Candidate Experience: the Ultimate Guide | Toggl Blog
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Candidate Experience: the Ultimate Guide

Mile Zivkovic Mile Zivkovic Last Updated:

The job market is getting hungrier for new talent and the focus is shifting from employers to candidates. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly important to concentrate on candidate experience in the hiring process. The employers know it – 82% of them say that the candidate experience is extremely important to them.

On the flip side, only 46% of candidates say that employers treat them with the same respect and accountability as the employees already working for them. Clearly, candidate experience is a large part of how clients perceive a company and how likely they are to apply and accept an offer.

Here’s why candidate experience is important and what you can do to improve it.

What is the candidate experience?

Candidate experience covers every touchpoint and engagement applicants will encounter throughout all stages of your company’s recruitment campaign(s) — more commonly known as the candidate journey.

In other words, the candidate experience is a collection of all touchpoints between the candidate and your company. This is from the moment they first see your job ad, until the moment you hire and onboard them in your team.

Why is candidate experience important?

For applicants looking to join a company, candidate experience is a great reflection of the overall experience of being employed at that company. In a recent Careerbuilder research, the authors show that 68% of candidates think the way a company treats them in the hiring process reflects how it treats its employees.

The second biggest reason why candidate experience matters so much is that the demand is usually higher than the supply. This is not to say that candidates need pampering. However, 43% of candidates in the research say that they have higher expectations for treatment from prospective employers.

In other words, the candidates know there’s plenty of fish in the sea. If you’re not treating them with fairness and dignity, they will move on to another employer who will.

How to improve the candidate experience

The good news is you can improve candidate experience without a significant investment of time, expertise, or resources. Here are a few actionable tips you can start implementing right away to improve your candidate experience and attract the best talent. 

1. Don’t waste candidates’ time

As they apply for a job, 55% of candidates will give up on a position if they don’t hear back from the company after two weeks of applying. It’s simple – if you’re taking too long, the candidates will simply move on to an employer that appreciates their time more.

Moreover, if you really want to acquire the best candidates out there, you have no time to waste. According to research, the best talent in the job market is gone after just 10 days. It’s clear then that taking weeks just to weed out the first batch of applicants won’t leave you in the best position. This means making sure you have a hyper-efficient candidate screening process in place is key.

The first step to reduce your time-to-hire is to analyze your current processes and find the biggest time drains.

Remote team struggles

For example, for companies hiring for remote roles, like Toggl, the initial stages are the most time-consuming, simply because of the number of candidates there are to sort through. When you’re open to a global talent pool, as you are with a remote position, you can expect very high applicant numbers.

However, you should also expect most candidates to not be a good fit. To improve our efficiency in this area, we use Toggl Hire to screen candidates for skills before we spend time interviewing anyone. By using skills tests to identify the most promising candidates early on, we ended up saving over 22 hours per position.

Related: Case Study: How Toggl Hires High-Quality Candidates with Toggl Hire

One of the easiest ways to save time is to make the application process quicker. As we’ve mentioned in the last article on optimizing your hiring process, 20% of all applicants will quit half-way through the application if it takes more than 10 minutes to complete. In other words, the longer the application process, the lower will the number of successful applicants be.


Moreover, make sure to be quick to contact your candidates. Nobody likes being kept in the dark. Not providing your candidates information on what’s going on with their application is one of the main reasons candidates leave poor candidate experience feedback.

You should always make sure that you update each candidate on their application process, even if it’s just an automated response saying you won’t be taking things further. 

Using the skills test method allows you to effectively sidestep this problem as each candidate is given instant feedback on their test results. It’s a win-win situation as nobody is kept in limbo, and your employer brand is strengthened. 

2. Set clear expectations

As an applicant, one of the worst feelings is applying to a job and not knowing what happens next. Will an HR manager contact you within a week? Will you ever get an answer? Has your application been thrown into an HR abyss and landed in some recruiter’s spam folder?

One of the easiest ways to improve your candidate experience is to let candidates know what they can expect in terms of communication immediately in the job ad. As always, there’s a discrepancy between what employers think they are doing and what candidates perceive.


Only 47% of candidates state that employers set clear expectations for communication at the beginning of the hiring process. On the other hand, 78% of employers feel that they are doing a good job of setting expectations upfront.

The solution is simple: at each step of the hiring process, let candidates know what happens next. Also, tell them when they’ll hear from the recruiter, HR manager, or someone else from the company.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to write clear job descriptions for your open roles. Job descriptions are key to delivering a positive candidate experience – and a good job description starts with a good job title. 

Related: How to Make a Job Ad that Attracts Candidates

In a 2012 survey of over 2000 job-seekers, 64% said that they were put off applying for a job because of a confusing job title.

Unfortunately, confusing job titles are very relevant especially today. If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a bit, you probably noticed a trend. There’s an increasing number of quirky job titles, such as ninja, guru, rockstar, and similar.

It’s important to keep job descriptions clear, yet detailed. Give full explanations of the required attributes and responsibilities and avoid jargon or vague statements, so candidates know what they’re signing up for when applying.

3. Ask for feedback and give feedback

How can you improve your candidate experience if you don’t ask the candidates what they think? To learn what needs improvement, simply ask the candidates that have gone through the different hiring stages. For example, you can send a simple poll to everyone who’s gotten to the interview stage of the hiring process and ask them about their thoughts.

Alternatively, you can do some social listening. Find out what candidates are saying about their experience interviewing with you. A good place to start is on Glassdoor’s company reviews section. 

You can find out how difficult the interviews are and how happy the applicants are with the interview process. Even better, you can find out some questions from the interview. You can use these findings to improve your current hiring processes. Also, you can use them to learn from the companies who are nailing their employer brand game.

Equally, it is crucial that you are also giving your candidates proper feedback as well. If a candidate makes it to the interview stage, they will naturally expect a more personalized follow-up than after the earlier stages, regardless of the outcome. 

Offering feedback will help to ensure a positive candidate experience. According to the LinkedIn survey, 94% of candidates want feedback after the interview. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth. Just a couple of pointers on what they did well and where they might look to improve in the future would be good. This is enough to make them feel like this has been a worthwhile learning experience.

4. Have a clear process for every step in hiring

Job applicants who are well informed about the stages in the hiring process are more likely to be satisfied with the company and have a better candidate experience. While transparency should be a core value for your company in general, transparency in hiring is essential in providing a better experience for your applicants.

In other words, let your candidates know the exact process of application, selection and hiring as they apply. That way, they will immediately know what they can expect, when they will hear back from you and how strict your selection process is.

This can be as simple as providing an outline of your hiring process on your job ad. Or you can go out of your way like Johnson and Johnson, who created an entire platform for their applicants, called Shine. Using Shine, candidates can log in, take a look at where they are in the hiring process and even enjoy some content related to their position and working at J&J.

Don’t neglect the rejection process either. If you have a large number of applications, personalized rejections won’t be possible during the early stages. Try to send early rejections from a human email address (so the candidate can reply if they want to) and offer some hope of remaining in contact (‘keep an eye on our careers board for future roles‘). 

When informing unsuccessful candidates at the interview stage, a personalized email is best, and offer constructive feedback to help the candidate feel like their time investment was worthwhile.

5. Be responsive

As it turns out, only 14% of all candidates are happy with how responsive companies are during the hiring process. This is clearly an area where there is room for you to really stand out, if you play your cards right.

The main reasons companies don’t get back to candidates include:

–   There are too many candidates to get back to them all

–   The hiring manager does not have enough time to respond to everyone

–   Responding to everyone is seen as unnecessary

–   It is company policy not to respond to unsuccessful candidates

So, how can you tackle these obstacles to set yourself apart? The easiest solution is to ensure you have an airtight, efficient initial screening process, supported by a strong talent management system. Once you have a few dozen qualified candidates you’d like to bring forward to an interview, let them know.

Equally, use your ATS to send out bulk rejection emails to unsuccessful candidates, too. With the right tools, it is much quicker and easier than you think to manage your candidate pipeline. That way, you can make sure everyone knows where they stand with you every step of the way.

Related: 7 Tips for Choosing the Right Talent Management System 

For example, when candidates applied for the position of Digital Marketer at Toggl Hire, they did a pre-employment skills test. This weeded out under-qualified candidates immediately. What’s even better is that candidates immediately get notified if they are going to the next round or not.

Responsiveness is a major part of the candidate experience. Candidates that get timely responses are more likely to become and stay customers. As research shows, 67% of candidates say they’re more likely to buy from a company that gave them timely updates during their application.

6. Get the externals right

25% of all job-seekers now use social media as their main tool when looking for work. This means that your company website or social media is likely to be the first point of contact a potential candidate will have with you. 

This is your first opportunity to impose your employer brand values. Make sure that your careers page is consistent with the rest of your website and social media pages in terms of branding. 

7. Offer a great mobile experience

Today, over 60% of Americans conduct job searches from their mobiles. This means that offering a good mobile-friendly recruiting experience is more crucial than ever before.

Make sure that your website and any other tool that the candidate needs to use when applying for your job opening is mobile-friendly.

For example, we at Toggl Hire know that most applicants apply for jobs on their smartphones. That’s why we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the system work seamlessly on mobile devices.

Common Candidate Experience Mistakes to Avoid

You’ve hopefully taken away some actionable tips on how you can improve the candidate experience at your company. We wanted to summarize some common mistakes we see companies making:

  • Job ads that aren’t unique enough
  • Expectations, responsibilities, and job title unclear in the job ad
  • Not being transparent about your hiring process
  • Applying requires high-effort activities (writing & re-writing resumes and cover letters)
  • Unresponsive to candidates about their status in the process
  • Lack of a mobile-optimized application page
  • Not giving feedback to candidates following unsuccessful interviews
  • An outdated social media presence (especially LinkedIn!) and careers page
  • Too slow at sifting through candidates in initial stages (remember, top talent is gone in 10 days!)
  • Basing your hiring decisions on resumes rather than the ability to get the job done (best evaluated with skills tests)
  • Communications that aren’t personalized

These are just some of the basics to keep in mind. However, you should take every precaution to persuade the candidate that your company really wants them to have a great time applying to your open roles. In the end, this means they will likely have a great time working for you, too.


Out of all the aspects of building an employer brand, the candidate experience is the easiest to impact. Moreover, it can show immediate results. Companies that actively work on improving their candidate experience will have higher amounts of qualified applicants, build up a reputation of being a desirable employer, and therefore continue to get the best talent applying for their open roles. The feedback loop is a positive one – you just have to put the work in to kickstart it all!

We’ve put together The Ultimate Guide to Employer Branding if you’re interested in learning more!

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