New Research: Exceptional Experiences in Talent Acquisition

Global TA Day: A Love Letter to Recruiters

Experiences define and shape our economy. Consumers are more likely to make additional purchases, refer friends, and remain loyal to a brand when they have an exceptional experience – and a negative experience can wreak havoc on a brand. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs study, a dissatisfied customer will tell nine to fifteen people about their poor experience, and approximately 13% of your dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people. Companies realize the impact that a positive or negative experience can have on their brand and business success, and have invested in dedicated roles, resources, and technology to help improve customer experiences.

But, this level of attention is not given to the candidate experience. According to recent studies by Aptitude Research and Talent Board:

  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) of applicants who are screened out never receive a response (Aptitude Research)
  • One in three recruiters are feeling more burned out this year than ever before (Aptitude Research)
  • From job applicants who had applied over two months ago, 61% had not heard back from the employers (2020 Talent Board Candidate Experience Benchmark Research)

Although the talent acquisition experience has improved over the past few years, it still creates frustration and inefficiencies for both candidates and employers. And while 68% of companies are committed to improving these experiences in 2021, they often fall short.

So what exactly is an exceptional experience in talent acquisition? How can companies create experiences that feel meaningful and personal for candidates through every stage of their journey? Aptitude Research and The Talent Board partnered with Symphony Talent on new research to help define exceptional experience, understand gaps in expectations, and the impact of technology. Below are some of the key findings:

Sustaining an Exceptional Experience Takes Work: Over 1,000 companies have participated in the Talent Board Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Program to date, but only five companies have won CandE Awards eight-to-nine times out of the 10 years since the program was founded — four North American companies (AT&T, Colorado Springs Utilities, Deluxe, and Lockheed Martin), and one in EMEA (Intel). In 2020 alone, employers had to navigate a series of external challenges including COVID-19, while also dealing with a cascade of resulting internal hurdles (budget cuts, reduced recruiting plans and talent investments, and shifts in business).

Companies Should Start With the Employer Experience: Candidates will not have a positive experience if recruiters are unhappy and disengaged. If hiring teams are overworked and overwhelmed, the candidate experience will be negatively impacted. Today’s recruiting and hiring teams are facing an experience crisis and remote work has created additional stress. According to Aptitude Research, recruiters spend up to 16 hours per week scheduling calls and 10 hours looking for candidates in their ATS. Additionally, 32% of recruiters surveyed are looking for other career opportunities. Companies that want to improve their external experiences need to look internally first.

Communication Is the Biggest Missed Opportunity: Candidates want to understand their progress and know where they stand. Companies need to better communicate with candidates earlier in the process when they are first researching the organization, provide a process indicator during the application process, and communicate next steps post-application. Currently, 58% of candidates do not receive any response (Aptitude Research).

 Exceptional Experiences Directly Impact the Bottom Line: A poor candidate experience impacts business performance, including brand and customer retention. Organizations that have improved talent acquisition experiences over the past year have seen improvements to NPS scores, customer retention, and employer brand. Companies that provide a more engaging and human experience see a direct impact on business performance, including a two times improvement on NPS scores.

Companies Are Increasing Their Investment in Automation: Automation can help improve experiences for both employers and candidates. While not new to recruiting, automated processes continued to increase this year to support leaner recruiting teams and more applications, especially with machine learning and other smart technologies. The reality is that most candidates who are interested in a job will research and apply, but never move forward. Most will have little to no human interaction and will be dispositioned automatically. Automation can help provide a fair and equitable experience, and allow companies to provide consistent communications to every candidate.



  • Madeline Laurano

    Madeline Laurano is the founder and chief analyst of Aptitude Research. For over 18 years, Madeline’s primary focus has been on the HCM market, specializing in talent acquisition and employee experience. Her work helps companies both validate and re-evaluate their strategies and understand the role technology can play in driving business outcomes. She has watched HCM transform from a back-office function to a strategic company initiative with a focus on partnerships, experience and efficiency. Before founding Aptitude Research, Madeline held research roles at Aberdeen, Bersin by Deloitte, ERE Media and Brandon Hall Group. She is the co-author of Best Practices in Leading a Global Workforce and is often quoted in leading business publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Yahoo News, The New York Times and The Financial Times. She is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including the HR Technology Conference and Exposition, SHRM, IHRIM, HCI’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference, Unleash, GDS International’s HCM Summit, and HRO Today. In her spare time, she is a runner, an avid sports fan and juggles a house full of boys (where a spontaneous indoor hockey game is not unheard of!).