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2021 Candidate Experience Report

Does candidate experience matter?

As small business owners face a post-pandemic shortage of applicants to their open roles, it will be more important than ever for them to focus on creating a great candidate experience to attract talent. Candidate experience can be defined as the experience a candidate has with a potential employer throughout the hiring process, from job posting to job offer.

We surveyed 500 people who’ve applied for jobs within the last year and analyzed their answers about their experience during the hiring process to answer one basic question: Does candidate experience actually matter? 

The bottom line: yes. The experience a candidate has with a company’s hiring process ultimately impacts a candidate’s decision to accept or decline a job offer. Take an in-depth look at the results of our survey by downloading the free report below.

Download the 2021 Candidate Experience Report

What can employers do to improve the candidate experience and make the right hires? Learn what job seekers have to say about what they’re looking for in the hiring process.


In the video below, CareerPlug’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Desiree Echevarria, breaks down some of the key findings from the 2021 Candidate Experience Report.

What are the impacts of negative candidate experiences?

We found that 67% of job seekers have had at least one negative experience in the hiring process in the past 12 months. And 58% of job seekers had declined a job offer due to poor experience.

First, consider all the hours your business spends on hiring and recruiting. Then consider that when an offer is made, if you’ve created a negative candidate experience, more than half of your offers will be declined. Because of this, employers must often settle for their second or third choice for a role. This results in the number one challenge facing businesses today: making the right hires.

What makes a negative candidate experience?

When we looked at the reasons job seekers classified those experiences as being negative, here’s what we found:

reasons job seekers decline offers

The number one reason candidates turned down job offers was a negative experience with people in the interview process. These respondents mentioned interviewers who were rude or distracted during the interview. These experiences gave each candidate a negative impression of the company as a whole.

What are the impacts of positive candidate experiences?

The majority of people surveyed are currently working at companies where they had a positive candidate experience during the hiring process, with 80% of job seekers reporting that it influenced their decision to accept the offer. 

How does candidate experience impact your employer brand?

The impact of poor candidate experience extends beyond the disappointment of a rejected job offer — it has serious implications for your employer brand, or your business’s reputation as a place to work. 

  • 37% of candidates said they’ve left a negative review online after having a negative experience.
  • 61% of candidates said they’ve left a positive review online after having a positive experience.

This is significant because more than half of job seekers abandon their pursuit of a company after reading negative reviews. Don’t miss out on the best candidates by letting negative candidate reviews define your employer brand.

How important is the hiring process to job seekers?

how important is the hiring process

We asked job seekers to rate how important the hiring process is to them. The overwhelming majority rated the hiring process between 8 and 10, indicating that most candidates pay close attention to how a company carries out its hiring process. Very few respondents indicated that the hiring process was of low importance to them.

Additionally, 53% of job seekers said they care more about the hiring process experience now than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

What factors influence a candidate’s decision to join a company?

90% of job seekers ranked atmosphere of the workplace as “important” or “very important” factors influencing their decision to join a company. However, interviewer experience, responsiveness after applying and throughout the hiring process, and hiring process transparency do not lag far behind. 

what factors affect decision to accept job offer

Bottom line: job seekers take into consideration all aspects of a hiring process when making their decision to accept an offer. 

How to improve candidate experience

Here’s what we found when we asked our job seeker respondents to identify what employers could do to improve the hiring process that would have the most impact on candidate experience. 

how to improve candidate experience

1. Provide clearer and more accurate information about the job and responsibilities.

Take the time to ensure that your job posting is thorough and accurately reflects the responsibilities of the role. Candidates look to your job posting as their guidepost when envisioning themselves working for your company. If they find out later that it’s not accurate, they’ll feel like you wasted their time.

2. Create more transparency in the hiring process about compensation and benefits.

Job seekers want to know more details about a role earlier in the hiring process so they can make informed decisions. For example, 39% of respondents expected to be informed about compensation in the initial job post. This is a huge – and easy – opportunity for employers to improve candidate experience while also creating a win for their applicant screening process, as job seekers will self-select in or out early in the process. 

information job seekers want about a role and company

3. Improve communication between the interviewers & job applicants.

Applicants consider prompt and frequent communication with their potential employer to be a major positive factor in the candidate experience. It’s important to keep this in mind throughout the hiring process with all you candidates, not just those you choose to move ahead.

 Here are some tips to improve communication with candidates:

  • Respond to all applicants immediately after they apply – You can automate this by creating email templates or implementing text recruiting to quickly invite qualified candidates to schedule interviews right away, or rejecting candidates who don’t check all your boxes.
  • Communicate the hiring process steps and timeline upfront – Give them a sense of what to expect during initial phone screens, in the job posting, or on your careers page. 
  • Keep candidates updated on their status in your hiring process – If a candidate reaches out to you for an update, that’s a sign you need to be better about communicating. Remember that candidates are often pursuing multiple job opportunities at once and you could miss out on your favorite candidates by keeping them in the dark.

Remember: Regardless of the state of the job market, the best candidates will always have the ability to be picky about where they want to work. If you understand what candidates want out of a hiring process, you can put your business at a significant advantage in any job market.

To read more of our findings from the candidate experience survey, click the button below to download the report. 

Download the 2021 Candidate Experience Report

What can employers do to improve the candidate experience and make the right hires? Learn what job seekers have to say about what they’re looking for in the hiring process.


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