Key Findings From the State of Candidate Experience: 2023 Benchmarks Report
Every company is on a journey of transformation, and if the last few years taught us anything, it’s that we will not survive if we remain narrow-focused on simply winning the war for talent. AI technology and automation are reinventing all businesses across all industries, and it’s happening before our eyes.
In this ever-changing market, the strongest TA strategy starts with a positive candidate experience — and by extension, a compelling career site that turns visitors into applicants and hires. To keep up, employers must embrace cutting-edge practices and technology for not only hiring employees, but developing and retaining them as well.
Our recently released State of Candidate Experience: 2023 Benchmark Report ranks how well Fortune 500 companies attract, engage, and convert talent — including an additional audit on their use of AI.
Let’s unpack key takeaways from the report, successes and challenges of the Fortune 500, and opportunities for improvement for all companies. Watch the full episode here, or read on for the highlights.
What is the State of Candidate Experience Report?
Our launch of the State of Candidate Experience: 2023 Benchmark Report marks the seventh year Phenom has provided an extensive overview of how Fortune 500 companies approach their digital candidate experiences. As the first interaction with a company and its culture, career sites must convey a strong employer brand, provide easy access to the most relevant jobs — based on information like skills, experience, and location — and deliver a seamless application process so candidates can quickly make informed decisions and apply if it’s the right fit.
To gather data, Phenom audited how well Fortune 500 career sites performed in attracting, engaging, and converting candidates, with an additional audit on their use of AI. Organizations are scored on career site capabilities such as:
Intelligent search functionality
Presence of a chatbot
Use of AI and automation
Compelling content and job descriptions
“It’s awesome to see how it’s evolved – we’re always finding something new in the data,” said Monica Montesa, Content Marketing Director at Phenom.
What trends has the report uncovered?
For the first time, the report digs into data to identify changes in the candidate experience that have occurred over the past three years — the time period since the pandemic changed the world of work.
Findings reveal that organizations are shifting to build personalization and convenience into the candidate experience by applying tools such as AI and automation. From 2020 to 2023, we found:
250% increase in presenting job recommendations based on browsing history
150% increase in the use of AI-powered chatbots
145% improvement in easy site navigation
87% increase in displaying recently viewed jobs
74% increase in video content
50% increase in well-written job descriptions
“When we talk about the change in what job seekers now expect and how companies need to transform and reconsider how they’re making jobs accessible to candidates… we are really seeing that come through in the data, especially in the last three years,” Montesa said.
Despite these increases, there is still a significant gap between the solutions available and what companies have implemented. Although organizations are adopting AI-powered technology to deliver hyper-personalized experiences that strengthen candidate attraction, engagement, and conversion, this report shows that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are falling short when it comes to leveraging AI to enhance candidate experiences, with 89% scoring poorly in this area. According to the 2023 audit:
86% did not present job recommendations based on browsing history
85% did not use chatbots
85% did not display recently viewed jobs
84% did not provide job recommendations based on candidate profile
80% lacked compelling content on their career sites
Are some best practices and technologies becoming ‘must-haves’ rather than ‘nice-to-haves’?
“There are still more jobs than there are candidates. And candidates are more selective now than ever before,” Montesa said. This means certain elements of the candidate experience emerge as critical must-haves for winning top talent.
Innovators are using a combination of chatbots, personalization, and other tools to build stronger connections with candidates. They’re also helping candidates navigate to the most relevant information quickly and easily. “The sooner people are able to find that information, they apply faster, and they feel more connected with the company as well,” Montesa pointed out.
There’s also a renewed focus on employer brand content that gives site visitors an authentic look at company culture and values, such as employee testimonials.
“People really want to know what they’re going to get themselves into. It’s a big decision to make. Just one quick look at a job description isn’t always going to be enough. What we’re seeing in the data is that companies are really starting to recognize that – and doing something about it.”
What needs the most improvement when it comes to creating an outstanding candidate experience?
Lack of follow-up during the post-apply period stands out as a major opportunity for most employers.
“What happens after [candidates] get that initial email confirming that their application has been submitted?” asked Montesa, adding that too often, it’s … nothing but crickets. “It’s just not setting up a positive experience at all.”
Reducing candidates’ frustration by keeping them in the loop regarding hiring status forges positive connections with silver medal candidates, and is a win for an employer's reputation. (Remember, social media amplifies negative experiences!)
Other areas where the Fortune 500 are struggling include:
Maximizing social: Only 15% of career sites had a social login option — and only 3% had curated social media content embedded within their career sites.
Consistent branding: Only 12% of career sites had branding on each page to indicate to the candidate that they were still on the same career site.
Speed to apply: Only 11% of career sites had an intuitive job search and apply process, requiring less than three clicks to apply.
Search functionality: Only 12% of career sites had a type-ahead search feature available, and only 11% of career site searches could understand the context of the keyword and separate it with proper grouping.
How can employers use the report to assess how they stack up against competition?
It’s a basic business tenet: understanding the competition is a major component of strategy.
That’s why the State of Candidate Experience categorizes findings into 14 different industries to provide a view of how an industry as a whole is performing, including Consumer Goods, Energy and Utilities, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing and Materials, Restaurant and Hospitality, Retail, Software and Technology, and Transportation and Distribution.
It also covers specifics on how each individual company ranks in attracting, engaging, and converting candidates.
Companies not in the Fortune 500 also have the opportunity to see how their career site compares by requesting a personalized career site audit from Phenom.
Does the report cover recommendations for improving the candidate experience?
If having the data is table stakes, taking action against it is the real game. “What can you do with that information? How do you proceed from there?” Montesa said.
The State of Candidate Experience Report features a special section dedicated to recommendations for improvement. Suggestions range from quick fixes to long-term approaches, including steps such as:
Implementing AI technology
Boosting personalization and other capabilities to ensure a seamless, relevant experience
Staying up to date on emerging technology, such as generative AI
Becoming more active on social media
Creating more content that showcases your company culture and employer brand
Opportunities abound — but don’t be overwhelmed. “It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to implement all of these things right away,” Montesa said. Rather, stay focused on the changes that will make the most impact for your organization and job candidates.
To unlock a more compelling candidate experience, view the full report findings here.
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