Four Building Blocks for Creating a Delightful Candidate Experience
Hiring can be a tedious process, so naturally you’ll do whatever it takes to make your job easy and efficient. However, if you’re only thinking about your experience – and not the candidate’s – you’ll end up making your job much harder.
Candidate experience matters – especially in today’s world of instant gratification, where consumers can get what they want, when they want, without any hassle. Candidates expect the same seamless experience throughout the hiring process. Have a several-pages long application and they’ll quit before submitting. Give them little to no feedback throughout the interview stage and they’ll move on to the next opportunity.
Candidates demand transparency, communication and efficiency, and anything less can damage your employer brand.
The good news is there are a few key building blocks that can help you create a meaningful candidate experience. Within this eBook, we’ll share insights from HR and talent acquisition (TA) experts on how to:
- Identify and reduce bias in your hiring process
- Successfully structure your interview process
- Provide helpful post-interview feedback
- Implement onboarding best practices
By taking these steps, you’ll develop a hiring strategy that will lead to better hires, higher retention and a winning reputation.
Meet the experts
Building Block 1: Reducing bias in your hiring and screening processes
Creating a positive candidate experience starts before you even interact with the candidate. If you go into the process with an open, unbiased mind, you’ll inevitably foster stronger candidate relationships. The challenge is not letting unconscious bias seep into your hiring strategy—something that unfortunately happens more often than we may realize.
According to a McKinsey Report, between May and October of 2022, 40% of the top 1,000 companies in the US made statements supporting racial justice and 30% made external diversity and inclusion (D&I) commitments like donations and investments. However, only 25% made internal D&I commitments to promote equity within their companies or address recruitment bias. How can we understand this disconnect?
To venture a theory, it seems that the organizational ‘will’ is clearly present, but the ‘way’ is murky—especially when it comes to internal systems and processes like TA. TA has the biggest opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion within an organization. The challenge is, TA as a function is especially susceptible to personal or unconscious biases because the function’s mission is to make a selection based on a judgment call.
Top 1,000 US companies individual commitments, May–Oct, 2022
How do we ensure those judgments are based solely on role-relevant criteria?
All candidates must understand that they will undergo a background check, and that any results within the report may be used in making decisions around hiring, promotions, or retention. This disclosure must be clear, conspicuous, and standalone—on its own screen or sheet of paper.
Common types of bias
It’s easy to think of bias as big shocking moments; however, the reality is that it often appears in the mundane exchanges. Here are some common types of bias we may encounter in the hiring process:
Age Bias: Evaluating a candidate less favorably based on a candidate’s age.
Work regulations sometimes require that a candidate be a certain age depending on the role, but beyond these thresholds, age should not be considered. A common example of age discrimination is preferring younger candidates for tech-based roles.
Gender Identity Bias: Evaluating a candidate less favorably based on a candidate’s gender identity.
We call out gender identity bias apart from gender bias because transgendered people experience high levels of discrimination in the hiring process and at work. Certain practices can inherently bias your process against transgendered people such as ID verifications or assuming someone’s gender – Consider asking for a person’s pronouns prior to a meeting.
Gender Bias: Evaluating a candidate less favorably based on a candidate’s gender.
Gender bias often appears in insidious ways from how we write job ads to how we perceive certain traits: The difference between confident and bossy is often based on the person’s gender. An example of gender discrimination, which is illegal but unfortunately common, is asking women during a job interview if they plan to have children in the near future.
Racial Bias: Evaluating a candidate less favorably based on a candidate’s race.
Racial bias is a common occurrence and happens consciously and unconsciously. Either way, the effect is detrimental and must be addressed. A common example of racial discrimination happens during the resume screening phase. Countless studies have found that CVs with White-sounding names are more likely to be contacted than CVs with Black-sounding names.
Six Tips to Reduce Bias
1. Structure your process for increase transparency
In order to provide transparency for the candidate, we must first be firm in our own understanding of our hiring process. Take the time to define the order of operations between TA and hiring managers so all stakeholders can communicate accurate and specific information to applicants.
This type of transparent communication allows candidates to perform their best and sets the tone for honest feedback and scoring internally as well. We talked with Jacqui Maguire, Senior Director of Talent Advisory at Greenhouse, to see how this strategy plays out on the ground.
A structured interview process starts with a kickoff that clearly outlines the goals of a position and what competencies and attributes are necessary to achieve those goals. Having that level of clarity before speaking to a candidate sets up a more fair and respectful experience because you can be transparent with them about what to expect during the interview process and in the role. All too often companies think about candidate feedback as something that only happens with a rejection. But in addition to being thoughtful and transparent with candidates when you reject them, it’s helpful to give feedback along the way. Ensuring that candidates have access to similar guidance and feedback throughout the interview process creates a more fair and even experience.
In the current remote environment, it’s vital to approach each virtual interview with empathy. Providing consistent feedback encourages a two-way conversation and shows that you understand the candidate might be going through certain challenges that impact their interview performance. It’s important to take that into account when evaluating their scorecard and providing feedback.
2. Rotate your team to reduce screening bias
There is a lot of information on resumes that can trigger personal or unconscious bias from names to place of residents. Fortunately, there are many tools you can implement to shield info like names, ages, and university to reduce the chances of bias. However, there are also team processes that aid in fair hiring as well.
We talked with Sarah Wilson, VP of People at SmartRecruiters, about one simple practice her team uses to ensure that personal and unconscious biases have less of an impact.
3. Prepare for high candidate volumes with defined knockout questions
A challenge of application surges (whether seasonal or caused by larger economic forces) is winnowing down the candidates to the appropriate number of contenders. When the pressure is on, it’s easy to fall into quick decisions that are often biased. To avoid this, Ariana Moon, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition and Operations at Greenhouse, suggests defining certain relevant filters beforehand. This is how her team does this.
Automating the application review process with auto-advance and auto-reject features allows recruiters to both create efficiency and remove bias by using a uniform set of criteria to identify which candidates should be moved forward. Leveraging such recruiting software can speed up the process of identifying candidates that have the skills needed for a role and frees up time for recruiters to provide applicants with informative and timely feedback.
At the same time, it’s critical to ensure that automation isn’t unintentionally impacting any demographic groups in a disproportionate way. Introducing both the right recruiting tools and structured hiring practices to move the right candidates through your pipeline is a vital part of managing a high-volume applicant stream.
4. Set clear and relevant adjudication parameters
One area where bias can play a big role is background checks. When adjudicators sort through candidates with records, it’s often unclear what information is relevant to the role. When the adjudication policy of the company and/or role is not clearly defined, it’s hard to make consistent and fair decisions. Companies can take fair-chance hiring one step further with tools like Assess from Checkr, which screens irrelevant information to avoid bias and helps organizations define company or role policies.
We talked with Lauren Bell, former Fair Chance Development Manager at Checkr, about the impact of criminal records and why a past record is not always a reason to automatically dismiss a candidate.
Businesses have an opportunity to help mitigate the legal system failures through adopting 21st century, fair chance hiring practices which include identifying core safety risks and expanding adjudication parameters so that volumes of great candidates aren’t denied employment because of a past record alone.
The writing of systemic injustices is clearly on the wall. Businesses can help scale a workforce solution.
5. Collaborate for consistency
One of the most helpful things we can do when trying to combat bias in the hiring process is to acknowledge that we are all susceptible to enacting bias. It’s important to talk about the subject of bias with your team so that you can work together on strategies and tactics to address it at every step. Jaci Senczyszyn, People Operations Manager at Fountain, starts the hiring process with a stakeholder sync to make the goals and criteria of the job clear to everyone. This is what the process looks like at Fountain.
We partner with DEI professionals to conduct training with all our Hiring Managers where we learn about how to recognize our own biases and how to recognize them when they may be affecting your decision.
Tracking data of the screening process can also help with recognizing when certain demographics of candidates are dropping out of the process.
6. Prioritize your information intake
Building on the idea that we have to acknowledge our susceptibility to bias, it’s also helpful to understand how we form first impressions and some ways we can ‘game’ our brains to make sure they are getting the best initial information to inform a judgment. Heather Dolan, Customer Success Manager at HigherMe, shared a hack she uses when reviewing resumes that can help you concentrate on the most important and relevant information.
If you start at the bottom of the resume, you’re making those decisions based on the candidate’s experience instead of their name, address, and education.
It’s also helpful to see how the candidate has grown in their career, since usually their oldest experience is at the bottom, and their most recent is at the top. The best resumes are the ones that quickly depict the story of how that candidate progressed to where they are now.
Building Block 2: Structuring your interview process
The importance of interviewing practices
Best practices for interviewing are commonly held as the ‘gold standards’ for conducting interviews with candidates. These practices and processes will help both the candidate and the TA team get the most from an interview and help your company avoid any out-of-date or inappropriate interview faux pas.
When organizations implement interviewing best practices, candidates are able to prepare more effectively because they know what to expect from the process. Like most aspects of recruiting, structure and communication lie at the heart of these recommendations. When there are clear structures and communication, then candidates feel they’ve had a fair chance to put their best foot forward.
At the end of the day, improving the interview process for candidates also improves the hiring process for recruiters and hiring managers. Recruiters are able to convert more candidates and hiring managers can make better decisions when candidates are prepared for the process. This is true even long term as your TA team may want to re-engage passed over candidates at a later date for a more appropriate role. This will only be successful if the candidate had a good experience the first time around.
Five tips to create a successful interview process
1. Invest in relationship building
‘Ghosting’ is when a candidate cuts off all communication with your TA team with no explanation. It’s a frustrating experience for recruiters and hiring managers who feel they have invested in a candidate. However, companies often do this to candidates without a second thought.
To avoid these situations, Danny Speros, Vice President of People at Zenefits, recommends taking the first step toward relationship building. It’s hard to cut and run when there is a real human connection. Here’s what he has to say.
2. Develop resources to educate candidates on your company
Sometimes we are at a company so long that we forget what it’s like to be an outsider. If your company has a strong culture including jargon and meeting norms, these behaviors could be off-putting to someone who isn’t in the know. Some companies leverage candidate portals or chatbots to help candidates feel informed. Caitlyn Metteer, Recruiting Lead at Lever, suggests creating an FAQ doc.
3. Encourage detailed and transparent feedback loops
Building off the idea of introducing candidates to your company and culture, Brian Abraham, Talent Acquisition Manager at ClearCompany, strongly recommends taking the time to provide feedback and guidance to candidates. These applicants deserve to know what your team’s expectations are for each interview so they can prepare for the meeting to the best of their ability. Here’s how his team does it at ClearCompany.
4. Empathize with your candidates
During these unprecedented times, candidates are dealing with a variety of challenges from schools being closed to cramped quarters. It may be hard for applicants to find a quiet space to interview, last-minute childcare may be a major concern, and even power outages may affect scheduling. It’s not fair to judge candidates unfavorably based on factors that are not within their control. Darren Bounds, Founder & CEO of Breezy HR, has some great reminders on how to proceed with understanding.
Experts like Stacey Gordon of Rework Work remind us how important it is to remember that every candidate’s remote experience is different.
Some days might be no-video days for your candidates due to having a child, older or ill family member at home, not to mention wifi issues, or just plain Zoom fatigue.
Try to be flexible in how you expect candidates to show up. A little extra leeway and understanding go a long way with the right candidates.
5. Structure your interview process for
clarity and fairness
When your process is structured, it’s easier to get all your stakeholders on the same page—from candidates to recruiters and hiring managers. A lot of communication shortfalls happen because the hiring team doesn’t have the information to communicate in the first place. This leaves candidates feeling confused and frustrated as they can’t perform their best without understanding expectations. Simple steps like defining your adjudication process and role criteria can help exponentially. Arthur Yamamoto, former Vice President of Talent at Checkr, points out that disorganization can also lead to inconsistencies and bias; here’s why.
An important part of reducing bias in the interview process is to ensure that every candidate for a given role has the exact same interview process.
This ensures comparing feedback on candidates is always an apples-to-apples comparison as well. Fair and objective interviews are table stakes for a positive interview experience.
Building Block 3: Providing meaningful post-interview feedback
With so many time-consuming administrative tasks in the interview process, it may be hard to prioritize giving post-interview feedback—especially to candidates who aren’t selected. However, interview feedback is important to your hiring, not just as a courtesy to applicants, but as a long-term investment in your recruitment program.
Why? Because it can boost your employer brand. In today’s world, candidates have many platforms on which to voice their opinion of a company. A few bad reviews on Glassdoor or LinkedIn could deter other potential applicants from engaging with you in the future. Avoiding this situation can be as simple as ensuring the candidate receives timely updates around the interview process and responses to any potential questions.
Providing interview feedback also nourishes your talent pipeline. Just because you didn’t choose a candidate for a particular role doesn’t mean they won’t be right for a position down the line. Reaching out with feedback as part of your interview process could be a great way to invite them to join a talent community and stay in your company network. You already know the applicant is interested in the company, which is a great starting point for any potential hire.
Why is meaningful interview feedback important?
Feedback is more than helping candidates succeed in future interviews—it also demonstrates your appreciation of a candidate’s time. They put effort into learning about your company and preparing for the role, so you should show your appreciation with an explanation as to why they weren’t selected.
Generally, the further along in the interview process, the more important it is to provide feedback.
For example, if a candidate is rejected after the initial recruiter phone screening, you may simply send an email thanking them for their time, letting them know there was a candidate with experience better-suited for the role, and inviting them to join your talent community for updates on future opportunities. However, if a candidate has gone through several rounds of interviews, it’s courteous to give them a more individualized explanation as to why they are not advancing in the process. This should include both positive and constructive feedback. Try to be transparent; if the scope of the role changed or the position was filled internally then say that instead of making the candidate doubt their performance.
When is the best time to provide interview feedback?
The general consensus is the sooner the better. Prompt feedback means the interview is fresh in everyone’s mind. So what you say is more specific and relevant. That being said, it may be good to run what you want to say by a team member or internal business partner.
Four tips to improve your feedback process
1. Keep candidates in the loop
Perhaps you aren’t ready to make individual candidate feedback a part of your process, but a good first step is committing to notifying rejected candidates promptly. At the end of the day, candidates appreciate being kept in the loop even if it’s not the news they were hoping for. Margo Filippi, Human Resources Manager at JazzHR, says that empathy should guide you, as we’ve all been a candidate before.
2. Connect feedback to core competencies
You are probably used to giving constructive feedback in a team context, but it can feel more challenging when talking to candidates you don’t know that well. You don’t want to say the wrong thing or put your company at risk. Arthur Yamamoto reminds us that keeping feedback relevant to the core skills of the job description and getting support from your Human Resource Business Partners is always a good idea.
It should always be rooted in the core competencies and skills for the job, rather than telling someone “culture fit” or “personality”. If there is anything you’re concerned can be taken the wrong way, talk to your Human Resource Business Partners first for a sanity check. If a candidate can learn how to improve, even if they’re rejected for the role, they can come out with a positive view on the company and interview experience.
3. Set a positive tone
The feeling of being rejected is generally unpleasant, and it’s normal for candidates to feel disappointed—and to deal with those feelings in different ways. Some candidates would like feedback but others might not be in the right headspace to receive your comments. It’s important to read the situation and tailor feedback in a way that’s best for the candidate. Ariana Moon shares her learnings.
Third, when delivering the feedback, focus on skills or behaviors that the candidate would have a clear understanding of how to improve, as feedback that is too generalized or unspecific can often hurt than help.
Finally, recruiters should think of providing feedback as an opportunity to invest in a candidate’s career success, especially because a candidate who wasn’t hired for your role today could still be a hire for your company in the future.
4. Consider how your feedback policy scales
If you’re getting a lot of requests for feedback, then you may want to investigate any communication gaps that could be happening early in the process. This will lessen your team’s task load and help ensure that you aren’t being inconsistent (sometimes providing feedback and other times not). Jaci Senczyszyn shares how the need for feedback can be reduced by optimizing job descriptions.
Building Block 4: Optimizing your new hire’s first day
Candidate experience shouldn’t end once the offer is accepted. It’s crucial to continue investing in your candidates-turned-employees so they not only stick around, but they spread the word to their friends, boosting your employer brand.
According to Zippia, on average companies take up to 42 days and spend around $4,700 to acquire new talent per open position. After all that work, it’s important to do your best to train, retain, and engage employees throughout the lifecycle of their time with the company. Why? Because onboarding can be a problem area for employee attrition. Research by Jobvite revealed that one third of new hires will leave a job within the first 90 days. The top reasons for these quick exits were misaligned expectations and poor onboarding experiences.
According to ClearCompany, a strong onboarding program can improve retention by up to 82%, while boosting new hire productivity by up to 50%.
New hire retention
Why should you plan for your employee’s first day?
The first day for a new hire should be all about making them feel comfortable. Start by sending the new hire basic information in advance so they know where to check-in and what to expect. At the same time, notify the office that there will be a new employee so current employees know to say “hello” and introduce themselves.
While some first day paperwork and orientation activities will be necessary, spend the bulk of the time on culture and personal connections. If you focus entirely on processes, the new hire will be overloaded with information, and when they have questions they won’t know who to turn to for answers. Personal connections empower new hires in the long run.
What should your employee onboarding plan involve?
While employee onboarding should be consistent, you still want to maintain a personal approach for each individual job. To achieve this winning combination, you must balance all the elements of the hiring process without over-emphasizing one to the detriment of another. You can avoid this common mistake by creating a new hire checklist to help design your employee’s first day and beyond.
New hire checklist:
Make time for the basics including paperwork to be completed, processes to be taught, equipment to be ordered, and information to be communicated in order for the new hires to perform their jobs.
This looks different from place to place but could include a welcome package with the new hire’s favorite snacks or company swag.
Introduce new hires to the company structure through personal relationships. Make sure they know their key stakeholders, organizational chart and team members.
- Ways to win
You want new hires to feel successful from day one so they are motivated to stay and make a big impact. Set some short-term goals that the employees can execute in their first days and weeks.
Make time to check-in with your new hires after a week and a month. These down-the-line touchpoints show the new hires that the company truly cares about their experience. It’s also a great time to gather feedback on the process for future optimization.
Five tips to successfully onboard new hires
1. Overshare information
Much of new hire stress comes from not knowing what to expect. The obvious way to reduce this nervousness is to give employees some basic info in advance, like directions, meeting schedule and lunch plans. Danny Speros also suggests building in some personal time so the employee has a chance to reflect on the day’s learnings.
2. Manage all logistics
As the HR representative or recruiter liaison, you may be handing over the actual employee onboarding to the hiring manager. However, you should take it upon yourself to ensure the process will be run in a way that reflects your company culture. Talk through your new hire checklist with the hiring manager to ensure nothing is forgotten. Arthur Yamamoto suggests meeting with your stakeholders in advance to discuss the basics.
3. Communicate early and often
Don’t wait until the new hire is in the building to begin onboarding. You can communicate with the new hire in advance so they can get to know the company culture and basic info before their first day. Sarah Wilson shares how she uses these early touchpoints for a smooth candidate to employee transition.
4. Introduce the team in advance
The biggest part of a new hire’s onboarding experience is getting to know their team. You can facilitate this process by making introductions on both sides. Caitlyn Metteer recommends getting creative by incorporating visuals and team personality into your correspondence.
5. Set a positive tone
As the old saying goes: you only get one chance to make a good first impression. A new hire’s first day is just one day out of (hopefully) many, but it sets the tone for their employee experience. Imagine showing up on your first day of work and there’s no laptop for you to use or place for you to sit. You would feel anxious and confused. Heather Dolan shares her approach to making sure new hires feel comfortable and productive from day one.
A positive candidate experience can boost your employer brand and increase employee tenure, but a bad experience can lead to the loss of top talent and a bad reputation. By evaluating your hiring practices for bias, developing a consistent interview process, implementing ongoing communication to prospective employees and creating a smooth and enjoyable onboarding experience, you’ll set your company up for long-term hiring success.
How Checkr can help
Is your background check holding you back? At Checkr, we think there’s a better way. Our platform uses artificial intelligence to make hiring faster for you, and fairer for candidates.
We’d love to help your background checks turn from a bottleneck to a competitive advantage. Reach out today to talk to our team about using Checkr to move you forward.
Checkr’s mission is to build a fairer future by improving understanding of the past. Our platform makes it easy for thousands of customers to hire millions of people every year at the speed of the gig economy. Using Checkr’s advanced background check technology, companies of all sizes can better understand the dynamics of the changing workforce, bring transparency and fairness to their hiring, and ultimately build a better future for workers.