Candidate Experience: 7 Ways to Surprise and Delight Candidates

In a competitive hiring market, candidate experience is not only a critical differentiator, it’s also the key to higher offer acceptance rates. To provide a truly positive candidate experience, companies must consider how each phase of the hiring process can improve with practices outside of the (often mediocre) norm.

Here are a few tactics we have found to make a big difference:

Make hiring a priority

A successful candidate experience begins with making hiring a priority for the entire team. Current employees must know that they are expected to prioritize hiring – even if they have other meetings to attend and a pile of work waiting for them.

Nothing says “we don’t really care about this position” more than a hiring manager who hasn’t bothered to look at a resume before walking into an interview or who asks the candidate what position they are interviewing for.

It should also go without saying that distractions on your phone or computer should be avoided during an interview, so you don’t send the message to your candidate that you have better things to do.

Constant communication

One of the biggest complaints from candidates is a lack of communication from the recruiting team. Be clear and concise with each candidate about your recruitment process, expected timeline, and what you’ll require from the candidate during each step. Recruiting software can help automate some of the communication and processes. Always make sure to meet your own deadlines as well. For instance, if you tell a candidate that you’ll have an answer by the end of the week, send them an email on Friday morning with an update – regardless of whether you have an answer or not.

Some standard candidate interactions, such as confirming interview times, can be automated by your applicant tracking system. This, in turn, will take the burden off your recruiting team and free them up for a higher-touch interview process.

Personalize each interaction

Regardless of how many candidates are sourced for a given position, it’s crucial that you personalize each individual candidate communication. This increases the chance the candidate will respond quickly and makes them feel valued.

Whenever possible, keep short notes on what the candidate has shared about their work experience or personal life. Did they have to reschedule an interview due to a sick child? Asking how their child is feeling during your next interaction can go a long way in making a candidate feel appreciated and welcomed at your organization.

Ask compelling questions

Eighty three percent of talent said a negative interview experience could change their mind about a role or company they once liked.

There is nothing more disconcerting to a candidate than being asked the same questions throughout the interview process. It generally shows a lack of coordination and care on the company’s behalf.

Surprise and delight candidates by compiling a list of unique questions, and dividing them up amongst the interview team – ensuring no two interactions are the same. This will lead to a much more positive candidate experience.

Give them an inside view of your culture

Fifty two percent of Millennials and 57 percent of Generation Z workers say a positive workplace culture is very important.

As such, it’s important to creatively showcase your culture. Culture can be demonstrated on external platforms like LinkedIn, with articles written by employees, and YouTube, with videos showing company outings. Culture can also be documented through things like culture codes and mission statements.

One easy way to demonstrate the “feel” of your company is to create a culture book for a candidate to browse through between interviews. This book can include employee pictures, highlights of events, and employee spotlights.

Focus on benefits that candidates care about most

Unexpected and generous employee benefits are an excellent way to surprise candidates.

Fifty percent of Millennials and 44 percent of Generation Z workers say flexibility is very important when choosing to work for an organization. By offering candidates alternate work hours, or the opportunity to work from home, companies can increase their attractiveness to the next generation of workers.

Another non-traditional benefit desired by candidates is college debt assistance. Over 80 percent of people with college debt said they would like to work for a company that offers student loan repayment plans.

Other benefits that will delight candidates include unlimited paid time off, parental leave benefits for mothers and fathers — including adoptive parents, the ability to work remotely, and ongoing opportunities for professional development. If you offer these types of benefits, be sure to promote them during your recruitment process.

Be proactive about getting and giving feedback

Regardless of whether you hire a specific candidate, always ask for feedback about your hiring process. Candidates are often reluctant to speak up about something negative during the hiring process when they are still actively interviewing because they don’t want to jeopardize their chances. Once the process is over, however, they are more likely to share honest feedback about each stage and interviewer. In return, you may also offer feedback to candidates about why they weren’t selected for the job.


Offering candidates a truly positive candidate experience requires an attention to detail and an investment in the interview process. While it does require some effort and constant tweaking, it will be well worth it when you’re able to close more of your top-choice candidates. You should even see a boost to your employer brand in the process, helping you attract, engage, and close even more candidates. At a time when too few organizations are focused on the candidate experience, yours can truly stand out.

For more ideas to surprise and delight your candidates, download our ebook How to Build a World-Class Candidate Experience.