to sort through applications efficiently and respond to candidates faster — either moving them to the next stage or providing a clear rejection letter.

2. Reconsider the length of your interview process.

Many organizations, including startups, have lengthy hiring processes lasting several weeks with multiple interviews and assignments. These tedious recruitment processes can lead to dropouts and may discourage great people from reapplying for future positions.

We've found these tips helpful for optimizing the interview process:

  • Explore digital interviews for initial screening: Platforms like Jobma and Spark Hire are excellent early interview tools. Recruiters can send candidates questions they can answer at a convenient time. These platforms allow recruiters to interview more applicants quicker, with fewer resources.

  • Reduce the number of people in the hiring process: Meeting multiple stakeholders is exhausting for candidates. Recruiters forget that these are people actively seeking employment — they're probably going through several hiring funnels simultaneously. Meet with decision-makers and find ways to reduce or combine interviews — for example, shorter screening calls or panel interviews.

  • Standardize interviews according to hiring workflow: Hiring managers often approach interviews with the same length and format, for example scheduling 30 minutes for a 20-minute screening call. Calendly recommends standardizing these sessions by type to optimize your hiring workflow and save everyone time.

3. Use The Org to show the heart and soul of your employer brand.

At the risk of sounding biased, The Org is a powerful employer branding platform to put your people front and center in the context of an organizational chart.

When someone decides to apply to your job listing on The Org, they already know about your company, the people (and friendly faces) working there, the teams they'll collaborate with, and an introduction to the values and culture. Even if your applications come through other channels, sending candidates to your company's org chart is a great way to introduce them to your employer brand.

4. Use hiring tools to your advantage.

Whether you have an HR team of one or many, ATS (Applicant Tracking System) tools like Greenhouse or Teamable can automate redundant processes while enhancing the applicant experience — for example, sending an acknowledgement email that you have received someone's application.

Typical ATS features include:

  • Candidate database management
  • Candidate assessment
  • Applicant filtering
  • Resume formatting
  • Applicant behavior analysis
  • Background analysis
  • Reduce bias and improve diversity
  • Insights and analytics to improve your hiring process
  • Personalized feedback for approvals and rejections

Some ATS tools that might be of interest —

5. Proactively ask for feedback on your hiring process.

The best way to improve your hiring process is to ask candidates for feedback. Recruiters can automate feedback requests using an ATS or CRM or even ask applicants at the end of an interview — "We want to improve our hiring process. Is there anything we could have done better?"

Recruiters can use these candidate perspectives to iterate on hiring processes and improve the company's applicant experience.

Ready to improve your candidate experience and attract exceptional talent? Claim your organization or create a new one to build your employer brand with The Org.

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