How Employers Can Use Lessons from the Pandemic to Improve the Candidate Experience

March 1, 2022 | Shannon Shoemaker

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many organizations to make big changes to their workforce. Employers implemented remote work policies, laid off workers to address financial setbacks, or struggled with workforce shortages. This has affected employees at all levels, including potential candidates.

Two years after COVID-19, what have employers and human resources leaders learned from the experience? Here’s how HR can improve the candidate experience and keep their company competitive in the new talent landscape.


Empathy goes a long way.

Workplace empathy is one thing that saw significant improvement during the era of COVID-19. Colleagues showed more sympathy and forgiveness as they shared similar experiences, such as learning new technology, adjusting to workplace changes, and caring for sick family members.

According to the 2020 North American Candidate Experience Research Report, this extended to recruitment, as well. Employers were more communicative and accommodating to candidates, which improved the candidates’ opinion of the organization.

There are many ways to carry this empathy forward in a post-COVID recruitment environment:

      • If you already know an applicant is not qualified for the role, let him or her know within two weeks of their initial application.
      • Let unqualified applicants know if there are other roles they may be suited for, or if there are specific skills they should work on developing.
      • Even if you use automation in your hiring process, set aside a time to make human recruiters available to answer candidates’ questions.
      • Communicate openly with those candidates who are still being considered, and update them on what stage they are in the hiring process.


Don’t be afraid of feedback.

Creating the best experience is almost impossible without an accurate understanding of what that means for candidates. Haphazard guessing can be inefficient and ineffective. The best way to make improvements is to use candidates’ input on their experience.

If a candidate exits the application process or turns down a job offer, reach out to them for feedback on their experience. Ask new hires what contributed to them accepting an offer, and how to improve the hiring process.

This feedback can help HR leaders understand what makes an excellent candidate experience. From there, employers can set goals and standards for creating that experience for their applicants.


Transparency is crucial.

Open communication doesn’t just help demonstrate empathy and keep candidates informed during the hiring process. It can also improve the experience by giving candidates a better idea of what the job is like. As more hiring and training takes place virtually, even for onsite positions, providing more information about the workplace and a candidate’s new role is more important than ever.

There are plenty of ways to encourage hiring transparency and communication with candidates:

      • Share a virtual tour of the workplace;
      • Show pictures or videos of work events;
      • Write clear, detailed job descriptions;
      • Provide a name and contact information of someone who can answer candidate questions; and
      • Let candidates know what to expect during an interview—whom they will meet, the dress code, and what parking or check-in process to expect.


Transparency and communication are also important for regulatory compliance in your hiring practices. For example, some states and localities are considering or implementing legislation regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in hiring. If your HR department uses AI in your recruitment efforts, make sure you obtain candidates’ consent where necessary and let them know when and how you use AI.

Being open, flexible, and empathetic to job applicants is crucial to creating a positive candidate experience. This will help employers attract higher quality candidates and build a strong team, making them more competitive and prepared to face the next challenge.

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