How to Create an Awesome Candidate Experience

Let me paint you a picture. Somebody somewhere decided that what they do for a living wasn’t cutting it, and started doing some soul searching. That led them to  believe that working for you might be a better way for them to spend their days. So they mustered up the courage to put themselves out there, to say “I’m interested”, and join the masses to be judged by anonymous recruiters behind their screens.

People forget how vulnerable the recruiting process is for a candidate. There is a feeling of constant judgement and evaluation of their skills. And not just their juggling or Scrabble skills, but of the work they do day in day out to put food on the table. They are being evaluated on “what they do”, and that is a scary prospect.

And the process is usually God awful. Interviews re-scheduled 4 times, waiting in a conference room seemingly forgotten about, and not hearing any feedback after are part of the process. Its like a date from hell, except it’s the norm. Nearly half of what I do as an agency recruiter is console, comfort, and basically repair self esteem broken by horrendous company recruiting experiences.

You don’t have to be that way. In fact, a crappy status quo means a wonderful opportunity for you to provide an awesome candidate experience and attract great people to your company.


The Basics

I’m no Henry Higgins, but let’s talk about a few basics of common courtesy. I won’t go into depths because this is not finishing school and you are not 14 years old.

  1. Get back to everybody, whatever the outcome.
  2. Provide some sort of feedback. Nothing is as devastating as going through 5 hours of interview to only hear “pass”.
  3. Do not re-schedule an interview more than twice. How would you feel if a candidate did that?
  4. Don’t make the candidate wait more than 10 minutes for a call or in a waiting room.
  5. Don’t take 3 weeks to correct “an assignment”.
  6. Don’t ask dumb tech questions. Candidates are evaluating you too.


Track “probability of offer” metric

I can hear you saying already, “sure Georges, I would love to spend quality time with every candidate but sadly I don’t have 200 hours in my day”. Fair enough, but you shouldn’t be flying blind either. Use data to your advantage. Optimize experience for probability of offer. What do I mean by this?

Lets say that after some measurement, you figure out –

  • After phone screen: 10% probability of making an offer
  • After 1st round: 40% probability
  • After 2nd round 60% probability
  • After 3rd round 95%
  • Offer stage: 100%

“Probability of offer” is the metric that will bring some visibility back to your blind process. You now have an invaluable advantage – you know when to dial up the energy.

So in this case, you’ll know that after a certain round you need begin doing more time consuming, value generating activities. Things such as –

  • Sit down and talk career goals. What does she see herself going? How can you guys help her get there?
  • Let them sit in on a programming session, sales pitch, or whatever they’ll end up doing.
  • Take them out with the team for some drinks.
  • Send them something personalized as opposed to yet another sticker.

All too often, companies will have a mediocre experience followed by a fancy dinner to “close the candidate”. Candidates are not stupid, they see past the steak and baked potato, even though they’ll eat it.


Its not over until the butt is in the seat (actually its never really over)

Congratulations, you got the guy to sign! You have a start date in a few weeks, and the team is pumped to have a new member. You send the documents over to HR, hit the bar, and order yourself a well deserved drink.

While you are hi-fiving yourself, guess what the candidate is doing? He is stressing out. He now has to have an incredibly difficult resignation conversation with his boss which may include a counter-offer, a potentially traumatic departure from his current team, and the lingering self doubts of potential buyers remorse.

My friend Danya Cheskis-Gold has a good word for this challenging time. Its called “Yes to Desk” – the time between the signing of the offer letter and the employee’s first day. Sure there are tons of HR formalities to get done, and you need to get them their computer…etc…but there is so much more you can do from a candidate experience stand out.

 Here are some ideas

  • Write the resignation letter. Be there for him, have him call you right after. Go grab a drink with him.
  • Tell him about his new work neighborhood, good places to eat, the easiest commute.
  • Invite him to come in for a few hours to meet some of the team members (but respect the fact that he might want to go on vacation).


I hope this will provide some food for thought. Doing even the basics will set you apart, and will help you attract the caliber of candidate you seek.