Candidate-Centric Recruitment: How to Build a Positive Candidate Experience

Posted by Ashley Jones
candidate experience

The fight for top security-cleared talent is competitive, and candidates are empowered by choice in the current market. Their journey through your recruitment process is not just a path to a job—it’s a peek behind the curtain and a testament to your organization’s values. So it’s no surprise how much impact a positive candidate experience can have on your recruitment efforts.

Unfortunately, according to Talent Board, candidate experience ratings have declined in 2023, and candidate resentment is on the rise. “The poor experience, or candidate resentment rate as we call it, is the percentage of candidates who won’t apply again, refer others, be a brand advocate, and/or be a customer.1

You know how important it is to keep prospects in your talent pipeline and foster relationships that will lead to future referrals. So let Talent Board’s recent reporting be a reminder, or a not so subtle kick in the butt, to put the candidate experience back to the forefront.

It’s time to shift the paradigm from the traditional, transactional recruitment model to a candidate-centric, relationship-driven approach. Consider these insights to improve your candidate experience and stand out in the competitive talent acquisition landscape as an employer of choice.

The Value of a Positive Candidate Experience

Before we delve into strategies to improve candidate experience, let’s first reinforce why you should spend time and resources to address this problem. A positive candidate experience can have far-reaching implications for your organization:

  • Attracting Top Talent: In a competitive job market, talented candidates often have multiple options. A favorable candidate experience can make your organization stand out and attract high-caliber cleared candidates.
  • Employer Branding: Word of mouth travels fast, especially in a small community (and in today’s digital age). Candidates who have a positive experience during the recruitment process are more likely to speak positively about your organization, enhancing your employer brand.
  • Reduced Time-to-Hire: A smooth and efficient hiring process can significantly reduce the time it takes to fill open positions, ensuring that your organization remains agile and competitive.
  • Cost Savings: A well-designed candidate experience can lead to cost savings by reducing the likelihood of candidates dropping out of the process and the need to constantly search for new talent.

Factors Contributing to Candidate Resentment

To set the stage for our strategies to improve the candidate experience, let’s note some top-line factors that often get in the way of a positive candidate experience. These are some common “don’ts” that lead to candidate resentment:

  • Lengthy and Complex Application Processes: Cumbersome and time-consuming application processes are a common source of candidate frustration. Lengthy forms, multiple assessments, and redundant information requests can discourage potential hires.
  • Poor Communication: Candidates appreciate clear and timely communication throughout the recruitment process. Silence, vague responses, and outright ghosting can lead to uncertainty and anxiety, ultimately affecting the candidate’s perception of your organization.
  • Inconsistent Messaging: Misalignment between the job description, interview process, and actual job responsibilities can confuse candidates and result in dissatisfaction.
  • Lack of Personalization: A one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment can alienate candidates. Personalizing communication and interactions based on a candidate’s unique skills and aspirations can make a significant difference.

Strategies to Improve the Candidate Experience

Now that we understand the challenges contributing to a poor candidate experience, let’s explore actionable strategies that you can implement to enhance this crucial aspect of talent acquisition:

  • Streamline the Application Process: As you might have guessed from our list of “don’ts,” it’s valuable to simplify and streamline your application process. Remove unnecessary steps and ensure that it’s user-friendly, mobile-optimized, and easy to navigate. The goal is to make applying to your organization a seamless experience.
  • Set Clear Expectations: From the initial job posting to the final interview, ensure that candidates have a clear understanding of the job role, expectations, and the recruitment process. Transparency builds trust and reduces misunderstandings. Embrace the mantra of “under promise and over deliver,” consistently surpassing candidate expectations wherever possible to leave a lasting positive impression.
  • Maintain Open Communication: Keep candidates informed at every stage of the recruitment process. If there are delays or changes, communicate these promptly. A well-managed communication process can mitigate candidate frustration. And as we approach the end-of-year holiday season, keep up your communication efforts with candidates, as your competition may slow their pace, allowing you to shine even further.
  • Personalize Interactions: Tailor your communication and interactions to the candidate’s background and aspirations. Inquire about their specific experiences, as detailed on their resume, online profiles, or application. Show genuine interest in their career goals and how they align with your organization. This will help to foster a deeper and more personalized connection.
  • Provide Constructive Feedback: Providing feedback to interviewed candidates is vital. Talent Board reports, “No matter what the job market looks like, every year our candidate experience benchmark research shows us that the highest rated employers are those that give feedback to interviewed candidates.1” Whether the outcome is positive or negative, constructive feedback helps candidates understand their strengths and areas for improvement. This demonstrates respect for their efforts and contributes to a positive experience. Feedback is especially appreciated by transitioning military job seekers who are new to the civilian recruitment process.
  • Collect and Act on Feedback: On the contrary, it’s also beneficial to continuously collect feedback from candidates about their experience with your recruitment process. Analyze this feedback and make necessary improvements to enhance the candidate journey.
  • Measure and Benchmark: Use candidate experience metrics to measure your organization’s performance. Benchmark against industry standards and competitors to identify areas where you can excel.
  • Celebrate and Share Success Stories: When you successfully hire a candidate who had a positive experience, celebrate it. Share their stories on your website, social media, and other channels to highlight your commitment to candidate satisfaction.

Charting the Course for Candidate Experience Success Stories

In a job market where candidates have more choices than ever, ensuring a positive candidate experience is essential for attracting and retaining top cleared talent. As we’ve explored, this commitment to excellence in candidate engagement is not a single-piece solution but rather a multifaceted approach, addressing numerous aspects of the recruitment journey.

Employers must adopt a holistic approach to enhance the candidate experience, addressing factors such as application processes, communication, personalization, and more. By implementing these strategies, you stand to not only improve your candidate experience but also strengthen your employer brand, reduce time-to-hire, and ultimately build a more competitive workforce. Remember, a positive candidate experience is a win-win situation for both candidates and employers alike.

1 August CandE Pulse Results: We’ve Barely Made A Dent


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 11, 2023 7:21 pm

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