Record-low unemployment makes it difficult to compete for talented professionals. With fewer job seekers in the pool, employers must work harder to attract and win candidates. Your company is up against not only other employers, but also the jobs candidates already have.

That’s why candidate engagement — how well candidates feel they are treated during the recruiting process, and how responsive they are as a result — matters more than ever today.

Another reason engagement matters: 72% of job seekers will “definitely” share a positive experience with friends and family, according to a recent Indeed survey of 1,000 professionals who searched for a job within the last year. Their upbeat feedback can help you more easily attract top talent.

But how can recruiters and employers engage candidates in a more affirming way?

To find out, Indeed asked job seekers what makes for a great recruiting or interview experience, as well as what turns them off. Their answers provide a valuable roadmap for successful recruiting in today’s high-stakes talent game.

1. Engage job seekers in enjoyable conversation

Online interactions, such as personalized email inquiries, can help you get on a candidate’s radar and communicate more efficiently. However, quality in-person engagement is still crucial. When asked what makes an interview or recruiting experience positive, “enjoyable conversation” is the top reason survey respondents cite, at 43%.

During interviews, you probably focus on questions that will help you assess the candidate. But remember that a conversation should be a give-and-take dialogue, not an interrogation.

To create an “enjoyable conversation,” put the candidate at ease as much as possible. Pay attention to personal interests they express, and connect over common ground. This can break the tension of the interview environment, making both you and your company more relatable.

Communicate in a friendly, authentic manner — but always within the context of a professional meeting. And avoid asking questions that may seem harmless but can trigger a negative reaction from candidates.

2. Respect the job seeker’s time

Respecting a candidate’s time is the third-biggest contributor to a positive interview or recruiting experience (cited by 40% of job seekers). On the flip side, not respecting their time is the number-one cause of a negative experience (45%), and it’s the second-most common reason a candidate drops out of an employer’s interview process (16%).

In practice, being respectful of time means keeping scheduled appointments and showing up before they start. It also means doing your homework for the interview. Showing an understanding of, and interest in, a candidate’s background and skills can keep things moving forward while demonstrating that you’re invested in them.

Keep in mind that the interview process is extremely time-consuming and often anxiety-producing for applicants. With unemployment so low, candidates may be taking time off from their current jobs to interview with you — and they have plenty of other options to consider if you don’t respect their schedule.

3. Keep job descriptions consistent

A thorough and accurate job description is the fourth-leading contributor to a great candidate experience (cited by 35% of respondents). On the other hand, a disconnect between the job description provided online and the one discussed during the interview is the top reason (21%) candidates drop out of the interview process. It’s also the second-biggest cause of negative candidate experience (42%).

Consistency in job descriptions is important for several reasons. As mentioned, the interview process is already time-consuming. If candidates believe the position being discussed doesn’t match the one they applied for, they may conclude it’s not the right fit — and that they wasted their time. It can also make your company appear unclear about the job’s responsibilities and scope. Any of these can cause attractive candidates to consider alternatives, which they have plenty of in this tight labor market.

Of course, recruiters and hiring managers often have more than one job to fill at a time, so disconnects can happen. Stay on point by always reviewing the given job description before an interview. If there’s been a change in the responsibilities for a position — even a minor one — update the information and alert candidates right away.

4. Respond clearly and within one week

Candidates put a lot of time and effort into their job searches. It’s easy to understand why they loathe the black hole that results when they don’t get a response from a potential employer.

To this end, “adequate communication and feedback” is the fifth-most important contributor to positive candidate engagement (chosen by 35% of respondents). Meanwhile, “inadequate communication” is the third-biggest factor in a negative experience (41%).

Most candidates (65%) both want and receive a response within one week after an interview. However, many of them are forced to wait longer. And the longer you wait to communicate with a candidate post-interview, the bigger the risk of losing them — especially in this job seeker’s market. Nearly half of respondents (49%) who haven’t heard back from an employer within two weeks believe they didn’t get the job.

So how can you become more competitive? Make your application and interview processes as painless as possible, and ensure candidates feel valued. For example, you might create a policy wherein every single applicant gets a response, as Enterprise has done. At a minimum, set realistic expectations during the recruiting and interview process as to when a candidate is likely to hear back — and follow through within the stated time frame.

Room for improvement remains

Overall, 70% of respondents say they’ve had “mostly” or “only” positive experiences as job seekers; this shows that many recruiters and employers are on the right track. However, 30% describe their candidate experiences as negative — which means there’s plenty of room for improvement.

How can your company make positive changes? Respect candidates’ time. Be consistent with job descriptions. And communicate with them clearly and expeditiously.

Above all, remember job-seekers themselves say these are the top contributors to positive candidate engagement. If they don’t have a good experience with you, they’ll waste no time looking elsewhere. Make sure your company is memorable for all the right reasons.


Paul Wolfe

Paul Wolfe serves as Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Indeed, with a focus on growing, developing and engaging Indeed’s talent and nurturing the company culture. In this role, Paul oversees a multi-disciplined HR group that includes HR Business Partners, Talent Attraction, Employee Development, Total Rewards, Inclusion, HR Analytics, HR Operations, and Employee Experience. Paul sets the talent strategy at Indeed to ensure all current and future business needs are met. He is passionate about creating an environment where the business can thrive and where employees can be their true, authentic selves each day. Prior to Indeed, Paul served as a vice president and senior vice president of a number of well-known companies, including, Orbitz, Conde Nast, and Ticketmaster. Paul holds a bachelor’s degree from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. He lives with his husband and their dogs in New York.