Delivering a Positive Candidate Experience – Ten Mistakes to Avoid

Posted on 07-06-2017

We had a conversation with a CIO candidate who was interviewing for his dream job.  He had been working towards the next level role and was thrilled for the chance to interview with a prestigious, billion dollar organization, for a position that was perfect in scale and scope. The organization flew him in to interview, and he went into the day excited about the opportunity.  He called us the day after the interviews and we were shocked when he reported that “There is no way I would ever consider working for that organization…”  What went wrong? As the candidate relayed his experience, it became clear that the organization hadn’t delivered a positive candidate experience and had committed two of the most egregious sins when working with candidates—they failed to show the candidate respect and they failed to serve as a gracious host.

Candidate Experience – What Not to Do

Despite asking, the candidate hadn’t been provided any type of agenda for his day of interviews so he went into the day unclear about what to expect.  He was shuffled into a small conference room, and was told that someone would be in to see him shortly.  His day entailed lots of waiting and uncertainty, and being moved to different rooms several times due to meeting spaces being double booked.

The candidate was told going into the day that he’d be meeting with the CEO and other key stakeholders for the position, but one by one these interviews ended up being canceled due to “unavoidable conflicts” or the meetings were severely shortened. He ended up spending less than five minutes with one key executive who was supposed to spend an hour with him, which not only made it difficult to adequately evaluate the opportunity, but also made him feel the organization didn’t respect him and the multiple days he’d carved out of his busy schedule to travel to their facility for the interviews.  Several of the executives he met with multi-tasked throughout the interviews. With their heads buried in their mobile devices, the candidate found it difficult to forge connections.

The organization had also done nothing to make him feel welcome or help him feel connected to their mission and community.  He walked away from the day with an extremely negative impression of the organization and no interest in continuing in the process because he perceived that the organization wouldn’t be a positive place to work.

These missteps cost the organization an incredible candidate who could have easily succeeded in the position and thrived in their organization.  Unfortunately, we see problems arise all too often in organizations’ hiring process leading to a less than optimal candidate experience.

In contrast, the organization with which this candidate ultimately accepted an offer delivered a much more positive candidate experience—they made him feel appreciated, valued, and welcomed which made all the difference in achieving a favorable result to the hiring process.

Ten Common Hiring Mistakes to Avoid to Deliver a Positive Candidate Experience

  1. Not setting expectations about the hiring process and timeline
  2. Disorganized, undefined, or inefficient hiring process
  3. Not providing timely feedback
  4. Wasting candidates’ time or not appearing respectful of their time
  5. Not providing adequate detail about the position, organization, or expectations
  6. Extending the hiring process or having long gaps between stages
  7. Unwelcoming or not engaged search committee
  8. Not “selling” the candidate on the organization and opportunity
  9. Appearing to hide the challenges the person hired will face in the position
  10. Failing to elevate the experience for executive candidates



Note: This piece is the first in our new series entitled “Blueprint for Delivering An Exceptional Candidate Experience” which will focus on delivering a positive candidate experience for executive job seekers.

By Judy Kirby, President and Executive Recruiter with Kirby Partners, a leading executive search firm specializing in cyber security and healthcare IT recruiting.   

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