5 Simple Ways to Improve Candidate Experience and Close More Candidates

Halden Pfearsen
Halden Pfearsen
Managing Editor

6 minute read

“Candidate experience” is a pretty nebulous term. Firstly, it can mean a lot of different things to different people and, secondly, it's been used as marketing jargon for recruiting software in the last few years, making it even harder to to know what it really means.

To us at Ashby, candidate experience means that we want each candidate to feel as positive as possible about the time they spent interviewing with us. Ideally, they'll even feel inspired to recommend other candidates to interview with us, even if they didn't get the job!

A great candidate experience will have a positive impact on your hiring process and your company brand. IBM conducted a study with 7,000 candidates in 2021 and found that:

  • A great candidate experience leads to 38% more accepted job offers
  • Candidates who had a good experience are twice as likely to become a customer
  • Rejected candidates who had a great experience are 80% more likely to apply again

We regularly hear very strong feedback on our interview process. We want to use this article to demystify “candidate experience” and share a few practical tips that will help you improve it, no matter the size of your team.

love for ashby in a candidate email

1. Be fast and responsive

If you only take away one lesson from this post, make it this one: speed matters in hiring. There are two main dimensions to this. The first is that a quick response represents excellent service. If you’ve ever interacted with customer support, you’ve surely paid attention to how responsive they’ve been. You may have also noticed that responsiveness typically correlates very closely with the quality of service you receive.

The second dimension of hiring speed is about candidate churn. In a competitive hiring market, hiring teams that move slowly will lose candidates that are mid-process with other companies.

The rule of speed applies to every step of the funnel. You sent an outbound message and received a reply? Move to scheduling as soon as you can. You received a strong inbound application? Reply as quickly as possible.

A responsive hiring process makes applicants feel more valued. An unresponsive one can even discourage the candidate's own engagement. You need to give responsiveness to get responsiveness.

2. Communicate your process clearly at every step

Candidates want to know what to expect from your hiring process. A candidate left guessing might think that you're disorganized or uninterested, which leads them to proceed with other offers. Help them by making it clear what your interview and assessment process looks like from the start.

At Ashby, we share an outline of the entire interview process with each candidate. This document highlights all the interview stages and who they can expect to meet at each one. We reinforce this by sending additional briefing details at every step of the process.

As an early stage startup, you may occasionally make opportunistic hires and where you’re not as prepared as you’d like to be. That can be okay if you set the expectations with the candidate clearly. Let them know that the first one or two interviews will be more open-ended but that, afterwards, you’ll share a structured plan for the remainder of the loop with them.

It takes a little bit of work to prepare the candidate-facing outline and email templates upfront, but it makes a huge difference for candidates. Providing clarity on the process also helps the candidate perform at their best, which means you’re going to get more clues if they’re a good fit from your interview.

3. Let candidates know who they're meeting with and who their team might be

When you’re interviewing a candidate, they’re also interviewing you. They want to make sure your company is a good fit for them as much as you do, so find ways to help them out! The clearer a picture the candidate can get about what it would be like to work on your team, the more likely they are to move forward in the process.

At Ashby, we tackle this in a few ways. Our team page shows who new hires will be working with. It’s incredibly helpful to let candidates know who they’ll meet during each interview, and who might be on their team someday. This eliminates surprises and allows the candidate to prepare better.

We also share our content pieces (on thoughtful communication and time and productivity) to highlight the more distinct aspects of our culture and give applicants a sense of how they’d be working if they were to join us.

Together, these amount to a lot of high-quality information for a candidate, allowing them to prepare better for interviews and get a strong sense of our company culture. We’ve also noticed that having this content out there allows candidates to come to our interviews with much better questions about the team and work environment.

4. Leverage your interviews as opportunities to sell

How you conduct your interviews themselves is, of course, a huge part of the candidate experience. This is your chance to interface with the candidate directly, and it gives them the best sense of what it’s like to actively work with you and your team.

Challenging and relevant interviews are the best way to engage strong candidates. In the best cases you can highlight some real-world challenges your team is facing - this will give the candidate a sense of the type of problems they would get to work on. It’s also a great way to show, rather than tell, what your business’s main concerns and priorities are.

You should ensure that all interviewers are well-equipped to speak about company culture and other common questions that candidates bring up. Have new interviewers shadow or take a small role in a series of interviews before leading them personally.

Ideally, as you grow the company, you will introduce a more structured interviewer training program. This can help team members who are new to hiring, or hire infrequently, to feel confident and capable in the process. That confidence will be noticed by your candidates, who don’t want a nerve-wracking interview process thrown off by an interviewer asking confusing questions.

5. Measure and iterate

The best way to ensure a strong candidate experience is to collect quantitative and qualitative data about your process from your candidates (ideally most of the ones you interviewed, whether or not you ended up hiring them.)

You can create rubrics that align closely to the areas you care about most. We’ve kept our survey very short and focus mostly on expectation setting (ie “I was briefed well on what to expect during each interview.”) We want to keep the survey short enough that candidates won’t have to work hard to complete it.

ashby candidate experience rating

We’re always pleasantly surprised by how many candidates want to provide feedback on our process. It’s already provided some helpful insights to improve candidate experience even further. Treat every candidate as a chance to improve your candidate experience.

Make candidate experience your next big focus

All of this advice can be accomplished with the tools you are already using today. It’s all about making candidate experience a top priority, and giving each candidate the time, thought, and attention they deserve.

If you want to learn more about how Ashby can help, feel free to contact us, and subscribe to our blog for more recruiting advice every other week.

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