Candidate Experience – why presume, when you could just ask?


A guest post from Steve Othen Head of Strategic Projects at The REC.


A lot has been written, including by me, about how important it is to measure candidate experience. So I thought I change it up and focus on the how.

The candidate strikes back is a recent report published by REC as part of our Good Recruitment Campaign. This campaign is a free resource we have developed to help in-house recruitment and HR teams enhance their hiring process through best practice and shared learning.

This particular report has a subtitle of ‘How to improve the recruitment process for your candidates’.

Throughout the document we combine existing information from sources such as Mystery Applicant, CEB, The Candidate Experience Awards and REC; with brand new data gathered from a number of focus groups, telephone interviews and a YouGov survey of over 2,000 people.

For me, one of the biggest eye-openers was the difference between what employers consider as the most important elements when looking to improve candidate experience, compared to that of the job-seekers themselves.

However, if you continue reading it becomes apparent why this disconnect exists – 80% of respondents said they were not asked for feedback on the recruitment process. Why?

There are plenty of tools available, both free and paid for, that allow you to survey your candidates and ask them about their experience. After all, why presume that you are providing a good or bad experience, when you could just ask?

We held some candidate experience workshops with, employers engaged with the Good Recruitment Campaign, last year and some of the reluctance seemed to be around the following:

  • Who should you ask for feedback?
    The group debated the options – rejected candidates, individuals who are hired or a mixture of both. While there are interesting arguments for all of these angles, my personal opinion is both. However, depending on when you ask them, it is possible that you may get an overly positive or negative response. This leads nicely onto the second point of discussion…
  • When should you ask for feedback?
    Should you ask after the first interview, just before the offer / rejection, just after the offer / rejection or a few months down the line? I’m not sure there is any right or wrong answer but some of the best approaches I have seen have taken into account one important factor – you can ask more than once. Process questions could be asked earlier and others such as whether the job actually represents what they were told it was could be asked later. So, with this in mind, even if we know who to ask and when to ask them, this does leave another question…
  • What should you ask?
    As with most surveys, it is easy to be tempted into ask every question under the sun. However, the people giving their time to give you this information are not likely to want to spend hours on your feedback form. Therefore, it is important to consider why you are asking for their input and what you are going to do with the data – improve the process, educate line managers, hold your suppliers to account all of this is possible and more.  If you want comparable data it may be worth considering a consistent weekly / monthly time to gather the results. Also, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – there are plenty of organisations willing to share their approach, I’ll happily put you in contact with some.

For more information on ‘The candidate strikes back’ and what candidates are saying would improve their experience, download a free infographic of the report by visiting

(Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash)