Yes, you read that right–it’s not clickbait. In an attempt to research what the candidate experience was like for job seekers in Sweden, Our CEO, Elin Oberg Martenzon, applied to 70 jobs online! As someone who has always been at the frontlines of innovation in recruiting, Elin has often championed the importance of a seamless and unbiased candidate experience. Yet, to truly understand the pain points candidates face, she decided to step into their shoes. What Elin discovered was both eye-opening and, unfortunately, a bit disheartening. The state of the candidate experience in today's job market still has glaring gaps, and it's high time we address them.

Throughout this article, we'll examine each of Elin's 5 learnings and explore what they mean for the industry as a whole and how we can work to deliver a better candidate experience.

* It is important to note that Elin and the Tengai team do not encourage individuals to use fake credentials or apply for jobs they are not interested in. The experiment was a one-time effort to improve recruitment space for all. *


1. The maze of overcomplicated applications

“The application process is often too complicated and time-consuming for the candidate. There are still employers asking for gender, age, and other demographics.” 

- Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, CEO at Tengai

You'd think that in a digital era, with all the advancements in technology, applying for a job would be as simple as clicking a few buttons. Think again. Time and time again, Elin found herself lost in the maze of online application forms, each more intricate and time-consuming than the last.

Firstly, the redundancy was astonishing. Despite having uploaded a comprehensive resume, Elin was repeatedly prompted to manually input the same details – from work history to her educational qualifications. This tedious process sometimes took upwards of 30 minutes per application, a significant investment of time for any candidate, especially those juggling multiple applications or current job responsibilities.

What truly startled Elin were the questions that had no bearing on her ability to perform a job. Why, in 2023, are employers still asking for details such as gender, age, and other personal demographics? Not only are these questions potentially discriminatory, but they also signal a lack of awareness and understanding of the global push towards diversity and inclusion. These irrelevant inquiries can deter top talent and do nothing to foster an environment of trust and transparency. These additional questions also extend the application process unnecessarily. As a candidate, you want to feel valued, not interrogated. You want the process to be efficient and respectful of your time. Instead, many application forms felt like an endurance test of her patience and perseverance.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the challenges Elin faced during her experiment. As she delves deeper into her experiences in subsequent sections, we hope to shed light on these issues and prompt a call to action for recruiters and hiring managers everywhere. Let's come together to re-imagine and reshape the candidate experience, making it as streamlined and unbiased as it should be.


2. Communication (or lack thereof) is common 

“The overall communication during the process is often neglected. An automatic reply saying “thanks for your application” is not enough to make a candidate feel safe.” 

- Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, CEO at Tengai

As Elin ventured further into the complexities of the job application process, another glaring issue became increasingly evident: the profound silence and lack of communication from the other side. It's a paradox, really. In an age defined by instant messaging, real-time notifications, and constant connectivity, why does the recruitment process often feel like sending a message in a bottle, hoping it might find its way to a receptive shore?

The illusion of communication

Yes, the familiar "Thanks for your application" automated email was an almost instantaneous companion after every application was sent. However, while this might provide an immediate sense of acknowledgment, it's merely a digital pat on the back, a hollow echo in an otherwise silent void. The acknowledgment of receipt is essential, but it is only the starting line in the marathon of effective communication.

Candidates, like all of us, seek validation. When someone takes the time to meticulously fill out an application, tailor their resume, or craft a personalized cover letter, they are investing a piece of themselves into the potential opportunity. It's a commitment, a leap of faith, and all they ask for in return is genuine engagement.

The ripple effect of neglected communication

This lack of genuine communication, or even an update about the application's status, creates an ambiance of uncertainty and insecurity. Days can turn into weeks, and without a single word from potential employers, candidates are left in limbo. This uncertainty can cause heightened anxiety, leading some to question their self-worth, and qualifications, or even reconsider their application entirely.

More importantly, the reputation of a company hinges heavily on the candidate's experience in recruitment. A positive candidate experience can turn even a rejected applicant into a brand ambassador, while a negative experience can have damaging effects on an organization's reputation. In today's digital world, word spreads quickly, and neglecting communication can be a costly oversight.

Redefining engagement in recruitment

Don’t get us wrong. It's not about inundating candidates with messages but about meaningful engagement. Periodic updates about the status of an application, insights into the review timeline, or even a brief note expressing continued interest can make all the difference. It ensures the candidate feels seen, heard, and most importantly valued.

Key takeaway: Communication is the bridge that connects employers to potential talent. Let's ensure that the bridge is strong, supportive, and above all, always open.


3. The marathon of uncertainty

“The time from application to the next step of the process generally was too long. At one point up to 5 weeks (and in several cases no next step or communication at all)” 

- Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, CEO at Tengai

As Elin’s experimental journey unfolded, there emerged a consistent and deeply concerning trend–the agonizing wait between application submission and the next phase in the hiring process. Considering the speed of technological advancements and the value of immediacy, it's baffling that many recruitment processes still operate at a glacial pace. This isn’t just about impatience; it's once again about respect, transparency, and valuing the potential employee's time and commitment.

Submitting an application is like planting a seed of hope. A candidate eagerly looks forward to signs of growth, anticipating the next steps, be it an interview invitation, an assessment, or even just feedback. However, the reality for many, including Elin herself during this experiment, was a lengthy wait. In one particularly extreme instance, she found herself in a 5-week-long limbo, with no update, no feedback, and no indication of what lay ahead. 

This uncertainty isn't merely an inconvenience; it's harmful in many ways:

Talent loss: Top candidates, especially in high-demand sectors, often have multiple opportunities at hand. Delays in communication or progression can result in losing these individuals to competitors that move more swiftly and decisively.

Brand perception: Slow hiring processes reflect negatively on organizational efficiency. If a company cannot manage its recruitment process promptly, how can it manage its other operations?

Mental strain: The uncertainty and extended waiting can cause undue stress and anxiety to applicants, particularly those desperately seeking employment. This mental toll can affect their performance in subsequent recruiting stages or even deter them from continuing the process.

The need for timeliness and transparency

Addressing this issue is not about rushing recruitment decisions but about refining the process and maintaining open channels of communication. Regular updates, even if they're to inform about a delay, can drastically improve the candidate experience.

Key takeaway: Time is precious, for both the employer and the applicant. Respecting it is the cornerstone of a positive recruitment experience.


4. The misuse of personality and aptitude examinations

“Personality- and aptitude tests are frequently used but are not customized for early screening (some of them took in general 2 hours to complete)” 

- Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, CEO at Tengai

Yet another hurdle that seemed oddly misplaced: extensive personality and aptitude tests. Now, don't get us wrong – these tests have their rightful place in the recruitment landscape. They can offer invaluable insights into a candidate's potential, cultural fit, and cognitive abilities. However, their positioning and length during the early screening phase raised some serious concerns during our CEO’s experiment.

One might expect initial screenings to be efficient, succinct, and focused on identifying a pool of candidates who match the basic job requirements. It's a time to filter applications at a high level before diving deeper into more detailed evaluations. But to Elin’s surprise, she was often subjected to exhaustive tests. Some spanning a staggering 2 hours, at the very beginning.

This approach is comparable to asking someone to take a marathon before verifying if they have the basic fitness to run. It's not just premature, but it can be incredibly discouraging.

If these tests are misused during early stages of recruitment, it can have several negative effects:

  1. Time drain: For candidates juggling current job responsibilities, personal commitments, or multiple applications, setting aside 2 hours for an early-stage test can be burdensome.
  2. Loss of enthusiasm: An intensive test at the start can be daunting and may deter potential talent from proceeding, especially if they feel the time investment doesn’t match the stage of the application process.
  3. Data overload: For recruiters, having detailed personality and aptitude data for every single applicant can be overwhelming and honestly, sometimes counterproductive. It's essential to first identify candidates who align with the job's fundamental requirements before delving into deeper psychological and cognitive evaluations.

The call to action here is not to eliminate these tests but to strategically place them where they add the most value. Shorter, more general screenings can be beneficial early on, with comprehensive evaluations reserved for later stages when candidates have been shortlisted and are genuinely being considered for the role.

Key takeaway: Let's champion a more considerate, strategic approach to early-stage evaluations, respecting candidates' time and commitment.


5. Seeking humanity in automated rejections

“50% of my applications got an automated generic rejection email (the other 50% I haven’t heard back from yet)”

- Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, CEO at Tengai

As Elin delved further into her recruitment experiment, another recurring theme emerged, reinforcing the necessity for empathy and personalization in modern recruitment. While the automated "Thanks for your application" email was a constant, the follow-up often came in the form of impersonal, generic rejection emails. These messages, albeit automated, felt cold and detached, lacking the personal touch that makes the blow of rejection somewhat softer.

The impersonal rejection experience

Out of the plethora of applications Elin submitted, a staggering 50% culminated in automated generic rejection emails. While she recognizes and appreciates the logistical constraints that make personal responses challenging, particularly for roles with a high volume of applicants, the sheer impersonality of these messages was hard to overlook.

It's not just about the disappointment of not moving forward; it's the way that disappointment is delivered. An impersonal rejection can make a candidate feel like just another number in the big world of recruitment.

Perhaps even more disconcerting was the radio silence from the other 50%. With no feedback or update, these applications seemed to vanish into a black hole. For candidates, this silence can be even more distressing than a generic rejection. It fosters feelings of invisibility and insignificance, leaving candidates hanging, unsure of their standing or the outcome of their efforts.

Read about why Erika Kimura prefers Tengai’s AI interview over long logic tests and chatbots in this one-to-one interview.

Humanize the rejection process

While automation and standardized responses are necessary tools in the fast-paced world of recruitment, it's essential to strike a balance. Below are three ways we can do this:

Personal touch: Even automated messages can be crafted with empathy and warmth. Adding a personal touch, maybe addressing the candidate by name or referencing a particular aspect of their application, can make the message feel more genuine.

Feedback loop: If possible, offering even brief feedback can be invaluable. It transforms a rejection from a closed door into a learning opportunity, allowing candidates to grow and refine their future applications.

Transparency: For applications that are still under consideration or those that might take time, a simple update or timeline can alleviate anxiety and prevent candidates from feeling left in the dark. 

Key takeaway: Behind every application is a human being with hopes, aspirations, and feelings. A dash of empathy and respect can transform the recruitment journey, regardless of its outcome.


The stagnation of the recruitment industry and Tengai’s vision for improvement

“One thing that strikes me is that little to nothing has happened for the candidate experience in many years. Let’s change that!” 

- Elin Öberg Mårtenzon, CEO at Tengai

In reflecting upon the experiment, it becomes evident that the recruitment industry, for all its advancements, remains trapped in certain old-fashioned approaches, particularly when it comes to the candidate experience. The lack of progress is obvious, marked by outdated processes, impersonal communication, and an overarching lack of empathy. However, recognizing the problem is the first step toward crafting a solution.

At Tengai, our vision is clear: to revolutionize the recruitment landscape, placing the candidate experience at the forefront of all endeavors. We believe in a future where job applicants are treated with the respect, attention, and consideration they deserve. In an industry where the norm has remained largely unchallenged for years, we are committed to fostering a culture of innovation and empathy.

Let's harness our collective energies and drive transformative change. The candidate's experience deserves more than just mere acknowledgment; it deserves our full attention and dedication. Together, let's reshape the recruitment narrative and pave the way for a more inclusive, compassionate, and efficient future.


Tengai’s powerful AI software

Tengai’s AI recruiting software can help optimize every step of your recruitment process. Our automated recruiting tools can help you organize and manage your talent acquisition process, while also collecting and reporting necessary data and moving new hires through the hiring process with ease.

Empower your team to focus their time and attention on finding top talent while also ensuring all candidates feel seen, heard, and most importantly valued.

To learn more about how Tengai works and how our AI recruiting tool can help your recruiting team achieve even better results, book a free demo with our experts. 


You may also like

How Tengai's AI enhances the candidate's experience
How Tengai's AI enhances the candidate's experience
13 February, 2023

Until now, recruiters and hiring managers have lacked tools that objectively assess applicants' soft skills and personal...

Tengai: The leading candidate experience software
Tengai: The leading candidate experience software
22 May, 2023

With the rise of AI-powered recruiting platforms, companies can now streamline their recruitment processes and gain a co...

3 ways Tengai helps you create a great candidate experience
3 ways Tengai helps you create a great candidate experience
1 May, 2023

Recruitment is a critical process for any organization, as it involves finding and selecting the right candidates for th...