By Mitch Sullivan

Depending on what statistics you read, some 55% of applicants believe the standard of recruitment practice has declined. 

I’m surprised it’s that low.

Creating a good candidate experience has become the latest marketing trend in recruitment – the rationale being that if candidates are treated well, they’ll think more positively of the company’s brand and talk about it to their friends, thus gradually making hiring easier.

But there’s one thing we need to get out of the way, so we can put the whole ‘candidate experience’ debate into some kind of context.

They hate all of it..

People dislike being candidates. They find job-hunting extremely stressful and rarely ever relish the prospect of applying for jobs.

So in a business arena like recruitment that people dislike being a part of, almost by default, how feasible is it to spend time and effort on improving something that candidates already hate?

That seems about as pointless as reading a child a bedtime story whilst Nightmare On Elm Street is playing full blast on the TV. How much time and effort do you really need to invest in improving the candidate experience if you’re on a hiding to nothing anyway?

I’ll leave that for you to decide.  But if you do feel it’s important, let’s explore what the problems really look like and simple ways to resolve them.

Having a hiring process that creates a good candidates experience ranges from improving everything from job ads, career sites and applicant tracking systems through to responding to all CVs and giving meaningful feedback to those candidates that are interviewed.

The last two are the only things candidates really care about – and paradoxically, are the two things that recruiters and hiring companies are reportedly the worst at. 

So, what’s the answer?

That will depend on what type of recruiter you are.  If you work inhouse, then your need for an improvement in this area is going to be different (and arguably more important) than those working agency side.

So let’s talk a closer look at agencies.

What kind of recruiter are you?

Again, your commitment to candidate experience will vary depending on whether you’re a temp agency or a perm agency. 

Temp agencies are often placing the same people several times and so managing a larger volume of applicants and all the associated admin should make their approach to this different to the perm recruiters.  It should also be noted that temp recruiters are often more able to be transparent about their client’s identity and, because they may have recruited for the same client many times before, will often have a better understanding of those clients.

Then we need to look at the different types of perm recruiters. 

The generalists tend to bother less with candidate experience because their supply-chain of potential candidates is inexhaustible.  This will be manifested by their constant need to find new clients because their candidate quality is usually somewhat inconsistent.

The niche specialists have an altogether different set of problems. 

For them, their candidate pools are not inexhaustible and care does have to be taken to nurture positive relationships with their target candidates.  They have to be more sensitive to their needs, if only because referrals are (or should be) a valuable source of new business. 

In essence, the more niche the agency recruiter, the more critical candidate experience becomes.

The ‘brand’ question.

Then there’s the question of whether a bad candidate experience affects the agencies brand or the hiring companies brand?  That’s assuming they even have a brand - which most don’t.

Problems at the front end of a recruitment process (before the recruiter reveals who the hiring company is) tends to damage the agencies reputation and problems at the back end (after the recruiter has revealed the company and arranged interviews) then any damage done is inflicted upon both the agency and the hiring company.

When candidates feel aggrieved by any aspects of the recruitment process, they tend to think that if a hiring company are this bad (or choose bad agencies to represent them), then they’re probably bad to work for as well. 

How a company recruits is often a window into their soul.

The bottom line is that in reality, most candidates are low-maintenance and do not have particularly high expectations when it comes to their job-hunting experience.  They just need the adverts and job briefs to be accurate, the rejections prompt and the interview feedback as honest as legal compliance allow.

So if you’re a recruitment agency and you want to improve the candidate experience, either for yourself or for your better clients, here’s my simple 3 step plan to help you achieve this:


  1. Know a lot about the job, the company, their culture and their vision. This will come from either experience of past assignments or by taking a really detailed brief and by asking some tough questions.  This will then have a huge impact on the quality of candidates you’re able to source and attract.
  2. Produce adverts that stand out from the crowd.  And make them easy to respond to.
  3. Get back to all candidates when you say you’ll get back to them.  If you haven’t given a time when you’ll get back to them, get back to them anyway. This is all most candidates want.


But remember, given that most candidates hate the process of finding a new job, the most you can realistically hope for is that candidates don’t also hate you.  If they don’t hate you (assuming they even remembered you), chances are they’ll talk to you again at some point in the future.

And if people are always willing to talk to you, you’re in business.

In summary

Great candidate experience isn’t going to happen by spending money on fancy websites, multi-functional applicant tracking systems or by building an employer brand – whatever that really is.

Great candidate experience is what happens when a recruitment assignment is being managed by a great recruiter.

You can measure a great recruiter by the percentage of jobs they work on, that they fill.  A great recruiter fills at least 80% and a weak recruiter fills around 10%.  The industry average across all agency recruiters is 20-25%.

Great candidate experience is a by-product of great recruitment practice.


Mitch is a Recruitment & Resourcing expert - especially skilled in helping SME's solve business critical hiring issues. He has previously worked on numerous contract inhouse roles with larger corporates such as United Biscuits and Rok and SME's, including recruitment agencies.