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Guide to the ultimate candidate experience

Aug 22, 2019 - 6 min read
Cecilia Cayetano

A company’s recruiting practices, from sourcing through the application, interview and disposition, has the potential to impact your ability to close the candidate and quickly start them on the path to growing your business. Companies spend 80+ combined hours and around $7,000 between recruiters and engineers to hire one engineering candidate. This doesn’t include time to source candidates. Similarly, a candidate invests significant time researching, applying, preparing and interviewing for the position.

Candidates that have a great experience want to share it with their friends, on social media, etc. They will be more likely to apply to the company again, refer their colleagues, and potentially, continue to be a customer and advocate for that company.
In contrast, a negative experience can have the opposite effect, as candidates with poor experiences may actively discourage colleagues from applying. This can damage your employer brand, reduce referrals and hurt the company’s ability to attract, hire and retain the best talent.

Based on interviews with tech recruiters from startup technology companies to global powerhouses, we compiled leading practices for candidate success.

Company website

Quality candidates are typically well-researched. They look for enough information about a prospective employer to make an informed decision about their interest in the company and their careers before applying.

We can argue that candidates can find this information from social media and online resources like Glassdoor, Crunchbase, and LinkedIn. But why don’t companies just provide this information on their own websites and make it easy to find?
Here are ideas on what to include on your company website:

  • Who you are – Include the company’s history and evolution, leadership team biographies, and recent company news. As an example, VMware provides a useful infographic of its company evolution.

  • What you do – Include where you’re going, and how the candidate can contribute to the next chapter in the story of your company. VMware provides an example highlighting their innovation culture on their website.

  • Why work with you

    • Values – Include your company values and real employees talking about what these values really mean or tie these values to specific business initiatives. Tableau’s career page highlights its culture through employee experiences and core values.

    • Benefits – Include the entire benefits package or total rewards program. Convoy website includes an overview of their benefits and perks.

  • How to join your team – Include an overview of the hiring process and an easy way to apply – regardless of whether there is an open position for which they are currently qualified or interested. Facebook provides an example of the hiring process overview, although it would be helpful to make the first box clickable to apply.

Does your company want to stand out to interview candidates and have a unique interview process? Find out how you can lead the pack, check out Educative Recruit.

Pre-onsite interview communications

Candidates want to feel confident about the interview process and, without the proper communication and preparation, end up feeling confused and frustrated.

Recruiters can empower candidates before and during the interview, resulting in a much more positive candidate experience. We conducted interviews with several technical recruiters and they recommend calling candidates prior to the onsite interview to provide information detailed below. Recruiters will email pre-onsite interview information to candidates as a follow up to the phone call or as the main communication method if it’s not practical to call every applicant.

Here are ideas on what to include in the pre-onsite interview communication:

  • Logistics – This seems obvious, but recruiters sometimes forget that the office parking entrance is located in a hidden alley and that candidates may not know this crucial bit of information. Lack of communication about things as simple as parking can relate to arriving late to an interview and increased stress and confusion in an already high-stake situation. At a minimum, include the office address with check-in instructions (e.g. where the lobby is), dress code policy (e.g. the candidate can wear jeans), and recruiter contact info (e.g. if the candidate is lost). For candidates traveling from different cities, states, and even countries, assume that the candidate has never traveled to your city before and would appreciate detailed instructions (e.g. airport transportation). For in-town candidates, still include information like parking instructions (e.g. office parking vs. street parking).

  • Team structure – Communicate the engineering team structure, how it fits into the overall company, and how role a candidate applies for fits into the smaller engineering team structure. It is also helpful to share the technologies relevant to the role.

  • On-site interview schedule – Include interviewers’ name and title; general topics covered in each interview (e.g. coding exercise on CS fundamentals, system design, and architecture, behavioral); and an expected schedule.

  • Interview tips – Include evaluation criteria for the coding exercises (e.g. communication, speed, quality) and/or suggest brushing up on the STAR method of answering behavioral questions. Wayfair and Google include useful tips on their career webpages.

  • Tech interview references – Include resources for the candidate to reacquaint themselves with core computer science concepts and general software engineering skills. Depending on the company, provide a list of topics related to the scale of the tech environment. Recruiters may recommend popular online coding courses, such as Grokking the System Design Interview or Algorithms for Coding Interviews in C++. Companies that take candidate success seriously have even purchased these courses for their candidates to help them prepare for the in-house interview.

You’d be surprised by who you can find when you offer preparation material. Some companies will claim this is lowering the talent bar (without having tried it first) or giving answers to the test. But interview preparation doesn’t lower the talent bar. Instead, it fosters communication and clarifies a company’s expectations for interviews so that candidates can bring their best self forward. Allowing candidates to focus on the factors that are applicable to the position–not on trying to find parking at the last minute or staying up all night in vain considering the infinite possibilities of what interviewers could ask of them. When people have some idea of what to expect from an experience, they can better prepare for it.

Post onsite interview communication

Throughout the interview process, the recruiter has communicated the steps and timeline of the hiring process, so the candidate has clear expectations on next steps. With that said, every candidate appreciates a quick decision.

In our interview of tech recruiters, they recommend calling a candidate to reject or extend the offer to the candidate after the onsite interview. If it is not practical to call each rejected candidate, send an email informing them of the decision and offering a follow-up call.

In some cases, the candidate may be a good fit for another role or team and the recruiter may refer them to the appropriate team. Hiring teams spend upwards of 80 hours and thousands of dollars to hire a single developer. A positive candidate experience recognizes and respects the time that candidates put into the process and provides the resources for them to succeed.

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WRITTEN BYCecilia Cayetano

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