Every year, Talent Board, the nonprofit organization dedicated to best practices in recruiting, compiles a research report on the candidate experience (CandE) in North America. This year, 240 companies and over 183,000 job seekers shared the good, the bad, and the ugly about their experiences on both sides of the recruitment process.

Indeed, the 2016 Talent Board North American CandE Research Report revealed that CandE has a larger impact on business than talent acquisition alone. Candidates who have had a negative experience during the job search are more likely to switch consumer allegiances to a competitor. As you may imagine, they could also spread negative reviews that impact future applicants and customers. They are also unlikely to apply for other jobs at the same organization.

The importance of measuring the business value of CandE—both positive and negative—should not be underestimated. Lucky for you, this annual benchmark report has grown year over year, revealing results that can help your company improve its recruitment efforts.

Lessons from the Highest Ranking CandE Companies

The overall findings make it quite clear: The highest-ranking companies listen more to job candidates and set better expectations for them during the recruiting process. These companies also hold themselves accountable for talent acquisition and CandE, measuring both regularly. Even if candidates don’t ultimately get hired, those who interview with higher-ranking companies believe they went through a fairer process and were given the opportunity to share how their knowledge, skills, and experiences applied to the job at hand.

Here are ten key takeaways that can boost your company’s CandE score:

  1. Referrals and employee review sites are essential. More than half of companies—56 percent—use employee referral programs to attract potential candidates. About one-third of candidates leverage referrals to get a foot in the door, up 14 percent from 2015. Employer review sites like Glassdoor continue to be popular resources for both candidates and employers—and today’s candidates value transparency.
  2. Candidates continue to do it their own way. Before applying for a job, 75 percent of candidates research prospective employers across a variety of channels. They search for information describing company values (42 percent) and employee testimonials (36 percent). Job descriptions top the list at 63 percent, with video job descriptions on the rise. A disclosed salary range is also important to them.
  3. Job boards, career sites, and LinkedIn are still principal job sources. While candidates are relying on job boards less than they have in years past, organizations have increased their investment in this sourcing tool by 10 percent since 2014. They are also leveraging LinkedIn pages, and corporations’ internal career sites more than in years past.
  4. The application process is still not user-friendly. After slogging through a 20-minute, arduous job application process, many candidates report never hearing back from the companies to which they apply. The actual barometer of a candidate’s positive experience is whether or not they would re-apply. Only 31 percent of candidates would reapply to the same organization, which is a 6 percent decrease from 2015. Candidates applying to jobs at CandE award-winning organizations, however, were twice as likely to apply for another job at that company as candidates from other businesses. Progress is being made, but there is more work to be done including making sure rejection emails are sent and providing a timetable for when a candidate can expect to hear back from your company.
  5. Mobile applications increased. Nearly 80 percent of employers offer the ability for candidates to apply for a job on their mobile devices, as efforts to improve mobile recruiting efforts increase. However, only 12 percent of candidates said they applied for a job through a mobile device, up slightly from 2015. It seems that candidates are using mobile devices to research jobs, but when it comes to applying, they are switching to a desktop or laptop. At the very least, companies need to make sure it’s easy for candidates to search their job openings via mobile. Test your career site using the Google Mobile Friendliness tool.
  6. Companies that ask for feedback offer better experiences. Organizations that provide a positive, five-star customer experience tend to ask for feedback throughout the hiring process. While identifying and speaking with candidates before they even apply for a position, they solicit feedback on how compelling the job description was and whether the candidates would be interested in applying for the job at hand. In fact, 30 percent of candidates who had a five-star experience were asked for feedback before they even applied for the job. On the flip side, 88 percent of candidates with a poor, one-star experience were asked for no feedback at all.
  7. Communication is still a struggle. Nearly half of candidates were still waiting to hear back from potential employers two months after applying for a job. Only 20 percent of candidates received an email from a recruiter or hiring manager notifying them they were no longer being considered, and 70 percent of online applicants report never even got a form reply. There were signs of improvement, however, with 51 percent of recruiters required to respond to every candidate who applied—up from 40 percent in 2015.
  8. Assessment screenings matter. Hiring quality talent improves with the use of assessment screenings, including culture fit and job simulations. Three-quarters of companies indicated that they are using some type of assessment.
  9. Interview prep and communication give a big lift. The majority of employers indicate that a detailed agenda was supplied in advance of the interview, a discussion of next steps was conducted, and a follow-up email was sent. However, 33 percent of candidates said they received no interview preparation or communication at all. It seems that only those candidates with five-star experiences are receiving the communication and feedback the majority of employers say they’re delivering.
  10. Onboarding has improved overall. Twenty percent of employers ask for feedback remotely through a survey or email on or around the candidate’s start date, up from 13 percent in 2015. Furthermore, 39 percent of candidates received calls from their hiring manager before they started work, up slightly from 2015. According to candidates, employers are also providing multiple options to communicate goals, meet team members, and answer questions—up in 2016 to 20 percent versus 17 percent in 2015.

The report’s findings support the notion that investing in the experience of your candidates is just as important as investing in the experience of your employees and customers. Follow these helpful tips for creating a winning candidate experience, and in the process, transform applicants into future talent for your company—even the ones who don’t get hired can become ambassadors for your brand.

Learn more about the 2016 report and CandE awards.

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