Industry Insights

What’s Wrong With Your Candidate Experience (And How to Fix It)

By Jannelle Sanchez
candidate experience

If you’re in the market to hire the best tech talent, having a smooth and fine-tuned candidate experience will place your company steps ahead of the competition. 

And it makes sense. Every step of your hiring process, from the language in your job posting, to the timing of your candidate assessment, to the on-site interview, gives candidates a preview of your company’s mission, product, and culture. With today’s competitive tech talent market, one mishap or error during the interview process is enough to turn off interested and talented candidates.

In our latest webinar brought to you by HackerRank and Workable, Amy Miller, Senior Technical Recruiter at Amazon 126 Lab, Sean Echevarria, the Senior Product Manager for Walmart, and Blane Shields, HackerRank’s Director of Customer Success, share common hurdles in the interview process and what you can do to improve your candidate experience. Read on to discover what metrics you should be benchmarking in your hiring process, trends worth paying attention to in the technical hiring space, and what role technology plays in your candidate experience.

Metrics you should be benchmarking throughout the hiring process

candidate experience

Choosing the right recruiting metrics is a crucial step in creating a stellar end-to-end candidate experience. While it’s necessary to pay attention to well-known benchmarks like time to fill and candidate acceptance rate, it’s also important to keep an eye on metrics that are a little more granular. 

Candidate drop-off

There are multiple stages within the interview process, and benchmarking candidate drop-off at every part of the funnel will identify the segments in your interview process that need improvement. 

“How many people do you lose after the initial phone screen, how many people are you losing because your interview process is too long or convoluted? Tracking the acceptance rate is important but recruiters need to track candidate drop off at every level. If you’re not really paying attention to every step of the funnel, you’re missing the opportunity to improve it for everyone,” says Amy.

Paul says that tracking drop-off at every stage of the hiring process is a part of Walmart’s hiring practice. But he believes that focusing on the most prominent problem areas in your hiring process—instead of trying to repair every single touchpoint—is the quickest way to strengthen your candidate experience. 

“The question that gets asked the most often through normal ATS’s is ‘What’s the reason you didn’t accept this offer?’ and if the answer is specifically for the onsite experience, then fix your onsite experience and don’t do anything else for a quarter, and see how you’ve made a difference,” Paul says.


Candidate engagement throughout your interview process is another important metric to track. Paul says that some of the most valuable engagement data points tech recruiters should track are email open rates, how quickly candidates are flowing through the pipeline, when they fall out of the pipeline, and feedback. 

For engagement, Amy says she records two metrics: 1. her number of outreach responses, and 2. how many candidates drop-off during assessments. Measuring the number of people that respond back to her first pitch helps Amy know when her messaging misses the mark. When using HackerRank to assess the skills of potential candidates, Amy says, a large drop-off rate signals that she introduced the assessment portion of the interview too soon. 

 “We should pay attention to how many people are dropping out. If people are opting out, that’s something we need to look for. Are we involving assessments too soon in the process before they’re really sold on the opportunity? Are we spacing them appropriately?” says Amy.

Blane says that the best time to introduce an assessment varies case by case, but HackerRank’s Test Health Dashboard can help identify the timing that performs best for your team.

“You have to find the right point in time to insert that technical assessment. It could depend on seniority level, it could depend on is it a referral or inbound application—there’s a lot of different factors you have to consider depending on the role, volume, low volume—and then also making sure you get that feedback in real-time. We closely track all those metrics in our Test Health Dashboard so we can provide real-time feedback,” says Blane. 


Onboarding is the final stage in the hiring process that can make or break your candidate experience. Both Blane and Amy believe that creating a structured onboarding process gets new hires excited to join the company. Benchmarking metrics like new hire drop-offs or onboarding survey sentiment will give you some insight into the strength of your onboarding process.

“We take pride in our onboarding experience,” says Blane, “We actually have every leader from every department sit with all new hires to give them a crash course on every department’s goals and incentives, which leads to a really strong candidate onboarding experience. New hires come in and they have a really strong understanding of how the organization works as a whole, and how we’re working together with one common mission—and that’s something that we’ve found really helpful and we’ve gotten really strong feedback from our candidates.”

“Onboarding starts from the time the offer is signed,” says Amy, “If a company makes the mistake of not staying close to the candidate once they accept an offer, you can lose people. Especially in this market with counter offers being so prevalent. We should be paying attention to the onboarding candidate experience and we should be tracking it.” 

Trends in the technical hiring space

candidate experience

With the competition in today’s tech talent world, companies and recruiters are keeping their eyes peeled for the hiring trends that will flood their inbox with applications from the best candidates. Here’s what Blane, Amy, and Sean have to say about today’s trends and whether you should implement them into your hiring strategy:

Small companies are getting creative for the Gen Z workforce

As Director of Customer Success, Blane supports HackerRank customers across industries, segments, and company sizes with their recruiting efforts. One trend he’s noticed? Small companies are more willing and able to try out hiring trends, especially when it comes to attracting Gen Z employees

“With the new flood of talent entering the workforce, there are different approaches and methods you have to take to attract them, and small companies are trying different things,” says Blane, “With large organizations, a lot of the processes can be a lot more difficult to change. So I’d say the trend with some of the smaller companies and mid-size companies we’re working with—especially tech companies—is that they’re trying a lot of different strategies with candidate engagement, whether that’s doing something unique at a career fair, or plugging in a HackerRank assessment, or doing some sort of panel interview at an onsite.”

Branded content is king

In Sean’s experience, one recruiting trend that works for Walmart is branded content. Having a mix of on-brand evergreen content and fresh content that represents each of the teams your recruiter is hiring for, is a great resource recruiters can use to quickly showcase the company culture, values, and mission.

“One of the things we’ve done internally here is build out toolkits that people can tap into,” says Sean, “If you have someone recruiting to Data Scientists, they know what’s going to really catch their eye and the right message to send them. But in order to create that brand consistency, recruiters need something to pull from so they’re not just sending candidates Word documents. So we’ve built out toolkits to help recruiters fill in the blanks.” 

Sean recommends you should keep the following on hand:

  • Company articles
  • A list of the hiring manager’s candidate expectations
  • Videos or quotes of employees from your latest talent branding campaign

Not all trends are one-size-fits-all

In Amy’s technical recruiting experience, she’s learned that it’s wise to resist being distracted by the hottest trend and stick to the tools and methods that work. As far as tech tools go, Amy believes that there’s not a one-size-fits-all platform that will work for every candidate. But there are tools that will help you streamline your hiring process and produce a smooth candidate experience.

“There should be some structure and you want to be mindful of treating all engineers the same, and assessing in the same way. And that’s where HackerRank comes in as really helpful. It allows everyone to go through the same process, and there’s some value there,” says Amy.

How to evaluate and choose new interviewing tools

candidate experience

The human resources (HR) technology market is growing at an accelerated pace: currently, more than 12 million companies are spending a combined $5 trillion on HR technology. With so many emerging recruiting  platforms and interviewing tools, here’s what Sean, Amy, and Blane say you should keep in mind before investing:

Make sure your new tool is easy to integrate and easy for candidates to navigate

At Walmart, Sean says they test two things before moving forward with a new hiring technology: 1. how does the technology integrate into their other platforms, and 2. does this tool provide a seamless candidate experience?

The more you fold in assessments and other tools, the more clicks you’re making candidates go through when they’re expecting a seamless interaction,” says Sean. 

Having internal employees test and weigh in on new tools will give you a more accurate view of whether it’s right for your hiring process.

“Make sure you personally know what that candidate has to go through so if they do experience any issues, you can help troubleshoot, and you know what to do about it,” Sean says.

Make sure the results are relevant

According to Amy, next to evaluating a new hiring technology’s ease of use, you should also analyze how relevant its results are.

You want to make sure that the results of an assessment tool are relevant, and the results help you see deeper into the candidates background and skills to determine whether they are a fit for the job,” says Amy. “Is it a personality assessment? I don’t like that. But is it a technically relevant exercise or test? Great. Make it easy for the candidate to use, make it easy for the candidate to navigate, and make it really, really relevant, and help them understand the why.”

Use a technology that gives your candidates a preview of their day-to-day work

In Blane’s experience, he’s seen that if a developer is asked to undergo a skills assessment, it’s best practice to create an assessment that mimics the work they’d do in the role they're applying for. 

“We encourage our customers to create assessments that are very specific to the role so the candidate has a really good understanding [of the role]: ‘If I accept this role, these are the kind of things I’ll be doing on a daily basis,’” says Blane

Making assessments that showcase the skills needed and the duties of the role itself will ensure the candidate is clear on the job’s expectations.

“We’ve found that it also leads to much more productive conversations at later stages in the interview cycle,” says Blane, “Especially looking at technical hiring, engineers are doing whiteboarding sessions, they’re doing CodePair sessions, they’re interacting with the candidate’s code and making sure they have that skill. So the more easily you can relate to the day-to-day the stack that you’re using—which languages, which frameworks—it makes the conversations much more productive later on in the process.”

Engineering Culture at CRED