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The labor market remains tight, and companies need to pay close attention to how they treat qualified job applicants. “The candidate experience is absolutely vital for the company to get the best engagement with the top candidates,” says Joanna Riley, the CEO of Censia, a talent acquisition firm. Human resource professionals and other talent experts say businesses need to begin by making the job description a sales pitch, including information on whether new hires can grow within the company or travel for work. “Putting the benefits of that specific role upfront is more valuable than listing the criteria,” says Riley. The company’s job description should be unique to the company and reflect a certain type of candidate who would thrive in the open role. Make sure to outline the company’s culture and its policies on inclusion and diversity, Riley adds. If the hiring process is long, managers should keep in contact with candidates, such as sending updates every 48 hours to those making it to the phone-screen or onsite interview stages of the process. Using automated email responses to candidates who submit applications or inquire about their status in the process is another important tool, says Juliana Barela, vice president and general manager of recruitment process outsourcing at consulting firm Korn Ferry. Automated responses acknowledge the candidate, verify that application materials were received, and look as if they were sent by a human, she adds. Finally, always take the step of formally rejecting candidates you do not plan on hiring and telling them why they weren’t the right fit, says Paul Wolfe, the head of human resources at the employment search engine Indeed. Companies that articulate this message and avoid so-called ghosting increase their chances of getting referrals or hearing from the candidate for other positions in the future, he adds.

During interviews, make sure that job candidates are aware of how the process works, what kinds of questions will be asked, who they will meet with and where they fit in the corporate structure. By outlining those details, companies are putting candidates in a better position to ask thoughtful and informed questions, Wolfe says. Employers also should schedule interviews around the candidate’s schedule and ask which communication method they prefer, whether that’s arranging logistics via text, email or phone calls. Finally, the best way to learn how your company can improve its candidate experience is to ask. Set up a survey and send it to candidates who reach various points in the application and interview process, not just the ones who get the job, Barela says. That way, the business is collecting data on every aspect of the candidates’ experiences.

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