October 31st, 2023 | Sterling

What Do Candidates Want from the Hiring Process?

There is no hiding from the fact that the hiring landscape has been unpredictable over the last few years, under the influence of the pandemic recovery, the Great Resignation and the slowing down of the economy. If you are involved with recruiting, background screening, and onboarding, navigating hiring shifts and challenges can often be a source of frustration.

We are seeing HR professionals push forward and adapt to these shifts, often by leveraging technology to streamline the hiring process, but how well do they understand what candidates actually want? Sterling often hears directly how job seekers view the hiring experience, and we value the constructive feedback they can provide throughout the entire hiring process. That’s why we surveyed more than 3,700 recent job seekers for our “Hiring Reimagined” report.

If you’re looking to understand what job candidates really want to better secure talent in a competitive hiring environment, keep reading. We’ll take you inside the minds of many job candidates as we compare and contrast their thoughts directly with those of HR professionals. Read on or download the full report.


A Shift in Hiring Power Dynamics

A shift in power can be observed in the job market as 70% of recent job seekers claim they considered dropping out of their most recent hiring experience or did make the decision to fully drop out. If this many job candidates are confident enough to walk away from a potential new role, what exactly is happening during the hiring process to make them leave?

What we found is that these candidate responses are directly related to the hiring experience. The 70% surveyed who considered or decided to drop out were discouraged for various reasons, including:

  • The length of the hiring process
  • The complexity of the hiring process
  • The number of touchpoints
  • The issues they encountered during the background screening process

Clearly, a challenging and time-consuming candidate experience shifts the power dynamic and gives job candidates the option to start looking for other opportunities or stay at their current job.

In order to triumph in the future of hiring, it will be important for HR professionals to recognize job seekers’ frustrations with the process and to invest in areas that will accelerate and simplify the candidate experience.

Where Do HR Leaders’ and Job Candidates’ Views Differ?

We must look at the hiring process as a shared experience between HR teams and job candidates. When better aligned on this shared experience, HR professionals can successfully move candidates through the hiring process from start to finish, ultimately leading both parties to take the next step towards Day One at the new job. To help achieve this, let’s look at the importance of expressing company culture and values.

When we compare and contrast responses from job seekers and HR professionals, we see markedly different opinions about how well organizations demonstrate their culture and values during the hiring process. Candidates do not agree that, when they went through a hiring process recently, the organization showcased their culture and values “strongly,” only answering, “somewhat.” This misalignment can easily result in a candidate dropping out of the hiring process, especially as company culture and values become more important to job seekers than ever.

Criminal background checks are a critical part of the hiring process to help organizations find authentic candidates and get them in the door quickly and safely. And while we often highlight the importance for organizations, job candidates also have their own perspectives and values when it comes to undergoing and completing a background check.

Here again we’re seeing a notable misalignment as job candidates place a premium on culture and values. Organizations should look to highlight these areas during the background screening process in order to attract and engage their ideal candidates. It’s also helpful to know that job seekers don’t feel negatively about background screening. In fact, 59% of candidates told us that the background screening process made them feel more confident about the organization or the job.

This presents an opportunity for hiring teams to think about background screening as a way to build confidence with job candidates. Having a positive experience with your brand, improved by timely updates in the hiring process, can give your company a competitive edge and help secure top talent.

How Can HR Leaders Focus on What Candidates Want?

As we move into the future of hiring, there is no time for organizations to simply guess at what job candidates want from their hiring experiences. Our research puts a spotlight on the fact that there are many things job seekers want HR professionals to know.

For example, we uncovered that individuals aren’t just looking at pay when choosing where to work. Candidates also place importance on other factors:

  • Safety in the workplace, both with colleagues and physical locations
  • Flexible work hours
  • Time-to-hire
  • Remote work options

These responses prove that job seekers aren’t making decisions based on just one or two factors. Rather, their direct responses tell us that they want to work at organizations where they can trust that they will be safe, where they have a degree of control over when and where they get their work done, and where they can quickly get started at their new job.

While this comprehensive data tells a story, we also gave job seekers an opportunity to share, in their own words, what they wish HR professionals understood about the candidate experience from their perspective. Their responses mainly fell into four main categories consisting of time, choice, humanity, and communication.

Deliver Clear Value to Today’s Candidates

It’s true that the hiring landscape is challenging right now, but there are many opportunities for HR professionals to address these challenges by better meeting the needs of job candidates throughout the overall hiring process, including background screening, and putting strategies in place to improve and enhance the candidate experience.

Don’t feel as if you need to do this alone. Seek out a background check partner like Sterling Backcheck to elevate the candidate experience, optimize your background screening processes and timelines, and maximize the importance of culture and values in the hiring process. Discover more of what the over 3,700 recent job seekers and over 1,200 HR professionals had to say about the future of hiring.

Download the full report.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.