The Candidate Experience

You may have heard the buzz words ‘candidate experience’ floating around. But what exactly does it mean? Why is it important? And how can you improve your organisation’s candidate experience?

The candidate experience is the impression a person is left with after applying to your charity for a job. If it’s positive, research shows they are 38% more likely to accept a job offer. Or even if they aren’t right for the role, chances are they will apply again in the future and recommend your organisation to others. If they have a negative experience, they are likely to do the opposite. And in the current saturated job market, you obviously want to avoid discouraging applicants. Here’s how you can give candidates the best possible experience.

Make applying easy for them

Understand the role

Make sure you understand exactly what you need from a role before advertising it. Interviewing candidates and then realising you actually need something—and someone—different, is a waste of their time. Consider completing a skills gap analysis first to really target the skills you need for a role, and choose a job title to match, rather than the other way around.

Be clear in your job advert

Make it easy for candidates to choose your role by giving them all the information they need. Use the right keywords, show the salary and explain the benefits you offer. State the location and any flexibility around this. Make the structure clear, so they understand who they would report to and who would report to them (if applicable). List your proposed interview dates and locations.

Be inclusive

We’ve talked a lot before about being inclusive in your job adverts, but it’s just as important here too. Try to appeal to as many candidates as possible by removing bias. Boil your essential requirements down to the bare minimum and make sure your advert is accessible to people with disabilities. Explicitly state that you welcome applications from minority groups, use inclusive language and link to your charity’s diversity and inclusion policy.

Keep the application process short

Don’t ask candidates to fill out lengthy application forms if you can possibly avoid it— 60% of candidates have abandoned a job application that they find too long or complex. And here at CharityJob, we receive three times more applications for jobs without application forms.

Whichever application method you use, why not try our new screening questions feature to get to the essential information fast? When you post a job and select ‘Quick Apply’, you now have the option to add customisable questions, so you can quickly and efficiently screen candidates on important criteria. You can choose from different answer formats to find what you need, such as notice periods or motivation for the role. You can even ask task-based questions to test candidates’ skills. Using screening questions to shortlist candidates could even mean you don’t need to ask for a CV or cover letter, as both your hiring panel and applicants focus only on what’s most important.

Minimise interview stages

Lots of interview stages can be an unnecessary drain on candidates’ time. Try to keep them to as few as possible and explain the stages at the start of the process. This will also help you move quickly while competition for candidates is high. And if you ask candidates to prepare a task in advance of an interview, make sure you thank them for their time and are prepared to give proper feedback on their work.

Woman cradling mobile between her shoulder and ear, writing in a notebook, holding a mug

Explain what your organisation can offer

Throughout the interview process, candidates expect to find out more about the charity they’ve applied to and what the reality of working there would be like. This is also your opportunity to sell your organisation and make them want to accept any offer you might make. Educate them about your cause, how your charity makes an impact and the part they would play if they got the role. Don’t forget to mention your values, organisational culture and benefits here. It’s also important to talk about career development. If you outline this before candidates ask, it shows this is important to your organisation and you’d value their growth as an employee. And that could just be what swings them to accept your offer.

Communicate well at all stages and respect candidates’ time

Set clear timescales

Clear and timely communication is absolutely key to the candidate experience. You must set clear timelines for the recruitment process, be transparent with candidates about them and stick to them as far as possible. If something unforeseen does happen, tell candidates there will be a delay before they have to chase you up. You should also give them all the information about what to expect at each stage—for example who they will be meeting, the format the interview will take and how long you expect it to last.

Don’t keep candidates waiting

Respond to shortlisted candidates as soon as possible, ideally within two days of receiving their application/the job advert closing date. And if you receive any questions or thank you/interview follow-up emails from candidates, you should respond to these as soon as possible. Making candidates wait too long, or have to follow up, signals that you don’t respect their time or value them as an applicant.

Similarly, don’t make any promises you can’t keep—like to make a decision by the end of the week, or to keep them on file for the future if you don’t have the systems in place to actually do this.

Reject candidates in the right way

How you reject unsuccessful candidates is also very important. However unsuitable they might be, if they tell their network about a negative experience with you, it may deter other, more suitable candidates from applying for your roles in the future. Ideally you should offer, at least brief, feedback to all rejected applicants—even those not shortlisted. To save time here, you could use the email templates feature in our applicant tracking system, Applicant Manager, available free when you post a job and select ‘Quick Apply’.

If you’ve interviewed the person, then ideally contact them by phone, but otherwise send an email from your personal email address, not a generic one, with brief reasons they weren’t successful. Then offer a follow-up call for more detailed feedback if they’d like. Be sure to focus on the positives about their application and interview, as well as constructive comments on where and how they can improve. Yes, giving feedback in this way can be time-consuming, but it’s as essential part of your recruitment process. As many as 80% of candidates would be put off applying for a role with a company that had failed to give them feedback in the past.

Treat candidates right and you can improve your recruitment in the future

Have you ever asked candidates for feedback on their experience of applying for a role with you? If not, consider sending them a survey at the end of the process. This will both make them feel valued and show you care about their experience, and also give you useful feedback on where you can improve in the future.

Don’t forget that even unsuccessful candidates can give reviews of your organisation on sites such as Glassdoor. Managed well, a good candidate experience can boost your company’s brand and give you a pool of engaged potential employees to recruit from in the future.

Tags: attracting the right candidates, candidate expectations, candidate experience, charity recruitment, charity sector recruitment, equality diversity and inclusion, hiring process, inclusive recruitment, recruitment, recruitment process

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About the author

Karen Harlow

Karen Harlow is Digital Content Manager at CharityJob.