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In a recent conversation with a candidate, they mentioned that their experience in the process I ran felt very different from other recruitment processes they had been involved in, and we discussed some of the factors that improved their candidate experience.

With their encouragement, I’m writing this piece to share some of the aspects that seem to consistently result in a positive candidate experience, regardless of the outcome of the process itself.

“However the process may now develop, it’s been an absolute pleasure (perhaps an unusual term for a job interview, but still) to speak with you a few weeks ago and today. Thank you for the energy, attentiveness, and humanity you bring to your position.”

Learning from the search and appointment process is a growth opportunity for candidates, recruiters, and employers alike. Both the candidate and potential employer are able to find a more suitable match in the long term, and as a recruiter, we are both the bridge and the glue that connects and binds them.

1. Understand the client and the role as fully as possible

At the start of each new assignment, I take as much time as needed to get a really in-depth understanding of the role, where it sits within the client’s organisation, the types of successes and challenges an candidate could anticipate, and the most essential characteristics, experiences, skills and behaviours that the hiring manager is seeking in this appointment. This will involve reading about the organisation online, reviewing documents they provide, and most importantly, a number of detailed conversations with the hiring panel and key stakeholders.

2. Offer these insights to candidates at the first engagement

“As candidates, we are learning to determine if the role and the organisation are a good fit for us, and all too often the process feels exploitative and devoid of dignity and consideration.”

In addition to the detailed candidate pack we publish describing the role and organisation, I will consolidate key reflections from the briefing calls and refer to these when talking with candidates on screening calls. These calls are primarily for me to give as much insight to the candidates as possible, to help them judge whether they want to invest the time and energy required to come into a recruitment process. At this first engagement, I will also always check that the compensation and location arrangements are acceptable, to facilitate a smooth offer negotiation at the end of the process, and establish a candidate’s notice period.

3. Provide Feedback as thoroughly as possible

It is always a challenge to strike the right balance in offering feedback to unsuccessful candidates. Any single search can attract dozens of candidates, and it is simply impossible to provide tailored feedback to everyone. I try to offer some meaningful feedback to every candidate I speak to, and as candidates progress through successive interview rounds, the level of feedback I am able to offer becomes more detailed and thorough. Hopefully, this is reflective of and compensates for the time and emotion candidates invest as they progress through a process, however I will always strive to offer feedback to any candidate that requests it, no matter the stage their application reaches.

4. Stay close to candidates

“I love the way you communicate, it is such a great candidate experience, just awesome.”

Once we are into an interview process, and often before, I like to open up an instant messaging communications channel with candidates rather than just relying on email. An instant messaging platform feels more personal and accessible than the formality of email, and I find it can be perfect for quickly sharing updates and scheduling calls, as well as eliciting a rapid response. I consistently find this more personal and less formal method of communication also helps to build up rapport with candidates.

5. Frame every engagement

I never see interviews as blind exams, and will consistently provide a framing to candidates of the topics they can expect to cover in every engagement, whether it is an interview with me, or a meeting with the hiring panel. This helps candidates to relax and feel more confident about the ground they will cover, and enables them to organise their thoughts in readiness for the conversation. I don’t go so far as to provide the actual questions, but rather an idea of the topics to be covered.

6. Deliver the bad news in person

y highly invested in the process and will be able to visualise themselves stepping into the role. The calls I make to let final stage candidates know they were not successful are without doubt the hardest part of the job, but time and again I find that the personal touch of conveying the news through a phone call is really appreciated by candidates.

7. Buffer the offer negotiation

I always advocate to clients to use me as an intermediary to negotiate the contract with the preferred candidate. In doing so, I can provide a buffer, recognising this is the only opportunity the candidate will have to push for the best compensation package they can, as well as exploring additional benefits or ways of working. If there is a discrepancy between what the candidate is seeking and what the client can offer, tensions can arise which could scar the working relationship from the outset. As a buffer I can present the candidate’s requests in a sensitive light, and minimise the risk of residual negativity for either party.

8. Anchor your communication with consideration and kindness

“As difficult as it is to be passed over for the opportunity, I greatly value the learning process. It has been a rewarding experience for me due to your thoughtfulness and the constant feedback you have provided. Never has a rejection felt so satisfying. You have conducted the most considerate process I have witnessed in the last couple months. I appreciate how seriously you take the selection process and how kindly you treat all applicants, especially those, like me, who are not selected.”

The recruitment process is stressful, time-consuming, and requires an increasing emotional investment from candidates as the interview rounds progress. In the end, there can be only one successful candidate, and with at least six candidates undergoing an initial interview and many more submitting applications, each process leaves dozens of excellent candidates disappointed. By appreciating the experience from a candidate’s perspective, I can endeavour to communicate in a way that brings empathy and kindness to the process, and makes candidates feel less like a commodity and more like a valued individual regardless of their outcome.

Hopefully, these eight considerations will help to make the entire process of searching for a new position less stressful and more humane for all parties, and will give candidates greater confidence, both in the process itself, and in what they can reasonably expect from a great search partner.