Jobseekers: Understanding the Candidate Experience

What Does The Candidate Experience Actually Mean?

There has been a significant amount talk about the candidate experience for the last several years among those responsible for hiring or those who are part of the hiring process. It is an ongoing discussion that never seems to yield a very good answer but always stirs up a bit of a response and then fades quickly to black.

In an effort to shed some light on this topic, I'd like to identify a few key players/words/phrases used in the hiring process.

Jobseeker: Someone who needs a job and therefore, looks for a job. May also be someone who is currently underemployed and wants to better their work situation. May also be someone who have no idea that their next better job is out there. So, I guess the true definition is that we are all jobseekers -- at some point or at some level.

Candidate: Someone who has identified a job they are interested in and begins the process of applying for that job, submitting a resume, and is then at the mercy of the hiring manager or recruiter. There are those who think that as soon as you apply, you are a candidate. Some think that when the hiring manager or recruiter responds to your application, then you are a candidate. And still, there are others who believe that you do not become a candidate until you begin the interview process, by phone or in person. About as clear as mud, right?

Hiring Manager: Not every hiring manager is a recruiter and not every recruiter is a hiring manager. Some companies use these titles interchangeably. Some companies or HR departments outsource the recruiting process, meaning they contract with a third-party who then filters the applications and resumes, identifies lead applicants/candidates, interviews, filters some more, selects "best" candidates to be presented as a field of candidates to the Hiring Manager for another series of interviews or final interview with the hopefully happy result of an accepted job offer. Some companies manage the whole recruiting process in-house, as part of the HR Department or Talent Acquisition/Talent Management. The hiring manager is the decision maker who works for the hiring company to fill job openings.

Recruiter: A recruiter uses tools, honed skills, intellect, and gained wisdom to identify and source jobseekers, passive or active, to fill openings for hiring managers who work for hiring companies. Recruiters may work in-house for a company or they may work for an agency or firm who specializes in identifying, filtering, and presenting candidates.

Talent: Looking or already hired/employed, talent defines individuals who are skilled, experienced, and have the knowledge base to fulfill an open or already acquired role within a company.

Talent Acquisition: The recruiting or "acquiring" of talent to fill job openings.

Talent Management: The managing of "talent" or employees within an organization or company. This may be Human Resources, Corporate Services, People Management, Employee Relations, or in yesteryear, Personnel.


The Candidate Experience

The candidate experience is what a jobseeker/applicant/candidate goes through during a hiring process. Did the recruiter or hiring manager follow up to the submitted resume? Did the automated response system send an email or message declaring that the resume was received and the applicant will be notified? Was the candidate ever notified? Were they notified as to when they could expect follow up? Were they notified why they weren't going to get an interview? Were they notified when the position was filled by another candidate? How did the candidate "feel" about the process? Did the applicant/candidate have to hound the recruiter or hiring manager for communication or contact of any kind? Was there follow-up and follow-through?

The answers to each of these questions speaks to the candidate experience. How good and how bad. I, myself, have had few great experiences as a candidate. Most have been horrible with resumes and applications disappearing into a seemingly black hole in cyber space, never to be heard of or seen again.

I think there might, just might, be hope on the horizon. The job search industry is interested in this and they talk/write quite a bit about the black hole and how or if they can close it. Recruiting software and technology may be able to help. Recruiters and hiring managers most certainly can.


What have YOUR experiences been? How do you think the process can be improved? Maybe you are even doing something to improve it.

The Jobseeker is Responsible, too

I do know that YOU, as a jobseeker, bear some responsibility for your own candidate experience. Follow up when asked to. If the job opportunity is important to you, re-arrange your schedule to be available. Be ethical. Don't lie on your resume or professional profile. And, most important of all, don't apply to a job if you are not qualified for that job.