4 Reasons Why a Negative Candidate Experience Can Ruin Your Employer Brand

4 Reasons Why a Negative Candidate Experience Can Ruin Your Employer Brand

I’ve been ‘playing’ in the recruitment game for nearly 25 years. In that time, I’ve trained literally thousands of recruitment consultants. At some point in their induction I would always ask, “So who do you think is more important? The client or the candidate?

After an awkward silence, unfortunately there is always a clear majority voting for the client.


Somebody usually pipes up and confidently says, “Obviously because they’re the ones paying the bill!

Case closed.

What? Not so fast!

But without a candidate, you’ll never make a placement. And without a placement there will never even be a fee up on the board or a bill to pay!” I would then typically say before looking around at a room full of confused expressions.

The problem is that often this ‘rookie’ misconception doesn’t go away and in the minds of too many (even experienced) recruiters the candidate always comes in second place. Hence the ‘used care salesman’ reputation that many recruiters have out there in the candidate community.

This post certainly isn’t about the relationship that recruitment consultants have with their candidates. It’s focusing more on the experience that candidates have when dealing with internal talent acquisition teams and employers looking to recruit directly, and the impact that a negative candidate experience can actually have on their business and employer brand.

I hope it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone reading this blog post that the candidate experience is an integral part of the recruitment process that can impact how effectively an organisation is able to attract, select, and retain quality candidates.

I have personally been banging the drum about candidate care for over 2 decades, and here are my 4 reasons why a negative candidate experience can ruin your employer brand.

  1. Unclear application instructions

Unclear application instructions are the primary cause of a bad candidate experience, as indicated by the majority of job seekers around the world. Extremely long application forms are another common cause of a negative candidate experience. Some of the other triggers for a negative candidate experience include: minimal job description; missing salary information; or the inability to make contact with the hiring manager or at least a real person in the talent acquisition team.

This is pretty scary stuff. If you can’t provide a candidate with a detailed job description, then they will simply assume the position doesn’t exist and they will immediately lose interest, and you will lose credibility as an organisation.

Without sufficient salary information (even an indicative salary range), candidates may spend time putting together a detailed application only to be let down (and becoming pretty p*ssed off) when they eventually learn how vastly different (in either direction) the salary actually is.

All that effort for nothing …

And as for not being able to reach out to someone in the organisation personally, this can be extremely off-putting … especially for senior level roles when candidates will have questions and more often than not will want to discuss the opportunity before applying. It makes sense not to get your candidates off side before they even submit their application.

A few months ago I attended a talent acquisition conference in London. One interesting statistic that I immediately jotted down was that 80% of candidates surveyed as part of a recent study who accepted a new job offer had received a response to their initial application within 48 hours.

Sure I appreciate that this figure is based on research conducted in the UK, but I’m pretty confident there would be a similar result if a survey was conducted in the USA, Australia, or across APAC or EMEA.

How quickly are you responding to candidate applications? Do you even have this metric on your radar?

  1. Lack of communication during the recruitment process

Job seekers everywhere say that more communication during the hiring process would definitely improve their candidate experience and their perception of a potential future employer.

The primary thing job seekers express would improve their candidate experience is a clear timeline of the actual hiring process. When recruiting talent for any organisation, communication has always been (and will always be) key.

As a hiring manager or internal recruiter, it is your responsibility to make the candidate feel important and wanted.

If the candidate is kept in the dark, or only receives automated / electronic messages with no human contact whatsoever during the application process, what do you think they will start to believe happens inside the actual organisation? Are people kept in the dark? Are there no personal communication channels?

The best candidates will self-eject and look for another opportunity elsewhere.

  1. The impact of negative feedback shared on social media

Way back in the ‘90’s, when recruiters (either external consultants or internal talent acquisition teams) couldn’t create automated email sequences to respond to candidates and actually had to pick up the phone and speak to every single one of them, we were able to quickly gauge how a candidate was feeling … and respond accordingly.

Fortunately there were no social media platforms for ‘irate’ candidates to share their frustrations and blacklist your organisation with everyone they knew. I know it’s hard to imagine a time without Facebook, Twitter, or Glassdoor!

Today, in 280 characters and a push of a button, if you’ve created a negative candidate experience, the world will know about it straight away and your employer brand could be tarnished with no turning back. So you might want to implement more quality checks and protocol around the candidate experience.

Candidates aren’t mind readers. They genuinely want to be given as much information as possible before applying. And while some candidates may consider ‘no news to be good news’, others may consider ‘no news’ to mean they’ve been rejected. You don’t want them making the wrong assumption.

  1. Candidates self-ejecting and feeling disrespected

How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of some of your company’s automated email responses? Worse still, how would you feel if you just never heard anything after submitting your application to a company you had your heart set on working for?

Have you gone through your own application process first hand recently? I don’t just mean thinking about how the process works, but actually really going through it.

Go on – create a dummy résume and submit it through your careers page portal and see what happens. Is the résume submission process even intuitive? Can you apply via a mobile device? Could you submit an application while sitting on the bus or on a park bench during your lunch break? How many clicks are involved? Are you asked to spend 30 – 45 minutes responding to a series of pointless questions before you even upload your resume?

What’s going through your head while you do this? Perhaps you’re thinking, “this is 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back“!

What about when you receive that automated response from no-reply@[your company].com that may as well say, “Thanks for taking 30 minutes to submit your application. You’ll probably never hear from us again!

Now think for a moment about how many candidates are actually self-ejecting from the process at this point during their application. What if the best talent aren’t even completing their application, choosing instead to abandon because it’s simply all too hard?

Trust me … a candidate is never going to accuse you of over communicating.

Another UK-based survey that I heard about at the London conference revealed that 60% of job seekers have quit (self-ejected from) their application because the process was too complex.

Once again I don’t believe this ‘candidate resentment’ statistic would be limited to the UK. Far too many candidates are starting to feel disrespected during the recruitment process. Whether you’re a business owner, hiring manager, or internal recruiter, it’s up to you to ensure that you treat your future potential employees with the respect they so rightly deserve.

There are literally thousands of articles available for candidates on how to leave a lasting first impression throughout the recruitment process. Everything from how to craft an engaging cover letter; to how to make a resumé stand out; and even to what not to wear to a job interview. I even wrote an entire book on the subject a few years ago!

With the war for top quality talent raging pretty fiercely right now, it’s also critical for in-house recruiters to leave a positive first impression on their candidates – that is, of course, if they want their candidates to remain loyal and to not run straight into the arms of their competitors.


Paul Slezak  Co-founder – RecruitLoop

Paul Slezak is a co-founder of RecruitLoop – a global marketplace of expert sourcers and recruiters available on-demand. With nearly 25 years in the recruitment industry and having worked for both an international publicly listed group as well as a global niche recruitment business, Paul has been a hands-on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry and HR Tech space across Australia, the USA, Asia, and Europe.




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