How To Create An Exceptional Candidate Experience For Engineers


December 29, 2022


180 Engineering

Recruitment is a challenge. Competition for top talent is fierce since, of course, everyone wants to hire the best possible candidate for their open role. An effective recruitment strategy has many key components but one of the most critical is  a strong candidate experience.

A study from 2021 reports that 58% of job seekers declined a job offer because of poor candidate experience. That number represents not just the loss of potential talent but also the loss of a significant amount of time and resources spent on the recruitment process by your team.

Poor candidate experience for one applicant can also negatively affect the quality of candidates that are attracted to other open roles with your company. It’s been reported that 72% of job seekers are likely to share their bad experiences, whether on social media or employer review websites or in their circle of acquaintances, which likely includes others who work in the same sector. Further, 55% of applicants won’t follow through on an application if they’ve read a negative review about the company online.

On the flip side, a positive candidate experience can help you fill a role quickly with top talent that’s a great fit for your company. It’s been reported that 75% of professionals accepted their current job because of their positive candidate experience. Further, a larger percentage of candidates (82%) are likely to share a positive candidate experience, which can help build  up your talent pipeline by word of mouth and referrals.

While a positive candidate experience is important across all industries, it’s especially critical in the engineering sector. As Scott Moss points out in a blog post, it has become increasingly difficult to hire engineers. As Moss says: “The market for finding and hiring engineering talent is insane right now, but what I’m seeing is a disconnect. Employers can’t seem to find engineers to hire, and talented engineers can’t seem to find jobs.”

Taking a critical look at your candidate experience and making adjustments in order to make it not just good but exceptional can be the answer to your hiring woes.

What Exactly IS Candidate Experience?

Candidate experience is all the interactions that a candidate has with your company, whether online or in person, and how the candidate feels about those interactions. The candidate experience often begins online, at your company’s website and job board and continues as they interact with you throughout the recruitment process, right up until onboarding, if they are hired.

As outlined in this blog post, there are many touch points as a candidate works through your recruitment process with you, including:

  • Your company website and careers page;
  • Your job postings and ads;
  • The application form;
  • Automated communication from your ATS;
  • The screening and interview process;
  • Interaction with your recruitment and hiring teams;
  • Communication about their application status; and
  • The onboarding process as a new hire.

The key component of each of these touch points is communication – and, for a positive candidate experience, it’s critical that all this communication be targeted, clear, concise, and timely.

Because it’s so difficult to find and hire top engineering talent, and because a positive candidate experience has such a far-reaching impact not only on your current recruitment process but on future open roles as well, creating an exceptional candidate experience has become a necessity.

How To Measure Candidate Experience

Candidate experience can seem abstract and difficult to measure since it’s about how a candidate feels about working through the recruitment process with you. Nevertheless, there are several metrics that you can look at holistically, to get a view of how your recruitment process is likely viewed by candidates. Those metrics include:

  • Application abandonment;
  • Length of time from application to offer;
  • Recruiter response times;
  • Offer acceptance rate;
  • Candidate satisfaction;
  • Referrals; and
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS).

It’s important to have some sort of measurements to work with. Otherwise you won’t know what to improve, nor if your improvements have been effective.

How To Create An Exceptional Candidate Experience For Engineers

Because there’s a long-standing shortage of engineers, it’s challenging to hire top engineering talent and fill your open roles. For this reason, an exceptional candidate experience is more important than ever, as you strive to keep the candidate engaged throughout the interview and hiring processes and minimize the chance that they will drop out.

Some strategies to improve candidate experience will be effective across most industries. For example, as mentioned above, a good communication strategy is critical regardless of which sector you are hiring in. But, when it comes to hiring engineers, there are some specific tweaks that you can make to your recruitment processes that will level up your candidate experience to exceptional.

Be Speedy And Responsive

Many candidates for engineering roles are passive candidates; that is, they are currently employed and not actively seeking a new role but a recruiter or employer has approached them about applying for an open role.

It’s fairly common for people to consider applying and interviewing for jobs as one of life’s most stressful experiences. They invest their time, energy, and hopes into securing a new job. They may be willing to overlook a less-than-stellar candidate experience, holding out hopes of landing their dream job. But for engineers who are passive candidates, the stakes are much lower. As a result, they may quickly drop out of the interview process if the candidate experience is poor.

For engineers, in particular, speed and responsiveness are critical to a good candidate experience. Keeping in close touch with engineering candidates and quickly replying to their emails and messages can help allay frustration with the hiring process and keep them engaged until you make your hiring decision.

Include Engineering Professionals In The Hiring Process

Recruiters can have difficulty managing technical skills assessments, if those are part of your hiring process. It can be difficult for recruiters to correctly use technical lingo and understand follow-up questions from the candidate. This can cause awkwardness and discomfort between the recruiter and the candidate.

If you have engineers on staff already, it’s ideal to have them work with your in-house recruiter, so that the engineers can provide some support and structure to the recruiter, giving them more confidence to carry out the assessments.

In a terrific blog post at Y Combinator, Harj Taggar suggests having your engineers create multiple choice questions as the technical assessment, so that recruiters can simply read off the questions and candidates can indicate their answer by choosing one of the answer selections.

Address Common Interview Frustrations

In his blog piece, Scott Moss frankly states that, “The interview process for engineers has been broken forever.” Engineers have long voiced frustration with the typical interview process, frequently expressing frustrations over:

  • Multiple, lengthy interviews that take a long period of time to complete;
  • Interviewers who are unfamiliar with the technical requirements of the role;
  • Technical assessments that are unrelated to the role being filled; and
  • Traditional interviews not being indicative of how well a candidate will actually fit the role.

While Harj Taggar has suggestions on how to make traditional interviews quicker and more engaging, Scott Moss suggests eliminating traditional interviews altogether. Moss suggests:

I think hiring managers should send questions ahead of time to candidates. I would go as far as to say maybe even shoot them some links on leads for research on said questions. Why? If you give them that prep time, they’ll come in with more confidence. They’ll show you how they research and how quickly they can learn. And that’s actually more realistic of what they’re going to do in a job. So you should really put them in an environment that’s close to, if not the same as the one you’re going to have them at the job. You can now compare all the candidates at their best.

There are other creative ways to address the “broken” interview process as well, such as having candidates walk you through one of their side projects. By addressing these long-standing issues with the interview process, you not only  create a better candidate experience but you highlight your company culture and reinforce your brand, positioning yourself as an employer who is empathetic and creative, which will only help to attract high quality candidates in the future.