The Candidate Experience – Talent Attracts Talent by John Marshall, PhD

The importance of candidate experience has been top of mind for many companies trying to attract high quality people. The impact of a negative candidate experience on a company’s brand and reputation has been well documented in terms of consumer attitudes and behaviors.  For example, TalentHub reported that 41% of candidates who had a negative experience would take their money and business elsewhere.  In terms of attracting candidates, 27% who had a negative experience would actively discourage others from applying for a job with that company. Most companies today are adjusting their recruitment practices to promote a positive candidate experience.  Many companies, however, do not have a means or do not know how to  track the effectiveness of these adjustments on the quality of the candidate pool.

Perhaps the best inobtrusive measure of the impact of a positive experience would be the number of candidates referred by other candidates.  Top recruiting cultures track both the quantity and quality of all their sourcing strategies.  Most of our clients ask customers “How likely are you to refer your friends and family to our products?” but only the best practice cultures ask “How likely are you to refer other candidates to our company?”.

Top recruiting cultures also ask and track sources “How did you learn about our job or opportunity” and then capitalize on Reinforcement Theory. The basic premise of Reinforcement Theory is “If you want something to reoccur, positively reinforce it. If you want something to disappear ignore it or punish it”.  Top recruiters reinforce candidate referrals from both their nominators and Centers of Influence (external individuals/agencies who directly refer candidates to the company). If we don’t track and reinforce recruiting behaviors, they will eventually disappear.

Over the last 40 years we have learned from our clients and recruiters that they incorporate most the following strategies.

Convenience and Accessible 

The most obvious component is the recruiting pipeline must be available to candidates when they are available. Our data shows that “Employed candidates are often the best candidates” so they must be able to access the process quickly with as few initial steps as possible. Most companies have virtual access through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to online career sites, virtual job fairs, etc. This works well for the majority of candidates. However, some candidates may be unable to access the online recruitment process.  Top companies make sure that there is flexibility for candidates that require alternative and inclusive application methods.

With the rise of online recruitment methods, direct contact has almost disappeared as the main way candidates apply to jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors.  However, with the current labor shortage, many small businesses with customer facing locations have signs indicating they are hiring but don’t outline how to apply.  Some state “apply within” but when a candidate attempts to apply they are informed that they need to return when the manager is available. Clear details and direction are needed throughout the process in order to attract top candidates. It is important to make the candidate feel comfortable and confident when applying.

Passive Candidates

Top recruiters often go to the candidate rather than the candidate initiating the contact. LinkedIn and other social media websites has made this easier by allowing people to indicate that they are open to opportunities.  Many employed candidates, however, would not identify themselves as such so recruiters need to develop strategies to target “disturbable” candidates.  These are individuals that are currently employed but would be willing to consider other opportunities that might be a better “fit”.  In the current recruitment climate there are more candidates looking for new opportunities that better fit their lifestyle goals and top companies are specifically targeting these candidates e.g., offering flexible and remote scheduling options.

Proactive – Building a Data Base of Qualified Candidates  

Changing careers for top quality candidates is often a timing issue. In a strictly reactive job requisition recruiting system, the company is only posting when there is a job vacancy. This would only attract candidates who are interested in exploring career opportunities and often when the candidate is interested the company is not posting. To combat this top companies and most Search Firms create a database of qualified candidates so they are not starting the process from scratch but rather attempting to re-engage candidates in their database.

It is also important that companies have proactive strategies to target candidates as they are preparing to enter the job market.  For example, during my hockey coaching days at York University, I had several recruiters give a short presentation about their company and career opportunities prior to practice. The players found it helpful and the recruiter often had follow up discussions with some of the graduating players.


It is essential to offer candidates immediate and ongoing feedback about the status of their application and next steps. Many surveys have demonstrated that up to 61% of candidates receive no feedback after applying to an organization.

The minimal required feedback is a simple acknowledgement, thank you for applying and next steps.

The next level is immediately beginning the screening process as top candidates do not remain in the market for a long time.

The ideal feedback is a predictive assessment that provides the candidate with career information. As mentioned in our previous blog,  top candidates enjoy assessments and value the career information. It is human nature “that we only value things we earn or pay for”.  Our CareerManagementPOP™ (CMP) offers immediate feedback on career strengths and career paths that are well suited to the candidate’s personality make up. The  CMP is excellent for Campus recruiting as it provides an unique value added feature to attract candidates to a job posting.  In other words, candidates will apply to get their personal career feedback and in some cases will find that the specific career will be a match for them.

Referencing – Talent Attracts Talent

The most effective recruiting strategy is hot referrals from existing employees and satisfied candidates.  Sharing positive experiences can be a very powerful motivator. When we meet a positive successful person, we immediately want to know where they work and what they do. Thus peaking the interest and potentially attracting new candidates to the company. If an employee or Center of Influence is uncertain about how a candidate is treated during the recruiting process they will be reluctant to refer family, friends and associates to a company.

Our next blog will be on Recruiter Efficiency and Effectiveness.   We will discuss how to attract and convert top quality candidates by changing the role of a recruiter from Administrator to Talent Acquisition partner.

To contact one of our Recruiting Consultants, please reach out to us at 416.746.0444 or