What “Candidate Experience” Means in Today’s Digital World

What “Candidate Experience” Means in Today’s Digital World

Mike Roberts

candidate experience in recruitingSince most Millennials have been immersed in technology for a majority of their lives, it’s safe to say they’re pretty awesome judges of all things digital. As a consequence, consumer-facing aspects of businesses really have no choice but to keep pace with these users’ digital expectations as they evolve over time. Though, that’s not always the case for the less visible parts of the business—like recruiting.

As any recruiter knows, getting job seekers to your careers site is virtually meaningless if they’re just leaving with a bad taste in their mouth. But this is where candidate experience comes into play, and it’s something more forward-thinking talent acquisition organizations are starting to consider and improve upon. They’re asking questions like “how can we mirror today’s leading consumer experiences in our recruiting process?”

In a time where talent is at a premium, having an incredible candidate experience is increasingly becoming a must. The challenge is, optimizing that experience is both easy to overlook and a little intimidating (even for some of the world’s leading companies). In this post, we’ll discuss the evolution of digital user experiences in general, and how recruiting organizations should be following suit.

The Evolution of the Digital Experience

We live in a world where one of the most powerful consumer devices ever—the iPhone—comes without instructions. Users simply open the box and know it’s intuitive enough for them to start using right away. Consumer websites have followed along these lines, becoming impressively user-friendly in recent years. To show an example of one of these sites, we can look to none other than Amazon.com.

Amazon is known for endlessly working to optimize its user flow and experience. Over the years, it has probably conducted more multivariate testing than any other company in history. The collective benefits from these tests and experiments continue to be seen in both the site’s design and functionality. To put this into perspective, shown below is a screenshot of what Amazon.com looked like back in 2006.

user experience in talent acquisition


Fast-forward almost a decade to today, and the sleek interface in the next image is a far cry from what it used to be. But the interface—what the user sees and interacts with—is only a small part of what makes Amazon.com stand out. The functionality behind that interface—the predictive type-ahead search bars, its suggested items engine, and more—is really what makes it such a special case.

user experience in recruiting


Just like Amazon’s ultimate goal is to optimize web conversions, careers sites have the ultimate goal of optimizing application completion rates. Unfortunately, most recruiters aren’t thinking in this manner and are simply trying to make do with what they have.

Why Today’s Careers Sites Fall Short in Candidate Experience

An interesting thing about careers sites is they tend to be hosted on different platforms than consumer-facing corporate sites. As a result, even when global changes are made to the corporate site to modernize the user interface and experience, that doesn’t necessarily mean those changes extend to the careers site. This is one of the major variables attributing to the conundrum many recruiters find themselves in today.

A good experiment is to pull up a browser on your desktop machine, Google a major brand name, and then Google that brand name plus the word “careers.” More often than not, the two sites look different. Commonly today, the main site has responsive web design (meaning it’s optimized for any device), while the other does not. If you do this with your mobile device, you’ll probably find additional inconsistencies.

This isn’t necessarily the fault of the recruiting organization. Rather, it happens because careers sites require unique functionalities to connect job seekers with requisitions. Unfortunately, the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that host a vast majority of those requisitions are rarely built with candidate experience in mind. This is because ATS’ are traditionally systems of record, rather than systems of engagement.

The result is a lackluster candidate experience that comes nowhere near what Amazon.com is delivering. It’s far more likely to push talent away than pull them further into the apply flow. Take, for example, applicants trying to apply on a mobile device—only when getting to the upload resume stage, they are unable to do so from the phone and must wait until they are at a desktop in order to complete the application. Could you imagine if Amazon.com required someone to complete a purchase later, on a different device?

Delivering a Consumer-Grade Experience on a Careers Site

Many recruiting organizations hire creative agencies to pick up where the ATS falls short, but the challenge is even the nicest looking site can still dramatically underperform in functionality. Functionality is really what separates one careers site from another, and recruiting organizations need to be thinking about making the leap to the next generation of functionality—oftentimes this requires augmenting what’s offered by the existing ATS.

As digital natives continue to pervade the workforce, they’ll be bringing with them higher digital expectations. Responsive web design is an absolute must, but their expectations go well beyond that today. You need advanced search, the option to opt into talent networks and receive notifications, socially-connected referral capabilities, and the list goes on.

In our next post, we’ll dive into what each of these next-gen functionalities mean and how to deliver them. But in the meantime, take a look at our new research paper, “Recruiting Strategy: A Comprehensive Guide to Winning the Talent War.”

candidate experience toolkitcareer site assessment


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