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Improving the Candidate Experience: Practical Advice

May 9, 2018


As we’ve written recently, the healthcare labor market is tight. You want to hire the best candidates, because talent drives quality of care and the patient experience. But, it’s a challenge just to find qualified candidates to choose from!

You’re Competing for Talent

Senior leadership has communicated that top talent is THE differentiator. Everyone gets it. You are tasked with finding and selecting the best candidates, but you are competing with other organizations for the same talent. Hopefully you have a branding strategy to attract candidates. Once you’ve attracted them, we help organizations build an evidence-based selection system to identify those who are the best fit, and who will succeed and thrive.

The Candidate’s Experience

Between the attraction and selection portions of the process, though, is the entire application and hiring process. Don’t waste time and resources attracting candidates only to lose them because of a less than ideal candidate experience. We’re always surprised by the number of  organizations that have never really taken the time to examine the process from the candidate’s point of view.

From the moment candidates find the posted position, until they receive a job offer or rejection, they are forming an opinion about your company and how you treat candidates. Many share these opinions with friends, colleagues, or on sites like Glassdoor.

It’s not uncommon for us to speak with nursing leaders who hear they lose good candidates because the entire process is too long. When we take a deeper look, we discover that the online application takes 45 minutes on average to complete and asks for a lot of useless information. Then we discover that candidate communication regarding the status of their application is inconsistent, at best. In today’s market, if a candidate is forced to call to check the status of their application, you’ve probably already lost them.

According to careerbuilders.com, nearly 60% of candidates have had a bad experience. The top three reasons include:

  • A link that doesn’t work
  • Computer/internet problems
  • An application that is too long

(As many as 60% of job seekers have quit in the middle of an application because it was too long!)

Practical Advice

We performed an informal survey of our consultants, who work with healthcare organizations in every market – physician groups, community hospitals, academic medical centers, long term care, large systems, and urgent care centers. Their observations and comments are below:

  • Keep candidates informed. A big dissatisfier for candidates is not knowing their status. Even if it’s a rejection, they’d rather know than be left without a response. They may be an ideal candidate for a different role. Why discourage them from applying again?

  • The process and the candidate communication plans/templates were originally well thought-out, but things have changed. Sometimes, the team doesn’t appreciate the impact of changes to the ATS configuration, integration of various components, etc. When changes happen, revisit the entire process to ensure a positive candidate experience.

  • Eliminate unnecessary application content. There are questions that don’t add anything to the decision-making process. Frequently, the recruiting team builds the application based on information they think might be useful. Review the questions occasionally, and remove questions that don’t add value.  For example, one organization figured it would be easier to confirm educational records by having candidates supply the phone number of each educational institution in their background. Candidates don’t have this information readily available and finding the right number can take some time. 

  • Give the applicant enough information – job details, and what to expect during the process.

  • Where it makes sense, don’t “over-automate.” Organizations are inclined to lean on technology and remove interactive components of the process. This makes sense. It’s efficient and can add objectivity. But, sometimes it’s important to retain some human interaction, especially with top candidates. Imaging going through several hoops in a process, but then being rejected without ever speaking to someone. This could discourage future applications from a qualified candidate.

Measuring the Experience

Many organizations never even attempt to measure the candidate experience. This is a mistake. It's easy to measure and incredibly valuable information. We always recommend getting feedback. In our case, we integrate a short survey into our pre-employment assessment tools. We want to ensure that the experience is fair, reasonable, positive, and provides a good first impression of the company.

If the process is well-designed, the responses are, generally, quite good. You can also hire a third-party research company, or create a candidate survey yourself using a simple online survey tool. Our surveys are completed during the application process so they provide useful data. You can use the survey with new hires, but you’ve limited the dataset by eliminating rejected candidates. Keep in mind, too, that new hires may be eager to impress and skew their results, accordingly.

What is application time?

Have you actually measured how long the application takes? Often the team builds the content with an “idea” of how long it takes, but you need to know, for sure. There are data analysis tools to measure application time, but we often recommend that you go through it, as a candidate would, to really understand the time investment and experience.

Our team spends a lot of time working with clients building efficient, effective selection systems. Learn more about how we do this with a free white paper:

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Amber Thomas Amber Thomas is a Consultant at PSI. In her role, Amber provides custom solutions to a variety of industries. Her contributions include project oversight, day-to-day client support, and on-going consultation.