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  • Writer's pictureTommy Gale

What do you mean by Candidate Experience?

Picture the scene. It is another conference/seminar/round table/unconference where a bunch of recruiters and maybe some representatives from HR are sat around debating the latest topics of the day. The subject of candidate experience comes up and generally everyone nods appreciably that this is an important topic. But what do they really mean by this?

We often talk about things amongst ourselves within the HR and recruiting community without always challenging the accepted definitions. Candidate Experience is one of those. It is often featured as one of the top 1, 2 or 3 things on the agenda for recruiters.

But this leads to some questions...

1) What do you mean by candidate experience?

2) What are you going to do about it? (I’m talking actual, meaningful action here)

3) Are you prepared to measure this and be judged by the results?

4) If it’s important to you, why?

5) If it’s important to you is it also important as a wider organizational issue?

6) If 5=Yes, then is this featured higher up on the executive agenda?

7) If 6=Yes, then is the recruiter going to be so vocal about point 3?


At its most basic level most recruiters want to ensure they have the processes in place to deliver a smooth experience to job applicants, along with following the basic courtesy of actually responding and providing feedback.


In order to ensure delivery on the above you quite simply have to measure it. How else will you know? If you don’t ask you won’t know whether you are improving, staying the same or even getting worse.


To do this the agenda has to be taken to a higher level within the organization to implement the appropriate measures and performance metrics.


So coming back to the main question. What do you mean by candidate experience? Or how should we define it? Let’s dissect it further.


1) Who is a candidate?


So is the candidate the job applicant? Or is it someone who might be a passive candidate currently working for another employer who may not have considered changing jobs? And when does a candidate stop being a candidate?


2) What is the ‘experience’?


Is it the experience they have of all interactions with you as a company and as an employer? Surely these experiences have an influence on their motivations and affinity towards you as someone they would like to work for? Or is it more rudimentary than that – measuring the actual experience process during their job application process. Scheduling, interviews, feedback etc. All of which are vitally important to get right.


3) What are the parameters of the ‘candidate experience’?


Bringing these two things together, when do we flick the off button on candidate experience and tick the ‘job done’ box? And this is where the agenda has to be driven at a level that encompasses more than just recruitment. Because it doesn’t stop there. As an employer it goes much further than that.


Research by the Boston Consulting Group illustrates the importance of HR as a key business influencer and not just a ‘recruiter order taker’. One of the key points was the discussion around the practices within HR that influence economic performance of companies and three of the top six were: delivering on recruiting; onboarding of new hires and retention and improving employer branding.


The measurement and evaluation of candidate experience doesn’t stop the moment someone is offered a job. That experience is still being shaped through onboarding and post-hire and then judged on performance and retention.


Once a successful candidate joins an organization, those at the forefront of talent management will look to take the data from their candidate feedback stream (including opt outs and rejected) and look at the comparative throughput as the successful candidates go through onboarding and post-hire experiences. And it shouldn’t stop there.


A candidate will become an employee and have a journey through that organization. Their original perceptions, motivations, expectations and influences will have been formed before they join, are stimulated and tested through selection whilst refined and shaped as an individual and employee. Ultimately, they may even leave and move on to another job and have already begun the process of being a candidate for another employer.


If we are to take candidate experience seriously we should consider it within the wider context of talent management and support it with relevant talent analytics and performance targeting. Awards such as the Candidate Experience Awards and the Candidate Engagement Awards for the RADs are good where genuine achievement is recognised, but we also need to move beyond just being a tick box exercise or replicating a school sports day where everyone gets a prize just for taking part.


Hopefully we will see this important topic evolve with a more strategic look at its wider implications through the recruiting, hiring and post-hire effectiveness.

Next time you hear someone say candidate experience is important to them, it would be interesting to challenge them on exactly what they mean, how important it is to their organization and ultimately whether it is being measured and used as part of the performance management toolkit. If not, then is it really that important to them or their company after all?


About the author - Nick Price is one of our guest writers. He is a communications and employer branding specialist with a vast amount of knowledge in this space. He is doing some very interesting work with if you would like to check out their website. You can find him on LinkedIn or email him via if you would like some advice on employer branding/candidate experience. We highly recommend subscribing to Career Life Stories via the Working Films website - they are brilliant videos!


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