How to look after your candidates and protect your employer brand

The question of how to recruit top talent and manage the candidate experience is pertinent whatever the recruitment market: hot or cold!

If you’re an employer you should always be looking after your candidates.

Look at your process through a candidate’s eyes. Does it impress? Welcome? Delight and inspire? Treat people as human beings?

Let’s take a closer look at the candidate experience and what you should be doing.

Actively manage the candidate process

Many firms have an established recruitment process. However it rarely puts the candidate at its heart: candidates require attention, particularly when your firm is very busy! Keep them informed of progress on their application and update them regularly.

We are continually receiving feedback about candidates frustrated by “ghosting” or very slow feedback and lack of communications.

If you want to maximise your employer brand don’t leave them hanging and don’t use agencies who do. People have long memories and will remember how they were treated and tell their friends! Or worse, the whole internet and there are many opportunities to do so.

If for any reason you need to put some areas of recruitment on “pause” our advice is to slow down recruitment processes, lengthen time scales, and be transparent about doing so. Make sure candidates know you are still interested.

Don’t knee jerk freeze recruitment. It sends an awful message to the job market.

Enabling your bolder and more flexible competitors to handpick the best candidates.

Contrary to popular belief it’s not an on/off tap. It can take months to restock a pipeline of good candidates.

Good impressions count

All employers, large or small, have to leave candidates with a good impression. Not just because it’s professional and ethical behaviour, but because people talk. Sometimes privately in their network (and if they are of interest to you then their network could be too) but increasingly, publicly. Glassdoor is a great example but there are other sites and routes for disgruntled people to shout loudly.

Also of course the candidate experience is a big influence on whether a candidate is interested in a potential employer and offer, or whether they go elsewhere, or stay put. They may view delays and lack of communication as a reflection on how they will be treated as an employee, should they secure and accept a job offer. Or an indication of the priority the firm attaches to people and talent management.

Some hiring managers might shrug their shoulders and consider a bit of collateral damage inevitable: there are urgent client priorities. Reflecting the conundrum: “we need to hire because we’re busy but can’t find time to recruit because we’re busy”.

However apart from the obvious, which is that a poor recruitment experience (often associated with a poor process) can never attract the best candidates, this is to overlook the sustained and long-term damage that can be done by not treating applicants well. Candidates often find searching for a job frustrating and enraging as shown by many surveys.

This can apply to all consultancy firms but smaller businesses without the big Brand Name to rely on to attract candidates are particularly vulnerable.

The good news is that this also provides a great opportunity to differentiate by providing a great experience. Even better it doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming or expensive!

Here are Prism’s top tips to improve candidate experience:

1. The application process

As mentioned, review this through an applicant’s eyes. Make it easy for candidates to apply and state clearly what skills, experience and qualifications you require. If possible, include salary information. Ensure all applicants are acknowledged: an auto-reply is fine.

2. Prioritise recruitment

Engineer an effective, structured and efficient process that is clear to staff and communicated to candidates. Create a culture and even a reward system that prioritises recruitment. Ensure interviewers are trained.

3. Communication

Communicate with candidates early and often. This means a rapid response to their application (see 2: you need to agree a turnaround time for CVs and stick to it).

4. Speed

A swift process: interviewers should be allowed to find time from client work that enables them to meet candidates in a timely and convenient manner. This includes agency candidates: because these applicants are one step removed and less easy to directly influence, a great process is more important. Candidates don’t want or expect next day interviews but a screening call or 1st interview within a week or two of their application would both impress and differentiate, as would follow up meetings in a similar time frame.

5. News

Revert to all candidates and every application. Provide negative and positive news equally quickly and manage expectations correctly. Don’t say “we’ll get back by the end of the week” and fail to do so. No one likes rejection but being kept dangling is worse. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth and is disrespectful. This applies at all stages of the process: “if you haven’t heard from us within two weeks of your application please assume you were unsuccessful” is poor but common practice. Delays post-interview are also common and have a detrimental effect on candidate experience and their regard for your firm.

6. Feedback

You may not want to give full feedback, especially when it might involve personal and potentially hurtful commentary. However doing nothing is rarely warmly received by candidates. The key points is decide on a feedback policy and stick to it.

7. The personal touch

It is easy for applicants to feel dehumanised so where possible try and go the extra mile. Personal emails rather than system generated. A call or text perhaps. A name, email address and even a phone number of someone in the firm for candidates to contact. At later stages, both before offer and especially afterwards, a peer level personal mentor or ‘buddy’ is a fantastic way of building candidate enthusiasm.

8. Walk through the process and ask for feedback

Finally, ensure you have been through the process and ask some members of staff to do so. Or ask recent hires, or even better rejected applicants, what they thought.

What to avoid:

“only those candidates selected to move forward will be contacted”.

This was on a job advertisement for a small company, in a Tier 2 location, seeking a niche skill set. Not likely to entice candidates.

Another example at the bottom of a recently posted advertisement:

“Thank you for your interest in this role. Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications we receive we cannot respond to all unsuccessful applicants”

These may be attempts to be helpful to applicants and manage expectations but will dissuade people from applying, even the candidates they wanted to hear from. No one likes to be “ghosted”. The application Black Hole is something all job seekers hate and an all too familiar situation to people looking for a job.

A better plan, especially for a less well known firm seeking to enhance response, might be “we reply to all applicants”!

It is very easy to set up a simple process that ensures a response to candidates: literally two or three clicks, whether that be some standard email signatures or a template in an Applicant Tracking System. It can do wonders for your response rates and your Employer Brand!

Gain the advantage with great candidate experience

Addressing some or all of these points is a golden opportunity for enlightened employers to take a lead over their competitors. This is particularly relevant for smaller firms which can demonstrate their more human scale and concern for the individual than would ever be possible for the behemoths!

If you would like to discuss any of the above please contact Chris Sale Managing Director, Prism Executive Recruitment at [email protected]. Find more information about our services on our Client Services page and details of Our Recruitment Solutions.


The first point is that it can take months to hire a great candidate. If you’re an employer you should be looking after your candidates and actively manage a candidate process which puts the applicant at its heart.
Look at your recruitment process through the eyes of a candidate. Make applying easy and the criteria for employment clear. Communicate with candidates early & often, respond quickly to applications. Ensure interviews are setup in good time & provide feedback.
Avoid dehumanising candidates during the recruitment process with phrases such as 'only selected candidates will be contacted' or 'we cannot respond to all unsuccessful applicants'. Demonstrate concern for the individual job seeker and always reply to applicants.

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