Experience Management (XM) is an organizational discipline that cuts across the four core experiences of business – customer, employee, brand, and product. But hidden within these familiar XM pillars is the all-important candidate experience. Just like customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) experts, talent acquisition professionals are designing, measuring, and managing some of the most important experiences that organizations create. 


Candidates are at the intersection of your employee, customer, and brand experiences

Not only is the candidate experience one of the most important and prominent experiences in the entire employee journey, but it also intersects with the customer and brand experiences an organization delivers. Many job candidates are initially attracted to organizations through external brand messaging and in some cases are already customers. For a select few, the candidate experience transitions into the employee experience. But for most candidates, it (hopefully) transitions to (or back to) being a customer. 

While talent acquisition teams may be hyper focused on the candidate experience, it is clear that their impact is far reaching. Because of the pivotal role of the candidate experience, it must be something that all XM professionals understand and support.


Six Factors That Influence the Candidate Experience

For most jobs, the candidate experience is multifaceted, involving dozens of interactions with technology (e.g., online application, pre-hire assessments) and people (e.g., recruiters, hiring managers). Thus, the candidate experience should be thought of as its own journey, not simply a touchpoint within a broader employee experience. Across this journey, there are six critical factors that drive an effective candidate experience:

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Four Tips for Propelling the Candidate Experience

In order to (re)design the candidate experience to emphasize these drivers, talent acquisition professionals can look to the broader capabilities of XM – continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt. Here are four practical ways in which talent acquisition professionals can apply XM practices to propel the candidate experience. 

  • Set clear expectations upfront. Many job candidates are initially attracted to organizations based on what they hear and see externally. Much of this information comes from word-of-mouth, employee referrals, and external marketing, and these past experiences influence their expectations. Talent acquisition professionals, however, should shape candidates’ expectations upfront, clearly communicating what the process will be like and why each step is relevant to the job they are applying for. In the absence of this expectation setting, candidates will formulate their own, which the organization may or may not have any control over. Ultimately this drives clarity and positively influences candidates’ perception of the fairness of the process. 
  • Instrument the moments within the candidate journey that matter the most. Because candidate journeys are complex and there are multiple possible outcomes, such as voluntarily withdrawing, being rejected for the job, and getting an offer, the success (or failure) of the candidate experience can come from many possible moments. Journey mapping is an effective XM tool to identify the moments that could make or break the candidate experience. From there, feedback mechanisms can be embedded into these critical moments, such as requesting feedback on the seamlessness of the online application, the professionalism of the recruiters, and the timeliness with which the hiring manager communicated back to the candidate.  
  • Automate insights and action at multiple levels. The insights gained from candidates throughout their journey are meaningless if they are not accessible to the people who can influence these experiences. In most talent acquisition processes, there are multiple influencers, from recruiters to recruiting teams to hiring managers to functional owners, like HRIS leads and selection experts. Each has an important and unique role in shaping the candidate experience and must, therefore, have insights into the feedback from candidates that they control. For example, recruiting teams need direct access to feedback on their behaviors, such as communicating clearly, following up in a timely manner, and offering a personalized experience to the candidate. Selection professionals, on the other hand, need direct insights into the perceived fairness of the tools and assessments they design and how relevant candidates perceive them to be.  
  • Close the loop immediately with candidates. As organizations instrument their candidate journeys, many potential issues can be solved immediately in the feedback workflow. For example, if candidates report that the pre-hire assessment they just completed was irrelevant to the job, an immediate response or link can be positioned to communicate the job relevance of the assessment or rationale for why the assessment is used for this role. In other cases, candidates may need the loop closed by a person. For instance, if candidates provide feedback that they are unclear about the next steps in the hiring process, this could trigger a message to the recruiter to follow up with the candidate to clarify next steps.

These four practices leveraged by many EX and CX professionals can help talent acquisition professionals emphasize the 6 critical factors important to the candidate experience – technology, clarity, fairness, attractiveness, timeliness, and personalization.  


Bottom line: The candidate experience is literally “pivotal” to a holistic XM strategy.

Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., XMP, is an XM Catalyst for the Qualtrics XM Institute