The “candidate experience” – there isn’t one…

If you are involved in resourcing, whether in house or on the supply side, you won’t have failed to have noticed the big shift and conversation around direct resourcing.  You will also, I’m sure, have come across many conversations about the candidate experience, or lack of it – see here for a cracking summary on how bad organisations can be in this department from @lisascales of Tribepad

I’m very interested in this subject for a number of reasons and in pursuit of this interest, I set out to find out what was being said by thought leaders with a knowledge greater than I, and also to seek out and find examples of organisations that are addressing this issue head on.  Maybe even find some interesting and creative developments in the market that are aiming to dramatically increase the quality of experience for the poor downtrodden candidate.

But, despite my best efforts, the results of my search can only be summed up thus:

*cue tumbleweed…………..*

This seems odd.  As someone who is immersed in social networks, I do hear a lot of feedback, but it struck me that this is mainly candidate’s themselves bemoaning their lot at the hands of recruiters – mainly supply side it has to be said, but there are some truly awful employer side examples.  Linked in is also humming right now with such tales, but again, its mainly driven by the candidates themselves.  A search on LinkedIn groups for “candidate experience” for example brings up precious few appropriate options.

What I was looking for was more akin to what you might find if you Googled ‘social recruiting’ or something similar – really high quality dialogue between the people responsible for the candidate/employer brand and or those that are proffering solutions.  Instead, what you get when you google “candidate experience” pales in comparison.  Go on, try it.  The results when I tried in June were underwhelming.

There were some positive signs.  Gerry Crispin and the guys at CareerXroads seem to be starting a bit of a movement – check out their report.  They are also collaborating with a number of others to form the Talent Board, a non profit organisation that is all about championing the development f the (Positive) candidate experience.  They have recently announced the Candidate Experience Awards to raise the profile of the issue.

NOTE: Twitter is slightly different although it is only recently that the subject has gained traction here too.  I did a search on the term “Candidate Experience” in June and found only a handful of responses.  Since then, and having encouraged one of my clients to engage on the subject through hashtags etc, the volume has increased significantly.   A search today shows a somewhat more active stream of activity and blog posts.

But all this great stuff is very embryonic, and seems only to be making traction in the US.  What about Europe?  BP have popped a stake in the ground and appointed a Head of Global Candidate Experience as part of a wider initiative to refocus the resourcing effort.  But similar examples are few and far between.  Is it so early days that not enough people are taking it seriously and no real solutions to the issues are yet being developed?  Or is it just that we don’t really give a damn?  Perhaps we have yet to wake up to the fact that candidates are customers are employees.  They are all the same.  In previous years, organisations could keep them nice and separate thank you – “oh no we don’t want those guys talking to each other!”.

Thankfully, those lines are now being blurred and an organisation can no longer control (Despite the fact that they think they can) who talks to who about what.

So, come on folks, if you have any insight, opinion or examples of who is doing what, id love to hear about it.  Leave a comment here or contact me on twitter at @garelaos.

Also, you might be interested in a group started by some good friends of mine on LinkedIn – Candidate Experience Matters – aimed at those in organisations whose role and responsibility actively encompasses candidate experience.  It’s only new but pile on in if this subject is of interest to you and lets get the conversation started.


  1. Gareth,
    If you cast your memory back, you might recall Oliver Urpi running a site for a while reviewing this, Vincent M also ran “Judge the job.” I think both are on hold due to a lack of support/backing. Jobsite have annual awards for candidate experience, and Stephen includes this in the NORAS. My feeling is that candidate experience is talked out. It’s been blogged to death under other headings and spoken about at conferences. I blogged about this last year after Recruitfest.
    Lets be honest, it’s not a discussion point any more. We know it is bad, but you have to question if anyone cares when little changes.


    1. Hi Bill. Yes, there have been attempts to look at and try and measure the experience before of that there is no doubt. Hirescores is another one of the many. And yes, there is the Noras etc but that is not what i would call quality debate. My searches, as i pointed out are pretty thin in terms of quality content. I agree totally with your post in that it shouldn’t be happening, but in my mind, nothing changes until it becomes a thorn in peoples side and a hotly debated topic. sites like Hirescores do nothing to add to the debate or the quality of the conversation.

      Things do need to change and right now, it would appear that despite the lip service, very little does change. But then that’s where the social interweb can have an influence. Just because it shouldn’t be happening and just because it seems that no one takes any notice doesn’t mean we shouldnt raise the game and the issue. No one cared about or did anything demonstrable about slavery once upon a time remember 😉

      Thanks for the comment!


  2. Great article Gareth

    I introduced a candidate last week to a leading FMCG business to be informed by their Talent Acquisition team that he had applied directly to them 2 months before. When I called the candidate to ask him why he had not mentioned this to me at interview he said that he had received no acknowledgement or response from the organisation so wanted to use my expertise as a recruitment consultant to help introduce him.

    Given that this company has a fantastic record in building consumer brands and loyalty this is very poor. His impression of them as an “employer of choice” has been dented by this experience.

    Interestingly, within 24 hours of my “second” introduction their Talent Acquisition team called him to discuss an opportunity…….

    This is an area I feel strongly about and I think that businesses need to think about the candidate experience and the resources needed to screen and sift candidates. More importantly how do they then keep the “best” and most relevant candidates in a vibrant talent pool.

    Recruitment consultancies have been trying to do this for years – with mixed results.


  3. Hi Phil, yes very irritating and short sighted. It will change, im convinced of that – but not until the quality of the dialogue and the overall noise reaches deafening levels. Currently, despite what many think, the dialogue is still largely generated by candidates voicing their experiences on places like LinkedIn.

    Only this year SHL have released research that demonstrates the impact of a poor candidate experience on the brand, and have drilled this down to lost revenue because, guess what – the candidate is or can often be, a customer. More debate, more research, more volume, more embarrassment and eventually, supported by the humiliation potential of the social interweb, things will change. Companies will start to address the problem.

    Hats off to BP – speaking from past experience as a recruitment supplier to them, their resoucing process changed so much over a 5 year period that it became one of the worst out there in terms of candidate experience – especially at the application stage. Their new focus and the new role seems, if nothing else, a recognition that its time to do something about it. Well done them and good luck to them too.


  4. Hi Gareth, interesting blog post and an area I am actively engaged in. I think the next few months will see some interesting developments with progressive organisations who are focusing more on quality and actionable metrics rather than debate and discussion.


    1. Hi Nick! Yes i think you are right. I have clients that are focussing on creating real data and insight in the area so its very encouraging. But I do think the lack of proper debate and discussion has been one of the primary reasons its taken until 2011 for the issue to get proper attention. The more the quality debate, the higher profile the issue. Evidence is key though as you say. Look forward to hearing more. Isn’t it time for a pint?! 😉


  5. Gareth, an interesting topic im sure will envoke some debate.

    One thing that sticks out for me is that there seems to be more and more information or application forms that candidates need to fill in before an application is even received by an in house recruiter. If I look back at my times working with job boards, the actual drop off rate of candidates clicking “apply” on a job board compared to actual completed applications into a clients ATS it is worrying low. Companies want to ensure that they are hiring the best candidates for the role, but are there easier routes to do this by engaging with a candidate first so they feel as if they are valued not just some stats on a form.

    The technology is out there that can pull information from a CV or a profile, such as CV parsing that can auto populate CRM and ATS systems to save candidates time. I would also say that job matching technology is becoming much more accurate and can offer a first stage of filtering at which stage you can expect relevant candidates to fill in more information or answer more specific questions. All-to-often engagement with the customer or the candidate is forgotten. This plays a major part in whether the right candidate completes an application, and of course, their opinion of the org/brand in question. Its great to see an organisation like BP take the initiative, I wonder how long before we see other companies following suit….?


    1. Hi Mike. Yes, this is part of the problem obviously and from what i can see, some are appalling at this. However, its all symptomatic of the way recruitment has evolved over the last 10 years in that we have created a response industry. In many cases we are no longer recruiters. And it is way too easy for candidates to apply for a job. Keith Robinsons famous ‘promiscuous digit’. This is a key problem and given the resulting volumes its not a surprise that organisations are trying to stem the fire-hose. Unfortunately, in doing so we have simply relied on the ATS providers and taken a very linear and process approach to the problem.

      Companies should be asking themselves how they would handle a fire-hose of customer/lead enquiries – my guess is it wouldn’t be in the same way! We need to address the problem at source, which is where job boards have to get onside in my opinion but also to stop the dumbass circle of creating a response and then trying to stem it. We need to reverse that and get back to proactive sourcing. And that doesn’t have to be manual. Unfortunately as I have said before, the market direction meant the smarts in tech went down the response route, not into smarter ways of using tech to source. Automating the application process and making it easier for me to auto complete forms etc is nice for me, but not really solving the issue. Re BP – i predict the ‘noise’ around “candidate experience” will grow quickly and might even be in danger of becoming the next big (fad) thing. so my view is that you will see more companies following suit pretty soon.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts!


  6. Hi Gareth – good blog, and a very potent subject point. Yes, as Bill says – it is a well worn subject – and it has varying levels of opinion.

    I stand on the recruiter side of this argument, and will protect the recruiter more often than not.

    The greater issue appears to be with corporate applications – and here I understand the argument. If your HR department is 5-10 staff strong, then candidate experience and communication through the application process should particularly standardized and hole-free. Why the hell has someone gone as far as a `Head of Candidate Experience`??!! – jeez – if the normal application process isn’t covering it, then they have problems. Sounds like somebody had an annual staffing budget to fill.

    The overall opinion is that the quality of the application, and therefore the quality of the applicant, has dumbed down too much. It is too easy to apply for jobs now. Job boards are filter-less, and gimmicks like `Apply with LinkedIn` only accentuate this – one click – and your profile/CV is there – no matter how bad you are.

    There is a feeling among recruiters, that 50% of applications do not merit a response. Frivolous, mindless applications with no care for the consequence. CV Library & Total Jobs ring me up every month to congratulate on me on the number of applications I have received. I say well don’t – I want the same amount of suitable CVs, and half as many terrible CVs.

    The candidate experience in truth generally gets overplayed. Occasionally on LinkedIn, a candidate makes a grumble about a recruiter experience. Occasionally on Twitter, you see the same.
    Every day recruiters place great people, and get recommendations and love from the people they were able to help. Balance is necessary.


    1. Hi Steve – Nice post and all very true – as i mentioned to Mike, we have set the scene for candidates to behave in the way you describe. Its awful and as you point out in the blog, recruiters pick up a lot of flack as a result which isn’t fair. I also had to laugh about your comment regarding CV Library and Totaljobs rolling out the same old line that they think its all about – apps! I challenged this when i first took on the budget at Stopgap and found the same. I told them apps were not good to me, i need placements!! So i measured them all to placement and guess what? Most of them didn’t cut it. Not necessarily their fault but its something they need to get into and help find a solution.

      I do however applaud BP for the move. Its not just about the application process, its about the whole journey. Companies still invest in Customer Experience professionals even though their customer journey is dandy – its about taking it seriously and taking a higher level view of the overall impact and opportunity.

      Thanks for commenting – as always great thoughts.


  7. Steve,

    Think you hit the nail on the head there that there does need to be a balance. In making it easy to apply for a job are we also encouraging the blanket apply aproach where people will apply for 10 plus roles not really looking into whether the company is the right fit? In conversations I have had with companies who directly source this has been a major problem for them!.


  8. Great thoughts Gareth. Sorry about your Google searches for candidate experience. If you’d tried candidate satisfaction, you may have run across Survale online recruitment software. It’s a new product I launched recently that allows recruiters to measure candidate satisfaction in real time, track brand affinity, view how candidates interact with their career site and engage candidates in dialogue (if they so choose.). I don’t usually hock my wares in blog comments, but you brought it up. We also have a Linkedin Group called We Are All Candidates (I will check out the one you mention straight away).

    I understand the arguments pro and con as to whether candidate experience matters, but at the end of the day, if you want an edge as a recruiting organisation…if you want impress your most desired candidates…you now can, and must, impress them all. It’s good business, it’s good for your brand (employment and core brand) and it’s simply the right thing to do.


  9. Hi Ian – Ill forgive the plug 😉 Whatever i search though, there is still a lack of proper dialogue. I agree with you on the approach, you can argue either way and bemoan the difficulties, but its better to address it and embrace is as you point out.

    Re your solution, it looks interesting. The output looks like strong in terms of insight and i like the stuff it covers – could be very powerful. One thing – I wouldn’t call it “Survey online recruitment software” Its not – its far more powerful than that 😉 and you dont want to be associated with that market! Just a thought. thanks for commenting!


  10. Listening to the wise words of others it seems that a blog on candidate experience has led us to the old chestnut of building a relevant “applicant, candidate, talent, industry” whatever you want to call it community.
    I know that Steve Ward is passionate about this from a previous discussion and he has a great twitter network @cloudninerec and I am determined to build a strong and vibrant FMCG Network.
    Chasing more and more applications from generic ads on bland job boards drives me nuts. In my opinion recruitment consultants should focus on a niche and actively engage with the candidate pool in that niche.


  11. Great article and an important subject to discuss. I wish more organizations would consider developing the important role of “Head of Global Candidate Experience”. There’s a strong need out there. Companies may not always realize it, but it definitely impacts their brand image. A few small steps can go a long way. For more information on my perspective, as well as that of candidates, recruiters and HR teams, read my blog and related articles


  12. Hi Gareth, I’m a bit behind on reading, hence the very late reaction on my part. As you might know, or probably not since we’ve only met digitally, I run a research into this in the Netherlands. It’s called Digitaal-Werven (digital recruiting) and we test about 400 companies on their digital applicant experience. In other words, their recruitment site (both on information available as well as usability) and the application process (and response).

    Next week I present the new data for 2011, but some indication on 2010… 25% never responded to an application. In 2009 that was 33%, 2008 also around 17% and 2007 we had a whopping 50% (to be honest, we did open applications in 2007). Last year we asked questions for the first time in Hyves (Dutch Facebook), the percentage that responded was… sad. Less then 90% responded. This year we also asked questions in Facebook itself.

    If you look at response times they seem to be improving. over 60% last year responded within 2 weeks, 50% within a week. Calculate with that the 25% that never responded and you know how many took over 2 weeks. Of course for the once that actually said in the beginning (when you apply) that it will take over 2 weeks we gave them dispensation…

    Anyway, if you want to know more, let me know. The research is only in Dutch now, aimed at the Dutch market. But the figures are… pretty sad to be honest.


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