Candidate Experience: Insights into Validity and Measurement

By Bing Chun Lin, Ph.D.

A positive candidate experience has been linked to higher job offer acceptance, greater advocacy, and even potential sales, so it’s not surprising that this is a focus for many organizations. During a recent Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference, I hosted an interactive session with HR practitioners and practicing I-O psychologists focused on the candidate experience. The discussion highlighted important takeaways for interview practices and measurement of the candidate experience.

Here are two key insights from the session:

1.    Balancing face validity with predictive validity matters for the candidate experience

What we think works and what actually works can be two different things. Great hiring processes (interviews, assessments, etc.) should both feel like they work (have face validity) and actually work (have predictive validity)! Many practitioners in my session were curious about how artificial intelligence (AI) could help to automate the recruitment process and support face validity, while simultaneously ensuring extremely high predictive validity of assessments.

We know that highly structured interview questions are highly predictive of future performance, so using AI tools to both interview and score interview responses seems ideal. However, highly structured interviews are often lamented by candidates as overly rigid and impersonal, therein producing a sub-optimal candidate experience. Our audience agreed that tools like AI are like any other technological advancement in talent acquisition. They need to offer a candidate experience that is highly structured but does not feel rigid. This balance is not always easy to get right and it’s something our IBM Watson Talent team is mindful of as they develop applications.

2.    Bringing together academic and practitioner priorities for candidate experience

With both academics and practitioners in the room, it was a great opportunity to explore how the two groups view candidate experience. There was one particularly interesting disconnect. The academics suggested the most important candidate reactions to assess were anxiety and perceptions of fairness. It was noted that these reactions are associated with intentions to litigate, intentions to reapply, as well as likelihood of endorsing product. However, almost none of the practitioners in attendance mentioned these as reactions that were assessed in their companies.

Instead, practitioners suggested that their most important candidate reaction measures center on either perception of company brand or the performance of the recruiter (e.g., how knowledgeable they were or how quickly they responded). It was suggested this focus was a result of some companies using the responses for recruiter performance management. Such a disconnect suggests that measures of candidate experience could be an interesting area for I-O psychology academics and practitioners to coalesce.

My co-host at this SIOP session, the esteemed Julie McCarthy, Ph.D. from the Rotman School of Business at University of Toronto, has some great insights in this area. As an expert in the applicant reactions field for the past 15 years, Julie has published numerous top tiered scientific journal articles and books on the subject, and is widely regarded as one of the field’s thought leaders.

I urge you to explore Julie’s work and read IBM’s research into the potential impact of a positive candidate experience.