7th November 2022

The candidate experience: Everything you need to know


Putting candidate experience front and centre of talent acquisition

The style and execution of recruitment processes vary, and this shapes the candidate experience. For jobs where the working environment may be pressured, such as in sales or management, many agencies and employers may have adopted a harder-edged style, especially for interviews and psych evaluations. However, for other types of roles, many adopt an altogether softer tone.

Being ‘grilled’ or seemingly interrogated, as if you have fallen foul of the authorities in a police state, might be part of a ritual recruitment process that some candidates expect, perhaps even enjoy, after all, seasoned professionals may understand it’s ‘just part of the game’. 

However, for others that are unprepared or whose personalities are not suited to such tactics, this approach can knock them out of their stride and perhaps even be off-putting or upsetting. Whatever the style, there’s one thing that your talent acquisition strategy should aim to put front and centre – positive candidate experiences.

What is candidate experience?

Put simply, candidate experience is how an applicant feels as they transition through various stages of the recruitment process. These personal feelings (emotions), shape each job seeker’s perceptions about the brand, whether that is for an agency or the employer.

Each part of the process – from initial application, written and verbal communication, interviews and assessments, creates the chance to provide positive experiences that ultimately influence how much a candidate wants the role. You could almost think of this as pre-onboarding. Whether or not a candidate is eventually appointed, the recruitment process showcases to candidates why working for your agency or company is highly desirable. 

Providing positive candidate experiences helps to ensure that the strongest applicants see the process through to completion, whereas creating negative impressions might mean you lose those you expect to do well. 

Why is candidate experience important?

Candidate experience has always been important. As the theory and practice of recruitment have become more developed, each part of the process has been scrutinised to provide quality management and enable overall improvement. We now have a much greater understanding of the importance of every element and the role each plays in shaping candidate experience.

Today, as agencies and employers struggle to secure the talent needed to drive growth, there is a need to maximise the numbers throughout the process. From initial application through to shortlisting, it is now a necessity to make sure every candidate is fully engaged by the opportunity and has positive impressions and perceptions of the recruitment process. The last thing you want is applicants dropping out because of a poor candidate experience.

The candidate experience: Journey touchpoints

The recruitment process is a journey and each step where a candidate interacts is a touchpoint with the agency or employer brand. Each of these are the elements which determine the candidate experience.

Job search

Getting your jobs found is of course a critical step. Whether you are placing ads for active job seekers or filling the funnel via a longer pipe by enticing passive job seekers in, once you have stimulated interest you need to make sure it is sustained. 

Once the opportunity is discovered, candidates are almost certainly going to do a little research. This is likely to involve visiting the agency or employer website. If you place vacancies on the site, it is essential to ensure that there is consistency between placed ads and the company website information about the role. Also, the elements that support the employee value proposition (EVP) need to line up. Branding, culture and opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) are all essential items here. 

Job ads

Job ads need to strike a balance. They need to be aspirational as well as realistic. Upbeat and truthful, without painting a false impression. They need to be concise, while providing accurate indications of what the job actually entails.

Clearly structure job description, with sections where applicable for previous experience, skills, qualifications, and certification requirements. Pay attention to the language used and make sure it accurately reflects Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies such as diversity and inclusivity.

Don’t neglect to put the key information at the top, such as salary scale and range, benefits and of course home or hybrid working arrangements. Quite simply, you need to do a good job selling your jobs!

Job application

This part of the process may vary significantly. Where a job seeker is applying through a job board or a recruitment platform that automates and manages the initial steps of the recruitment process, candidate CVs may be hosted by the platform and an application can be submitted in a click or two. 

Contrast this where an application form needs to be filled in. This can drag on the process, as it may take hours to complete. The key is making forms as easy and as quick to complete as possible, while obtaining the necessary information.


For many, this is the centrepiece of the process, and it can make or break the perceptions and impressions that make up the candidate experience. Although many interviews such as for screening are carried out by voice calls, video has become a dominant factor. One approach is to send questions and request candidates to video their responses. However, this probably isn’t a substitute for a face-to-face (F2F) interview.

Where possible, showcase the environment as part of the F2F interview by providing a short tour of the workplace. This helps to put some ‘flesh on the bones’ of the words in the job ad. Positive interview experiences are almost certain to increase a candidate’s desire to succeed in being appointed to the role.

Interview and assessment feedback

Many agencies and employers state that they are unable to provide personal feedback on interviews and assessments due to the volume of applications. While this may be true for candidates filtered out early, it is worth considering taking the opposite position with shortlisted candidates.

Providing feedback is a good way of maintaining ongoing engagement with good candidates. Some hires don’t work out with some resigning early on, so having a ready-made contact list of recently shortlisted candidates with whom you are on great terms because of a great candidate experience is just what you need to reboot the recruitment process and fill the post quickly.

Unsuccessful this time…

Ultimately, unsuccessful candidates that have gone through your process and have had a memorable candidate experience (for the right reasons!) are ideal for filling the funnel for other appropriate roles. Make sure that you regularly engage through social and more personalised communications channels to inform of suitable vacancies that allow you to recruit quickly and more efficiently.


With so much software for recruitment agencies to choose from, how do you know you’re using a solution that’s maximising your agency’s potential? Find out if your recruitment agency is using the wrong software.


How to create a great candidate experience

Key takeaways for improving the delivery of a great candidate experience include:

1. Communicate clearly and openly.

Whether it is job ads, emails or interviews, aim for clarity in all written and verbal communications. Wherever possible, personalise communications. Avoid untidy practices such as cancelling or rescheduling interviews at short notice and being sloppy by not preparing for interviews.

2. Quality manage your hiring process.

Making hiring processes as streamlined and efficient as possible reduces the time to hire, saves money and helps cultivate better candidate experiences by eliminating long-winded processes or other aspects that drag on the recruitment process. Take every opportunity to debug your hiring process.

3. Measure candidate experience.

To enable a better understanding of candidate experience, it is important to be able to obtain empirical information that measures the perceptions and impressions of job seekers. Consider how your existing technology tools might get you started. 

4. It’s all in the data.

Data is the yardstick with which we can measure the candidate’s experience. ATS and other related RecTech (recruitment technology) platforms are capable of providing all the relevant data, enabling you to obtain a holistic view informing you of the candidate experience.

5. Ask successful and unsuccessful candidates.

Conducting surveys and directly asking what was good and bad about the process is a good way of finding out quickly where there is room to improve your hiring process.

The impact of a bad candidate experience

Some of the key reasons to promote great experiences that attract the best candidates and avoid negative touchpoints with your recruitment process include:

Reflects badly on agency and/or employer brands

A good reputation takes time to build but it can be destroyed in a moment in some circumstances. For recruitment, it can also just be a slow erosion. Negative social feedback steadily chips away and undermines your position, as those with less than positive candidate experiences share their misgivings.

May prevent future applications

Job seekers that have had negative candidate experiences are less likely to re-apply in the future. When you are on the hunt for specialised and hard-to-find skill sets, it is another complication you can do without.

Agencies lose clients

Poor agency recruiting performance could be measured in many ways. Should negative feedback about agency processes filter back to your clients it may undermine your position and lead to the breakdown of employer /agency relationship.

Get more value from recruitment processes with ETZ

ETZ’s leading timesheet and invoicing solution, streamlines the back office processing of your recruitment agency. Our complementary solutions, ETZ Comply for onboarding and document management and Caspian for business intelligence give agencies further capability to streamline and uncover opportunities. To find out more call us on 0800 311 2266 or book a demo. 

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