Using NPS to build a better candidate experience

By Aaron Ward
on 25 July 2017

When it comes to recruitment it’s not enough to place the perfect person in the perfect role; obviously it helps to get that part right, but it’s not the end of the story. As recruiters, you have a responsibility to your clients to not only find them new employees, but to present them in the best possible light. Nobody wants to work for a company with a reputation for being horrible to job applicants, right?

For every position filled there are applicants that didn’t make the cut: because they didn’t fit the role, because the role didn’t fit them, or simply because they didn’t shine during the recruitment process. Some people don’t like filling in long forms, some don’t like group interviews, some freeze in skills tests, some won’t click with the interviewer, and some will have waited too long to hear back and moved onto something else. Some of these people will apply to your client again; some will tell their friends not to bother. But without asking them which camp they fall into, how will you know?

Your unhappy campers have a potentially significant material cost: in 2015 over 7,500 unsuccessful Virgin Media job applicants cancelled their contracts and went to the competition, resulting in a revenue loss of over $6 million. To avoid this kind of result your candidate experience needs to leave even unsuccessful applicants satisfied. Or satisfied enough that they won’t take action that negatively impacts your clients…

Why should you care about candidate experience?

All applicants for every role are potential sources of information for you, and for your clients, on the candidate experience. More than that, all candidates are potential brand ambassadors; advocates for your client whether or not they got the job.

Unless you’ve gone through a company’s recruitment process yourself, you’re possibly not the best person to comment on the candidate experience. You’ll know how effective it is in filling roles, but do you know how it makes candidates feel? Do you know how likely they are to apply again, or to recommend someone they know (and presumably like) applies?

The Talent Board found that 73% of candidates weren’t asked to provide feedback on the recruitment process, which is a massive missed opportunity. A simple ‘how did you find the process’ is better than nothing, and gives you the opportunity to manage negative feedback before it takes on a life of its own. Manually following up with hundreds – or thousands – of applicants is not entirely practical for most recruiters though, which is why we’d suggest giving an NPS tool a shot.

NPS is a natural fit for recruitment

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is one of the simplest ways of measuring feedback. It simply asks “How likely are you to recommend {insert brand here} to a friend or colleague?” with a 0 (not at all) – 10 (very likely) response. These numeric responses are then used to calculate an overall NPS score across the business – for more detail on how it all works see our intro to NPS post.

Because of its simple design, NPS has become a popular tool for businesses measuring customer satisfaction. It generates high response rates from customers and can be sent out frequently, providing  a continuous stream of data. This simplicity makes NPS a very flexible way of collecting feedback, and it’s a natural fit for measuring candidate experience.

AskNicely candidate NPS survey

While you may be able to sit down with a successful candidate and get detailed feedback on how they found the process, it’s hard to imagine unsuccessful candidates being quite as willing to commit the time. One click though? Much less onerous.

Getting started with NPS

Start by asking something like “How likely are you to recommend a friend or colleague apply for a job with {yourbrand}?” This reflects the standard NPS question format while making it clearly specific to the applicant’s experience.

Next you need to decide when to send surveys out. Generally, this will be when a candidate has reached the end of your recruitment process (ie when they have been successful or unsuccessful).

Most recruiters only survey people who make it past the first round of screening; excluding applicants who are instantly declined due to poor fit or other criteria means most of your feedback will be from candidates who’ve actually dealt with your people. However, if you have high engagement with candidates in the initial stages, it’s definitely worth including them in your surveys.

Measuring and tracking NPS is a great start, there are also a few extra things you can do to make your data even more useful.

More data means more opportunities

It’s useful to look at NPS responses alongside the other information you have on candidates and the roles they’ve applied for. Where did candidates come from initially? Which job did they apply for and what stage did they get to? You might find that candidates coming from a particular source (a specific job site for instance) are much less likely to recommend you, or that you only receive recommendations from applicants that get past a certain stage. This makes it much easier to focus on areas that need improvement: making job ads more relevant (or posting to more relevant sites), or ensuring your people are more accessible earlier in the application process.

AskNicely JobAdder Intelligent Analysis

Depending on which ATS and NPS software you happen to use, you’ll probably find existing integrations that do most of this for you. For instance AskNicely’s JobAdder integration lets recruiters easily track NPS for each client, rather than having to manually match the role with the company – check it out here.

Include your client’s data to highlight strengths and weaknesses

Of course it makes sense to consider the company you’re recruiting for. The most common practice is to include the client name in the custom data recorded with each response (this is also handled automatically when integrating data into AskNicely).

Some recruiters also choose to survey later stage candidates, which will net more client-specific data – candidates at this point will most likely have had at least one interview with your client. It’s a bit more work though, so we recommend most recruiters start out simply, by asking applicants how likely they are to recommend them. They can then tailor surveys specifically to a client’s brand if there are major differences in scores from candidates who reach the client interview stage, or big differences between clients.

Don’t stop at the survey

Say thank you

Careerbuilder found that 75% of unsuccessful candidates never heard back after going through the process, which is a bit slack when you consider how much time and energy people have invested with you. So if you can’t pick up the phone for everyone, at least send a thank you email. And take the opportunity to attach your NPS survey.

Follow up on the feedback

If you hear only good things, great! Pass them on to the relevant people and feel good that the process is working for all involved. If your feedback indicates areas for improvement, then action them.  You can do some interview coaching with your client if candidates who make it that far are clearly less satisfied with the process. Seeing low scores early on in the process is a good indication that you need to address issues internally – maybe by making applications easier to complete, or responding to applicants more quickly.

Let promoters promote

Now you know who’s had a good experience and is 100% keen to share that love around, you can give them opportunities to do so. Ask to use their feedback on your site, and your client’s recruitment page or portal. Encourage them to post their feedback on external review sites like Glassdoor, Indeed.com or LinkedIn. And if you have a community where you post upcoming vacancies or new opportunities, consider inviting them to participate.

When it comes to recruitment it’s not enough to place the perfect person in the perfect role; obviously it helps to get that part right, but it’s not the end of the story. As recruiters, you have a responsibility to your clients to not only find them new employees, but to present them in the best possible light. Nobody wants to work for a company with a reputation for being horrible to job applicants, right?

For every position filled there are applicants that didn’t make the cut: because they didn’t fit the role, because the role didn’t fit them, or simply because they didn’t shine during the recruitment process. Some people don’t like filling in long forms, some don’t like group interviews, some freeze in skills tests, some won’t click with the interviewer, and some will have waited too long to hear back and moved onto something else. Some of these people will apply to your client again; some will tell their friends not to bother. But without asking them which camp they fall into, how will you know?

Your unhappy campers have a potentially significant material cost: in 2015 over 7,500 unsuccessful Virgin Media job applicants cancelled their contracts and went to the competition, resulting in a revenue loss of over $6 million. To avoid this kind of result your candidate experience needs to leave even unsuccessful applicants satisfied. Or satisfied enough that they won’t take action that negatively impacts your clients…

Why should you care about candidate experience?

All applicants for every role are potential sources of information for you, and for your clients, on the candidate experience. More than that, all candidates are potential brand ambassadors; advocates for your client whether or not they got the job.

Unless you’ve gone through a company’s recruitment process yourself, you’re possibly not the best person to comment on the candidate experience. You’ll know how effective it is in filling roles, but do you know how it makes candidates feel? Do you know how likely they are to apply again, or to recommend someone they know (and presumably like) applies?

The Talent Board found that 73% of candidates weren’t asked to provide feedback on the recruitment process, which is a massive missed opportunity. A simple ‘how did you find the process’ is better than nothing, and gives you the opportunity to manage negative feedback before it takes on a life of its own. Manually following up with hundreds – or thousands – of applicants is not entirely practical for most recruiters though, which is why we’d suggest giving an NPS tool a shot.

NPS is a natural fit for recruitment

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is one of the simplest ways of measuring feedback. It simply asks “How likely are you to recommend {insert brand here} to a friend or colleague?” with a 0 (not at all) – 10 (very likely) response. These numeric responses are then used to calculate an overall NPS score across the business – for more detail on how it all works see our intro to NPS post.

Because of its simple design, NPS has become a popular tool for businesses measuring customer satisfaction. It generates high response rates from customers and can be sent out frequently, providing  a continuous stream of data. This simplicity makes NPS a very flexible way of collecting feedback, and it’s a natural fit for measuring candidate experience.

AskNicely candidate NPS survey

While you may be able to sit down with a successful candidate and get detailed feedback on how they found the process, it’s hard to imagine unsuccessful candidates being quite as willing to commit the time. One click though? Much less onerous.

Getting started with NPS

Start by asking something like “How likely are you to recommend a friend or colleague apply for a job with {yourbrand}?” This reflects the standard NPS question format while making it clearly specific to the applicant’s experience.

Next you need to decide when to send surveys out. Generally, this will be when a candidate has reached the end of your recruitment process (ie when they have been successful or unsuccessful).

Most recruiters only survey people who make it past the first round of screening; excluding applicants who are instantly declined due to poor fit or other criteria means most of your feedback will be from candidates who’ve actually dealt with your people. However, if you have high engagement with candidates in the initial stages, it’s definitely worth including them in your surveys.

Measuring and tracking NPS is a great start, there are also a few extra things you can do to make your data even more useful.

More data means more opportunities

It’s useful to look at NPS responses alongside the other information you have on candidates and the roles they’ve applied for. Where did candidates come from initially? Which job did they apply for and what stage did they get to? You might find that candidates coming from a particular source (a specific job site for instance) are much less likely to recommend you, or that you only receive recommendations from applicants that get past a certain stage. This makes it much easier to focus on areas that need improvement: making job ads more relevant (or posting to more relevant sites), or ensuring your people are more accessible earlier in the application process.

AskNicely JobAdder Intelligent Analysis

Depending on which ATS and NPS software you happen to use, you’ll probably find existing integrations that do most of this for you. For instance AskNicely’s JobAdder integration lets recruiters easily track NPS for each client, rather than having to manually match the role with the company – check it out here.

Include your client’s data to highlight strengths and weaknesses

Of course it makes sense to consider the company you’re recruiting for. The most common practice is to include the client name in the custom data recorded with each response (this is also handled automatically when integrating data into AskNicely).

Some recruiters also choose to survey later stage candidates, which will net more client-specific data – candidates at this point will most likely have had at least one interview with your client. It’s a bit more work though, so we recommend most recruiters start out simply, by asking applicants how likely they are to recommend them. They can then tailor surveys specifically to a client’s brand if there are major differences in scores from candidates who reach the client interview stage, or big differences between clients.

Don’t stop at the survey

Say thank you

Careerbuilder found that 75% of unsuccessful candidates never heard back after going through the process, which is a bit slack when you consider how much time and energy people have invested with you. So if you can’t pick up the phone for everyone, at least send a thank you email. And take the opportunity to attach your NPS survey.

Follow up on the feedback

If you hear only good things, great! Pass them on to the relevant people and feel good that the process is working for all involved. If your feedback indicates areas for improvement, then action them.  You can do some interview coaching with your client if candidates who make it that far are clearly less satisfied with the process. Seeing low scores early on in the process is a good indication that you need to address issues internally – maybe by making applications easier to complete, or responding to applicants more quickly.

Let promoters promote

Now you know who’s had a good experience and is 100% keen to share that love around, you can give them opportunities to do so. Ask to use their feedback on your site, and your client’s recruitment page or portal. Encourage them to post their feedback on external review sites like Glassdoor, Indeed.com or LinkedIn. And if you have a community where you post upcoming vacancies or new opportunities, consider inviting them to participate.


About the author

Aaron Ward

Aaron is the Co-Founder and CEO of AskNicely and one-time undefeated boxer (because it was only one time). He's a passionate evangelist for the new religion of advocacy but when he’s not spreading the gospel of NPS, he’s spending time with his lovely family. Or binge-watching Rocky movies.

Other posts by Aaron Ward

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NPS is a registered trademark, and Net Promoter Score and Net Promoter System are service marks, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.