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It seems hard to believe but in this day and age of unemployment at near-historic lows across the developed world, the experience delivered by employers to candidates is declining.

However, contentment among job candidates has been declining since 2021, while candidate resentment remains elevated, according to the latest annual research from the Candidate Experience Benchmark Research and Awards Program, founded by Talent Board and now part of ERE Media.

The latest published research analyses hiring data collected in 2023 from 150 organisations from all regions around the globe along with survey feedback from 240,000 job candidates. The report contains benchmarking data from each stage of the hiring process.

Sixty one employers were named as Global CandE Award winners, including Ford, Grant Thornton, Delaware North, Foot Locker and Intel. Many high profile employers were missing from the list.

Candidate resentment impacts a business and its brand because candidates who experience a poor recruiting experience are less likely to apply again, refer others, have any brand affinity, or make purchases from that company, said Kevin Grossman, the vice president of research at ERE Media, and co-founder of the candidate experience research twelve years ago.

At the core of the decline in candidate experience is the frustration of interviews being conducted without interacting in real-time with a human the candidate can see.

“It’s clear in our research that job candidates prefer live interview interactions where they can see who’s interviewing them and interact with them in person,” Grossman said. “This year, the highest percentage of all candidates stating their time was disrespected during interviews and appointments was during recorded video interviews and hiring manager phone screens.”

The top three reasons why candidates withdrew from the hiring process were predictable:

  1. their time being disrespected due to poor communication or never receiving feedback,
  2. the process taking too long, and
  3. the salary not meeting their expectations.

These reasons resonate strongly as one of my close friends recently went through a period of applying for around a dozen jobs for which he met the advertised selection criteria. Many of these jobs were for well-known companies and as a senior candidate he was confident of at least three or four interviews. Not only did he fail to obtain a single interview he only received rejection emails from five of the employers. Seven employers did not contact him and he remains unaware of whether the vacancy was filled, or not.

According to the 2023 research results, 36 percent of candidates in the U.S. reported no contact from employers one to two months after they applied, which is unchanged from 2022.

“The longer the time between applying and hearing back from the company, the less likely candidates are to apply again or make referrals in the future,” Grossman said. “One of the biggest differentiators at the application stage historically has been the fact that the highest-rated companies in our research were dispositioning or moving forward candidates within three to five days after they apply.

Although the missing human touch at interview stage was widely criticised by candidates, AI was prominent in the recruitment processes of highly-rated employers in the benchmarking research.

Keeping candidates informed about their place in the hiring process via chatbots was a significant plus and AI’s ability to effectively communicate via text message, especially in volume hiring, was proving increasingly effective.

Mobile text-messaging campaigns were up 94% in 2023 compared to the prior year, according to the research, while 61% of top-rated (by candidates) employers said they are using a text-based recruiting system and 18% of employers said they’re utilising conversational AI chatbots in their hiring process.

“Job alerts and text-to-apply notifications can increase positive candidate sentiment and perception of fairness due to consistent communication,” Grossman said.

Company values were the most sought-after information by candidates with 45% of all candidates citing it as most important, down slightly from 2022, but still up 96% from 2021. That’s followed by specific information about what the employer does, career sites in multiple languages, diversity and inclusion information, and answers to why people want to work there.

The power of fair and structured interviews in candidate experience ratings was significant with the highest-rated CandE Winners conducting structured interviews 19% more than all employers combined.

Also, candidates’ willingness to refer others was 119% higher when they were provided with information on their job fit and candidacy status at the end of the interview. While a much smaller pool of candidates received this immediate feedback, it continues to be a big differentiator in each candidate’s reported experience of the employer’s hiring process, whether they were offered the job or not.

The message from candidates remains loud and clear: “Please respect our time by communicating regularly, keeping the hiring process moving, and being upfront and consistent about remuneration.”

Surely, employers, it’s not that hard to do (and there is so much to be gained by doing so).

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