Candidate Experience Is a Key Piece of DEI Strategy

March 02, 2021

Contributor: Teresa Zuech

Equity in the candidate experience is critical to DEI strategies but is inconsistently applied today.

Many organizations are making new or heightened commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, but Gartner research shows that commitment doesn’t consistently extend to the treatment of potential employees.

“Candidate experience is often future employees’ first impression of the organization — and the first point at which an organization can prove its commitment to equitable principles by treating people in a fair and consistent way. Our data shows the current candidate experience is not consistent at all,” says Lauren Romansky, Managing Vice President, Gartner.

Gartner research finds that today, significant differences exist in candidate experience across different groups — including segments such as gender, race and sexual orientation.

The challenge for HR leaders is to understand why different applicants drop out of the process or perceive the effectiveness of onboarding programs differently and then address inequities.

Read more: Use Data to Inform Diversity Hiring Decisions

What is candidate experience?

The candidate experience refers to the impression a job seeker gets of an organization, based on their interactions during the entire recruitment process. It is the first point in which an organization can demonstrate its commitment to equitable principles through treating people in a fair and consistent way.

To diagnose the current state of candidate experience and map a path to improvement:

  1. Research candidate experience. Include the perspective of current employees and applicants who didn’t finish the process or weren’t offered a position to develop a holistic analysis.
  2. Identify marginalizing experiences. Look beyond averages to identify elements of candidate experience that vary across the applicant pool.
  3. Leverage data to drive urgency and change. Metrics like candidate satisfaction and rate of candidate withdrawal can illustrate which processes need to change.
  4. Benchmark the effectiveness of solutions to improve candidate experience against previous performance.

How does candidate experience differ at the application stage?

Many factors can prompt a job seeker to drop out of the application process. Gartner research shows where factors align to different demographics.

By gender

In 2020, 70% of men, compared to 61% of women, said they had discontinued the application process because they didn’t like some part of the job — from the size of the team to work-life balance. Women are more likely than men to discontinue an application process for only one reason: Work-life balance. In the same year, women identified work-life balance as a critical component of a role’s value proposition at a rate significantly greater than men.

Gartner depicts the reasons for discontinuing application by gender.

By race/ethnicity

In 2020, 70% of Latinx, Black, BIPOC and Asian candidates said they had stopped an application short in the past year because their preferences didn’t align to the role. That compares to 60% of white Americans. Racially diverse candidates attributed their behavior to two major factors: The diversity of the team and the management style of the potential manager.

By sexual orientation

The Gartner survey showed that 74% of LGBTQ+ candidates did not apply for a job because they didn’t believe they met the job requirements. Only 62% of heterosexual candidates felt the same way. This disparity suggests LGBTQ+ candidates may doubt themselves and their ability — and lower their expectations accordingly.

This will help to explain another finding: LGBTQ+ candidates are more likely than heterosexual candidates not to apply for a role in the first place, because they lack the education and years of work experience required.

How does candidate experience differ during the hiring process?

Gartner research shows that men are significantly more likely than women to be prepped for their application preparation. Seventy-one percent of men but only 59% of women received at least one type of prep support, such as a projected timeline or step-by-step guide to the process, or practice or preparation materials in advance of their interview.

Different racial groups also experience the process differently. Notably, Latinx, Black, BIPOC and Asian candidates are likely to receive more application assistance than white candidates but are less likely to interact with the hiring manager and more likely to interact with the recruiter. Because the hiring manager is typically the most important decision maker in the hiring process, this lack of face time clearly demonstrates inequity.

How does candidate experience differ during the onboarding process?

Onboarding is meant to set up new employees for success by conveying expectations and opportunities for the employee, including the pathway to learning and advancement. Gartner research shows that only 58% of women are satisfied with their onboarding program, compared with 65% of men. Women also seem to feel their organization is less prepared for them to start than men.

Among LGBTQ+ survey respondents, 7% (vs. 2% of heterosexual candidates) said they did not learn during onboarding how their jobs related to their organization’s goals and outcomes. Similarly, 15% (vs 7%) did not learn what it takes to get promoted in their role, and LGBTQ+ candidates were three times more likely not to have learned about the culture of their team during the onboarding process.

Learn more: Redesign Recruiting Strategies to Hire Quality Talent

Use data to course-correct on candidate experience

Data can provide the insight HR leaders need to identify and redress inequitable areas of candidate experience.

Common metrics include the likelihood that a job seeker would recommend an organization to a friend after applying, the ease of the application process and the accuracy of information received during the application. It is also critical to ask applicants about barriers or negative interactions they experienced.

One common way to collect data is with post-application surveys. For a more complete picture, make sure to poll applicants who accepted offers and became employees as well as those who dropped out of the process or were rejected. Also segment the data for more information about the experience of different sets of candidates. Continue to collect data to test whether improvements are having an effect.

Latinx, Black, BIPOC and Asian talent is slipping through the cracks due to negative candidate experience. Pay attention to candidate preferences, the barriers they experience and the processes through which they apply to make sure you improve their experience, particularly by removing inequities.

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