Candidate Experience: Voice of the Job Seeker, Part 1 of 6

March 4, 2011

Modern Hire

This is Part One in a series connected to the Candidate Experience Monograph

We conducted a candidate expectations survey in 2010. There is a lot of dialogue about the candidate experience from the recruiter’s perspective. However due to the high applicant to hire ratios at most organizations, fewer than 10% of candidates ever speak with a recruiter. The survey we conducted deals predominantly with job seeker expectations for the online portions of the candidate experience.

A few years ago I conducted a rather small survey, more of an anecdotal look at the practice of asking job applicants about their candidate experience. At that time, the vast majority of companies I spoke with did not seek feedback from candidates. New hires, yes. But new hires are the ones who ‘won’. I bet this group thinks the candidate experience is pretty darn good! It seemed only fitting that the entire candidate population has a voice in the dialogue too. So we asked the job seeker for their point of view.

We targeted college seniors, unemployed and active job seekers with the assistance of Rob Minjock, an intern from Saint Vincent College. Over 300 individuals responded between July and October of 2010. I will share the results over a series of articles. Read on to learn what job seekers stated they want in their candidate experience.

Who Responded?

N= 305 – 316


  • 59% – 18 to 23 years old
  • 33% – over 40


  • 47% male
  • 53% female

Ethnic origin

  • 89% Caucasian
  • 3.5% African American
  • 2.5% Hispanic
  • 2.5% Asian


  • 41% some college
  • 31% bachelors degree
  • 11% masters degree
  • 2% doctorate degree

Employment Status

  • 41% Student
  • 20% unemployed
  • 34% employed full-time
  • 21% employed part-time

The group includes a diverse mix of gender, age, education, and employment status. However, the ethnic mix includes a predominantly Caucasian sample.

Career Site Basics

Candidates have pretty basic expectations for the Careers page. They want to find details about jobs, and most companies are pretty good about that. However, 64% of candidates want recruiter names and contact information. And most companies are rather stingy with that information.

Gerry Crispin along with a group of collaborator has written a monograph on the Candidate Experience. It provides examples of companies that are working hard to address an improved candidate experience.

I just reviewed a client’s candidate flow data. They attracted over 12,000 candidates and made 151 hires for one call center position. There are 4 recruiters in the company. It is easy to see their reluctance of offer 12,000 candidates the e-mail and phone number of four recruiters. Hiring just over one percent of your candidates can make for communication challenges. Tools scaled and automated to this scope must be used effectively to leave candidates with a brand positive experience. As I wrote in an earlier blog, in some respects, recruiting is the business of rejection. How you handle that rejection process can make a big difference in the candidate experience you deliver, and the impression you leave with the 90+% who do not land a job.

Dispositioning candidates and using the mass communication features of the candidate management system are essential best practices. That topic will be covered in more detail in the next issue of this series: Critical Process Information

Our question regarding FAQ admittedly was vague, but the interest in having FAQs on the careers site is pretty high. Fifty-five percent of respondents have questions about your recruiting process and they want answers. You may want to use FAQs to establish expectations: Will a recruiter contact me personally? Will you let me know you have reviewed my application? Will you let me know if I have been eliminated? and so on.

About half of the respondents stated that training and development (51%) and career path insights (47%) are important. This may demonstrate an underlying interest in growth and progression. it’s not just about the job, but more about what will I learn and where the job will lead. People want to have some line of sight to their future. In each job description, you might provide a few details to where people in this job have naturally progressed within the company.

The big surprise to me was how low the expectations are for testimonials from current employees, both written and video. Over the last 5 years or so, there has been an explosion of testimonial and realistic job preview activity on corporate career pages. My take on this is the downside of marketing spin in the message.

Testimonials are a form of realistic job preview. I have written about realistic job preview and the balanced (or lack of balance) in the message about the job and the company. When marketing overrides realism, the message goes from Help to Hype. Candidates are pretty savvy. They see through the hype and react with a bit of skepticism.

The automation of the application process has dehumanized career pursuit. The strongly held desire to have contact information for recruiters is evidence that a personal connection is highly valued. Given the volume of candidates, it is important to look at your candidate experience and explore ways to build a connection and provide information. Ask your candidates what would be of value to them.

In the next part of this series, we will examine Critical Process Information. Candidates tell us what they want to know about their application.