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What Candidates Want (Besides the Obvious)

We can all agree most candidates in the market today are looking for positions and employers that offer traditionally important factors like: More Compensation, Career Opportunity, Big Brand, Work/Life Balance, Stability and more recently Remote or at least Hybrid working situations. These are certainly the ‘biggies’ and most companies nail these right out of the park, at least they claim to.

But there are some less attention-grabbing issues that often go overlooked, especially for big companies, that definitely make an impact on the Candidate Experience and do cause some of the ‘I don’t know what happened’ reactions when candidates, newer employees and contractors leave or never start to begin with. Often, an employer never finds out the reasoning for ‘ghosted candidates’ and chalks it up to the nature of the market, or blames it on millennials (isn’t everything their fault?).

But trust me, we on the recruiting side, neck deep in the market, hear it all.

So here are a few Candidate Experience issues that, if done properly, can increase the warm regard they have for your company and decrease the potential of candidate ‘ghosting’ or early turnover:


1. The initial Recruiter/Talent Acquisition contact should know what they are doing

Yes they might be brand new, yes they might have dozens of positions on their plate, yes it might be the 20th person they’ve talked to that day…but NO they can’t be perceived as not knowing anything about the position, the requirements, or the process. They need to be trained (and we can help) in quickly identifying the proper fit or not and move the process along or not. The key is getting from initial conversation to interview as soon as possible, and let the managers decide quickly.

2. Superior Communication – Phone/Video/Email

The single biggest gripe candidates always have is the lack of clear communication for the steps in company hiring processes. Many companies and their recruiters assume after one phone call or email exchange that the candidate is only interested in their company, not fully grasping the inundation of opportunities great candidates have. Overcommunication is best here. Clear steps articulated by the company accompanied by follow-through provide evidence of a well-run and reliable organization.

3. Clear Understanding of Position and Required Experience

I can’t tell you the number of times great candidates are lined up for interviews that do not match their skill sets. Despite the fact there may be another opening that perfectly fits, typically the candidate is turned off by this interaction and doesn’t return the call for the right interview. It is, in my opinion, the responsibility of the TA/Recruiting team to ensure no one’s time is wasted through mismatched interviews. If working with a recruiting firm for the hire, allow them access to the Manager to hear from them what they actually need, instead of a template job description.

4. Rapid Formal Written Offer Process

Typically the larger the company, the more complicated the offer process, and that’s okay as long as the expectations of the candidate are managed. As we’ve noted, the longer the amount of time between final interview and written offer in their inbox, the greater the chances other opportunities creep in. This is especially true in the government contracting space where contingent offers based on contract award are thrown at candidates like beads at Mardi Gras. Many times those candidates will leverage these types of opportunities to negotiate with real ones. Again, superior communication is key throughout this critical stage.


1. First Week Prep and Expectations

It is remarkable that the larger and more prestigious the employer, the less frequently they have their act together for setting up IT, shipping a laptop on time if remote, getting credentials in place and prepping a hire to be productive from day one. Sometimes this is due to orientations, document review, onboarding tasks, allowing the hire to ‘settle in’ and the like. The fear is the prevention of overwhelming the hire – but I have found most great candidates want to jump in and contribute right away. Give them a chance to do that.

2. Clear Directives and Responsibilities from the Outset

A great hire goes through all the emotions when starting a new position – excitement, nervousness, a bit of confusion – but what they shouldn’t feel is boredom or lack of direction. This happens often for contractors, especially remote ones, who are detached from a ‘mother ship’. Whether it is the first hire for a project, or the 20th, having a clear plan for the work they are going to do is critical in ensuring the long-term success of the hire. If they are waiting for access to systems, or for work to emerge – my advice is to assign something they can do to assimilate and add value as soon as possible.

3. Effective Management and Leadership

As the saying goes – workers don’t leave companies, they leave Managers. Great hires want to be led and motivated to do their best work, and do it when their Managers invest time and attention in their orientation, work assignments, and development. Certainly Managers are perpetually overworked nowadays and hiring is the least favorite part of their job, this is understandable. But the great Managers are the ones who see their hires as extensions of their own work, can initially delegate, and eventually empower those hires to increase the production of the team and deliver. Hang on to these types of Managers.

The main themes of these items and their effectiveness is communication and expectation-setting. Great candidates are smart, resourceful and become great hires. Their experience through the process of interviewing, offer, and onboarding is directly related to their long-term success with your company. My advice is to investigate these steps of the process when ‘I don’t know what happened’ happens, and look to make improvements along the way.

And take it easy on those millennials.

About the Author:

Mike Nicholas is the founder of Davis Laine, LLC, an expert advisory firm specializing in solving talent acquisition headaches through TA advisory, specialized recruiter skills training, RPO Recruiting services, and traditional contingent recruiting.

For more helpful information, visit

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