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Bad Candidate Experience and How to Stop It

  • Posted 07 Jul 2020
  • Richard Holmes
  • Article

What is “Candidate experience”?

Candidate experience is the candidate’s perception of your company’s entire recruiting process, from the original advert you posted to the initial email they receive, the first person they spoke to, the interview, offer stage and onboarding. Each part is equally important.

Great candidate experience is crucial to your hiring success. Candidates who have a positive and enjoyable recruitment experience will more likely accept your job offer, will likely refer their friends and peers to your company, and reapply if initially unsuccessful. All aspects will lead to improving your personal and company brand.

Unfortunately over the last few years, bad candidate experience is becoming more and more prominent especially within larger organisations. 

“69% of job seekers who had a negative candidate experience will rarely or never reapply again” Talentgy

Virgin Media, a mobile phone company in the UK analysed the effect of bad candidate experience. After a review of Rejected Candidate Surveys, Virgin was shocked to discover how many would cancel their Virgin mobile subscription.

Reviewing all applications 18% of these were Virgin customers and two-thirds said there were detractors, which means they would move to another provider. They worked out that this could cost the company $5.4 million in revenue! Just from bad candidate experience. 

There isn't a similar study available in Australia just yet but I'm sure the stats would be just as shocking 

What are we doing wrong and how can we improve it?

Problem 1 - The “15 ticks in the box” Job Advert

The point of advertising is to attract people, not deter them.

Don’t make it a list of must-have requirements when really the candidate doesn’t need it. Make it clear and attractive. Talk about your company values and the benefits of working there. 

Make the candidate WANT the role before they even apply, get them excited. Cut out the boring!

Problem 2 - The Application Process

I think everyone I have met has had an issue with applying for a role. One candidate I know spent over 6 hours applying for a role, he even had to submit all his qualification certificates. Research shows 1 in 5 candidates won’t complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more.  

A long application process puts candidates off, especially those who are in demand. Do we really need to ask these generic questions at this stage?  For specific roles, yes, add a couple of relevant questions but outside of this is anyone using this information? Let’s be honest, no. Most of the information you need at this stage should be on their resume/CV. 

Take out these boxes and keep the application to a maximum of 5 minutes.  We used to be able to do this and hire well, I’m sure we can do this once again.

Problem 3 - The Lack of Communication 

What is the one thing candidates hate most when applying for a role?  The lack of communication.  They have already spent time reading your advert, researching your company and applying. They are engaged, excited and then……..nothing. 

From the outset, you have to set expectations with candidates and communicate these throughout the process. This is not hard to do. 

By communicating well with candidates this eliminates doubt and confusion. Be transparent and be open to taking the candidates call. Answer their calls and emails in a timely fashion.  

This is all easy to do and there isn’t an excuse to hide.

Problem 4 -  The Process Takes Too Long

“I hope this interview process takes months” said no candidate ever. 

Companies that have a timely interview process hire well and hire better. Why? Because good candidates don’t wait around. If a candidate is interviewing at 2 different companies and gets offered one, they are very unlikely to wait around in case the other one may offer. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” (There has to be a better phrase but that’s all I have right now). 

I have never met a candidate who complained about a quick process. After the first interview, they want feedback and are keen to organise the 2nd meeting. They want the process to be brief.  The longer it takes creates self-doubt and you want to steer away from this at all costs. 

From initial application up to 5 days for a response is acceptable and after this interviews should be organised for the following days/week. Depending on the role itself a process shouldn’t take more than a few weeks at most.  The more time you take the higher the chance of the candidate interviewing at other opportunities. Take your time and the higher the risk of losing the candidate.  

Problem 5 - The Interview was Terrible

Getting this right can nearly rectify the above points, maybe. 

We have dealt with some of the most iconic businesses in Australia and candidates we have set up for an interview with these have come out deflated, exhausted and unenthused. Why? Because they got grilled with questions, didn't have the chance to build rapport and the interview felt like a transaction.

Become amazing at interviewing candidates!

If you’re a Hiring Manager start by being welcoming and try and make the candidate feel at ease.  Don’t just jump into question after question. Candidates hate this.

Candidates would prepare prior to meeting you. Make sure you do the same. Look at their resume, are there any gaps, anything interesting that stands out? Have your questions ready and focus on what is important to the job itself.  Think of the challenges the candidates will face and interview around this.

Give the candidate the opportunity to ask you questions and make sure you know your company values and culture. If the interview went well give them a quick tour around the office.  

Don’t forget to sell and be yourself, make sure the candidate buys into you.  Using a poker face is a quick way to put candidates off. 

Make it your goal for every candidate you interview to have learned and enjoyed the experience.  You want them to want the job even though you can't offer it to everyone. Ensure you leave them with this feeling. 

Bonus Tip

Provide feedback to the candidates who were unsuccessful.  Candidates will respect any feedback you can provide and will likely reapply to future roles and tell their friends to apply. 

How did Virgin Media turn it around?  They surveyed all the candidates they interviewed and took action with the results. Make sure your company does this too.


It is simple, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. What would you think if you were interviewing with you and your company? 

We have worked with a lot of clients over the last few years explaining that interviewing isn't a one-way transaction.

It is an experience, make sure yours is the one they remember.

If you’re interested to learn more about Virgin Media’s and Graeme Johnson’s case study “The Commercial Impact of Candidate Experience,” follow the link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA1IrTaBkpQ

Richard Holmes is Co-Founder & Director of HPR Consulting, a leading Accounting & Finance recruitment business in Sydney, Australia.

He has been in the Executive Search & Selection Industry since 2003 and has developed a track record of recruiting senior Accounting, Finance and Commercial professionals into leading ASX listed, private and multinational organisations. Passionate about talent, he has an in-depth knowledge of the Sydney market and brings a significant amount of intellectual property to his clients and candidates.

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