The Candidate Experience – DIY and Make It Personal

Mary Poquette; Poquette Screening Solutions LLC

Posted: February 19, 2019

As a consultant in the employment screening industry, I frequently “apply” for positions with my clients (with their permission of course). I do so for several reasons, one of them being to appreciate (or not) the “candidate experience” and share feedback with my client.

If you are responsible for any part of hiring within your organization and have not already done so, “Do It Yourself (DIY)” and apply for a job at your organization. Work through the entire process from application to background check until you get to onboarding. Also consider having someone else do the same. Select a person who is from a generation other than your own, is not a technologist, and has limited experience with application processes. Between your findings and those of your DIY partner, you will likely identify opportunities for improvement. (If your technology and process is great as is, a congratulatory high-five to you – and you probably don’t need to read any further!)

I suggest the candidate experience comes down to two factors – technology and treatment. Looking through the lens of a candidate, keep at least two questions in mind: 1) How well does this technology work, and 2) How do I feel about this? Regardless of what you find – good, bad, or somewhere in between – you need to know how the system and process works so you can capitalize on what works really well and compensate for less-than-perfect functionality.

As reported by candidates, a frustrating online application experience is among the top three reasons for a negative experience. Sixty percent of candidates report abandoning at least one online application because of length, complexity, and general dissatisfaction with the process. Based on my personal experience, I add “intrusiveness” as a cause of dissatisfaction. (Why did they need my driver’s license number?)

Candidates report poor communication or NO communication as another of the top three reasons for a negative experience. Communicate with candidates and, to the extent it is feasible within your organization, make it personal.

  • Refer to the candidate by name. The candidate provided their name when showing interest in a position at your organization. Use the candidate’s name going forward, beginning with thanking them for their interest. Beginning a written communication – whether text, email, or other form of communication – with “Dear Candidate” probably won’t make anyone feel special. Make it personal; use their name.
  • Become a person, not just an organization. If you want your candidates to feel it’s personal, you need to be personal, too. Instead of closing with “Talent Acquisition” or “HR Department,” provide your name. Instead of a general email address, provide your own. 
  • Maintain contact by acknowledging actions taken by the candidate. Do this throughout the process. For example, if the candidate uploads their resume, even though it is an optional step in your ATS, acknowledge with a message of thanks and perhaps a comment about helpfulness in determining the best fit within your organization. As you communicate back to the candidate, offer additional information about your organization using video, web links, or other tools at your disposal.
  • Explain what happens next. In addition to thanking the candidate for something they have already done, let them know what happens next; i.e., “Thank you for completing our online application. We are reviewing your information for openings matching your qualifications and will schedule a video or phone interview. Expect to hear from us within X days.”
  • Offer communication options, including a phone number, at every step. Many candidates prefer electronic contact via their hand-held devices, which most employers now support. But just in case a candidate actually wants to talk to you, provide a phone number. And, make it a phone number where the candidate doesn’t have to work through an extended series of prompts to get to you. Consider providing your direct dial and identify it as such. A candidate is much more likely to dial a phone number if it goes directly to a person.

Whether to enhance your technology or fill gaps, consider the following “before, during,and after” communication opportunities.

Before Asking Online Questions:

  • Thank the candidate for their interest.
  • Provide a broad overview of the process and its length, preferably in numbered steps with an option to drill down into each step for details. Example:
1 About You
  • You provide basic information about yourself
  • Completion time usually less than 8 minutes
  • Click for detail
2 Your Job Interests
  • Tell us what positions interest you
  • Completion time varies depending on “Careers” page review time
  • Click for detail
3   Video or Phone Interview
  • About 15 minutes of conversation
  • Click for detail
4 In-Person Interview
  • Usually 45-60 minutes meeting with one or more team members
    (we’ll let you know how many ahead of time)
  • Click for detail
5 Employment Offer
  • We extend a contingent offer of employment
  • Click for detail
6   Employment Screening
  • You provide background screening and drug testing information
  • Completion time is about 15 minutes
  • Screening results typically take 1-3 days
  • Click for detail
7 Onboarding
  • We take the final steps to join the team!
  • Click for detail
  • Give assurance of data security, confidentiality, and privacy.
  • Inform candidate they can save their online work and return later for completion; also let them know they will be able to download copies of documents.
  • Provide opportunity for candidate to contact you with questions via text, phone, or email.

During the Application Process:

  • Acknowledge the candidate at each step of the process.
  • Inform the candidate of next step.
  • Cultivate interest by offering more information via company links, website, etc.
  • Use candidate’s name as soon as you have it.

After Deciding:

  • If you decide to hire, communicate frequently right up to start date. Keep their interest and attention, as the candidate maybe considering other opportunities.
  • If you decide not to hire, communicate your decision. In addition to sharing their experience with others, this person maybe a candidate again in the future – or a customer.

And then there’s onboarding … a topic for another time!

For more thoughts on The Candidate Experience, check out:

  • Career Arc: 23 Surprising Stats on Candidate Experience
  • Talent Lyft: Top 3 Causes of a Bad Candidate Experience
  • Human Capital Institute: Statistics: Rethink Your Candidate Experienceor Ruin Your Brand


Mary Poquette has almost 30 years’ experience in employment screening. Prior to establishing her consultancy in 2014, she was Chief Compliance and Security Officer for a U.S. based global screening company. Mary is a recognized industry expert specializing in compliance and process development. She holds Advanced FCRA Certification from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional.

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