How To Improve the Candidate Experience and Boost Engagement

Oct 3, 2023
ApplicantStack, Blog, HR and Recruiting Industry Information

Job candidates put a lot of time, effort and thought into their applications. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for employers to take longer than appropriate to respond. Some may fail to send a follow-up at all. It’s actions like these that can negatively impact the candidate experience and cause a ripple effect throughout your recruiting and hiring process.

Providing a positive candidate experience is paramount to earning trust among applicants and candidates. When they feel heard and that their time is appreciated, they may be more likely to champion your organization — even if they’re rejected.

In this guide, we’re spilling our secrets on how to improve the candidate experience — from application to orientation and integration — while also boosting engagement to increase candidate quality, employee retention and more.

What Is Candidate Engagement?

Candidate engagement refers to the process of building and maintaining meaningful and positive interactions between your company or organization and individuals who are potential candidates for job openings.

The recruitment process involves a few core components, each critical to its overall success:

  • Communication
  • Personalization
  • Consistency
  • Feedback
  • Transparency

The goal of candidate engagement, beyond providing an engaging and constructive experience for potential hires, is to attract and retain top talent at higher rates. While that is the main goal, it’s also the main benefit of having a candidate engagement strategy and workflow in place — but it’s far from the only perk.

Here’s a tip on what not to do:


The Benefits of High Candidate Engagement

With a robust and positive candidate engagement strategy, employers are bound to notice more than a few benefits, such as:

  • Higher application rates: When word gets out that your company has stellar hiring practices, candidates may be more likely to apply. Why? Because they know their time will be respected, expectations will be made clear and communication will take priority.
  • A boost in offer acceptance rates: Nearly half of candidates report declining a job offer solely because they had a bad interview encounter. To lower that number, organizations need to emphasize the candidate experience by engaging early and often throughout the hiring process.
  • Better employee retention: The more engaged employees are during the interview phases of recruiting, the more questions they’ll ask about your company, values and culture. That makes it easier to find not only a qualified candidate but one that’s also a great culture fit.

The Problems With the Engagement Process

While the benefits are there for the taking, legacy hiring processes and poor recruitment practices stand in the way of constructive change. Before we highlight the trimmings of a positive candidate engagement framework, let’s have a look at some of recruiting’s infamous complications, i.e., stuff to avoid:

  • Long application processes: Leaving applicants in limbo for too long is a bad habit. In fact, long-winded recruitment processes are leading to a rise in “ghosting” between applicants and employers. (See the earlier meme)
  • Lack of communication or one-way communication: Oftentimes, there are no defined channels of communication where the applicant is able to contact the recruiter about their application, leading to one-way “conversations” that feel disingenuous. This has become a problem to the point that 50% of applicants lose interest in a job when communication with the hiring manager is poor.
  • Unclear information and untimely updates: Ambiguous job descriptions and hazy or wholly undefined next steps in the hiring process lead to a less-than-ideal recruiting practice. And, untimely updates about the status of candidates’ applications can leave a bad taste in their mouths. According to a recent study, 56% of candidates say they’re willing to walk away from a lucrative opportunity if job expectations are unclear or unreasonable.

These common issues stand in the way of qualified and talented candidates who, because of the bad experience, may choose to decline an offer if one is eventually made. Plus, if the experience was sub-par enough, they may even spread the word to others who will look at your organization differently moving forward.

So, what is required for a positive candidate experience?

Fostering Candidate Engagement Through a Positive Hiring Experience

There are a few non-negotiables when building a healthy recruitment process designed to heighten the candidate experience:

  • Clear and timely communication
  • Defined job responsibilities
  • An understanding and respect for candidates’ time
  • A smooth, prompt and unambiguous application process

There are more than a few ways to achieve these critical aspects in your hiring process, but the two that stand out most are: Having the right technology in place to facilitate your recruitment efforts. And, training your talent acquisition team to abide by best practices and your outlined engagement strategy to maximize candidate experiences.

That’s all good and well, but what’s the nitty gritty of a positive experience? What specific actions are required on the part of the talent acquisition team to uphold a high standard? And, what are the characteristics of effective candidate engagement?

The recruitment process should be:

  • Exciting: Every employer brand is unique, and so too should be their hiring processes. What makes you stand out as an organization? What’s your culture like? 
  • Straightforward: Providing candidates with an idea or roadmap of how the process will unfold, and following through, establishes credibility and trust.
  • Informative: Sending confirmation emails that highlight important timelines or decisions, as well as providing feedback on how candidates performed during an interview, are great examples of the types of information that are valued by applicants throughout the hiring process.

How Technology Can Optimize Candidate Engagement

Thankfully, building a robust talent acquisition process that fosters a positive experience doesn’t have to mean a ton of manual labor and training. Recruitment technology, like ApplicantStack, makes it easier to attract, manage, analyze and convert potential candidates. Here’s how:

Applicant Tracking System

Our applicant tracking system is designed with ease and automation in mind. Use the feedback tab to easily keep track of interview notes, and take advantage of the questionnaire feature to swiftly complete interviews and reference checks.

Additionally, using knockout questions makes it easier to pre-screen candidates by automatically eliminating those who don’t meet the minimum requirements, helping your hiring manager save time.

Candidate Management

Today’s highly competitive hiring environment calls for efficiency and quickness. Candidate management built into ApplicantStack allows hiring managers to do everything from accepting SMS text applications from candidates to providing an at-glance view of applicant status to keep the process moving along seamlessly.

Plus, candidate texting is a two-way street. Maintain engagement by reaching out to candidates directly on their phones — and allowing them to do the same with their recruiter.


Great — you’ve extended an offer of employment to a candidate in record time while providing a positive experience for them throughout the recruitment process. Now, the task is to maintain that remarkable experience during onboarding.

ApplicantStack’s onboarding software brings every integral aspect of the process together in one place. Import hires, upload forms, create tasks, e-sign documents, set reminders and more. And, you can even export data and download reports to gain a comprehensive understanding of how your onboarding process is going, so you can set new goals, make necessary changes and more.

Improve Your Hiring Process

Making a good first impression on candidates is imperative. A lackluster hiring process and tedious, manual workflows could mean that you’re, essentially, rejecting qualified candidates before they’re even given a chance.

Ready to make better, more informed hiring decisions by managing candidates and providing a world-class experience? Start a free trial today.

Make Recruiting and Onboarding Easy

See for yourself! Fill out the form to start a trial today and see how ApplicantStack can improve your hiring and onboarding processes.