Improving the Candidate Experience in Executive Search

Imagine that you’re a busy senior leader who’s ready for the next big role. You start interviewing with two organisations, each have very different interview processes. One runs a clear and transparent process, stays in close touch with you, and gives you feedback throughout the process. The other organisation takes weeks to get back to you about next steps, keeps adding steps to the process, and provides minimal feedback. Which role are you more likely to take? This situation captures the important idea of Candidate Experience, or how leaders that interview with your organisation feel during the hiring process. It can include a variety of different steps in the process ranging from the job description to interviews to feedback. Unfortunately, the candidate experience is often neglected by organisations, which has consequences on their ability to hire the best leaders. Many in-demand and talented leaders interview with many organisations during their search; a poor candidate experience can lead them to go elsewhere. The hiring process can be the first time a leader interacts with an organisation; a negative candidate experience can easily give them a negative view of the organisation.MAP Images (4)

This could prevent them from applying to future roles, recommending candidates, or even becoming a donor or supporter down the line. This is even more important in this current moment known as the “Great Resignation” where 46% of employees are considering new opportunities.

The data and research on the candidate experience clearly demonstrate the impact of poor processes. According to Career Builder, 78% of candidates believe that the candidate experience is an indicator of how the organisation values its people. According to the Human Capital Institute, 56% of candidates who had a positive experience during a hiring process would apply there again and 37% would recommend others to apply to that organisation.

So how can organisations re-think and improve their candidate experiences? By following some of the following strategies, all of which work whether your interview process is remote or in-person.

  • Build an Efficient Interview Process:
    A common complaint of many candidate experiences is too many interview stages, as captured in a recent viral Linkedin Post. Research by Google after interviewing thousands of candidates found the optimal number of interviews to be just four rounds. Note: The author once endured 11 interview rounds for a role and can confirm that little was gained after the 4th round. Organisations must build an effective interview process that balances depth with efficiency. Ensure that key decision-makers interview candidates as a panel rather than scheduling individual interviews. Also ensure your decision-process is properly planned and scheduled. Make sure that decision-makers for your role are properly aligned and scheduled to meet so you can give the thumbs up or thumbs down to a candidate. This keeps the interview process moving along and the candidate engaged.
  • Overly Communicative with Candidates:
    After you've designed your process, communicate it to candidates early and often. Ensure they understand the recruiting journey from start to finish including the different steps along the way. Make sure you share information about the organisation ahead of time with candidates so they can familiarise themselves and provide the best responses to questions. Prior to each interview, ensure a candidate knows who they are interviewing with, the format of the interview, topics that will be covered, and any important logistics. Check in with the candidate throughout the process, answer any questions that emerge, and make sure they feel supported. Make sure to respond quickly to candidates with next steps; according to a survey from global staffing firm Robert Half, 62% of US professionals say they lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the employer within two weeks – or 10 business days – after the interview. That number jumps to 77% if there is no status update within three weeks.

  • Enhance Your Interview Panels:
    Make sure that the panel reviews the candidate’s CV and background information prior to any interview. Remind the panel that they are representing the organisation and ensure they are courteous and professional. It’s easy to think that the organisation is really interviewing the candidate, but just remember that it often goes the other way around as well. And the right candidate won’t hesitate to step out of an interview process if they detected a poor culture from the panel during the interview process.MAP Images (2)
  • Give Feedback to Declined Candidates:
    When you decide on a preferred candidate, it’s important to treat your declined candidates just as well as your selected one. Top performers are always seeking to improve their performance and enhance how they come across. Ask your panel to share their notes during the process including what they did or didn’t like about a candidate. Be honest with the candidate – sometimes they did very well but it was just that someone was better. Expect people to act professionally when receiving feedback; if they don't then you were probably correct to not hire them.

Remember that these candidates, especially senior leaders, could be future supporters, advocates, or donors. If you ensure a positive candidate experience, you keep these candidates in your orbit and maintain open communication. Ensure your interview process is representative of your culture and you’ll be able to bring in fantastic leaders and ensure others have a positive view of the organisation.

How SRI Executive Can Help

As an executive search firm, we work to ensure both our clients and candidates have a positive experience during executive search processes. We rely on our experience of over 25 years of business to bring best practices to the recruiting journey. We understand candidate’s motivations and their personalities and ensure they have a positive experience. We have a structured search process that is transparent to everyone involved. We have utilise-wide industry best practices to ensure both a consistent process and constant communication throughout. For more information about how SRI Executive could benefit your organisation, review our materials here.


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