Rhona Barnett-Pierce


Everything I know about Candidate Experience I learned in Kindergarten

When it comes to Candidate Experience, it's time to go back to basics. In this post, I'll take you through my thought process to create Memorable Candidate Experiences.

Toward the end of High School, I read an excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and it has shaped how I approach life. Even after 20+ years of professional experience, I find myself going back to basics every time I’m tasked with solving a problem in life or at work.

You can read the full excerpt here. Here’s the TL;DR:

“…ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody…

..Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

We’ve complicated Candidate Experience

HR Tech companies have done a number on us in Talent Acquisition. They’ve promised to streamline and simplify EVERYTHING and to do so in record time. Most HR Tech Solutions that promise to help create a memorable Candidate Experience are simplifying things for Recruiters and forgetting candidates. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong advocate for Recruiter Enablement, but if that’s what you’re solving, then market it as Recruiter Experience.

When it comes to Candidate Experience, it’s time to go back to basics. In this post, I’ll take you through my thought process to create Memorable Candidate Experiences.

1. Share Everything

Sometimes, it feels like when we hire, we’re out to get candidates instead of trying to get to know them and evaluate their skills. I’m always shocked but never surprised when I encounter TA Professionals and Hiring Managers who are against adequately preparing candidates for their interview process.

A truly memorable candidate experience is one where candidates can feel that you were transparent and shared all of the information they need to make an informed decision about their next career move.

If you want to improve candidate experience, here are some of the things you can share with candidates:

Clear communication and transparency.

Let applicants know what to expect. Outline your process and timeline and share this before they apply. An outline of your process should be prominently listed on your careers website and even in the job post.

Share the Salary Range Upfront.

Even if you live in a State that doesn’t mandate that you share the salary range upfront, you should save everyone’s time and share the salary. I’ve spoken to so many organizations that try to make this more complicated than it is. It’s actually quite simple. Money is a big part of why we all go to work, so let’s get that conversation out of the way early on so that we are all aligned.

Share Interview Questions Upfront

I shared about this recently on LinkedIn, and the discussion turned out to be really great. Many people are against this practice, but many find value in it.

You can check out the discussion here.

From a DEI perspective, this practice allows neurodivergent candidates to be more prepared for interviews.

At the end of the day, you’re not supposed to be hiring based on interviewing skills but on skills to perform the job. Sharing interview questions with candidates upfront helps them prepare for the interview and helps remove those what-ifs that hiring teams usually face after an interview. Was this person just nervous? They seemed so good on paper. Maybe we should have more interviews with them to see or give them an unpaid project, etc. A lot of time is wasted when hiring simply because, as an industry, we refuse to give candidates the tools they need to succeed in an interview.

Share Feedback

This is another controversial one. I get it; sharing feedback takes work, it’s usually not received well, and it has the potential (when done incorrectly) to get you in legal trouble. None of those reasons should stop you from sharing feedback with candidates. They’ve spent hours interviewing and deserve to know why you didn’t hire them.

What a candidate does with your feedback is none of your business. Your job is to close the loop and provide actionable feedback.

2. Don’t Hit People

Rejection sucks, but it’s part of hiring. How you reject candidates says a lot about you as a person, as a professional, and as an organization.

I’ve said it a few times and will continue to say it: Ghosting Candidates is a choice; no one is forcing you to be an a-hole. Every applicant deserves to know the status of their application in a timely fashion.

Personalized rejections can help you turn candidates into brand ambassadors. Don’t believe me? Check out this post.

An applicant wrote this after receiving a rejection email for one of the roles I worked on a few months ago. Since this post, we’ve become professional acquaintances, but when Carrie wrote this post, I didn’t personally know her.

3. Say Please & Thank You

When it comes to hiring, some traditions have become so deeply ingrained that we rarely question them. Traditionally, a lot of people on the hiring side of the table expect candidates to be the ones to express gratitude for the opportunity to interview. 🙄

Companies should take the lead in showing appreciation for the unpaid time and effort candidates invest in the interview process. It’s a small gesture that can speak volumes about your company’s culture.

Imagine this: After a nerve-wracking interview, regardless of the outcome, you receive an email from the interviewer. They thank you for your time, for considering them as a future employer, and they share the timeline for further updates—no false hopes, just gratitude.

4. Hold Hands & Stick Together

Candidate Experience is a whole-company initiative.  Many companies focus on training the Recruiting Team, but everyone plays a part in creating a seamless and respectful candidate journey. Partner with your hiring managers and hiring teams and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

5. Look & Listen before you act

Listen to your candidates!

During Interviews

Asking thoughtful and relevant questions and actively listening to candidates makes them feel valued and heard. It’s a simple yet powerful way to improve their experience.

After Interviews

Most companies don’t ask candidates for feedback; if they do, they rarely do anything with the data they gather during surveys. Instead of listening to what the HR Tech sales rep says you need to elevate your candidate experience, listen to your candidates FIRST.

Stay Curious

Candidate experience doesn’t have to be overly complex. Sometimes, the most valuable lessons come from our early years. Approach candidate experience with the same simplicity and authenticity you had in kindergarten. Treat candidates like you’d want to be treated, collaborate effectively, and don’t forget to have a little fun along the way.

DISCLAIMER: Links included on this page might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you!

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