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The Significant Impact of a Positive and Negative Candidate Experience

by Nicole Abbott and Nikki MacCallum

The term “candidate experience” is widely used to describe how job seekers perceive and process an employer’s initial outreach, recruiting style, interview process, execution of an offer, and onboarding. In many ways, the candidate experience is a job seeker’s version of interviewing a potential employer.

There are many facets of the candidate experience which encompass a company’s ability to be efficient, be transparent, manage expectations, follow-through, and respect time, and it is a reflection on how a company treats its employees and people in general. Perfecting a positive candidate experience can be the foundation of attracting top talent.

On the flip side, a negative candidate experience can be the trigger point for things like bad Glassdoor reviews and the foundation of a bad reputation, which will deter top talent. The tricky piece is that the reaction to a candidate experience is almost always emotional. If someone goes out of their way to provide stellar customer service, you want to tell the world! On the flip side, if you have a bad dining experience, you also want to tell the world and the first thing you’re likely to do is write a scathing review. This article will discuss the 5 main facets of the candidate experience and how you can contribute in a positive and meaningful way.

The sourcing component of the candidate experience encompasses all that is involved in the initial outreach. This is important because it is a first impression and sometimes first impressions are hard to shake. It’s also critical to remember that sourcing doesn’t always come in the form of an in-house recruiter proactively reaching out to a candidate. Sourcing really covers first impressions of all kinds, whether that is at an event, a status you post on your LinkedIn profile, or really any contact a candidate makes with any employee of a company. Every employee contributes to making a positive impact in terms of sourcing simply by remembering that every time you come in contact with someone who isn’t an employee of your current company, you are making a first impression. In professional settings, remember to check your personal life at the door and to be kind. You’re a reflection of your employer.

The logistics of an interview are the information the candidate needs to be successful in making the interview happen. This incorporates scheduling and setting the candidate up for success in terms of whatever technology will be used during the interview. This is important because technical glitches during an interview or scheduling challenges due to limited availability, it can leave a bad taste in the candidate’s mouth. It’s easy to think, “Well if they were serious about hiring me, this would’ve gone differently.” Poor logistics can also be a time suck and no one wants to go work at a company that doesn’t value their time. The best thing you can do to contribute to a positive candidate experience around logistics is simply stick to your availabilities and make sure you test run the technology on your end before the interview as well.  

The interview Stage is most often viewed as an opportunity for US (the company) to determine whether THEY (the candidate) are a technical and cultural fit for the organization. While this is true, one thing to remember is that the candidate is interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the candidate. The interview itself is often the candidate’s benchmark impression of the company. A well-coordinated, seamless interview loop demonstrates to the candidate that their time and efforts are respected. When interviewers are late, no-shows, or otherwise unprepared for interviews, it reflects poorly on the company. Below are some tips on how to make the interview experience a positive one for the candidate:

  • Be on time. If you are going to be late, notify the hiring manager, the recruiter, or the recruiting coordinator so the candidate is not in the dark.
  • Review the candidate’s resume in depth before the interview. Have a sense of where they’ve been, where they want to go, and how their experience relates to the position they’re applying for.
  • Have some thoughtful and structured questions prepared. Think about potential questions that the candidate might ask about your team and organization and be prepared to answers those thoughtfully (remember, the candidate is also interviewing US).
  • Before getting started, ask if they need a restroom break, a snack, or a cup of coffee or water, especially if you know that the interview day has been or will be long and grueling.
  • Remember to leave 5-10 minutes at the end of your interview to give the candidate plenty of time to ask their questions.

The Offer Stage is extremely delicate and sometimes even more critical for a candidate who is not getting an offer. This is the stage in the game where candidates respond the most emotionally as opposed to tactically or strategically. The best thing that can be done here is to have strong and candid communication with the candidate. Ensure that the candidates’ time is respected by providing regular updates to the recruiter on the status of your decision. Even if you do not have a final decision, a quick email update to a candidate or a status update for the recruiter to pass along goes a long way. Always ensure that non-hires are declined in a respectful manner as quickly as possible. Timeliness is also important. In a competitive market, the faster we make our hiring decisions, the more likely we will be to get a signed offer letter from our gold medalist. Also, when hiring it is extremely important to send a message to the candidate that says “we want you.” This is done by quick turnaround.

The Onboarding is important once the candidate has accepted, to set the tone for the new hire’s experience. Everyone should reach out to new hires and make them feel welcome and that you’re excited for them to be there. If you work in an office with a new hire, invite them to lunch. So much of what makes coming to work enjoyable is the people you work with, so make that new hire feel like a million bucks! As far as preparation, if you’re a hiring manager, write a structured onboarding plan. Ensure that the new hire knows what to expect each day for their first week or two. Also, take the time to introduce the new hire to their team. A neat way to do this is to schedule 1:1 sessions with the new hire and each team member. It is also important to make sure that your new hire knows how and when they can reach you and that you’re available for questions.

While everyone’s role within an organization is different, figure out where you fit and what specific steps you can take to contribute positively to the candidate experience. Over time it can have a drastic effect on whether or not candidates think of your company as a place they want to work.

If you have questions about this blog article or want to chat about these concepts further, please feel free to reach out to us at and

Nikki MacCallum

Nikki MacCallum brings over thirteen years of experience in the executive search space with a focus on litigation technology and eDiscovery. She’s spoken on panels and at conferences nation-wide (ABC News, Women in eDiscovery, LegalTech, CALSM, ARIAS) and was recently the key note speaker for a global Career Panel Workshop at American Express. Nikki is also a resident speaker at New York City’s Coalition for the Homeless where she privately mentors underprivileged women looking to re-enter the workforce.

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Nicole Abbott

Nicole is a lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest. She has many years of experience in HR in both non-profit and for-profit organizations, with an emphasis on supporting global recruitment efforts.

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