Candidate satisfaction – why everyone should keep tabs on this essential metric

One of the biggest trends in talent over the past few years has been the shift from treating candidate experience as an afterthought to bringing it front and center to talent acquisition strategy (we even named it one of the top talent trends of 2019).

Talent market numbers tell part of the story – in 2019 the number of unfilled jobs hit an all-time high in both the US and UK while unemployment dropped to 50-year lows in both countries. But it’s not just about the employment numbers. Technology has transformed our world, giving candidates access to more information and avenues for sharing their experiences than ever before.

While candidate experience is clearly on talent leaders’ minds, there still appears to be some serious room for improvement. For example, a Randstad Sourceright study found that while 77% of talent leaders consider their candidate experience to be "excellent" or "very good," 84% of candidates report having negative experiences while job hunting.

These numbers show a big disconnect between what companies think they’re doing and what candidates actually experience. And that means trouble for employers – 49% of job seekers say they’ve turned down an offer because of a bad candidate experience and nearly one in three have declined an offer primarily because a company had bad online reviews.

So what’s a talent professional to do? How can you be sure your candidate experience is actually as good as you think it is? To put it simply – just ask your candidates. Here’s what we mean.

Candidate satisfaction – the key to understanding your candidates’ experiences

We use the Greenhouse Candidate Survey to get both qualitative and quantitative feedback from our candidates and measure their overall satisfaction. These surveys are available to all Greenhouse customers. You can customize when the survey goes out, but all candidates receive the same survey with nine statements about the interviewing experience that they rate from “Strongly disagree” to “Strongly agree.” In fact, all Greenhouse customers use the same survey. This approach enables us to benchmark our results against similar companies who use the survey.

Greenhouse Director of Talent Acquisition Jacqui Maguire explains that we use the results of the survey to measure candidate satisfaction. Jacqui says, “It’s sort of like an NPS score to show us if our efforts toward building a positive candidate experience are working.” (If you’re not familiar with the term, a Net Promoter Score or NPS is a popular metric that’s often used by customer success teams to measure how likely customers are to recommend a product or service to someone else.)

We measure candidate satisfaction through the percentage of candidates who respond “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” to the first statement in the Greenhouse Candidate Survey: “Overall, my interview experience was a positive one.”

What’s considered a “good” candidate satisfaction score?

Jacqui says that, at Greenhouse, our goal is 90% positive, which is “ambitious but definitely achievable.” She also shares that our customers’ average is 78% positive, which is probably a good target for a company that’s just starting to think about candidate experience.

What comes next?

The first step is setting up your Greenhouse Candidate Survey if you haven’t already. If you’re not currently a Greenhouse customer, you can set up a survey through a platform like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. Or dedicate some time to comb through your Glassdoor reviews. The important thing is to start somewhere.

Once you have the candidate survey set up, take a look at your results. The numbers will help you see the big picture, and the survey also gives candidates the opportunity to share their qualitative feedback with an open-ended question.

Jacqui recommends looking at both to really understand candidate satisfaction: “Through the candidate surveys, you also get a lot of written feedback from candidates. It’s important to use the numbers as a proxy, and then dig deeper into the specific feedback to come up with actions you can take to continuously improve.”

You may find it useful to create categories for feedback to help you sort through it more easily. For example, overall interview process, onsite experience and questions are common areas where candidates tend to share their thoughts. Get more ideas about how to comb through candidate survey data here.

You might also want to explore different ways of slicing and dicing the data. You can compare departments, offices and your entire company to the our customers’ average.

Make a regular habit of checking in on your scores and maybe even consider making candidate satisfaction one of the metrics you focus on each quarter.

Harnessing the power of candidate feedback on a regular basis is a critical step toward showing candidates that you really do care about their experience.

Ready to get started with your data-driven talent strategy? Learn about some of the KPIs we track and measure here at Greenhouse in our 5 Recruiting Key Performance Indicators eBook.



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