How to Hire – Part 8 – Candidate Experience

Keeping it slick and steady and amidst the chaos.

Read How to Hire – Part 7 – References

You’ve made it to the eighth and final instalment of my hiring guide – well done. I’ve covered each stage chronologically, but here are some general principles to follow throughout.

These five rules make for a positive candidate experience regardless of outcome.

1. Communicate regularly and transparently

Maybe you have two interviews, maybe you have six. Maybe the process is going to take a week, maybe it’ll take three months. Whatever the deal is, let the candidate know up front and reinforce it regularly. Human beings can get on board with anything except uncertainty.

If you aren’t communicating frequently, candidates may suspect that hiring isn’t your priority, or that you’re not that keen on them. The candidate market is competitive – keep as close to candidates as you would a prospective client.

I’ve seen countless emails from CEOs to candidates saying, “Sorry for the silence, it’s been crazy here.” I cringe every time.

Firstly, get yourself organised, you’re a CEO. The C stands for “Chief” which means you’re meant to be the very best in the field. If you can’t prioritise by now, then maybe you aren’t C-level yet.

Secondly, if hiring well isn’t on your list of priorities, a candidate should rightly worry whether your business will become successful. Good leaders focus on building great teams, a key ingredient in success. Yes, there will always be fires that need putting out, but hiring well prevents fires from starting in the first place.

2. Treat unsuccessful candidates well

They say you should judge your date by how they treat the waiter. Well I think you can judge a company by how it treats unsuccessful candidates.

I’ll admit I used to be one of those people who never got back to candidates whose CVs I’d culled – there were so many, it felt daunting. But then I got my act together, and not only did it lead to quite touching thank you emails, in some cases it’s led to candidate referrals and positive Glassdoor reviews.

It’s now my standard approach to screen candidates’ CVs within five days, and to always send a friendly, sensitive, on-brand email if they’re not successful.

3. Harness technology

Good news: there are tools that manage and automate as much of the hiring process as possible. You can set up an Application Tracking System (ATS) like Workable with email templates for literally every stage of the process. With one click a candidate will receive a perfectly crafted, engaging email that lets them know what’s what.

I typically set these systems up for companies and yes, it’ll take a few hours to do it right, but it then takes managers seconds to use and no time at all to keep candidates politely well-informed.

4. Make candidates your VIPs

Imagine for a moment that your top 10 most-desired prospects are visiting the office. What do you do? You probably ask the team to tidy up, you’d certainly think to book a meeting room, you’d definitely buy the nicer biscuits, and I’m very sure that if the client was sitting in the waiting area someone would introduce themselves with a smile, and try to make them comfortable.

And yet not the same experience is rare for candidates. Rooms are often not booked or prepared in advance, interviewers are late, candidates sit awkwardly while employees work away without acknowledging them …

True, a candidate isn’t going to hand you money, but attracting the right candidates will enable your company to make money.

Every employee in a fast-growth company needs to be trained in the importance of providing a positive candidate experience (read ‘The core skills you need in every employee’ to learn why and how). As CEO you’re the ultimate guardian of the company’s brand and culture, and it’s your job to champion the importance of this and make sure it happens.

5. Spread personal bias awareness

I once interviewed at a SaaS company for an interim operational role. They needed help getting from Series A to Series B. There was no interview process, only quick 30-minute “chats” with members of the senior team. I received feedback that one person thought I was very assertive, and preferred another candidate who came across a bit softer.

Ultimately, no one was discussing skills, or asking any questions related to skills. They weren’t trying to understand my personality either, they were simply assessing it based on what they did and didn’t like. You’ll know why this approach is disastrous if you’ve read ‘How to Hire – Part 5 – Cultural Interview.

From a diversity perspective, taking this route means you’ll only hire people who the majority of your senior team feel comfortable around. You’ll end up with the same kind of people who think the same way, and keep each other comfortable. But you don’t get to the top by being comfortable.

My point is, personal bias is what makes us human. We are all shaped by our upbringings and we all have preferences. Acknowledging and mitigating your biases isn’t easy, but training and process will get you there. If you don’t, you stand to cause offence, you risk litigation, and at the very least you hurt the company.

As with candidate experience, ownership for tackling personal bias sits with the CEO. A robust hiring process (conducted by trained hiring managers), combined with self-awareness training, will ensure you hire based on skills and values.


I realise these five principles all seem to be saying one thing: be good to people.

I do think that’s a pretty good rule to live by, but I’m also being a shrewd business person. It’s not just about being nice. If you do right by candidates, they’ll say good things about your company, and then other people – candidates, clients, suppliers, investors – will hear good things. And if you don’t? Well, it only takes one annoyed candidate to blast your company on Glassdoor and put others off.

The right way is usually the long way, but ultimately it’s the surest path to business success.


Refer back to other parts:

Introduction, Part 1 – Job Description, Part 2 – Agent Briefing, Part 3 – Phone Screen, Part 4 – Skills Interview, Part 5 – Cultural Interview, Part 6 – Offer, Part 7 – References, Part 8 – Candidate Experience.

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