7 Companies with a Game-Changing Candidate Experience

Life is sweet for the job seeker in today’s market – a record number of jobs are being created and companies are struggling to fill their open roles. That means the pressure is on for employers. How can you stand out among all the competition and convince candidates that your company is the perfect place for them?

The employers that are succeeding in this tough talent market understand that it all comes down to candidate experience. It’s no longer enough to simply shuffle candidates from one stage to the next – being thoughtful and intentional about every interaction they have with your company is critical.

Here are seven inspiring companies that are taking candidate experience to the next level.

1. Airbnb: Storyboarding the entire candidate experience

When looking to revamp its candidate experience, the recruiting team at Airbnb turned to a design practice that had worked well for other departments at the company: using storyboards to visualize every step of the candidate journey. According to Airbnb’s Recruiting Blog, “Our Core Value ‘Every Frame Matters’ is a testament to storyboards. Our founders enlisted an artist to help us visualize both the host and guest experience on Airbnb, and we use these frames to think about how we can simplify, streamline, and improve the experience. We’ve applied this method to the interview process and we share these frames because they represent how we think about recruiting: each frame is meaningful and unique as a standalone, and yet when we consider them as a whole, they comprise a holistic picture that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Through this process of radically empathizing with candidates, the team identified several areas they wanted to focus on and improve, including how to gracefully pass on candidates, set expectations about timing, and celebrate the company’s culture and branding through communication and the onsite experience. Learn more in “How Airbnb Used Storyboarding to Revamp Its Candidate Experience.”

2. DigitalOcean: Prioritizing transparency at every stage

In a recent webinar, “Driving a Positive Candidate Experience with Scale at the Wheel,” DigitalOcean’s Recruiting Operations Manager Olivia Melman shared how her team prioritizes transparency at every stage of the candidate experience. This establishes trust and builds a strong relationship between the recruiting team and the candidates they’re in contact with.

Most candidates tend to have similar questions about what to expect during the application and interview process, especially when it comes to onsite interviews. Anticipating this, DigitalOcean’s recruiting team created a central hub of resources for candidates. Check it out here for some inspiration for your own candidate-facing content. Bonus: Not only does this show candidates you care about their experience, it can also save recruiters’ time. No more back and forth emails answering the same questions over and over again!

DigitalOcean’s recruiting team also strives to be transparent with candidates who don’t receive offers after they’ve participated in an onsite interview. Recruiters make themselves available for phone calls with candidates to provide them with feedback on why they weren’t selected for the role. This practice demonstrates a commitment to candidates and a desire to help them better prepare for other interviews.

3. Managed by Q: Testing for optimism and empathy

Managed by Q gained the attention of the New York Times for its unique business model, paying competitive wages and offering benefits in an industry that’s generally in a race to the bottom. In the New York Times piece, Adam Davidson writes, “[Managed by Q CEO] Teran believes that most American businesses, and especially fast-growing startups like Uber, have mistaken short-term gains for long-term value, undercutting the share of revenue that flows to workers in a way that will perversely hurt their bottom line. He believes, even more radically, that decades of rising inequality and stagnant wages in America are not an inevitable byproduct of capitalism; instead, they come from a simple misunderstanding about how best to deploy workers and recognize the value they bring to a company.

Managed by Q’s commitment to employees extends to the way the company treats candidates as well. Through extensive data collection and analysis, the company observed that traditional markers of success like education, industry experience and recommendations from employers are not closely correlated with success among Q employees. Instead, they identified the personality characteristics of optimism and empathy, and then designed the interview process around assessing these qualities.

Removing unnecessary stages from the interview process and focusing on identifying the qualities of successful employees is the ultimate game-changing approach to candidate experience. Not only does it demonstrate that you respect candidates’ time and energy, it also increases your chances of hiring people who will be the right fit for your organization.

4. Booking.com: Taking candidate-focused content to a whole new level

Who says content for candidates has to be boring? The team at Booking.com has put together a fun, interactive multimedia experience on the workingatbooking.com website. Candidates can explore career options and watch videos introducing their prospective teammates, check out a day in the life at various offices, and even learn about how certain product decisions were made. There are blog posts, photos, videos, infographics and Working at Booking content available on pretty much any social media platform you can think of. The site also addresses common candidate questions and concerns, and provides tips on how to excel in the interview process. There’s even an option to create a job alert so a candidate who doesn’t find the right role open right now can be notified when something relevant comes up.

But Booking’s candidate-focused content doesn’t just live on their website. They also put together in-person events, like the recent Recruiter Hiring Day they hosted at the Amsterdam HQ. Events like these give candidates the opportunity to meet the team, take a tour of the office and interview.

5. Slack: Focusing on diversity & inclusion

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Slack has made a name for itself in the tech world and beyond. After publicly sharing the company’s ethnic and gender makeup and its strategies for improving diversity and inclusion, it gained attention from mainstream news like The Atlantic, which published “How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity.” Author Jessica Nordell calls out several aspects of Slack’s candidate experience that were retooled to promote hiring practices that benefit candidates from all backgrounds.

In addition to reworking job descriptions with more inclusive phrases like “care deeply” and “build relationships,” Slack eliminated whiteboard interviews (which can create extra stress for people from underrepresented backgrounds) and replaced them with blind code reviews. Nordell writes, “Not only does this help eliminate stereotype threat, but it assures candidates they’ll be judged fairly.” Candidates are also given the option to perform their assessment onsite, a practice that’s more inclusive for people who care for family members at home.

Slack is also serious about its structured interview process, introducing consistent questions that are designed to assess candidates on specific skills and characteristics. Anyone who will be conducting interviews at Slack also practices through a series of role-plays with coworkers. This improves interviewers’ skills, raises awareness of how bias can arise during the process and ensures that candidates are treated thoughtfully and consistently during interviews.

6. DocuSign: Getting serious about collecting feedback

DocuSign recognizes that the relationship between recruiters and candidates is interdependent: When recruiters are happy, they create a better candidate experience, and when candidates provide feedback, they can help recruiters get better at what they do. That’s why they introduced a standardized candidate experience survey.

The survey goes out to all candidates (regardless of whether they received an offer) and asks them to rate recruiters against statements like “My recruiter gave me a good overview of DocuSign and the value proposition,” “My recruiter provided me with timely updates on the status of my application” and “My recruiter treated me with respect throughout the process.” It also includes the standard Net Promoter Score question: “Based on your experience as a candidate, how likely are you to recommend DocuSign to others?” After one year of collecting data and assessing recruiters through this survey, DocuSign saw the candidate Net Promoter Score go up 55%.

Get a few more ideas about how to use candidate surveys in “Yes, You Can Measure the Candidate Experience. Here’s How!

7. NerdWallet: Fostering genuine connection with candidates

Even in its early stages, NerdWallet was creating a unique candidate experience. In a First Round Review article, VP of People Flo Thinh shares how the CEO of the company organized a dinner for her with former COO Dan Yoo. Only it turned out that Dan, like Flo, had not yet accepted the offer with NerdWallet. CEO Tim Chen hoped that by building a connection between Flo and Dan, he’d convince both of them to join the company – and it worked! Flo says of the experience, “If I could sum up my hiring experience, I would say it was extremely authentic. Tim shepherded me the entire way. If he was trying to close me, he did a hell of a job.”

Now that Flo heads up the People team at NerdWallet, she looks for ways to build on that authentic candidate experience she enjoyed. NerdWallet takes relationship-building very seriously. Recruiters carefully comb through candidates’ social media profiles to learn about their favorite foods and sports teams and create hyper-personalized outreach. They strategically share the benefits package before extending an offer so candidates have time to review it with their families and make a fully informed decision. And when candidates come in for an onsite interview, they receive a tour of the office along with a guide to help them decode room names. This small gesture creates a sense of inclusion, letting candidates in on some of NerdWallet’s company culture.


The stories and strategies we’ve shared here show just how broad the concept of candidate experience really is. It’s not just about the brief window when a candidate comes to your office for an onsite, but rather every touchpoint they have with recruiters, hiring managers and other members of your team. Zoom out to look at the big picture – how your company thinks about employees and which values matter most – but don’t forget to zoom in on those little details, too. Taking both of these approaches will help you create a truly game-changing candidate experience.


Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Candidate Experience