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Are You Ignoring Candidate Experience At Your Own Peril?

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What is candidate experience and why is to so important for hiring the best people? Candidate experience is what the average job seeker encounters while working their way through your application, interview, and general hiring process. But let's get more specific than that:

Good candidate experience is open, communicative, and honest about your company and position. Bad candidate experience leaves your candidate with a very bad impression of your organization.

"Who cares though?" a hiring manager might wonder. Let's call him Joe HR. Joe isn't worried about candidate experience because there are so many candidates to choose from anyway. As of Dec. 2012, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed there were 3.4 unemployed persons for every one job opening.

Last year, a staggering 7.6 million people applied for only 65,000 corporate and retail jobs at coffee titan Starbucks. "With so many applicants," asks Joe HR dismissively, "why should we care what experience they have in our hiring process?"

But Joe HR is wrong because candidate experience does matter. Let's take a look at how companies are dropping the ball when it comes to cultivating relationships with potential talent, and why it matters:

The elements of bad and good candidate experience
So what's a good candidate experience and what will send your candidates running for the hills? How do you calculate what's working about your hiring process and what candidates wish would disappear?

Unless you have a candidate experience calculator in your back pocket, here are some ways you can tell if your candidates are excited for new opportunities or fleeing your company:

The Good: Unlike Joe HR, you realize candidate experience is an important aspect of attracting and retaining the best talent. This commitment to candidate experience shows, because your candidates keep coming back. Candidates just want to be acknowledged, which is why companies should always open up communication lines with applicants. Even if it's to thank a candidate for applying and wish them better luck next time, the smallest gesture can make a huge difference in perception.

Candidates who have a positive experience at your company are more likely to keep their information current on your applicant tracking system (ATS) or talent community. They're the people coming back to your career site, your job postings, or engaging with your social media profiles. They're engaged, they're interested, and they're referring other smart people to your company. All of this because you care about their experiences in your hiring process and treat applicants like human beings. Unlike...

The Bad and the Ugly: Bad candidate experience is not going to win you any friends or influence any candidates to follow your company. Bad candidate experience is going to leave a bitter taste for your applicants. Joe HR might have tons of resumes flooding in, but when he ignores the humans behind the typesetting, he's ensuring none of these people make it into his company's talent pipeline.

Recently, CareerBuilder surveyed job seekers to get a taste of their candidate experiences. The results weren't pretty. A whopping 75 percent of these candidates never heard back from employers after applying. Not even a form letter to say, "Thanks but no thanks."

If good candidate experience hinges on communication and being truthful, bad candidate experience happens when applicants feel like they're sending their resumes out into a vacuum. While 82 percent of job seekers expect to hear back after sending in an application, the truth is most employers can't be bothered.

In fact, a staggering 60 percent of the surveyed job seekers admitted they never even heard back after taking time out of their schedules to meet for an interview. As the great Stephanie Tanner used to say on 90s mainstay Full House: How rude!

Why does candidate experience matter?
So why does candidate experience matter in a time when job seekers are plenty and jobs are far fewer? Is Joe HR right after all, should companies just forget about candidate experience entirely? The answer to that last question is a resounding no.

Every candidate who comes through your job board postings, ATS, or responds to your job description has the power to become a brand ambassador. And what they choose to say about your corporate brand might not be something you'd want to put under testimonials.

For instance, of those job seekers surveyed with bad experiences, 22 percent would tell others not to apply for jobs at the company. A further nine percent would tell family and friends not to buy products or services from your company. And surprising no one, 42 percent would never seek employment at the offending organization again. Not only will your talent pipeline start leaking great people, your bottom line may take a hit as well.

Now let's compare this with the percentages of those who enjoyed their candidate experience and feel recognized and valued by your company. More than 50 percent would apply for a position at the company again, while 37 percent would urge their talented contacts to seek employment at your organization. You've not only ensnared talent in your corporate communities, you've actually brought in additional talent with the most minimal amount of time and effort.

So is candidate experience important? It most certainly is! Don't be like Joe HR and miss out on the talented candidates you need to move your company forward. Pay attention to how your candidate experience is adding up, so your applicants become fans.

What do you think? Why do you think candidate experience is important? Share in the comments!

Amit De is the CEO and Co-founder of Careerleaf, an all-in-one job search platform that cuts the time to apply in half. Connect with Amit and Careerleaf on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.