Looking for a job is stressful. From going to interviews to choosing the right position, the application and recruiting process is costly in both time and effort. To make matters worse, after all this work, many job seekers never hear back from employers; sometimes it seems that their applications simply disappear into a “black hole.”

With unemployment near record lows, the labor market is tight. This puts the power in job seekers’ hands, both in terms of plentiful alternatives and the ability to share about them on social and reviews platforms. Not only is providing a positive candidate experience the compassionate thing to do, but it is now essential for employers who want to compete for great talent.

So how can employers improve their interview and recruiting processes? To find out, we surveyed 1,000 people who have applied for a job within the last year about their candidate experiences.

Engage in enjoyable conversations, but don’t waste job seekers’ time

The good news: Most respondents (70%) report “mostly” (39%) or “only positive experiences” (31%) with interviewing or recruiting during their most recent job searches. The downside? Nearly one-third (30%) say their most recent experiences with interviewing or recruiting were negative — showing that there is still work to do.

The way employers treat candidates can have a big impact, and a little positivity can go a long way. In a world dominated by online interactions, enjoyable conversations are worth more than ever — in fact, this is the biggest contributor to a good interview experience (cited by 43% of respondents).

This is followed by transparency regarding salary and benefits packages (42%) and the recruiter or hiring manager being on time and prepared (40%).

A bar graph showing which factors contribute to a positive interview or recruiting experience for job seekers.
This bar graph cites which factors contribute to a positive interview or recruiting experience for job seekers. According to the data, 43% cite an enjoyable conversation as a positive experience. 42% cite transparency around salary and/or benefits as a positive experience. 40% said their time being respected leads to a positive experience. A thorough and accurate job description and adequate communication and feedback both contribute to a positive experience, according to 46% of respondents. 25% of job seekers report a quick interview process as a contributing factor to a positive experience. Finally, 9% of respondents say when they receive a candidate experience survey that contributes to a positive experience.

Conversely, the top five contributors to a negative experience relate to time management and communication. The worst offense hiring managers can commit, in job seekers’ eyes, is not respecting their time, whether by canceling, showing up late or being unprepared for an interview (chosen by 45% of respondents). This is closely followed by providing inconsistent job descriptions (42%) and poor communication (41%).

A bar graph showing which factors contribute to a negative interview or negative recruiting experience.
This bar graph shows what factors contribute to a negative interview or recruiting experience for job seekers. 45% of respondents cite a negative experience when their time is not respected. 42% cite a negative experience when the job description is inconsistent and 41% say it’s when there is inadequate communication. 33% of respondents cite that a lack of transparency around salary and/or benefits cause a negative experience while 28% cite that a lack of feedback contributes to a negative experience. 25% say when one does not like the recruiter/hiring manager’s personality it contributes to a negative experience. A lack of discussion about work/life balance leads to a negative experience for 23% of respondents, and for 27% of respondents, it is a long interview process that contributes to a negative interview or recruiting experience.

Negative experiences hurt, but not as much as positive experiences help

The majority of respondents (52%) “definitely” tell friends or family when they have a negative recruiting or interviewing experience, which is important news for employers.

However, they are less likely to share than candidates who have positive experiences: 72% of respondents “definitely” share good news. Meanwhile, over half of respondents (58%) are “very likely” to recommend companies that provide positive experiences to others looking for work.

Therefore, going above and beyond to make candidates happy is worth the effort. Simply avoiding a bad experience won't get a response from that extra 20% of talent who are eager to share about the exceptional times.

What’s more, negative experiences can affect your bottom line: The majority of job seekers (66%) say this would negatively impact their future business dealings with a company, whether or not they were hired.

A bar graph showing the impact of positive or negative experiences on sharing news and future business.
This bar graph shows the impact of positive or negative experience on sharing news and future business. 72% of respondents who have a positive experience will “definitely” tell friends and family while 51% with a negative experience will tell friends and family. 84% of candidates with a positive experience would continue to have business dealings with the company while 66% with negative experiences say this would negatively impact their future business dealings with a company.

The good news? The vast majority of candidates (84%) say a positive interview experience would make them more likely to give a company their business, regardless of a job offer.

Responding to candidates within a week is ideal

Remember, candidates dread the “black hole” of no response. An easy way to improve your experience is to promptly respond to every applicant. A great example of this is Enterprise: Their company policy is that every single person who applies for a job will get a reply from a recruiter.

While most job seekers hear back from employers within their desired time frame, there is still a large portion who are waiting longer than they want to. This means many employers are missing the mark — and could be missing out on top talent.

A bar graph showing both actual and desired employer response times, reported by candidates.
This bar graph shows the employer response time to candidates both actual and desired reported by candidates. According to the data, 5% of employer responses come within a day and 14% of respondents desire responses within a day. A majority of responses happen within 1 week, which is also the most desired time frame by 65% of candidates. 22% of responses happen between one to two weeks, but only 15% of respondents desire this response rate. 6% of responses happen in longer than 2 weeks to 1 month, with 3% of respondents desiring this time frame.

The majority of candidates (65%) usually hear back from recruiters within the week after an interview, which aligns with their preferences (this is also the top choice for 65%). However, many still wait longer than they’d like to.

The longer you wait to reach out after an interview, the more candidates will believe they didn’t get the job. Not only is this deeply frustrating for candidates, but it also increases the risk that you’ll lose them to another opportunity. Nearly half of candidates (49%) who haven’t heard back within two weeks will believe they missed the mark.

When it comes to the format for communications, 75% of candidates prefer in-person interviews, with updates sent via email (43%).

Consistent job descriptions are crucial to retaining candidates

We also asked candidates what would make them drop out of an employer’s interview process. A mismatch between the job description provided and the one discussed in the interview is the biggest factor (cited by 21%). The other top five factors influencing dropping out of the interview process had to do with transparency as well — time not being respected (16%), inadequate communication (14%), lack of transparency or discussion about salary and benefits (14%) and lack of feedback (10%).

Today’s candidates will likely find a position that better aligns with their interests if yours doesn’t fit the bill. A lack of transparency wastes both your time and theirs— and may frustrate them enough to share their negative experience.

Positive candidate experiences are a win-win

It's a job seeker's market right now — and as an employer, it’s in your best interest to provide a great hiring experience. Not only is it the right thing to do, but you also risk missing top talent, negatively impacting your business and harming your reputation if you don’t.

By respecting their time, making good conversation and communicating clearly, you can provide an experience candidates will rave about — and stay competitive in the hiring game.