Want Top Talent? 5 Ways To Design A Winning Candidate Experience To Attract and Retain The Best

Company culture is the personality of your organization, reflected in your vision, values, norms, symbols, systems, language, beliefs and habits. It impacts everything. It impacts everything, including the quality of the candidates you attract and the employees you retain.

Much like a garden, your company culture will grow whether or not take care of it, but left untended you'll find yourself buried in weeds and overgrowth. A well-designed and developed culture will nurture the people in your company, show them that you value and respect them, help them to grow into their best, brightest, most productive selves, and attract more top talent and customers aligned with your values and mission. An undeveloped culture will allow office politics to spread like weeds, blocking the flow of information and innovation, damaging your brand internally and externally, and making work a generally unpleasant and unproductive place to be.

Candidate experience is an often overlooked, but hugely influential, component of company culture design and development. Candidates pour their heart and soul and hours of their time into the application and interview process, researching your company, networking, prepping, and visioning themselves as part of your team. The candidate experience, from the first touchpoint to their post-interview process, is a massive opportunity to demonstrate your company culture. 

Here are five ways to make sure your candidate experience design positively reflects your company culture: 

1. Chuck your old job posts. Seriously. If your job posts read like every other blurb online, they're not reflecting your unique culture. Your job postings are candidate's first "insider" impression of your organization. When candidates read your posts they're peeling back the curtain on the show you present to the public, and they're looking for alignment between who you say you are as a company, and who you really are on the inside. Here are some great job ads and posts to inspire you: 

2. Dial up your auto-response. Invest a little extra time to make sure your candidates aren't left feeling like they've sent their application floating off into outer space, never to be seen again. Making people feel valued and respected at every opportunity will pay off in your public image, and the public perception of your culture, even if the candidate isn't a match for this particular role.

Trello, a project-management platform, has an outstanding application auto-response that goes beyond the usual "thank you for submitting your application", it's personable and reflects their communication style, and includes things like "what to expect next", FYI, and more. If you have a few minutes, take a look at their auto-response here: Trello's Awesome Application Auto-Response

 3. See candidates in action - just don't expect them to do free work for you. It's perfectly acceptable to ask candidates to provide a sample of their work, or to demonstrate their work in the application process. It is completely unacceptable to ask candidates to demonstrate their work by working on a real project that you'll use in your business, unless you want to pay them. Asking candidates to do free work "samples" on your projects demonstrates that you're a self-serving organization that doesn't respect candidate's time and work enough to pay them for it. 

Be aware of the amount of time you're asking candidates to put towards their work samples, and don't ask them to demonstrate their abilities on a hypothetical project until you've screened them for other required experiences and skills in the first stage of the application process. 

4. Design the interview experience, from pre-arrival to departure. Before the interview, set your candidates up for success by ensuring they have all of the information they need before they arrive (or before they log in if it's a virtual interview). Provide them with all of the information about who they're meeting with, where they're meeting, how long they can expect the interview to last, and more. 

Once candidates arrive on site, make sure there's someone available to welcome them, and demonstrate your company values the minute they walk in the door. Offer them a beverage or show them to the kitchen, let them know where the bathrooms are, and make sure that whomever they cross paths with gives them a warm greeting, or at least a smile and nod. This is your company's time to shine - show your candidates that your values and mission aren't just words on a wall decal! 

Start the interview on time,  stick to the schedule, and stay present. This sounds obvious, but candidates are often left waiting and wondering what's going on behind the scenes, and tardiness, or distracted interviewers show candidates that they're not a priority. 

5. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Do. Not. Ghost. Candidates. 

ghosting isn't friendly. don't be like casper, don't ghost candidates.

ghosting isn't friendly. don't be like casper, don't ghost candidates.

Send a follow-up email to your candidates to thank them for their time and effort, and inform them, or remind them of the next steps in the interview process. 

Do not "ghost" candidates. "Ghosting" is a phenomenon common in the Millennial dating scene, whereby one party just ceases communication and disappears, never to respond again - like a ghost.  

Ghosting your candidates is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. It disrespects your candidate's time and efforts, leaves them feeling unacknowledged and de-valued, doesn't demonstrate gratitude or empathy, and casts shade on your company culture. In short, it negatively impacts your reputation as an employer, and your overall brand. 

If candidates haven't made it to the next round of interviews, let them know. A short, personal email is best, but if you have a large number of candidates a unique email template that reflects your culture and values is acceptable.

For the lucky candidates selected to join your team, demonstrate your company culture with fun, celebratory welcome emails or calls. Consider sending a video featuring a welcome greeting from the team, a photo, a welcome kit with swag, or another unique communication that welcomes your team members and begins to align them with your company culture from before Day One! 


Want a free assessment of your current candidate experience design, with recommendations and ideas you can implement immediately? Schedule a free 25-minute consultation call with one of our company culture consultants here.