Guide: Shape the candidate experience


Google defines the “candidate experience” to include every interaction a candidate has with the company, from getting an email that an application has been received all the way through to getting a phone call with a job offer.

Google's internal research shows that the interview process, and the interviewers in particular, are one of the biggest drivers of a candidate’s overall satisfaction with the hiring process, and can make or break a decision to accept an offer. Google also found that length of the hiring process in general was the leading driver in candidate experience. Google's hiring team is constantly working to make the interview process enjoyable and improve the experience for all candidates. In fact, 80% of people who have been interviewed and rejected report that they would still recommend a friend apply to Google.

Giving candidates a positive experience throughout the hiring process — from communicating expectations to keeping candidates up to date on new information — can help you attract and impress the best talent.

Guide: Shape the candidate experience

Reach out to great candidates

Once you’ve found great candidates, how do you reach out to them? Initial contact is important for establishing rapport and sets the tone, not only for the entire hiring process, but also the expectations that candidate will bring to your organization as an employee if they are hired.

Google's hiring team has seen that simply taking a few extra minutes to personalize the communication can add to how candidates perceive the experience and how they regard your company overall.

Two candidates have different hiring experiences. Basic level of serivce - "When she called, she seemed to be reading a list of questions. I don't think share cared about what I said." Great experience - "When the recruiter called, she was very nice. She told me about the position and asked me about my background. I could really tell she took the time to review my resume in depth because she asked some great questions!"

Guide: Shape the candidate experience

Prepare candidates for the interview

Research shows that making sure candidates know what to expect and how to prepare for an interview helps them perceive the process as being more fair.

Google also tries to help candidates focus on the interviews by making interview logistics simple. The hiring team sends a consolidated email with the following information to candidates:

  • Day-of logistics reminder:
    • Where to go, when to arrive, and what to wear (candidates always want to know!)
    • Directions on what to do when the candidate arrives (e.g., “check in at reception and I’ll come pick you up.”)
  • Interview schedule: While Google can’t always give candidates specific timing, the recruiters try to include the info they’ll care about, such as how long the day will be, how many people they’ll meet, and when they are scheduled for lunch or any breaks.
  • Interview prep material: Google recruiters give the candidate tips on how to prep for the interview, what types of questions will be asked and how Google makes hiring decisions.
Guide: Shape the candidate experience

Structure your time

When candidates come onsite for an interview, Google's not just assessing them, they're also assessing Google. Recruiters and interviewers want to sell them and show them that Google is a great place to work. Ultimately, Google wants them to come away from the experience feeling like they got their questions answered and were treated honestly and fairly throughout, even if they don’t wind up receiving a job offer. Every candidate could apply again at some point or even recommend your company to their friends. Good news travels fast and bad news travels even faster.

Here is a breakdown of how Google often structures interviews so both candidate and interviewer get the most out of the time.

Timing is Everything - It's your responsibility to make sure you have time for everything during the interview. Four main parts of an interview: Introduction, Interview questions, candidate questions, wrap up. For a 30-min interview: 2-min intro, 20-min interview questions, 5-min candidate questions, 3-min wrap up. For a 45-min interview: 5-min intro, 32-min interview questions, 5-min candidate questions, 3-min wrap up. For a 60-min interview: 7-min intro, 40-min interview questions, 8-min candidate questions, 5-min wrap up.

In addition to the interview structure, here are some ways Google works to deliver a great onsite experience:

  • Tailor the interview panel to match the candidate’s background and interests
  • Show the candidate around the workplace
  • Build in time to let them get to know the company, culture, and team
  • Build in extra time for questions

Don't forget that while selecting your next hire is a big decision for your organization, accepting a job offer can be life changing for the candidate.

Guide: Shape the candidate experience

Communicate during and after the interview

Google's hiring team tries to keep the lines of communication open and consistent with the candidate, particularly if the hiring process becomes longer than anticipated. You don't want to lose out on great candidates because they didn’t understand the process or thought your company wasn't interested. Google wants candidates to feel informed, treated fairly, and personally connected to the organization.

To do so, recruiters focus on the following throughout the interview process:

  • Tone. Make communication simple, understandable, and to-the-point. In person and over the phone, talk to them as you would a friend and address them by name. Candidates will appreciate when you are direct and human.
    • Example: Hi Kim, Thanks for applying to Google’s Site Reliability Engineering team. The hiring committee is currently reviewing your application. We’ll reach out again soon when we have an update on your status.
  • Timely. Communicate promptly with the candidate when significant events happen in the hiring process.
    • Example: “Hi Jose, Just wanted to call and let you know that I’ve received all the feedback from the interviewers and that your resume has been passed on to the hiring committee.”
  • Truthful. Whether the news is positive or negative, always tell the truth. This is ultimately best for the candidate.
    • Example: “Beth, the hiring manager, is still interviewing other candidates but your application is still under consideration. I’ll have another update for you next week.”
Guide: Shape the candidate experience

Accept and reject candidates

Accepting candidates

You’ve found the right candidate for the role. Now how do you deliver the news? At Google, recruiters call candidates to personally offer them the job. Following this call, the recruiter sends the offer letter, important details, and documents over email. The recruiter also lets hiring managers and interviewers know and encourages them to reach out as well to say congrats.

Rejecting candidates

When rejecting a candidate, research indicates that explaining how the hiring decision-making process works can help create a more positive experience for the candidate.

build Tool: Measure candidate experience

To better understand and measure candidates’ experiences in the hiring process, Google sends a survey to candidates that comes onsite, regardless of whether they received a job offer. The hiring team uses this feedback to adjust the process and understand what worked and what didn’t. Gathering and implementing feedback ensures that Google is building a candidate experience that is constantly improving and adapting.

The hiring team tries to send an email requesting feedback as close as possible to the hiring decision so that the experience is still fresh in the candidate's mind. The survey questions focus on action-oriented feedback, asking questions like "I was satisfied with the frequency of communication," rather than "I was happy with my recruiter," so follow-up action is clear for the Google team.

Make it your own: customize the tool below.