Talent Management

How To Master Candidate Experience

9 August 2021

6 min

Have you been wondering how to improve your candidate experience this year? What would it take to level up this part of your recruitment process, and what are the benefits of an excellent candidate experience?

In this article, we’ll give you a full rundown of this crucial step in the employee lifecycle. One that can not only have a positive impact on recruitment but your organizations’ reputation as a whole.

This article is part of a series developed from season two of our podcast – The Ins and Outs of Work. If you prefer not to read, listen to the episodes on this topic, split into parts 1 and 2, or watch the video below.




Table of Contents:

What is candidate experience?

Why does candidate experience matter?

Three common candidate experience myths debunked

How to get your candidate experience right: a step-by-step plan

Storytime: candidate experience at Airbnb and Booking.com

What is candidate experience?

Candidate Experience is the term used today to sum up how a candidate feels and behaves towards a company’s recruitment marketing, sourcing, interviewing, hiring and onboarding processes.

A positive candidate experience will leave candidates feeling good about your company. The best ones can actually make candidates eager to share their good feelings with others.

This in turn can build your reputation and employer brand.

Why does candidate experience matter?

As mentioned briefly above, the experience candidates have with your company throughout the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process can have a big impact on your employer brand and your organization’s reputation.

Here are some quick statistics that paint a picture of why candidate experience matters:

  • Nearly four out of five job applicants believe that the candidate experience serves as a solid indicator as to how a company values its people.
  • 72% of job seekers report sharing their negative candidate experiences online.
  • 83% of talent say that a negative interview experience can destroy their perception about a role or company they once liked. On the other hand, 87% of candidates say that a positive experience can change their mind about a role or company they once doubted.

Three common candidate experience myths debunked

Like every topic in the world of HR, there are certain ideas floating around about candidate experience that simply aren’t true. Let’s take three of these and debunk them here!

Myth #1. The failure to acknowledge a job application won’t impact the company.




There are few experiences more negative when applying for a job than sending in your application and never hearing from the company again!

Nowadays, even the initial application process can take some time, and candidates deserve at least to have their application acknowledged. But this myth goes beyond simple politeness.

Failing to acknowledge job applications can have a considerable negative effect on your reputation. In fact, according to one study, 44% of job seekers who didn’t hear back from an employer when they applied for a job said they have a worse opinion of that employer.

Myth #2. What happens in the recruitment process stays in the recruitment process.




This adaptation of the age-old saying “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is as false as the saying that inspires it!

Bad news, even more than good news, travels fast. Feedback from a candidate’s experience with your company can spread like wildfire to their friends, family, and networks. In fact, as many as 78% of job seekers said they could talk about a bad experience they had with a potential employer with friends and family.

Depending on your business and industry, that’s a lot of possible customers who could be hearing negative stories about your company – so the candidate experience really matters!

Myth #3. The top reason why job seekers don’t apply is the advertisement.

While the content of the job ad is very important, it is not often cited as the top reason that job applicants don’t apply. More often, the major factors that blocked good candidates from applying included broken website links, computer or internet issues, and the application being too long.

How to get your candidate experience right: a step-by-step plan

1. Breakdown and streamline your application process

Make a regular habit of having a member of the team go through the application process as if they were a new candidate. Try to clear your head and do this with fresh eyes.

Where are the bottlenecks and the kinks? What could be done to smoothen a candidate’s journey through the recruitment process?

2. Communicate regularly

Every organization will take a different approach to this, and so they should. However, at a minimum, you should set up some kind of automated email sequence for new applications that informs candidates on next steps and gives visibility into your timelines.

Not leaving candidates in the dark about next steps and expectations on timing is a big step in improving their experience.

3. Be flexible to account for candidate schedules

Looking for a job takes time. And oftentimes, job seekers are still working their old 9-to-5 too! Some ways to prove to candidates that you respect their schedules include:

  • providing multiple options for interview times,
  • not running over the allocated time set for calls,
  • and doing your best to not reschedule meetings that have already been set.

4. Identify a ‘go-to’ person for the candidate

Make sure the candidate knows who their main point of contact is throughout the process, should they have any questions.

5. Introduce the candidate to the team

Later in the recruitment process, it could be valuable to introduce the candidate to the team in person or have certain members of the team run a peer interview with the candidate.

Another great way to do this early on in the hiring process is to send the candidate pre-recorded video interviews with different team members.

6. Garner candidate feedback

A key step in improving your candidate experience over time is gathering feedback from final stage candidates and new hires. After all, nobody knows the experience better than the people who have just been through it!

7. Say ‘thank you’

It’s a simple one, but should not be missed. Remember that the candidate spent time and effort on their application and throughout the interview process.

8. Use video

As a format for communicating your messages and requirements needed from the candidate, don’t hesitate to use video. It’s a much more engaging and personable way to get your message across than through words on paper.

9. Let the candidate know when the job has been filled

Finally, it’s important to let job seekers know personally when a job they were interviewing for has been filled. Don’t leave them hanging! It sounds simple, but it’s crucial to not overlook this step if you’re serious about improving the customer experience.

Storytime: candidate experience at Airbnb and Booking.com


Two examples of organizations that are excelling in the experience they provide to candidates are Airbnb and Booking.com.


When looking to revamp its candidate experience, the recruiting team at Airbnb turned to a design practice that had worked well in helping build the company: storyboarding. The founders had used storyboards to visualize both the host and guest experience at Airbnb; to think about how they could simplify, streamline, and improve the experience.

So, the HR team decided to apply this method to the interview process.

They launched a major project to visualize and break down every step of the customer journey. Through this process of radically empathizing with candidates, the team at Airbnb identified several areas they wanted to focus on and improve. This included how to gracefully turn down a candidate, better setting expectations about timing, and being creative in celebrating the company’s culture and branding through communication and the on-site experience.


The example of Booking.com provides insight into how great online content can drive a positive candidate experience.

A few years back, the team at Booking.com put together a fun, interactive multimedia experience on the workingatbooking.com website. Candidates were able to explore career options and watch videos introducing their prospective teammates, check out a day-in-the-life at various offices, and even learn about how certain product decisions were made.

The site featured blog posts, photos, videos, infographics and was translated into ‘Working at Booking’ content available on pretty much every social media platform. The site also addressed common candidate questions and concerns and provided tips on how to excel in the interview process.

What we love about this is that Booking.com created a truly self-service environment, where candidates could explore, learn, and be immersed in the culture of Booking.com, even before applying.

Interested in going further? Download our ebook and learn how to ‘recruit like a marketer’.

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