3 simple hacks to better candidate application experience

In the world of agency recruitment, the focus is always the same:

Selected Candidates + Clients = Placements = Commission

Nothing else matters.

And this has worked for us for many years. But increasingly we are seeing a neglected group becoming more vocal. Not only do they vent their frustrations online, but there are well established review sites that encourage such feedback (think Glassdoor).

It could be about the 45 minutes wait at the lobby despite being early for the screening interview. Or the stupid questions that were fielded which discussed everything under the sun except the candidature of the applicant.

And they are coming fast and furious from the candidates that didn’t get placed.

Employer reputation

According to leading employer branding specialist, Employer Brand International, employer reputation is a top consideration for job seeking talent. And it is so easy to find out more about the insides of an organisation, and not simply what they put in their brochure.

These aren’t just exclusive to corporates. Talent today have a huge variety of options when they wish to work with headhunters. They want to work with people whom they can trust — not just another recruiter desperate to hit the next commission tier within this week.

Improving the candidate application experience

With hundreds of job applicants coming into any recruitment business, the probability of getting bad reviews is incredibly high. And you want to look at ways to deal with that at the initial touch-point — the application stage.

For a typical recruitment agency, it would not be practical to reply to every single job applicant given the limited number of hours every working day. But there are ways to make the process much more palatable for the applicants.

1. Decrease the number of unsuitable applicants

This doesn’t mean getting them to do a 2-page questionnaire and fill up a 5 page application from the beginning.

A simple mandatory question like Why do you want to apply for this job?’ is good enough to eliminate a good percentage of applicants that just aren’t a good fit and hence won’t have anything decent to fill in for the answer.

2. Set up a separate email address with an auto responder

Many recruitment companies are still relying on the good old email address to receive job applications. You should have a separate email address just for résumé collection so you can turn on the auto-responder. And in your auto-responder, you could have a message like this:

Dear applicant,

Thank you so much for your application.

We truly appreciate your decision to trust us in finding your next career and we will work hard to make that happen.

Our clients also entrust us to find the best talent for their openings and we do our best to fulfil that. That might result in us not able to bring your application further.

3. Guide them on what to do next

In continuation to the auto responder:

Should your application not proceed from here, here are some things to explore:

  • Run a diagnostic on your resume versus the job description using a tool such as JobScan.
  • Have your résumé professionally reviewed and written by résumé writers such as [Insert names and hyperlinks of resume writers partners]
  • Check out the career coaches we are working with: [insert names and hyperlinks of career coaches]


You can spend more money on a better website and pay someone to update your social media page every hour. Ultimately candidates just want to get a job through us. And for those that we can’t help, the least we could do is to guide them on what to do next given our expertise in this business.

And in doing so, improve the application experience for candidates and add a bit of goodwill in the market.

Adrian Tan

Adrian Tan is CEO of The Resource Group, a boutique HR Consultancy that focuses on helping SMEs. Before this, he was the MD of RecruitPlus which he co-founded in 2004 and led to two HR Vendor of the Year award. He was named the HR Entrepreneur of the Year by SHRI in 2013. He blogs regularly on #Entrepreneurship and #HRTech on adriantan.com.sg.

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