How important is candidate experience in your hiring process?

Written by Alissa Parr, Ph.D., Senior Consultant
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.

Imagine that you are applying for a job. You have completed several steps in the hiring process and the only one left is an interview with the hiring manager. Consider both of these situations:

Situation 1: You walk into the interview and the hiring manager tells you to take a seat in her office. She appears very flustered and is scrambling to find your resume. After a few moments, she decides to start the interview despite not having any questions or materials in front of her. She jumps right into her first question, “So, tell me more about yourself – what do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?” She asks a few more questions, but appears quite distracted because she is getting alert notifications on her phone. She wraps up the interview in 20 minutes, tells you someone will be in touch, and shows you the door.

Situation 2: As you walk into the interview, the hiring manager greets you and asks you to take a seat in her office. She provides you an overview of what you can expect throughout the interview. After asking if you have any initial questions, she continues by asking series of behavioral interview questions allowing you the ability to share your skills and experiences. Afterward, she answers the questions that you have regarding the position and company. She explains next steps of the selection process, thanks you for your time, and shows you the door.

Which situation sounds more pleasant to you? Hands down, I would much prefer Situation 2. Overall, the candidate experience was much more positive.

One of the goals of selection systems is to make sure that the candidate has a positive experience. After all, whether hired or not, they could still be your customer or share their experience with your company to others. We know that candidate experience is important, but a set of researchers recently examined just how important applicant reactions are to the process. In particular, they looked at how applicant reactions and other factors (e.g., person-organizational fit, organizational image) related to the candidate’s likelihood of accepting a job offer. While this sounds like a very straightforward study, only two studies examined similar relationships previously.

One of the biggest determinants of candidate reactions is perceptions of fairness and justice. This would include whether candidates feel that they were treated with respect, provided timely information on the process, and given an equal opportunity to share their experiences, among others. In the study, the researchers surveyed applicants applying for a military position. Participants responded to a series of items measuring perceived fairness, person-organizational fit, and perceived organizational image. They analyzed how these factors related to whether they accepted a job offer.

Overall, they found that fairness was a significant predictor of job acceptance. Additionally, while fairness and person-organizational fit both significantly predicted job acceptance, fairness perceptions had a much stronger effect. Meaning, fairness and justice perceptions are very important in influencing whether job candidates accept job offers.

To put everything into perspective, estimates suggest that U.S. companies spend $3,500 per hire on recruiting costs. It would be beneficial for all companies to ensure that this money is not wasted on qualified candidates who decline a position because of negative attitudes from the hiring process. As a hiring manager, it’s critical that you ensure the candidate has a positive experience and feels the entire process is fair.

Here are some practical tips you can take to facilitate a positive candidate experience:

  • Make sure all steps of the process are job relevant and consistent across candidates.
  • Give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and abilities.
  • Treat all candidates with respect and be sure to not ask irrelevant/unacceptable questions.
  • Allow candidates an opportunity to ask questions throughout.
  • Be honest in all communications.
  • Communicate feedback in a timely fashion.

Source: Harold, C. M., Holtz, B.C., Griepentrog, B.K., Brewer, L.M., & Marsh, S.M. (In Press). Investigating the effects of applicant justice perceptions on job offer acceptance. Personnel Psychology.

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