As a recent graduate, I’m no stranger to the process of job hunting.

Scrolling endlessly through online job boards, spending hours writing cover letters and CVs, tailoring them to each individual job spec and then spell checking again and again (and again).

It’s an exhausting process, so it’s only fair that companies acknowledge the hard work the applicant puts in, right?

Unfortunately, this rarely happens. A staggering 73% of candidates receive no confirmation at all after sending off their application. From an HR and line manager perspective, it’s easy to understand why. There are only so many hours in a day, and reaching out to unsuccessful candidates may not feel like the best use of time.

But why does it matter? Why is the candidate experience so important?

Two women talking over paperwork

Well, for starters, with the latest figures showing UK unemployment at its lowest in 40 years, good candidates always have plenty of job options. They won’t accept a role just because you’ve offered it to them, especially if they’ve had a bad experience along the way – or read about others that have.

Candidates often share their experiences online, whether that’s on social media, or on sites like Glassdoor, and most applicants will do their research before applying for a job. If you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle, it’s vital your company appears positively on these platforms. In your applicant’s mind, bad candidate experience often equals bad place to work, and they’ll most likely turn down the offer, stand you up if something better comes up (see our research here), or not even apply to you in the first place.

It may also be the case that unsuccessful candidates could become customers or partners in the future. According to The Talent Board’s survey of 45,000 job applicants, 40% of those whose recruitment experience was positive would buy more of the goods or services of the company, even if they weren’t hired.

Here’s five ways you can achieve a top candidate experience, and how Cezanne HR’s Cloud HR software suite can help.

Communicate at every stage of the recruitment process

In the early stages, a successful candidate experience often comes down to good communication. You know just how uncomfortable you feel about a supplier who fails to get back to your enquiry quickly. Candidates feel the same. It makes sense to acknowledge all applications quickly, even the ones that are clearly speculative and not a good fit; and to try to keep messages personal (especially post interview). Once selection has started, ensure prospective employees are kept up-to-date with where they are in the process, otherwise, you may find they’ve given up on you and gone elsewhere.

If you are managing more than a handful of applications each week, this can easily become and administrative nightmare. Which is why it’s no surprise that the best HR system come with built-in tools that help. For example, Cezanne HR’s in-recruiting module helps simplify this communication between applicant and recruiter. Once you’ve identified suitable candidates, you can easily confirm interviews by selecting the appropriate interview type, the people involved, date and time and trigger confirmation emails with the relevant information. Job offers, or emails to unsuccessful candidates, are also easy to manage, and a record is kept of what was sent and when, so you can check the applicant history at any time.

Make the most of the internet

Dedicated careers pages on your website, and social media are both a great way of engaging candidates early in the process – and helping them understand exactly how your recruitment processes work. Insight from academics suggests that anxiety and perception of unfairness are more likely to trigger a negative – or positive – reaction to your company than the actual interview process itself, so use your website to reassure and keep your social sites updated with blogs, photos, videos, or whatever works best to help potential applicants understand how your recruitment process works, and why you are a great company to work for.

And why not use social media to advertise vacancies in the first place? The Cezanne HR In-recruiting module allows you to publish vacancies to your company’s website, social media channels and, leading job boards, like Indeed, Glassdoor and Monster, for free. It’s an easy way to reach a wide audience without spending a penny more than you need to.

Prepare for the interview

I’ve had my fair share of interviews, and experienced how they can negatively effect your perception of a company if they’re done badly.

Of course, interviewing isn’t easy, and many managers won’t have had much practice. One-to-one coaching or workshops on interview techniques can help and with Cezanne HR, it’s easy to collaborate with colleagues to create an online library of supporting materials, such as sample questions to ask, what to avoid (especially in a legal context), and the details of career and development opportunities that might be available for interviewers to call on.

Centralised interview diaries and automatic email reminders about upcoming appointments help ensure interviewers don’t leave essential preparation to the last moment. And, it’s also essential that interviewers can easily access CVs, specific notes about the candidate; such as the results of pre-application surveys, telephone interviews or assessment.

Learn from your candidates

You can only improve what you measure, so if the candidate experience is important to you, why not put together a simple survey? It’s a great way of getting useful insights into the hiring process. See what your applicants have to say, take the feedback on board and tweak your recruitment process accordingly. The data you get could be valuable in improving your candidate experience in the future and may highlight issues you hadn’t even realised were there.

(TIP: Wait a month before sending out the survey. If I received an email asking me to fill out a survey just after being rejected from a job, I probably wouldn’t be completely fair in my responses. Best to let the dust settle before you ask them about their experience!)

Delete the job post as soon as the vacancy’s filled

Imagine spending hours crafting a cover letter for your dream job to find out after submission that the role’s already been filled, or applications closed. I’ve been there, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it incredibly frustrating. Delete your vacancy posts as soon as they’re no longer needed, so you don’t waste anybody’s time. With Cezanne HR you can automatically publish, and remove the vacancies you’ve created using specified dates, and extending expiry dates is simple too, so there’s one less thing for you to have to worry about.

Obviously, there is much more to creating a great candidate experience than technology. Fortunately, we are a long way from having AI make recruiting decisions for us – or for candidates! However, having the right HR system in place can make a huge difference, freeing up your time to focus on the interventions that really matter.

Do you have any practical examples of steps you’ve taken to improve the candidate experience? What did you change, how easy was it to implement? Which changes did you find most effective?

Let us know in the comments below.

Chris Wells author image

Chris Wells

A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Chris is an experienced marketing manager who now works for prestigious publishing firm HarperCollins.