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Candidate Resentment Is on the Rise

Research shows communication, feedback-gathering when hiring still sorely lacking

A man sitting at a table with a laptop.

​For the second year in a row, candidate resentment—a measure of negative experience with the hiring process—has risen around the world. The only region where candidate resentment didn't rise in 2022 was North America, where it dipped but remains historically high, according to research from the Talent Board, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that produces the annual Candidate Experience Awards and releases the data that determines the winners each year.

The latest report is a comprehensive look at data collected in 2022 from 150 organizations around the world, in addition to survey feedback from 200,000 job candidates. The report contains reams of benchmarking data from each stage of the hiring process, and includes insights on many aspects of recruiting, including the technologies being used, average job requisition loads, and priorities for 2023. The following are a few key takeaways.

Candidate Experience Still Needs Improvement

Talent Board president Kevin Grossman explained that job seekers were more sympathetic toward employers struggling with an unprecedented set of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last couple of years, but "candidate resentment never really went away."

And that's worrying for many reasons, including the impact on a company's ability to compete for talent, as well as its reputation and bottom line, he said.

The top three reasons for negative sentiment about the candidate experience were:

  • The recruiting process took too long.
  • The candidate's time was disrespected.
  • Salary didn't meet expectations.

"The global surge in resentment is most likely due to less transparency among employers, who were far more communicative and open during the early days of the pandemic," Grossman said.

"Candidates feel like they are not being heard," said Susan LaMotte, founder, CEO and principal strategist at exaqueo, an employer-brand consulting firm in Charleston, S.C. "The Talent Board data shows that we're not really making much progress on candidate experience, after all these years."

The candidate experience has not evolved in the same way as the consumer experience, which places a lot of value on getting to know the user from the beginning of the process, said Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, a digital recruitment marketing agency in the Boston area. "Companies have not really changed how they interact with candidates," he said.

"Chat functionality creates more instant engagement, but personalizing that engagement is challenging. Career sites, the entry point for many candidates, are dated. How many companies are really proud of their career site?" Costa added. "People are starving for a way to connect with a company so that they can decide whether it's worth taking a step closer to that company."

Undoubtedly, technology can help improve candidate experience, but technology by itself is not a silver bullet for a bad hiring process, LaMotte said. Employers need to first come up with a strategy based on their own qualitative research. "You need to understand how your candidates feel," she said. "That's what our colleagues in marketing research do all the time, before taking action."

For example, the length of the process is a common complaint from candidates—and technology can speed up the process considerably. "But what about the role that recruiters and hiring managers play in communicating the process?" LaMotte asked. "Candidates see the lengthy process as the problem. But unless you dig into why it's taking so long, it's hard to solution."

There are, however, core best practices to follow to achieve a positive candidate experience, Grossman said. They include:

  • Providing consistent communication during the process.
  • Setting expectations about the process.
  • Asking for and providing feedback.
  • Being transparent and accountable.
  • Ensuring a high level of perceived candidate fairness. "When candidates feel like their overall experience is a fair one, as in they are truly 'in the running' for jobs they're qualified for, they tend to rate their experiences more positively," Grossman said.

Communication Is Lacking  

Overall, employers are failing at updating candidates on their progress as they move through the hiring process, according to the research. One-third (34 percent) of candidates in 2022 reported not hearing back from employers two months after they applied, only 58 percent said they received an automated "thank you" message after applying, and most shocking, just 7 percent said they'd been notified that they didn't get the job.

"What makes these statistics particularly discouraging is that more employers than ever are using automation technologies to strengthen and streamline the application process," Grossman said. "Recruiters can easily handle increased volumes of applications and better manage the administrative side of the process. Automated communications can be triggered at various disposition stages. The fact that more than a third of candidates are still waiting after two months to hear about their application status seems like a major—and fixable—issue."

Costa said the failure lies either with people not having defined their candidate workflow and processes, or a poor use of the technology they have. "Every ATS [applicant tracking system] or CRM [candidate relationship management system] has the capability to send out an automated message," he said. "We see so many ATS implementations that are done hastily, and therefore the core functionality isn't set up properly. If TA [talent acquisition] did an audit of the candidate workflow, they would see the gaps. Companies should be doing candidate experience audits on a regular basis."

LaMotte agreed that configuring technology to automate messaging is a good step, but a candidate communication strategy is also critical. "Companies will need to figure out at what stages in the candidate journey they want to truly captivate candidates and in what stages it is OK to just satisfy them," she said. "It may not make sense to captivate at all stages."

As more employers adopt text recruiting software, conversational artificial intelligence and automated processes, stories about the candidate "black hole" should disappear. But candidate expectations will change again, LaMotte said. "Will candidates be satisfied with receiving automated messages when that becomes the baseline expectation, or will they expect some human engagement, and at what stages?"

Candidates Want to Connect

Roughly half (48 percent) of job seekers said content related to company values was the most important type of employer content they looked for when researching jobs in 2022, according to the Talent Board.

"With that in mind, employers should be asking some very serious questions," Grossman said. "Are your values clearly showcased in your job descriptions, careers site and other employment marketing materials? Are you telling candidates how the work they'll do ties directly to your values? Are you sharing real-life stories of your values in action in your business, your workplace and your communities?"

Candidates' intense interest in company values is part of a larger trend behind the Great Resignation, Grossman said. "Growing numbers of people are seeking stronger connections to their work and their employers—and they're actually quitting or planning to quit their current jobs to find it. Fewer people are willing to work at a job they consider meaningless or for a company whose values don't reflect their own."

And candidates seek that connection at the start of their job search, he added. Specifically, they try to find a clear understanding of the company's culture and employee experience and a sense of connection with the overall brand.  

"Even if a job ad is what initially catches their attention, they skip over the details of the job to get to other information first," Grossman said. "Today's candidates understand that a particular job won't be a good fit if the company isn't a good fit."

Costa said organizations will have to "do some soul searching" to make sure they share values that are accurate and reflective of their organization. Then they can make a long-term plan to redesign their careers site and other employment brand assets to showcase those values. In the short term, he said, organizations can create video content and social media posts and craft campaign-specific landing pages, which are typically more flexible, to get the word out.

Experts agree that video done well is the most powerful format to tell a story. But a lot of content out there is "pretty vanilla," LaMotte said. She said there are various office tour videos on TikTok that could have been copied and pasted from any organization.

"What they are not showing is, what do values like innovation or transparency look like in practice?" she said. "It's tricky because you don't want to reveal proprietary information, but you need to show how your values are manifested at work, with specific examples."

Ask for Feedback

Employers have gotten better providing feedback to candidates over the last decade but aren't nearly as practiced at asking candidates for feedback—a definite misstep in building positive candidate experiences and a strong employer brand reputation, Grossman said.

"In 2022, only about one-quarter of the nearly 200,000 candidates we surveyed worldwide said employers asked them to share feedback about their experiences through any stage of the recruiting process," he noted.

Among the employers that did solicit feedback from candidates, the research found that the majority—40 percent—did so only after candidates were hired, while 20 percent asked for feedback at every stage of the recruiting process.

"Post-hire feedback helps to maximize new hires' early commitment and satisfaction levels going into their new jobs, and asking candidates to share insights about their experiences at every stage of your recruiting process is one of the best ways to distinguish your employment brand from the pack," Grossman said.

"Collecting candidate feedback is important, but you want to be in a position to make changes based on that feedback, and I don't know how equipped many recruiting teams are to actually do something with it," Costa said. "So they just don't put the effort in to capture it."

Many organizations are not aware that candidate feedback can be automatically gathered after each stage of the hiring process, said Ian Alexander, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Survale, a talent survey and analytics platform in San Francisco.

"Real-time automated candidate feedback at each stage of the process enables a managed, data-driven candidate experience where TA leaders have hard data to understand what's working and what's not at every candidate-facing touchpoint," Alexander said. "This doesn't happen with periodic ad hoc surveys or manual surveys after the fact—sometimes months later when candidates are no longer engaged."

Candidates are most motivated to provide thoughtful feedback as they move through the process, he said. Then recruiters "can look at a feedback dashboard and can suddenly see all the hidden pieces of their hiring process measured in real time, from the performance and alignment of recruiters and hiring managers to the strengths and weaknesses in employer brand, to career site and application utility, to what is driving accepted offers versus rejected offers."


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