The 4 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making in Your Candidate Experience

Recruiters, we know you’re stretched. With more ways than ever to source, attract, engage, evaluate, select and onboard candidates, you’re juggling more balls than a circus-trained octopus. But there is one ball you absolutely cannot afford to take your eye off, and that’s your candidate experience.


Because candidates talk… and disgruntled candidates talk loudest. When they have a bad experience, not only are they unlikely to reapply to you in future, but they’ll also share it with their network. That’s bad news for your employer brand (and your consumer brand if they use your products or services).

If your candidate experience isn’t one of your top priorities, you’re not alone. Few recruiters get it absolutely right* and most companies stumble over the same few hurdles.

Are you one of them? If you’re making any of these four mistakes, it’s time to give more thought to how you’re treating your candidates – and what they’re saying about you in return.

1. Not being clear and up front

Recruiters are rarely outright dishonest when hiring (scroll to the end of this post for one particularly egregious example). But the process can easily be clouded by uncertainty and evasion.

If a candidate doesn’t know where they stand, or what to expect next, or who’s interviewing them, or how many they’re up against, or how close they are to a final decision, it’s confusing. And needlessly so. It’s a simple courtesy to provide a broad outline and timeline for the process, then update applicants on their progress, right up to the point when they’re no longer being considered.

We’re firm believers in honest feedback for unsuccessful candidates too. Take time to help someone in their professional journey, even when your company isn’t the next destination, and you leave them feeling valued, respected and open to future conversations.

2. Not following up

‘Not following up’ is the polite term. ‘Ignoring’ puts it more bluntly, and it’s always a horrible feeling.

Never forget that recruiting is only a one-to-many process from your perspective. Most job applications are submitted with great care and high hopes. At this first stage an automated reply is the very least they can expect – yet only a statistical minority of applicants receive one.

As candidates progress, contact should increase. We recommend following up even if you have nothing to report, particularly if you’ve promised to. You might consider adding a follow-up pool in your ATS, where applicants sit until contacted. And why not ask them how they’d like you to keep in touch – phone, text, email or even social?

3. Thinking like a recruiter

The last paragraph leads us to another key mistake: not considering what candidates actually go through to get the job. With your recruiter hat on, you see your hiring requirements and you want to find the candidate that fits them best. But how can you be sure that your process is best equipped to lead to that candidate if you don’t see it through their eyes?

And what about the dozens, maybe hundreds of applicants who fall by the wayside? How are they left feeling about the experience?

Try to understand – and even better, design – your process from an applicant’s point of view. Here’s where it’s your turn to ask candidates for honest feedback. Take it on board and keep tweaking.

4. Engaging too many candidates

Good rule of thumb: the more personally engaged a candidate feels, the better their experience will be. You simply don’t have time to personally engage everyone… so be ruthless in your candidate selection, not your candidate engagement!

Spreading yourself too thin between too many candidates is precisely when you run into the other problems we’ve discussed. And for what? The outside chance that a maybe candidate transforms themselves into the perfect hire at interview? Of course it’s a possibility, but almost certainly to the detriment of your overall candidate experience.

Now contrast that with richer, personalised conversations with fewer, better candidates. Even the unsuccessful ones will leave the process feeling good about your company… and keen to reconnect in the future.

If you see anything familiar in our quartet of common mistakes, we highly recommend taking steps to improve your candidate experience. Companies that do, like Hootsuite, are reaping the reputational benefits that come with a distinctively brilliant candidate experience. It’s a genuinely effective way to distance yourself from your competitors – and be talked about for all the right reasons.

One example of a company getting it unspeakably wrong: a start-up that had found a great candidate for a senior sales opening. At the latter stages of the process, they asked him to use his contacts to secure a sales meeting with a company his existing employer was also targeting. So a straight choice between his current employer and his prospective one. Things were going so well with the start-up that he set up the meeting… at which point the phone went dead on the job. He never heard from them again. How many people do you think he’s told that story to over the years?

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