First impressions matter: The crucial role of candidate experience

Candidate experience on a tablet
Tom Stroud
Reading time:
May 24, 2023

We all know that competition for candidates, especially in early careers, remains challenging for virtually all employers. In 2023, candidate expectations are higher than ever, so you have to go above and beyond to attract and engage the brightest and the best. 

In the face of this struggle, the importance of the candidate experience has grown exponentially. In this article, we will explore all aspects of candidate experience and share our top tips for creating a recruitment and assessment process that lifts you above your competition. 

Understanding the candidate experience

Let's start with what candidate experience actually is. The term candidate experience refers to a job applicant's overall perception and emotional response about an organisation throughout the recruitment and assessment process. It encompasses every interaction and communication from the moment a candidate first engages with an employer, through the application process, assessments, tests and interviews they are asked to complete, to the final hiring decision. 

Each candidate's experience is personal to them. How they feel about you as an employer, positive or negative, will be affected by everything from your job advertisement, the application process, response times, the assessment process, communication style and frequency, level and relevance of feedback provided, and even the presentation of the job offer. 

As a result, ensuring as many candidates as possible have a positive experience of your recruitment process requires a forensic analysis of every element. Simply rewriting your job ads to be more inclusive or rebranding your careers website will only go so far. 

Implications of candidate experience on early careers recruitment

Early career candidates are generally school leavers, recent graduates or those with limited work experience. These individuals, typically millennials and Gen Z, have grown up in the age of the internet and smartphones. They're used to instant communication, user-friendly apps, and intuitive user experiences. They expect a similar level of sophistication from their job applications.

By providing a positive candidate journey, employers can make a lasting impression. This leads to numerous benefits, such as:

  • Brand Reputation: A positive experience, even for unsuccessful candidates, enhances your brand image, fostering good word-of-mouth recommendations. Conversely, a negative experience can spread quickly on social media platforms, tarnishing your brand's reputation.
  • Increased Offer Acceptance: Candidates who experience a positive recruitment process are more likely to accept job offers. In a competitive job market, this is vital.
  • Future Opportunities: These early career candidates may eventually become lateral hires or even your future leaders. By providing a positive experience, you can encourage them to reapply in the future, even if they weren't successful the first time around.
  • Employee Engagement and Retention: Having an inclusive and honest recruitment process is a reflection of your company's culture. It sets the appropriate expectations for job seekers, which can result in higher employee engagement and retention rates.
Candidate journey on a mobile phone

What are candidates looking for?

Before you can improve the candidate journey of your recruitment and assessment process, you need to understand what candidates are looking for and what they expect from a potential employer. Below are the most important things candidates look for from an employer:

  • Open and honest information about the role and the employer:  Initially, candidates may know little or nothing about the role or you as an employer. They want to be given enough information about the job and organisation to decide whether or not they are a good fit. The information provided must accurately reflect the reality of the role and what it's like to work for the company.
  • A relevant assessment process: Candidates are happier to complete assessments, tests and interviews that they believe are relevant to the role they are applying for. If you want to assess verbal or numerical reasoning aptitude, explain why this skill is essential to perform well in the role. 
  • Fairness and opportunity: Candidates want to feel that the recruitment and assessment process is fair and inclusive. They also want to have the chance to adequately demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities during the process. 
  • Personalised feedback: Candidates increasingly value receiving feedback on their performance during an assessment that aligns with the employer's expectations. They appreciate being informed of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as receiving guidance on how to improve. 
  • Timely communication: Unbelievably, this remains one of the most common complaints from candidates. Timely communication during the recruitment and assessment process is vital to keeping candidates engaged. With modern automated recruitment and HR systems, it is so easy to set up and deliver instant feedback and messages that there really is no excuse.

Building a better candidate journey

Improving the candidate experience for early careers recruitment and assessment campaigns is no longer a herculean task. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Streamline your application process: Reduce the complexity and length of your application process. The process should be intuitive, simple, and mobile-friendly. Aim to keep candidates informed and engaged at every step.
  • Leverage technology: Using AI and automated tools can make the process faster and more efficient, enabling you to provide timely responses and feedback. Tools like chatbots can also answer common queries, providing real-time engagement.
  • Maintain transparency: Be clear about what the role involves, the recruitment process, and timeframes. A lack of transparency can lead to miscommunication and disgruntled candidates.
  • Provide feedback: Always offer feedback, regardless of the outcome. This will significantly improve candidates' experience and show them you value their time and effort.
  • Establish personal connections: Although high-volume recruitment involves processing numerous applications, using technology to reduce workload will allow your recruiters to maintain a human touch with the best candidates. Personalised messages and calls will make a candidate feel valued.


The candidate experience can shape the perception of your brand and influence the success of your talent acquisition strategy. In high volume and early careers recruitment, providing a positive candidate experience is essential to attract and retain top-tier talent.

Remember that the person you are interviewing today could also be a current or future customer and potentially your next employee. By putting effort into creating a positive candidate experience, you will attract the best talent and promote your company's values and create loyal advocates for your brand, leading to sustained success for your organisation.

If you would like to learn more about how Tazio can help you transform the candidate journey of your recruitment and assessment process, contact one of our friendly team today.

Tom Stroud

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