Why great candidate experience is vital for retailers

Tom Stroud By Tom Stroud on 30.06.2016
A successful candidate celebrating

The importance of delivering a great candidate experience is getting a lot of attention right now. Yet for employers in the retail and hospitality sectors this is not just important, it is vital. Here's why:

Candidates are customers

One leading media and telecoms provider found that in an 18 month period, over 7,500 unsuccessful candidates terminated their subscription. This equated to lost revenue of over £4.4 million, approximately the same as their entire HR budget.

A large majority of your candidates will be your customers, or potential customers. It may even be one of the reasons they want to work for you. The technology, messaging and way you assess them, all play a part in enforcing their view of your brand.

Get this wrong and, just as customers who receive poor service will tell family and friends, so too will candidates who experience a bad recruitment process. Social media means negative feedback can spread like wildfire.

Managing expectations

First and foremost, delivering a good candidate experience is about managing expectations. A candidate will already have a perception of your brand. They will be expecting your recruitment process to match this perception.

If I'm applying to a technology retailer, I expect their recruitment process to use the latest technology. Your entire recruitment process should reflect your brand values, not only your corporate branding.

From the outset use clear messaging to explain your recruitment process. Tell candidates what they will be required to do. If your recruitment process takes 3 months, tell them.

Encourage self-selection

Help candidates to self-select out of your recruitment process. This not only reduces the number of unsuitable candidates you have applying, it also improves the candidate experience.

We all like to feel we're in control. If I decide this job is not right for me, I'm not being rejected and my perception of that employer is not negatively impacted. I chose not to work there, but I'm still happy to shop there.

Use a realistic job preview, a "day in the life of" video, or short videos of current employees sharing their experiences in the role, warts and all. If candidates will be working on their own, or their shift patterns require them to work until 9pm, tell them.

This will also reduce the number of candidates who leave because the job wasn't what they were expecting.


Using killer questions saves you time because you have fewer unsuitable candidates to review. It also improves the candidate experience.

If I'm told early in the recruitment process I don't have the skills, or experience required, I know where I stand. I won't waste my time completing a lengthy application process, only to be told I'm not suitable.

Use clear and unambiguous statements to explain why the candidate has been unsuccessful. "We're sorry you don't meet our minimum criteria" tells the candidate nothing. Explain why you need employees to have a degree, or why they must be willing to travel.

A common candidate complaint is they weren't given feedback on why their application was unsuccessful. Provide personalised feedback on where the candidate's application failed. Give them useful suggestions and advice on how they could improve. They are then more likely to remain a customer.


Not providing a great candidate experience is no longer an option for retailers. Candidates are also your customers, treating them poorly will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

But by meeting, or even exceeding a candidate's expectations, there's a higher chance they will remain a loyal customer, despite being unsuccessful in their job application.

In next week's blog post, I explore how using technology can improve the candidate experience and streamline the recruiter's workload.

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