Have you ever had the perfect candidate experience? One where everything went right — your potential employer was on every Best Places to Work list, the application couldn’t be simpler, the hiring team was incredibly prepared for your interview day, and you received lightning-fast responses from the recruiter? 

I’ve had that experience. And nine months after accepting what I thought would be my dream job, I quit.

Shocking, right? But, honestly, we’ve all been there. I’ve talked to countless friends and peers who were sold an opportunity, but what was sold wasn’t the reality. The truth is, in my perfect candidate experience, I learned in pretty short order that the candidate experience didn’t line up with the employee experience. After an impressive hiring process, I ended up with buyer’s remorse. That left me wondering…

What is the candidate experience?

Is it the employer brand? The application process? The interview? As we welcome a new generation of job seekers and reckon with record-low unemployment, it is more important than ever to understand not only what the candidate experience means, but how to make those experiences matter to the people who are going to drive change in our companies. 

As I learned when I left the company I thought I’d love, the candidate experience is much bigger than just applicants. It’s about the entire lifecycle of an employee, from pre-hire to post-retire. 

And to offer positive experiences for candidates and employees, we have to create memories, which is pretty tough if you think about it. We need to think about how we can introduce moments of “surprise and delight”. And to do this, we have to understand what people already like and dislike about the job search. When we can do that, it makes it harder for your company to be forgotten. It allows you to make an impression, and even be memorable.

Because let’s face it. There’s a lot that still doesn’t work about the hiring process. Candidates are tired of waiting to hear back from recruiters, lengthy application processes, and preparing resumes. And once they start, employees aren’t getting the onboarding experience or performance review process they expect or deserve. 

So how can we turn those moments of despair into moments of hope? By delighting candidates before, during, and after the hire.

8 Ideas to Create Candidate Delight At Every Step

Job descriptions: 

1. Write job descriptions in the first person. 

Any company could publish the boring, lifeless post on the left. What could happen if you allowed the reader to write themselves into your story? A job applicant who sees the post on the right has a better understanding of the company’s values, what they’ll be doing, and how they’ll make an impact.

Boring, Lifeless Post

  • Manage the execution of advertising campaigns using internal and external assets to drive sales, encourage customers and enhance the brand image of the <brand>.
  • Oversee advertising and collateral creative including television, radio, out-of-home, email, web, print, collateral design and premium items.
  • Plan and manage annual advertising budget in a manner that most effectively and efficiently deploy the organization’s resources to achieve the stated goals and objectives.

Post that writes candidates into a story

  • You bring your body, mind, heart and spirit to your work as an Internal Medicine Registered Nurse.
  • Your compassion is tangible: whether your patient is 18 or 85, they feel it in the hand they hold. Families feel it in your prayers. Colleagues feel it in your support.
  • You know when to move quickly. When to sit quietly. When to laugh loudly.
  • You’re great at what you do, but you want to be a part of something even greater.
  • Because you believe that while individuals can be strong, the right team is invincible.

Application:

2. Make your career site stand out.

Your company’s career page is one of your best opportunities to showcase your employer brand. So many career pages these days look the same — and likely oversell and underdeliver. Be honest with your applicants, and make sure your career page is trustworthy, authentic, and reflective of your company’s real employee experience.

3. Keep it simple. 

No one wants to fill out a 30-page application. One thing I hear over and over from candidates is that they just want to upload their resume and be done. Make sure your application process is modern, high-tech, and as efficient as possible. What should you do with all those extra questions you had on your application form? Ask them in the interview.

Interview:

4. Send a “pump-up” playlist.

What’s more memorable for a candidate than receiving a playlist with interesting podcasts or “pump-up” songs to listen to on the way to the interview? It costs your company nothing, but it creates a unique, memorable experience at a high-stress moment of the job search process.

Making the offer:

5. Send a handwritten note.

When is the last time you received a handwritten note? After you’ve extended an offer, ask hiring managers to send a letter welcoming new hires to the team. The personal touch will be a memorable moment for candidates, and one they’ve likely never experienced.

6. Practice respectful rejections.

Just because you’ve decided not to move forward with a candidate doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. At the very minimum, let them know you’ve decided to move in another direction. (You’d be surprised how many rejected candidates never hear back at all!) Go above and beyond by calling them on the phone or taking them out to coffee, and share meaningful feedback from hiring managers so they know how to improve for next time.

First day:

7. Don’t make it a procedure.

Focus on personal connections on day one — not paperwork and benefits presentations. Those things are necessary, but if they can wait until later in the week, do so. Instead, think about what you can do to immediately make new hires feel like a part of the team. Hang a welcome sign on their desk with some company swag. Schedule lunch with the team. Introduce them with a company-wide email.

Onboarding and beyond:

8. Celebrate milestones.

How can you celebrate wins to bolster your company culture? When you achieve goals, does everyone know how they contributed to that win? Acknowledge hard work, give employees a shout-out by name when they succeed, and plan celebrations when you hit huge milestones.

The candidate experience is about much more than getting them in the door. It’s about taking care of employees once they’re hired, and giving them an opportunity to thrive and contribute. And when you properly tend to your talent, you’ll reap the benefits: your candidate pool will be higher quality, you’ll boost retention and reduce hiring costs, and employee engagement will improve. Let’s create an experience designed for the entire talent lifecycle, and change how we candidates find jobs and how we find the talent we need to thrive.