Your Guide To Creating a Candidate Experience Survey (Plus Free Template)

Written by Nadine von Moltke
Reviewed by Catherine Scott
10 minutes read

Hiring the best candidates and improving employee retention begins during the hiring phase, making candidate experience surveys a critical HR tool. As an HR professional, how can you know whether your organization provides an excellent candidate experience without asking candidates about it? 

And the candidate’s experience of your hiring process matters a lot. So much so that 76% of candidates indicated a positive experience swayed their decision to accept an offer, while 52% declined a job offer based on a poor experience,

What is a candidate experience survey?
When should you send a candidate experience survey?
How to measure the candidate experience
Checklist: How to conduct candidate experience surveys
15 candidate experience survey questions to ask
Free candidate experience survey template
Candidate experience survey best practices

What is a candidate experience survey? 

A candidate experience survey is an assessment organizations use to evaluate and enhance the recruitment process from the perspective of job applicants. This type of recruiting survey is designed to measure candidate experience at various stages of the hiring process, from initial contact to the final decision-making phase. It provides valuable insights into how candidates perceive an organization’s:

  • application procedure
  • communication
  • interview process
  • overall experience.

The primary purpose of a candidate experience survey is to identify strengths and weaknesses within the recruitment process. This enables HR professionals to improve candidate satisfaction, boost employer brand, and ultimately attract top talent. By analyzing the feedback collected, HR can make informed decisions to speed up and streamline the hiring process, provide better communication and feedback to candidates, and ensure a positive experience, regardless of the outcome of the application.

It’s an important metric to measure, not only to attract and retain top talent but also because candidates share their experiences online. Websites like Glassdoor are designed to make the recruitment process transparent, encouraging candidates to share their experiences publicly. 

Many candidates are happy to do so. According to CareerPlug’s Candidate Experience Report, 35% of candidates admit they’ve left a negative review online after having a negative experience, and 60% of candidates said they’ve left a positive review online after having a positive experience.

Candidate questionnaires need to cover aspects that candidates care about, such as the ease of applying, clarity of job descriptions, responsiveness of recruiters, professionalism and preparedness of interviewers, and the transparency of the selection process. By measuring candidate experience, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to fair and respectful recruitment practices, leading to a competitive advantage in the job market.

This isn’t used to improve recruitment return on investment (ROI), although a positive candidate experience will also have a positive knock-on effect on that metric. Instead, it’s a measurement of how well your company treats candidates and where there are areas of improvement.

As the Harvard Business Review reported, candidates are not only looking for better workplace benefits and higher pay (although these are important), but they’ve lost patience with complicated and lengthy hiring processes. Top talent value their time; they are looking for employers who value their time too. The average time-to-hire is 43 days because it includes multiple interviews. The problem is that 62% of working professionals say they lose interest within two weeks, particularly if there is little to no communication. 

For better or worse, this is all within HR’s control. Remember, every candidate who applies for a role and accepts an interview wants to join an organization. However, as Deloitte research reveals, 83% of candidates who have a negative interview experience can change their mind about a company or role if they once had a positive view of the organization. The same is true in reverse: 87% of candidates change their mind about a company that they didn’t like if they have a positive candidate experience.

When should you send a candidate experience survey?

The sooner, the better, although the candidate must have completed the entire process. You want to ensure the candidate has undergone all the process stages and can provide comprehensive feedback on their experience. Specifically, it is advisable to send the survey after a hiring decision has been made and communicate to the candidate whether they have been offered the position or not.

If the candidate has been rejected, it is respectful to allow a brief period for the rejection to be processed, typically a few days to a week, before sending the survey. This approach shows consideration for the candidate’s emotional state and may lead to more thoughtful and less emotionally charged feedback.

For those who accept a job offer, the survey should ideally be sent before their start date or during the onboarding process. In this scenario, the new employee’s feedback can be fresh and can provide insights into the effectiveness of the recruitment process while also setting a precedent for continuous improvement and employee engagement.

How to measure the candidate experience

Now that we’ve unpacked why measuring candidate experience is so important let’s look at how you can get started. Marketing teams often use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to measure customers’ satisfaction with an organization’s products and services. This helpful tool can be adapted for HR professionals to create Candidate Net Promoter Scores (cNPS).

You can typically collect cNPS data through candidate experience surveys by asking questions similar to: “Considering your experience as a candidate, how likely are you to suggest others to apply to [company]?” Candidates rate this on a scale from 0 to 10 – very unlikely to very likely.

To calculate your organization’s cNPS, categorize respondents into three groups based on their ratings:

  • Promoters (score 9-10): These candidates had a positive experience and are highly likely to recommend the company.
  • Passives (score 7-8): These candidates are satisfied with their experience but are not enthusiastic enough to be considered promoters.
  • Detractors (score 0-6): These candidates had a negative experience and are unlikely to recommend the company.

Your overall cNPS is calculated by deducting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.. The resulting score can range from -100 (every candidate is a detractor) to +100 (every candidate is a promoter). A positive score indicates more promoters than detractors, while a negative score indicates the opposite. This metric provides a quantifiable, benchmarkable figure that can be tracked over time to assess the impact of changes made to the recruitment process.

HR tip

Use the cNPS to measure overall sentiment over time. The goal is to use surveys to pinpoint areas of the recruitment process that can be improved. Your cNPS measures how successful you have been.

Checklist: How to conduct candidate experience surveys

Conducting candidate experience surveys is a structured process that involves careful planning and execution. Here is your checklist to creating and implementing effective surveys:

A 10 steps checklist on how to conduct candidate experience surveys.

15 candidate experience survey questions to ask

When creating a candidate experience survey, it’s important to include a variety of question types to gather qualitative and quantitative data. Below is a list of 15 questions split into different types, along with potential answers and corresponding HR actions. We have also provided a free downloadable Word template for you.

Open-ended questions

1. What did you find most positive about the recruitment process?

  • Potential answers: Clear communication, efficient interview scheduling, or friendly interactions.
  • HR action: Reinforce these positive aspects across all recruitment activities.

2. How do you think the interview process could be improved?

  • Potential answers: Suggestions for better time management, clearer expectations, or follow-up communications.
  • HR action: Implement changes based on recurring suggestions to improve the interview experience.

3. Was there anything about the recruitment process that you found frustrating?

  • Potential answers: delayed responses, lack of information, or technical difficulties.
  • HR action: Address these issues directly to reduce frustration for future candidates.

4. Please rank the following in order of importance to you: Communication, interview process, feedback, job offer details.

  • HR action: Prioritize improvements in areas that candidates rank as most important.

5. What is your level of experience in your field?

  • Potential answers: Entry-level, Mid-level, Senior, Executive
  • HR action: Tailor the recruitment process based on the experience level of the majority of candidates.

Likert scale questions

6. On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate the clarity of the job description?

  • HR action: For low scores, review and revise job descriptions to ensure accuracy and clarity.

7. On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied were you with the communication from our recruitment team?

  • HR action: For low scores, develop a more proactive communication strategy with candidates.

8. On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate your overall experience with the application process?

  • HR action: Analyze areas of the application process that need enhancement based on average scores.

9. On a scale of 1-5, how likely are you to apply for another position with our company in the future?

  • HR action: For those indicating 1 for ‘not likely,’ investigate and address the underlying issues deterring candidates from reapplying.

Yes/No questions

10. Was the application process easy to complete?

  • HR action: If the answer is ‘No, ‘ simplify the application process to improve ease of completion.

11. Did you receive clear instructions for the interview?

  • HR action: If ‘No’, create a standardized set of interview instructions to send to all candidates.

12. Were your expectations met regarding the recruitment timeline?

  • HR action: If the answer is ‘No, ‘ ensure better upfront communication about the expected timeline.

Multiple-choice questions

13. Which aspect of the recruitment process did you find most valuable?

  • Potential answers: Include options like interview feedback, communication, and job role clarity. 
  • HR action: Focus on enhancing the most valuable aspects, as indicated by the majority of candidates.

14. How did you find the length of the recruitment process?

  • Potential answers: Include options like too long, just right, or too short.
  • HR action: Adjust the recruitment process duration based on the majority feedback.

15. What resources did you use to prepare for the interview?

  • Potential answers: Include options such as the company website, job description, and external reviews.
  • HR action: Improve and promote the most used resources for candidate preparation.

Free candidate experience survey template

A preview of the candidate experience survey Word template.

How to write a good survey invitation letter: 6 tips

A candidate experience survey is only as valuable as the number of candidates who complete it. Candidates who did not secure a position are potentially your best opportunity to gain valuable insights into your process. 

If approached the right way, they will be honest about the positive and negative aspects of the process. How you invite them to participate in the survey is important. Here are six top tips to keep top of mind when writing your cover letter:

  1. Address the candidate by name to make the invitation feel personal and respectful.
  2. Keep the letter concise and to the point, explaining the purpose of the survey without overloading the candidate with information.
  3. Clearly state how to access and complete the survey, including any deadlines.
  4. Express appreciation for the candidate’s time and potential contribution.
  5. Emphasize the impact of their feedback and how it will help improve the candidate experience.
  6. Use language that reflects your company’s brand voice, whether it’s formal, friendly, or somewhere in between, to maintain consistency in communication.
10 best practices for effective candidate experience surveys.

Candidate experience survey best practices

As an HR professional, you are uniquely positioned to design a candidate experience that attracts better talent, builds a great employer brand, and results in low candidate churn. Candidate experience surveys give you the data you need to refine your recruitment process continuously.

To ensure effective and meaningful candidate experience surveys, follow these best practices:

  • Guarantee survey anonymity to encourage honest and open feedback without fear of retribution or bias.
  • Send surveys promptly after the recruitment process to capture fresh experiences and insights.
  • Use clear, concise questions to avoid confusion and ensure that the survey is not overly lengthy, which can lead to survey fatigue.
  • Ensure that all questions are relevant to the candidate’s experience and the information you seek to gather.
  • Offer the survey through various channels (email, SMS, etc.) to accommodate candidate preferences and increase response rates.
  • Pose questions that elicit responses leading to actionable insights rather than just data collection.
  • Be prepared to act on the feedback received and consider informing candidates about the changes made as a result of their input.
  • Before rolling out the survey to all candidates, test it on a small group to identify any issues with the questions or the survey flow.
  • Communicate the estimated time it will take to complete the survey and ensure it is reasonable.
  • Avoid asking for unnecessary personal information that does not relate to the candidate experience.
  • Use the survey results to make continuous improvements to the recruitment process, and not just as a one-time activity.
  • Compare your survey results against industry standards or past survey data to measure progress and set goals.
  • Tailor the survey content to reflect different roles, departments, or levels within the organization for more precise feedback.
  • Set up a process for regularly reviewing and analyzing the survey results and sharing findings with the relevant teams.
  • Design the survey to be inclusive and accessible to all candidates from any background or with any abilities.

Level up your candidate experience surveys

Once you’ve established your candidate experience surveys and have key insights rolling in, you can up your HR game to embed candidate surveys in your culture and processes, supporting a growth mindset across the business of continuous improvement. Not sure where to start? Here are four HR Pro Tips – it’s slightly more complex but the rewards are worth it.

  1. Establish benchmarks for candidate experience metrics to measure progress over time and against industry standards.
  2. Create a cross-functional team responsible for implementing improvements to the candidate experience.
  3. Promote a culture of continuous feedback within your organization. It should be second nature for hiring teams to look for and act on candidate insights.
  4. Periodically reassess and update the survey questions to align with recruitment trends, new business objectives and strategies, and candidate expectations.
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Nadine von Moltke

Nadine von Moltke was the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur magazine South Africa for over ten years. She has interviewed over 400 business owners and professionals across different sectors and industries and writes thought leadership content and how-to advice for businesses across the globe.
Your Guide To Creating a Candidate Experience Survey (Plus Free Template)

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