Delivering an award-winning candidate experience: 2018 Tips for pro recruiters

Kate Riney is the Brand Storyteller at Calendly, an incredibly simple scheduling tool. She has experience recruiting for the nonprofit and education industries and focused on improving candidate relations.

Recruiters have to be great time-managers. No surprise there. You need to be good with people. Also, unsurprising. You’re a pro at this, so let’s cover some ideas for maximizing recruitment potential that you may not have mastered yet.

Let’s talk about improving the candidate experience.

It’s been shown that organizations that invest in a great candidate experience actually improve the quality of the hires they make by 70%. Yet, almost 60% of candidates report having a poor experience. And a large majority of those underwhelmed candidates share information regarding their experience online through employer review sites, social media or direct communication.

Which means, if you don’t focus on delivering a great candidate experience, you’ll not only decrease the quality of your hires, you’ll actually damage the employer’s reputation and their prospective candidate pool.


I’m betting those aren’t the results that are going to win you recruiter of the year and get you that sweet bonus. So let’s talk about some simple ways to improve relations and create allies out of candidates—yes, even the rejected ones.

Research the hiring team, not just candidates

The candidate experience actually starts before you ever reach out to a potential applicant. It begins during the research phase.

Remember that you’re always interviewing two groups of people: the candidate and the employer. So when you talk to the hiring team about their needs and expectations for the role, don’t just focus on the basic job description and compensation package. Company culture is also a huge factor in candidates’ job consideration, so it’s your responsibility to have a pulse on the employer’s unique vibes and communicate them accurately. Be sure to get the hiring team’s opinion of why the organization is an attractive place to work and its mission, vision and values.

Even if you’re an in-house recruiter with a handle on the organization’s overarching culture, it’s still essential to understand the hiring team and department’s unique culture as this will have the most immediate and sustained impact on a new hire’s success.

Warm up the candidate and then compel them when sourcing

When you’re ready to reach out to cold candidates, remember that you’re calling someone who is—likely—happily employed. Calling them at their office in the middle of the day should be treated delicately. Not everyone has a soundproof office and most will be hesitant to talk to a recruiter. After introducing yourself and explaining the intent of your call, always ask if now is a good time to chat or if there’s a better time to connect.

If you get an answering service, use your best judgment to respect the person’s current job status. Don’t be too detailed about your message with assistants or secretaries.

Even if you get a chance to talk with the prospective candidate, ALWAYS send a follow-up message with more details and incentivize them to start the application process. Including an eye-catching call-to-action within your email signature and linking it to the company’s job board or website is a great way to hook the candidate. If they’re clearly uninterested in the position, you can send them an email thanking them for their time, ask them to recommend anyone in their network they think would be a good fit for the role and link to your job board or LinkedIn page.

recruiting tips

If they’ve already expressed interest in the position and are ready for a more in-depth conversation, use a tool like Calendly to include a scheduling link in your message so the candidate can quickly pick an interview time that’s convenient for them from your availability.

Simplify the application process

Whether you use a CRM or ATS for your recruitment efforts, it’s essential to invest in a compatible resume-parsing tool like CareerBuilder or RChilli. Submitting a resume and then being asked to fill out duplicate information in a detailed application form and questionnaire is very discouraging to even the most eager candidates.

Those who value their own time don’t want to spend hours on an initial job application. Respect their initiative and efforts by simplifying the process.

Explain the entire interview process

Once you start interviewing candidates, it’s vital that you explain what the entire process looks like—up front—regardless of the prospect’s potential. Many organizations prefer to only explain the very next step so that they maintain the flexibility to deviate from the norm for unique scenarios. While tempting, this method is ultimately more risky than it’s worth.

Just like sales teams are supposed to make a promise on what their product or service delivers, recruiters should make a promise to candidates about what kind of timeline they should expect and stick to it. While tough to do, this will also give you more leverage to move the employer along if they start dragging their feet or they come up with unrealistic demands. Confused or anxious candidates who feel like they’ve been forgotten or put on the back-burner will drop off, costing you some of your best talent.

Speed up the recruitment cycle

Similarly, don’t keep candidates waiting. Whenever possible, once you have information to share, share it. On average, it takes three interviews and 3–6 weeks to get out an offer. Time-to-hire is one of most important metrics recruiters must pay attention to. Why? Because the main reason job offers are rejected is that someone else beat you to the punch.

If you don’t want to go back to the drawing board and start the cycle over, speed it up!

Focus on building relationships

As you interact with the candidate, make them feel like a rockstar. A difficult and thorough interview process doesn’t have to be a cold, impersonal one. Too often interviews can feel like stress tests and give candidates an “us vs you” feeling. That’s no way to build a healthy working relationship.

Offering proper affirmation and positive feedback will give candidates the confidence to truly shine by showing you what’s true and important to know about them. A whopping 80% of people say they will take one job over another based on personal relationships formed during the interview process.

So…if you haven’t gotten this point yet: genuinely caring about the candidate is pretty important.

Ask candidates about their unique ambitions

Most interviewers make the process all about what the candidate can do for them. Successful recruiters will ask the candidate about their career aspirations and ensure the position is a good opportunity for them.

49% of employers believe that compensation is the most important factor to candidates, whereas 72% of candidates state advancement opportunities are the top reason why they would change jobs. For Millenials—the largest generation in the workforce—this is of utmost importance, with more than half of Millennials seeking more opportunities to develop their leadership skills.

You can win over candidates with the most potential if you know where their ambitions lie and take this into consideration as you interview and compose an offer.

Advocate for candidates

Your work doesn’t end once you’ve handed off the candidate to the hiring team. Consider yourself the broker between the employer and the potential hire. You are still responsible for their experience.

It may seem out of your hands at this point, but you can ensure that interviewers read all previous interview and reference notes. Make it easy for them by flagging or highlighting important info and offering to brief them.

This also means advocating for the candidate. It’s what sets truly incredible recruiters apart from simply competent ones. Know your candidate; build a relationship with them and have their back.

Did the candidate undervalue themselves? 69% of U.S. employees in the U.S. struggle to know what fair market compensation is for their position. You have compensation analysis tools they don’t have access to. Go to bat for gender-equal, industry-standard compensation for them. Salary is being negotiated by recruiters more than ever, so get the proper training to develop this skill.

Candidates will remember your efforts and become a great resource for future candidate referrals. Organizations will be thrilled to build their reputation as an equitable employer and desirable place to work.


Whether you’re an agency or in-house recruiter, a newbie or a veteran—you can always improve the candidate experience. Find ways to make a tedious and technical process more enjoyable and humane.

It’s the extra 5% of effort that will win you the most ROI. You’ll create allies out of candidates (even the ones that don’t get hired at first) and have more of a network to leverage as you continue your work.

The benefits of delivering a killer candidate experience are endless.

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