Candidate Experience: The Full Sandwich

May 15, 2023

We’ve all been there before: sitting in the waiting room for an interview, wondering why we haven’t been greeted; or on our way out feeling like the ending was abrupt. Feeling unappreciated as a candidate is a warning sign that most people tend to heed. In fact, 4 in 5 people believe that the way they’re treated during the hiring process is a clear indicator of how that company values and treats its employees. Going the extra mile can help organizations attract and retain top talent, however the truth is that negative candidate experiences are affecting 60% of job seekers, and it’s causing a big problem for businesses.

Candidate experience includes everything from the job application process to the interview, job offer, and onboarding. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end – it’s a full sandwich. A positive candidate experience with all elements present is essential because it can help attract top talent to your organization, even if they are not ultimately hired. On the other hand, if your organization is skimping out on certain parts of the sandwich, that may cause a negative experience which can damage your employer brand and deter potential candidates from applying in the future.

Candidate experience should be respectful and considerate from start to finish. This means including all elements of the sandwich, the following:

The base bread: setting the tone

The candidate experience begins before they ever walk in the door. There are several elements that set the tone for your hiring process. First and foremost is a carefully crafted job description. The job description should be informative, engaging, and most importantly, accurate. This is likely the first impression your candidates will have of the opening, so really leverage this opportunity to bring in top talent. Furthermore, the job application process should be easy and should in no way act as a hurdle that could deter a solid candidate from proceeding. In other words, all potential technical issues should be smoothed out and the application itself should be succinct. The final way to set the right tone for your hiring process is to set clear expectations. Candidates should be aware of how many steps there are to come and what will be expected of them along the way. This information should be offered before it is asked for.

The filling: creating substance

Of course, the meat of your hiring process is the interview. This is where you have the opportunity to really get to know your applicant and evaluate their fit for the role. After making the candidate feel welcome and comfortable, then you can begin asking all the things you want to know. Beyond getting to know your applicant, the interview is a chance for you to share more about the organization and the opening. Be sure to recognize that the interview is a two way street, and demonstrate how the workplace and position are highly desirable.

The sauce: going the extra mile

Putting in a small amount of extra effort to make your candidates feel valued and respected goes a very long way. When you do small, meaningful gestures, people will walk away with a positive impression of your organization and its leadership team. Little things like greeting them at the entrance, thanking them for coming, offering a beverage, walking them out and shaking their hand shows that you see the human side of things, and that the candidate is not just another walking talking resume to you. One of the most important ‘little things‘ that makes a big impact is clear and constant communication. Nobody likes to be in the dark, especially when it comes to job applications. Don’t leave them wondering about what to expect, what you’re looking for, or whether or not they’re a good fit. Communicate as often as you have updates, even when that might be something they don’t want to hear. Communication also ties in with transparency, which is greatly appreciated – and even expected – nowadays. Be sure that you’re exercising authenticity in all that you do and always being upfront with your applicants about anything that relates to them.

The top bread: closing it out

The end of the candidate experience is often overlooked. Many organizations act under the assumption that the hiring process ends with the interviews and subsequent hire, but that shouldn’t be the case. Be sure to inform candidates who have not been selected as soon as you can. Give constructive feedback and offer some insights on why the candidate wasn’t selected and how they might improve. Stay in touch with candidates you’d like to keep in mind for future openings and nurture those relationships over time. Finally, the onboarding process is an extension of the candidate experience

Curating a positive candidate experience can help organizations build a positive brand and attract/retain top talent. By paying attention to all elements of the ‘sandwich’ that is the hiring process, companies can cultivate a positive experience that reflects their commitment to treating employees with respect and appreciation.

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