The true business cost of a poor candidate experience

An organization is only as strong as its people. With that concept as a guiding principle, hiring should be an intentional and strategic process. But making the right hire can’t be the only goal of a recruiter. If you want your business to be able to attract exceptional talent who are well-suited for their roles, your recruiters also have to own every moment of the interview process to ensure all candidates have a positive experience–even if they aren’t offered the position.

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Why? Candidates share their experiences with friends, colleagues and strangers through public platforms. A poor candidate experience can adversely affect an organization over time, both through reputational damage and the missed opportunity of having the right person in the right role when your ideal candidate declines your offer.

Taking a Reputation Hit

A poor candidate experience can easily send people rushing to share their stories about a company on employer-review sites and social media networks. According to CareerArc, 72% of job seekers have reported sharing bad candidate experiences on sites like Glassdoor, on social media or directly with a colleague or friend.

Related: Here’s the latest North American Candidate Experience Report.

The interview process is also an important time for companies to introduce candidates to how they operate behind the scenes and leave a positive impression about the organization as a whole. However, statistics paint an entirely different picture about what’s actually happening, as 46% of job candidates in North America cited a lack of response from hiring managers for at least two months after applying for a job. When talent teams overlook simple things like periodic touch points or even a prompt rejection note, it can reflect negatively on the employer and adversely affect a company’s reputation, discourage potential new job seekers and even distance that company’s customers over time.

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Poor Experiences Cost Money

Bad candidate experiences can limit a company’s future talent pool and end up costing more time and money down the line. In fact, a LinkedIn survey found 27% of candidates who had a negative experience would “actively discourage” others from applying for a job with that company. This means that more than a quarter of job seekers who had less than stellar candidate experiences could actively be hurting that company’s recruiting efforts. Over time, this means it gets harder to attract candidates (especially when hiring for similar roles), forcing that business to turn to less qualified applicants to fill empty job roles because the most desirable candidates are no longer interested in working there.

See also: What do today’s job candidates really want? 

Also, the brand damage created during a bad hiring process can hurt brand perception, and by extension, sales and revenue. For example, 41% of applicants with a poor candidate experience ditch brand loyalty and avoid buying that company’s products.

What Should HR Teams and Hiring Managers Do?

If a poor hiring experience can cost businesses money, talent, time and even consumer goodwill, what do hiring managers and recruiters need to know to get ahead of the problem?

  1. Structure your interview process. A structured process is the most efficient and effective way to conduct interviews. Each interview has a specific purpose and questions don’t overlap–ensuring you gather the information you need to make a decision. Also, hiring managers are only having as many interviews as they need, and candidates don’t have to repeat themselves.
  1. Communication is key. Candidates should feel like they’re dealing with a confident and informative organization. From job descriptions and online applications to interviews up to the final job offer, candidates should consistently be informed throughout the hiring journey and know what to expect next. Even a notification alerting a candidate that his or her resume has been received goes a long way.
  1. Align the experience with company values. Introduce candidates to more than just the hiring manager. Seeing a broader picture of the company is highly valuable for a candidate because the reality is that they’re joining the whole company, not just the manager. Proactively introducing candidates to cross-functional partners, members of ERGs, culture clubs, affinity groups and even C-suites when appropriate can not only showcase your company’s values in action, but create a personal experience that stands out within a candidate’s recruiting journey.
  1. Be honest and timely about saying ‘no.’ There’s nothing worse for a candidate than to go through an organization’s entire recruiting process and have to wait for the hiring decision that never comes. Hiring managers or recruiters should be prompt and honest when sending a rejection letter (i.e. as soon as they decide not to move forward with a candidate). It’s surprising how appreciative candidates are when it comes to this gesture–many will reply with a “thank you”–as it gives them the closure they’re seeking.

There’s no secret formula to a successful candidate experience, but with some intention, the benefits speak for themselves. An integrated approach to the candidate journey can improve an organization’s brand, attract better-quality hires and increase ROI.

Jacqui Maguire is director of talent acquisition at Greenhouse.