Three keys to Turn Candidate Surveys Into Feedback Based Recruiting

Candidate surveys

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Through articles, webinars and LinkedIn Groups lately I have been talking a lot about the keys to good candidate surveys. So I thought I’d list a few of the most important tactics to use to take your candidate surveys to the next level.

The truth is, candidate feedback is the key to hiring more effectively and is the core to implementing a feedback-based recruiting strategy that can optimize your recruitment operations, align your recruiting organization around common metrics and form the basis for day-in, day-out management of the hiring function.

Sound good? Here goes.

Key One: Tie Candidate Surveys to Recruiting Stages

Candidate surveysYou’ve got a process. Job seekers find your jobs, they apply, they are screened, they interview, they get offers, they are onboarded and they (hopefully) spend the first year getting up to speed and developing a long-term relationship with the organization as a quality hire.

That’s a lot of steps, so don’t send out a candidate survey asking “How Did We Do?” for the entire process. Rather, send very short pulse surveys at each step of the recruiting process. It looks like this:

Career Site Visitors

 Did you find what you’re looking for? Are you drawn to our brand? What can we do better? How satisfied are you?


How was the application? Did you receive acknowledgement with clear next steps? What can we do better? How satisfied are you now?

Phone Screen

Was the recruiter on time? Were they knowledgeable? Was the position communicated effectively? What can we do better? How satisfied are you now?


Was the hiring manager on time? Were they respectful? Were they prepared? Were the set and setting appropriate? What can we do better? How satisfied are you now?

Declined Offers

Why did you decline? What can we do better? How satisfied are you now?

Key Two: Gather Feedback in Real Time

Many organizations will survey their candidates periodically, whether that is something they undertake as an organization or whether they do so through our partner, The Talent Board’s annual CandE research and award program.

In any case, this kind of approach is better than nothing. But the fact is that most job seekers apply to multiple companies. And when they receive a survey, it could be months after the fact. 

Think about your last job search. Would you really be able to offer relevant feedback, even a month after the fact? The reality is that many candidates simply don’t remember a huge amount of detail.

In addition, periodic surveys are more like a chore for candidates than anything else. They didn’t get the job. They are no longer engaged with the organization or motivated to engage, nor is the organization engaged with them. And these surveys are normally much longer than is practical because this is the one shot to get feedback about a multi-faceted experience.

Better to gather feedback in real time. Short pulse feedback requests related to the candidate’s status result in higher response rates and more relevant, reliable data. 

When a job seeker is on your career site, gather a little feedback. Once they apply, gather a little feedback. After a phone screen, gather a little feedback about that. You see where I’m going. Real time.

Key Three: Stop With the Candidate “Surveys”

Do you like surveys? I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I’m against providing feedback. 

This key is part semantic, and part structural. The semantics are relevant. Don’t send a survey, send a feedback form. Now I can “provide” feedback rather than “take” a survey. 

Those semantics will guide you in how you structure your feedback collection. Surveys are long, formal affairs. Feedback forms are short, to the point and easy. If you follow the first two keys, then you’re naturally flowing toward a feedback mentality and structure rather than a survey mentality and structure. 

You’re building a process that, at each stage, asks each candidate “How was that and how could it have been better?” And you are asking “How satisfied are you now?” And you are asking candidates relevant questions at the time of highest engagement and motivation in a way that is simple to follow through with.

This approach is game changing because:

  • Your candidates will appreciate the respect and transparency you are demonstrating
  • The data will expose your entire recruiting process in a way you have never before seen
  • You will have everything you need to optimize your process to make it faster, more effective and more useful for all your constituencies: Candidates, recruiters and hiring managers

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