Devin FosterMay 18, 2021
Topics: Candidate Experience

$15/Hr Isn’t Enough — What Candidates Really Want [Video]

This recap covers the May 13 episode of Talent Experience Live! Host Devin Foster and Phenom's VP of Marketing, Jonathan Dale broke down one of HR's hottest topics: breaking through a competitive hiring market by offering what candidates really want. They reveal areas of improvement based on key findings from Phenom’s annual report, State of Candidate Experience: 2021 Benchmarks.

Walk through any U.S. town, and you might see "now hiring" signs posted by businesses that use substantial wage increases to capture job seekers’ attention.

From monetary sign-on bonuses to cash incentives just to interview, the emphasis on larger-than-usual hourly pay reflects job market realities of a high supply of jobs, but lack of candidates to fill them. Job seekers are holding back due to Covid-19 safety concerns, childcare and remote work arrangements, demand for better opportunities, and more.

Using competitive pay to attract top talent may bring them to your career site, but if their experience from that point on doesn’t align with their values, then engagement and conversion will lag. Watch the full episode below, and read on for highlights!

The experience that candidates (and employees) really want

Today's candidates want new, innovative ways of working — but what exactly do they want from employers? Organizations must learn how to meet modern candidate expectations.

According to Dale, candidates want competitive wages and to feel aligned with the company’s mission. But once they notice your brand, they'll also want to know that they can grow their career, and that their contributions will be valued.

“So you’ve attracted them – you got them to hit pause. And then you go a step further, and you’re able to make a real connection with them about your brand, what you stand for, what you mean," Dale said. "At a minimum, that’s what companies need to start designing for … this experience that not only causes the candidate to look at them, but it starts making a connection.”

BLOG: How to Resonate Louder with Candidates for Faster Hiring

Key approaches to leveling up the candidate experience:

  • Provide an experience-focused career site and application process
  • Show that career growth is a priority
  • Demonstrate that you value the contribution of employees
  • Communicate with empathy throughout the talent acquisition process

The employee experience is a crucial differentiator.

When everyone’s promoting big-money wages, employers need to set themselves apart by highlighting the employee experience. So then the question becomes, what do employees really want?

Skill development and career growth opportunities

“Companies need to understand a job seeker at all levels," Dale said. "Every individual wants to continue and build on a career path. It’s so overlooked right now.”

Show candidates the types of transferable skills available at your company, which can benefit them internally and throughout their careers.

Appreciation and empathy

It's important for organizations to emphasize their value of employees’ contributions — at every level of the organization, from frontline workers to senior executives.

“If you become known as a company that truly values your employees and treats them with more empathy than the next company, and understand their job progression, transferable skills and what you can give them … everyone will benefit,” Dale said.

What kind of career site experience are your candidates getting?

Getting candidates to pause and notice your company rests heavily on your career site, but key elements are missing from the sites of many companies.

Only 9% of Fortune 500 companies have a chatbot on their career site, while 91% don’t provide personalized job recommendations, according to Phenom's State of Candidate Experience: 2021 Benchmarks report.


Chatbots add ease to getting instant answers to frequently asked questions about the hiring process, and help job seekers find the right fit faster by delivering relevant opportunities. Recruiters also benefit by gaining a 24/7 virtual recruiter that automates sourcing, candidate screening, and interview scheduling.

RELATED: The Value of 1 Million Chatbot Interactions


Personalized job recommendations keep candidates engaged and coming back to your site. A customized experience for candidates based on their skills, interests and career goals is critical for acquiring top talent today.

Simple Application Process

“No one intentionally creates an application process that’s hard, or too long,” Dale said.

TA teams should evaluate the application process for possible redesigns that lead to a better experience. Make it as seamless as possible, and make sure it reflects your employer brand.

Empathy and humanity are central to the entire hiring process.

Humanity and empathy must become part of TA, especially as we prepare for a post-pandemic hiring environment. Job seekers expect and deserve courtesy, like being updated on their application status.

But only 1% of the Fortune 500 companies audited in Phenom’s candidate experience report said they communicate application status to candidates. “This goes back to having more empathy for candidates,” Dale said.

WATCH: Confessions of a Hiring Manager

How can artificial intelligence make the candidate experience more human?

Using AI to take care of repetitive manual tasks, like screening, scheduling, and answering FAQs, recruiters can focus on more meaningful contact with candidates.

“If AI is saving recruiters and TA teams time, it means those recruiters now have time to be more human,” Dale said. “[Recruiters] are there because they truly love to help people; they love the interaction, the connection … but the process is taking up so much of their time."

“You can also just be more empathetic overall. Be sure you’re going the extra mile, using technology to ensure candidates know where they’re at in the process.”

The “formula” for what candidates really want

There's a formula for providing the experience that will translate into attracting and converting candidates.

“It needs to be a combination of wage – which is competitive, of course – and then it needs to be about attracting [candidates] and designing a really key and great experience," Dale said. "An experience that immediately allows the candidate to identify and feel proud of the brand.”

Important components of the experience include helping candidates feel connected to the culture and showing that they’ll gain transferable skills to nurture career growth.

“Companies need to be more empathetic throughout the entire process,” Dale concluded. “Last and fundamentally, they need to show candidates and employees that their work is valued. At the end of the day, I valued you, your contribution, your output, and your commitment to your role. That formula may not be the perfect formula, but it will go a long way.”

Get your copy of the State of Candidate Experience: 2021 Benchmarks report here.

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