10 Key Components for a Winning Candidate Experience

According to Gallup, 70% of U.S. workers are disengaged. Given that statistic, it only seems logical that a disengaged employee might be actively seeking a new opportunity or, at least, willing to listen when a recruiter calls them about a job opening. Disengaged employees aren’t without skills and talents. Quite the contrary, a disengaged employee can have a tremendous amount of talent that simply isn’t being utilized by the organization.

While there are many reasons that employees become disengaged, one thing is certain - employee engagement starts during the recruiting process. Companies have the ability to create an experience that helps candidates connect with the organization even before they apply for a job.

This “experience” that companies are trying to create has been labeled the candidate experience. It’s thought of as the job seeker’s impression of all the interactions that took place during the hiring process. Simply put, it’s the candidate’s experience as they apply, interview, and onboard with your company. This whitepaper will focus on ten key components to consider when developing a best-in-class candidate experience.

Why the Candidate Experience is Important

We’ve already mentioned one reason why the candidate experience is so important – employee engagement. However, this isn’t the only reason.

Others include:

  • Finding the best talent – As workplaces see more evidence of skills shortages, businesses will want to know they can find qualified candidates when they need them. A positive candidate experience will attract qualified talent to your organization and keep them on good terms until a need arises.
  • Reducing recruiting time and cost – No organization has unlimited funds and resources for their recruiting efforts. Companies want to find the best talent using minimal resources, so creating a positive experience is a must for cutting costs since top talent is in short supply. Candidates will seek out and apply to organizations that provide a great hiring experience.
  • Business competitive advantage – When a company hires and retains top talent, the organization becomes better in terms of the products and services they provide. This translates into increased profits and larger market share.

Investing in the candidate experience will yield results both short-term with applicant flow as well as long-term in the organization’s bottom-line.

Create a Positive Company Culture and Brand

People want to work for companies that they’re proud of. They want to work for organizations that have purpose. This not only includes the traditional organizational mission and vision but also company values.

There are clear benefits for businesses that create a positive company brand image. The first is attracting the best talent. The second is greater profits. Fast Company referenced a study that found 90% of employees who believed their organization had a strong sense of purpose also reported a strong financial position. In addition, these companies demonstrated high customer and employee satisfaction.

The reason is simple. People like to win. They want to work at companies they believe are winning. Employees want to tell their friends and family where they work and hear “ooohs” and “aaahs”. Companies that build a positive culture and brand get the best candidates.

Design a Robust Career Website

Job seekers want to research organizations online before they apply. This concept links back to the first component, creating a positive company brand. Candidates want to see that the company is a good place to work before applying. Today’s talent is selective. They don’t want to waste their time applying at companies that aren’t worth their time and effort.

Besides the traditional listing of job openings and application instructions, here are a few items to consider including on your company career site:

  • Organizational mission, vision, and corporate values
  • Company purpose and connection to the community
  • Awards and recognition received by the company
  • Photos and videos of the work environment and employees
  • Benefits, professional development, and future opportunities

A company career site should be an authentic reflection of the employment experience. Another equally important aspect to career sites is the way this information is consumed. With the iCIMS Mobile Career Portal, your career site can be optimized using a technique called responsive web design. This means no matter what device a candidate uses to visit your career site – PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone – the site will automatically adjust for proper viewing. (Side note: This feature is free to iCIMS customers)

Sharing the right information with candidates is important but you should keep in mind that sharing the information in the right format is also equally essential.

Use Candidate Resource Management (CRM) Techniques in Your Talent Networks

Sometimes companies can be so focused on filling their current job openings that they forget to put steps in place to fill the talent pipeline. Recruiters are taking a page from the sales playbook and using the principles of customer resource management (CRM) to stay in touch with interested job candidates.

Smart companies are creating talent networks to develop a candidate database, build talent pipelines, and keep candidates engaged with the company. Combining CRM techniques with a talent network offers a way to scale a piece of the recruiting process, saving the company time and money.

The value talent networks and CRM can bring to your recruitment process lies in the passive job seeker. These are individuals who might not be ready to actively start looking for another job, but still want to keep their options open. These passive candidates are quietly researching companies. They might be discreetly asking questions about the best places to find a job.

With iCIMS Connect, companies can offer passive candidates an easy way to connect with the organization. The candidate can now learn more about the company and receive job openings for positions they are interested in. The company can find out more about the candidate and even reach out to the candidate if a position that they’re uniquely qualified for becomes available. Talent networks offer a win-win opportunity for candidates and companies to engage easily with each other.

Write Realistic Job Postings

Candidates don’t want surprises about the companies to which they’re applying. They also don’t want surprises about the job for which they’re applying. Candidates are looking for an accurate and realistic position description.

HRBartender and iCIMS have created an ebook, “6 Steps for Creating the Perfect Job Posting”, that provides the steps for crafting a job posting that will give you the talent results you are looking for. It includes key questions to ask, so the posting is focused on your target audience.

Companies will want to make sure that they have provided a realistic job preview both before a candidate applies as well as during the interview process. Organizations can include job information on their company website such as videos or photos of employees doing their work. This way, candidates get to see a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes.

During the interview, companies can share both the formal and informal responsibilities of a job. Many companies explain the formal responsibilities of the job using the job description. Usually, there are other parts to a job that aren’t listed on the job description. Tasks like taking turns cleaning out the break room refrigerator or phone coverage at the reception desk. These are things we do to keep the operation running and contribute to the team environment. They should be explained as well.

An activity that can help candidates get a true sense of the job is the “in-box assessment”. The goal here isn’t to have candidates actually do work. It’s a simulation to see how candidates will prioritize and organize their work. This type of simulation not only provides insight to the company, but it gives the candidate a sneak peek of what a typical day might look like.

Embrace Social and Mobile in Your Recruiting Strategy

People want an easy way to find and apply for jobs. Frankly, companies should want this as well. If it’s too hard or takes too much time to apply for a job with your company, candidates just won’t. It’s that simple. One way to make the application process easier and faster is by using social platforms to spread the word about job openings and giving candidates the ability to apply using their tablets and smartphones.

The business case for social recruiting is straightforward. According to Social Media Today:

  • Of Facebook’s nearly one billion users, approximately 20% are mobile only.
  • YouTube reaches more adults than any cable television network.

These two statistics demonstrate the popularity and usage of mobile and social technologies. Businesses cannot afford to ignore the reach mobile and social provides.

Also, adding a social and mobile component to your recruiting strategy gives current employees a way to share job openings with their friends. Employee referrals are still a top source of applicant flow and a very effective cost-per-hire strategy. Mobile and social make sharing job openings a one-button activity.

A key element in using mobile and social for recruiting is consistency. Because some social sites, like Twitter, limit the length of a message, the focus of your messaging should be to drive people to a place where they can see your employment brand – i.e. your career site. This is where your investment in a robust career site and realistic job postings will pay off.

Optimize Your Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Disorganization can kill recruiting efforts. An applicant tracking system (ATS) allows companies to stay organized and in touch with candidates.

The iCIMS Recruit solution has three stand-out features to help companies create an effective and efficient hiring process:

  • First, iCIMS Recruit allows recruiters and hiring managers to track candidates’ historical engagement with the company. Let’s say you have a new job opening that a candidate you interviewed two months ago would be perfect for. The system allows you to easily search for that candidate.
  • The bi-directional email feature provides the ability to send branded communications to candidates in your talent networks. Companies can promote their brand or inform people of job openings.
  • Lastly, it can be a challenge developing concise, targeted messaging for the first time. iCIMS provides messaging templates that you can use for a little creative inspiration.

The single biggest complaint from candidates is that the company doesn’t communicate with them during the hiring process. An ATS offers the ability to communicate effectively and consistently. When it comes to hiring talent, companies have the opportunity to outshine their competition by creating a communication strategy for candidates.

Many organizations have an ATS these days. It’s how organizations maximize the features within their ATS that sets them apart.

Elevate the Screening Interview

Once a company starts receiving responses, they need an effective and efficient way to sort through the crowd and find the best candidates. Traditionally, this is done during the screening interview.

Screening interviews are designed with the single purpose of determining if there is an initial “good fit” between candidate and the organization. This allows both the candidate and company to not waste time during the recruitment process. No one wants to continue in a process that doesn’t make sense for either person.

iCIMS new Video Cover Letter solution allows candidates to include a video introduction with their resume.

Candidates have been turning to video as a way to showcase their talents to potential employers. There are attributes that candidates can demonstrate via video in a natural way:

  • Verbal communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Passion for career, industry and company

Using video technology is not prohibited by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Organizations should consult their employment counsel for the best way to introduce video technology into their hiring practices.

Refine the Traditional Interview

If companies utilize the screening interview to their advantage, the purpose of the second (or more traditional) interview changes as well. How it changes is determined by the goals of the screening interview. For example, if the goal in the screening interview is to make sure candidates have the requisite skills in a specific software program, then the focus of the second interview might be on corporate culture fit. The reverse also holds true. If the goal of the screening interview is to determine if a candidate will be a good fit within the company culture, then the second interview can focus on work experience and skills.

Both interviewing strategies are effective and widely used. The best approach for your organization is the one that yields the best answers because that will lead you to the right candidates.

During the actual interview, the most effective way to get good responses is by using behavioral interviewing techniques and group interviews.

  • Behavioral interviewing is the concept that past experience is a good indicator of future performance. Questions that begin with “Tell me about a time…” or “Describe a moment when…” are usually behavioral in nature. It allows the candidate to share an experience from their past.
  • Group interviews can be slightly intimidating but, when explained in the proper context, can be very effective. Candidates that interview with multiple people have the benefit of meeting various people during the process. When they become an employee, they have several friendly faces to ask questions – not just their manager and human resources. 

Redefining the focus of both the screening and second interview provides clarity in the hiring process. Recruiters and hiring managers can explain the purpose of interviews to candidates and put everyone at ease. Ultimately, a well-defined process will give everyone the comfort to ask and receive the best answers.

Strategically Automate the Onboarding Process

In component number six, optimizing your applicant tracking system, we touched on the advantages of bringing automation to the recruiting process. The same applies to onboarding. Organizations can benefit by strategically automating pieces of their onboarding process.

There are many tasks that must be completed for every single new hire. The first one that comes to mind is new hire paperwork. Standardizing the new hire paperwork process using automation creates consistency, efficiency, and cost-savings. For human resources departments, automation reduces the workload where compliance efforts and recordkeeping are concerned.

In addition, the company is taking care of one of the most fundamental questions a new hire employee has – “How do I get paid?” Addressing these questions on the front-end helps to create a best-in-class onboarding experience that is positively correlated with higher retention rates. The new hire employee is able to focus on their work and become a productive member of the team.

Solicit Feedback from New Hires

Companies must make sure they truly deliver on their promises. Once a candidate has been with the company for a while, it can be beneficial to survey new hires for their thoughts about the hiring process.

During orientation, let employees know they will be receiving a survey. If possible, create a way for responses to be anonymous. Ask employees to share the things the company did well along with suggestions for improvement. There’s no better source of information about the company recruiting process than the people who just went through it.

This is also an opportunity to ask employees about the overall onboarding experience:

  • Were there any job responsibilities you wish you knew before you got hired?
  • Did you feel ‘ready’ for the job on your first day?
  • How long did it take to feel fully productive at your job?
  • Is there anything human resources could have done during your first 90-days to make your onboarding easier?

Regularly collecting information from new hires will allow the company to see trends and make adjustments where necessary. It sends the message to new hires that their feedback is valuable.


In today’s workplaces, talented workers have options. Job seekers aren’t looking for just any new opportunity – they want the right one. Employers need to provide job seekers a positive candidate experience if they want to attract the best talent available.

Making the hiring process intuitive, informative and collaborative will let candidates know the type of organization you are and that you’re sincere about creating a great work environment.

References and Resources

State of the American Workplace 2017, Gallup

About Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP

Sharlyn Lauby is author of the HR Bartender blog and president of ITM Group Inc., a South Florida based training and human resources consulting firm. Her company focuses on providing solutions to engage and retain employee talent so their clients can innovate and create shareholder value. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms.  She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development.

To learn more Sharlyn and ITM Group, please visit her website or her blog, HR Bartender. You can also contact her via phone at (954) 659-2237 or email her at

How iCIMS Can Help

iCIMS is the leading provider of talent acquisition solutions that help businesses win the war for top talent. iCIMS empowers companies to manage their entire hiring process within the industry’s most robust Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Built on the foundation of a best-to-market talent acquisition software suite, iCIMS’ PaaS framework, UNIFi, allows employers to expand the capabilities of their core talent acquisition technology by integrating with the largest partner ecosystem in talent acquisition to help them attract, find, screen, and manage candidates. Offering scalable, easy-to-use solutions that are backed by award-winning customer service, iCIMS supports more than 3,500 contracted customers and is one of the largest and fastest-growing talent acquisition solution providers.