Start generating actionable candidate feedback with these 6 tips

How to collect valuable candidate feedback in the right way

In this article, we will go over the 5 things you need to take into consideration before you start generating candidate feedback. As mentioned in 6 steps to design a best-in-class Candidate Experience Strategy for some reason we still design and “improve” our hiring process purely based on decisions from a business point of view. We focus on metrics like “time-to-hire” and “cost-per-hire” in combination with common knowledge of what makes an effective process. At the same time, we are becoming more aware that Candidate Experience is something we need to start taking seriously.  Especially given the tight candidate market and the ever-increasing number of open positions that senior candidates can choose from. Yes, even during this pandemic the stronger candidates out there can still pick and choose. When you think about it, improving Candidate Experience means: making changes to our hiring process that give Candidates a better Experience.

So who is in the best position to decide what makes a good, or bad experience? That´s right, our candidates!

What we believe is best for a candidate simply does not matter, when the candidate thinks differently. For example, the fact that we believe that a super-fast recruitment process is always better for our candidates sounds like common knowledge, but it is still an assumption rather than a fact. Let me give an example:
I have been working for several years with a global Online Travel company who we helped with placing Java Engineers. As they wanted to diversify their teams we were sourcing candidates in other countries that were then relocated to Barcelona when they were hired. In the beginning al was going well and we had several candidates to offer stage fairly quickly. However unfortunately we experienced an almost abnormal high offer-rejection rate. Our first assumption was that the financial offers were simply too low.  The recruitment process that was in place was super fast, especially for Software Engineering positions (from candidate submission to offer stage in 1,5 weeks), so that could not have been the issue you would say. When we first asked candidates the reason for these offer rejections  we got a wide range of different answers, so unfortunately no real trends that we could put our finger on. Only when we started to dig a deeper into “why” these candidates decided to reject the offer we found out that the process itself was actually too fast.  Candidates, who needed to relocate, simply were not mentally ready yet to take such a big decision within 1,5 week (and when you are not ready to take an important decision it is a lot easier to say no, than to say yes). As a solution we intentionally delayed the process by adding 1 extra interview round (which goes against most so called “recruitment best practises”). But guess what… straight away we saw a significant increase of offers accepted.
Moral of this (true) story: We can´t just take a “best practise” (a super-fast recruitment process in this case) and assume that this is what candidates want. We have to ask for their personal feedback to find out what they perceive to be a positive- or negative experience. The fact that there was so much focus on improving the time-to-hire (business) metric it basically backfired and caused a very low offer-acceptance rate. So the change that we implemented in our process, based on the actionable candidate feedback we generated, did not only improve the Candidate Experience….it also improved a key recruitment metric. This is a great example of how both go hand in hand.

Improving Candidate Experience will also improve your key Recruitment Metrics

Some of the most successful companies out there are using candidate feedback as an important part of their hiring strategy. And it is starting to make sense right? Great!  Now we know that Candidate Feedback can (and should be) used to (re)design our hiring process. So how are we going to get this candidate feedback? To get most feedback out of our candidates we should have an extensive feedback session with every candidate that we had in our process. This works well when you only speak with very few candidates a week. At a larger scale, this becomes complicated, if not impossible. So we need to look at parts that we could automate. The easiest way is by creating a Candidate Feedback Survey that we will send to all candidates we had in the process. That is right.. ALL candidates. It might be tempting to only send the survey to candidates that we hired because they are most likely to give us positive feedback. Admittedly, positive feedback is great for the moral and to show your managers.  Although there is also valuable stuff to take from this, we will learn most from the feedback that was not 100% positive.
Keep negative feedback in a controlled environment
Besides uncovering improvements that you can implement to improve the Candidate Experience, asking candidates for their feedback also prevents negative comments from going public. People post negative reviews often because it is the only way to ventilate their frustration on something. Mostly they don´t have the intention to hurt your (employer) brand actively, but because of their negative review on Glassdoor, they still do. When we give our candidates the possibility to “complain” to us directly it will prevent many of them to do it in public. And when you think about it, offering candidates the opportunity to share their frustration (or positive feedback) with us directly is an improvement of the Candidate Experience in itself. It shows that we care and value their personal opinion. Especially when you can tell them (and ideally show them) that we will actually do something with their feedback.  

The Candidate Feedback Survey (6 tips)

Creating a survey might seem pretty straightforward: “We just create a google doc, survey monkey or Typeform and ask our candidates for their opinion on our hiring process”. But in reality, it has a lot more to it than we initially might think. Asking for feedback is one thing, but asking for the RIGHT feedback in the RIGHT way is a whole other ballgame. There are several things we need to take into consideration when crafting a Candidate Survey. These are our 6 tips:

1) Make sure to ask questions that generate actionable insights.

Asking general questions will generate general answers. If we want to actually get actionable insights that we can use to implement improvements into our process we need to find out what causes most frustration for our candidates. As described in “One Talent Acquisition metric to rule them all” we strongly advice to focus on one improvement at a time, rather than forcing many changes in your organisation all at once. We, therefore, need to make sure that we focus on the improvement that has the most positive impact on the Candidate Experience. To uncover this “impactful” improvement we need to ask for it in a specific way.

2) What type of questions to ask (format)

Often we see that surveys are created with questions based on the “Likert scale”: A statement is thrown in front of our candidates and we ask them to rate this statement by choosing one of the following options: Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither agree nor disagree, Agree Strongly agree or to value this statement with a score between 0 – 7. Now in some cases, this could generate very valuable feedback, however when it comes to generating actionable Candidate Feedback, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages:
  • When using the Likert Scale we will not be able to confirm whether a score on a statement (either positive or negative) actually really matters to our candidates and therefore if implementing a change based on this feedback actually has a solid impact on our Candidate Experience.
  • Survey results may suffer from “order bias,” where respondents rank the first set of items more positively than later ones. This may also be a problem if you ask respondents to rank too many items at once, because they may lose focus.
  • Participants often choose the midpoint of a Likert scale to avoid actually answering the question. They choose the middle because it is the easiest choice.
We, therefore, suggest you to use a mix of multiple-choice questions to uncover what had the most impact on the experience of the candidate and an open question that asks them to write their feedback in their own words.
Multiple-choice vs Open questions
One of the advantages of using multiple-choice questions is that we can analyse and measure the feedback much easier as we don’t have to browse through large chunks of text to spot trends. Especially when hiring on a larger scale this is important. When using multiple choice answers we recommend to always add “other”  as an option for Candidates to choose from. This will take a big part of bias out of the question. On the other hand, the advantage of an open question is the fact that you can uncover candidate frustrations that you would have never thought of.

3) How many questions to ask in a Candidate Survey?

The more we ask the more we uncover. Sure, but when we end up asking too many questions the likelihood of candidate actually filling out our survey is going down which will result in lower response rates. It will always be a balancing act between the number of questions and the height of response rates.  

4) How often to send a survey to our Candidates?

A common practice is sending a different survey to our candidates after every step in the process. The first survey is sent after the candidate applied online: asking how smooth the application form was. The second survey is sent after the initial talk with our recruiter: asking if all steps in the process are explained clearly enough. The third survey is sent after the first interview etc. In some cases, companies sent 5 – 6 surveys to the same candidate in one recruitment process. The objective behind this is to generate as much feedback as possible. Although this makes sense we are running the risk that our candidates are overloaded with feedback requests. This can cause a massive drop in response rates. You will learn lots from the first survey but after that response rates will go down. In worse case candidates will perceive it as spam which will cause a bad candidate experience. In order to get most out of a single survey, we need to make it “dynamic”, see step 5:

5) How to get the most value out of only 1 Survey?

To start with by personalizing our questions. As mentioned in step 3 we need to limit the number of questions in order to get better response rates. To do so we recommend to only focus on the main pain point that caused a negative experience.  When a candidate has told you what that was, we should follow up with one more question to dig deeper into that pain point (to find out what we could do to improve this). We can only do so if our survey is “dynamic”, which means the follow question changes depending on the answer to the previous question. Making your survey dynamic has a very positive impact on the response rates and on the candidate experience itself. However, we could take this one step further by making our survey “intelligent”: In principle we can divide the Candidates who will fill out the Survey in 2 groups:
  • Candidates who had a positive experience in our process
  • Candidates who did not have a positive experience in our process
We can get most out of both “types” of candidates by asking them different kinds of questions. At We Like Talent we take both “type” of Candidates through separate paths of questioning:
  • Candidates who did not have a fully positive experience in our hiring process we lead through a short path of questions to uncover what we need to improve (actionable insights rather than general impressions).
  • Candidates who had a great experience in our process we will not “bore” too much with trying to figure out in lots of detail what we could still improve even more. With candidates who had a great experience, we are in an excellent position to ask for some “favours”.
The intelligent Candidate Survey we use at We Like Talent will automatically ask really positive Candidates for a referral and a short public interview review on Glassdoor.  

Separate question paths in the We Like Talent candidate survey

  Another positive side effect of making your survey “dynamic”, by personalizing the type of questions depending on how candidates felt about our process, is that it gives candidates even more so the feeling that you are listening to them. This in itself is a Candidate Experience improvement 🙂

6)  Add a question that will generate your Candidate Net Promoter Score

To calculate a Net Promoter Score, candidates are asked how likely they are to recommend friends or colleagues to apply for a position at our company on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Candidates that give a rating of 9 or 10 are considered employer brand “promoters.”
  • Rates between 1 or 6 are considered “detractors.”
  • Candidates that give a rating of  7 or 8 are considered “passive.”
The Candidate Net Promoter Score itself is a number between -100 to 100 and is calculated as the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors. If there are only detractors the cNPS -100. If there are only promoters the cNPS is 100. This metric will give an overview of the general feeling Candidates have about your hiring process. It will even be more powerful if you can measure the Candidate Net Promoter Score per department. We will get back to that later when we go into how to collect and display the feedback we generate.