If you’ve ever flown with a one-year-old, then you know it can get pretty stressful. But if you’ve ever flown solo with a one-year-old, then you’ll know it’s a whole other level of stress.

Recently I had to fly on a solo mission with my daughter, all the way from Austin to New York. How did it go? Let’s just say that my daughter wasn’t too keen on the whole flying thing. And she was, well . . . vocal about it.

However, what could have been a truly terrible experience was transformed into a great one by the crew. They checked in frequently and did everything they could to make the flight more enjoyable. And just before we landed, they came out and presented my daughter with a certificate, honoring her for an exceptional day of flight.

That great experience is one reason why, whenever possible, I always fly with the same airline.

But why am I talking about flying with a one-year-old on a blog dedicated to employer and recruiter insights? Let’s put it this way: it’s not just when we’re flying that the experience matters. Nowadays, people choose products, services, and companies based on the quality of experience they consistently have with them. And experience is crucial to recruiting, too.

The dreaded application black hole

Have you ever been stuck in traffic behind a car with an Apple logo on the back windscreen? Yes — some people love a brand so much they effectively tattoo their car with it. Heck, some people tattoo their bodies.

When people have a great experience, they want to share it. They talk about it with their friends and, in the 21st century, they jump online and rave about it.

But remember: When people have a bad experience, they also talk about it. And this applies to recruiting just as much as anything else.

According to a 2016 report from Talent Board, candidates share their positive recruiting experiences with their inner circles more than 81% of the time, and negative ones are shared 66% of the time.

Only one person can land a specific job, but everybody can have a good experience for the duration of the journey, even if they’re not ultimately the chosen candidate.

Now, a study by Indeed found that waiting to hear back from a potential employer is the #1 pain point for 48% of job seekers (1). As one respondent told us,  “I always prefer to receive any response than no response at all.”

So what kind of experiences are candidates getting? Let’s look at some numbers.

Pie chart showcasing average application response time from employer.
This chart represents the average response time once an application has been submitted to an employer. Responses broken down into 5 measurable categories: “One day,” “Within one week,” “Within a couple weeks,” “Months,” and “I never hear back.” According to the data represented on the chart, the largest majority (43%) of applicants get a response within one week of applying. 38% responded “Within a couple weeks”, 6% responded “One day”, 8% responded “Months”, and 5% responded “I never hear back.” The source for this data is a Decipher/FocusVision study conducted on behalf of Indeed in 2017.

On average, 4% of candidates hear back within a day, 37% hear back within one week, and 44% within a couple weeks. Some wait months. And, let’s be honest, some never hear back at all.

Waiting, uncertainty, frustration . . . these are not good experiences. And job search is stressful enough already.

There’s a reason of course. Recruiters are swamped. In fact, screening applications and reviewing resumes is the #1 top reported pain point in the hiring journey reported by employers (2). Employers and job seekers alike are feeling the pain here. So what can be do to help candidates — and ourselves?

Three steps towards a solution

Well, you could invent a super intelligent AI to do all the candidate sorting and replying for you. But we’re not quite there yet. However, although there is no easy solution, there are some things recruiters can try while we’re waiting for the mega-bot to turn up. Here are three interesting examples I’ve seen of how recruiters are working today to improve the application experience.

1) Get personal

At Quicken Loans, HR recruiters call every candidate no matter what, even if it’s to turn them down. As the respondent above put it: it’s better to hear “no” than to hear nothing at all. This personal touch is part of a wider effort to create a positive customer service and culture experience.

It’s also pretty exceptional: According to Talent Board's 2016 North American Candidate Experience Research Report, only 20% of applicants received an email from a recruiter or hiring manager notifying them they were not being considered, and only 8% received a phone call from a recruiter or hiring manager delivering the same message.

2) Admit it: You’re a robot

But maybe you don’t have the resources to call each applicant personally. Maybe the auto-response is as good as it’s going to get for now. Well, job seekers know an auto-response when they see one, so why not be upfront about it?

When project management firm Trello sends out an email from a robot, the robot admits it’s a robot. The good news is: it’s a friendly and helpful robot. It sets clear expectations by outlining the time limit it may take to review a candidate’s application — and even has a sense of humor, as this excerpt shows:

Next — yes, you will hear back from us. It is our policy to reply to all applications, even if we have to send you an unpleasant “go away, you smell bad” letter. We always tell people when we’re rejecting them for olfactory reasons.

Unconventional as Trello’s bot may be, it gets the candidate experience off to a good start by assuring them their application won't get sucked into a black hole in a galaxy far, far away.

3) Be transparent

Why not use your career site to add transparency to the whole application process?

Here, General Motors provide a good example. Once a job candidate clicks on the site, they have access to a wealth of relevant information useful for applying to a job at GM, such as “who we are,”  “what we do” and “why work with us” as well as “where to find us” and “how to join our team.” The site also has lots of details on what to expect during GM’s hiring process.

GM’s efforts to make their careers site a transparent one leaves job candidates feeling reassured about the application process and positive about the company. (Don’t have a career site? Don’t worry: Indeed is here to help.)

By implementing one of these solutions you won’t solve the problem of improving the job seeker experience overnight. But the right one could help you create the kind of positive experience that could leave candidates recommending your firm to their friends even if they don’t get the job. And who doesn’t want that kind of word of mouth?

(1) Decipher/FocusVision “Confidence Curve” study on behalf of Indeed, 2017. 

(2) Decipher/FocusVision “Confidence Curve” study on behalf of Indeed, 2017