If you’ve bought a car recently, your options for how you buy have truly changed. The experience of buying a car was part of the selling process. “Get the customer behind the wheel of the car;” “once they test drive it, they’ll love it.” The experience of walking the lot, seeing all the cars, test driving, and then going into the finance office to haggle on price for hours before signing all the paperwork was how you purchased a car, used or new.

Today, this is simply not the case. The experience of buying a car, like almost anything these days, can now be done completely online. The experience is detached, lacking human interaction, and emotion. Car salespeople can longer afford to sell cars the way they use to. They have to adapt to the new experience consumers are creating for themselves.

This change in the consumer experience is not exclusive to car buying. Industries everywhere are changing and adapting to meet the needs of the evolving consumer experience. And it’s not only the process for how consumers purchase goods and services that are changing, the marketing and selling of the consumer experience is changing as well.

So, what does this have to do with candidates and employer brand? A lot.

Not only are candidates also potential consumers, their experience as a candidate can have a significant impact on your ability to recruit and retain talent. With the U.S. unemployment rate at 3.9 percent and falling, organizations across all industries are facing hiring challenges. To stand out in the competitive landscape, organizations need to focus on the candidate experience—now more than ever.

How to Improve Your Candidate Experience

As a subset of your employer brand, the candidate experience is includes every touchpoint and every interaction a candidate has with your organization as it relates to employment. It starts with the first time an individual learns about your organization as a place to work until they start as a new hire. Along this journey, there are many, varied touchpoints and interactions that create a perception in an individual’s mind. Whether those perceptions are positive or negative experiences is up to you. Each of those touchpoints and interactions leave an individual with a feeling about your company. Whether that feeling is good or bad is up to you.

Keep it simple.

According to the 2017 North America Candidate Experience Awards benchmark report47% of candidates do not hear back from employers more than two months after applying for the job. This is the ATS “Black Hole” that job seekers experience. Starting to improve your candidate experience isn’t rocket science; it’s basic manners and common sense. Start by applying to one of your own jobs (secret shop your candidate experience!)and document every step of your application. Where are there issues or technical hiccups? What are the easy fixes you can make today? What is your longer term vision for the experience?

Find the human connection.

So much of the candidate experience is connected to the hiring process. And for so many companies, we treat it truly as a process. A transactional process devoid of any emotional connection: candidate submits application, recruiter reviews application, decision made, email sent. What if we treated the experience less like a transaction and more like an interaction? What if we treated our candidates more like we do our customers? Across the candidate experience, start to identify opportunities to infuse a more human voice into our communications (ATS communications, the “thanks but no thanks email,” and even our pre-screening interview scripts). Think about training recruiters to treat others how we would want to be treated—less like paper moving through a process and more like a person who could one day be a colleague.

Move from satisfy to captivate.

From first learning about an employer to being hired, candidates expect more today from organizations. Just having a careers page, an online application, a Facebook page, or starting interviews on time isn’t enough to compete for top talent. Today, companies need to authentically tell their stories across channels. They need to think differently about how they treat candidates and engage their hiring managers more into the candidate experience. To move from simply satisfying a candidate’s basic needs to truly captivating them means companies are truly personalizing the experience, anticipating candidates’ needs, and becoming more proactive versus reactive.

Don’t be left in the dust, the time to get behind the wheel of your candidate experience is now. Learn how to bridge the gap between consumer and candidate by attending the morning keynote session on May 24th with exaqueo’s founder and CEO Susan LaMotte, where she will share how to find, harness, and use emotion to build a better candidate experience.


About the Authors

Shannon Smedstad (@shannonsmedstad) is a Principal Employer Brand Strategist and Engagement Director for exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm, and has nearly 20 years of experience in talent acquisition, employer brand, and employee communications. She enjoys writing and volunteering with Girl Scouts, and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a dog named Taco.


Emily Fritz (@Social_Em) is an Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm, and has over a decade of experience with marketing, social media, and branding. She enjoys traveling and exploring the outdoors, and lives in Virginia with her husband and two miniature poodles.