What applying to 100 jobs taught me about candidate experience
March 10, 2021
“Oops! Error 404. Try again later”. But, the deadline is tomorrow, I murmured annoyingly to myself. This was one of the responses I was rewarded with as I applied to the 57th job. In an attempt to get a better understanding of today’s candidate experience when applying for jobs, I digitally applied to 100 jobs in the service industry.
With this article, I will give you, as a recruiter, employer, or HR manager, a rundown of what I’ve concluded to be an inadequate experience and what you can do to make it better.
What is a “good candidate experience”?

As self-explanatory as it may be, to judge whether an experience is good or bad, you have to know what people consider to be good or bad. In this case, and for this market research alone, I jotted down particular factors that influence the perceived satisfaction of a candidate’s experience. Keep in mind that the “experience” runs through the whole hiring process, beginning with the job ad, moving on to interviews and assessments, ends with the grand finale; signing papers.

The reason for why you must put some effort into the experience you provide eager candidates, is that bad news travels fast. For example, 65% of all candidates lose interest in the job if they have a bad interview experience. Let’s say 15% of those people move on with their lives without thinking about it again, whereas 50% decide to talk negatively about the interview, and company, with the first friend they talk to afterward. Today, you have to be an attractive employer; otherwise, you risk not having the top-performing teams you yearn to have.

The deciding elements I based my candidate experience verdict on, as I applied for the jobs, were:


  • In the job description, did they mention what they expect from me as an employee?
  • After an initial interview, how long did it take before I heard back from them, and how elaborate were they in describing why I was still in the running for the job?
  • If I failed to reach the next step, did they tell me why I did?


  • When I sent my application, did I receive an email confirming they had received it?
  • Did they let me know after how long I could expect to get a response to my application?
  • If we booked a meeting, did they send me an email or text confirmation on time and place?
  • If I failed to reach the next step, how quickly did they reach out to tell me I did, and how did they do it?


  • Was there any way for me to contact them to ask questions about the job, such as; salary, working hours, etc.?
  • At any given time, was there any possibility for me to know where in the hiring process I was?
  • Did they give me a timeframe for when the hiring process would be over?

Even though these three elements are relatively similar, they hold different purposes. Communicating around something is to provide a broader perspective as to why something is as it is. Giving feedback in connection with an action is to avoid miscommunication. Being informative is to announce how, when, and what, in order to be able to communicate.

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The err’s I encountered and what you can learn from them

Make sure the tech you use is functioning properly

This article started off by telling you about the error message I received as I pressed ‘Enter’ and sent the application. I pity the recruiter on the other end, who sat there wondering why no applications came in. As a candidate, I was fuming. It took me about 10 minutes to fill in their digital application. Would I try again? Probably, if I was in dire need of a job, but at this point, I closed the tab and moved on.

On this topic, one time, I sent the application and got no confirmation message at all, not even a prompt on the website telling me it had been received. That recruiter contacted me a couple of days later, saying he wanted to talk to me. I politely declined and told him I didn’t know he had received my application. Hence I was not too keen on talking to him either.

In this day and age, people are used to constant feedback, and when it comes to applying for jobs, feedback is vital since people’s futures are at play. Suppose you don’t make sure to have feedback prompts, emails, phone numbers in place. In that case, you risk losing every candidate who is used to being communicated to online. Because what you’re signalling is that you’re not taking them seriously, so then

Use automated information tools

In one of the job descriptions, they had failed to announce the location of the job. I applied anyway in the hopes of receiving an email from someone who knew more. But, the confirmation email I received was from a “no-reply” address. I went on to the company’s website, searched for an email address, and found the info@blabla address. I wrote and asked if the job was remote or not, they replied two weeks later, saying, “Hi, we’ll forward you to the recruiting agency.” Allow me to sigh…

To inform someone is to ensure a sense of safety in them, and it’s the optimal way of managing expectations. Candidates usually have many questions regarding any job, and by not providing it at the right time, you risk losing them. You have a couple of options here;

1. As the candidate progresses through the hiring process, use an automated email provider that tracks each candidate’s step. Has the candidate sent an application? Great! Send an email telling them when they can expect to hear from you. As a rule of thumb, send an email after every action the candidates take and make sure it contains all the information necessary to feel safe and taken care of.

2. Invest in, and integrate, a way for candidates to find out more about the job and your company. For example an AI chatbot that can respond to questions about the job itself; salary, benefits, working conditions, working hours, location, flexible working hours, etc. These chatbots work 24/7 and are proven to create happier, more satisfied candidates.

Support and encourage continuous improvement

“Thank you for giving a great interview. This sounds very interesting. We’ll contact you to let you know if you’ll move onto the next step or not.” This is what the highly engaged interviewer told me as we hung up on the phone. One week went by, two weeks, three weeks. I didn’t hear a word from them. Eventually, I called them. The interviewer picked up, apologized, and told me they had decided to move forward with someone else. Aouch. It stung a bit, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I asked what I could’ve done differently, which he did not have an answer to. Instead, he said I did okay, but the other candidate was better. A so-called non-answer. I believe he didn’t even remember me.

There are two lessons to be learned from this experience, apart from holding promises. One being to inform the candidate, at all times, what is happening in the hiring process. How many are they still considering? When is the next interview? When is the deadline?

The other one is to be a good samaritan and help people out by helping them understand; what skills they could benefit from acquiring, if they could improve how they present themselves, or if they need to submit complementary information that could be crucial for the final hiring decision.

Communication is key for a satisfied candidate

A cliché albeit truthful headline. Because when it comes down to being the decision-maker of people’s working lives, you have a certain degree of responsibility in making sure needs are met. One of them is being communicated to when communication is needed. Pretend you’re a candidate for a while, take a look at your own hiring process and keep an eye out for communication voids. Fill those with the information you deem the candidate needs. If you want to be really serious about it (which you should), do proper research and test your process on people.

Implementation period
What applying to 100 jobs taught me about candidate experience
March 10, 2021
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