The candidate experience isn’t just a buzzword anymore – companies should understand that a positive candidate experience can mean the decision to accept Company A’s offer over Company B. When is the last time you audited the candidate experience in the hiring process for your DoD programs?

Hopefully, your response isn’t never. But even if it is, there’s no time like now to invest in finding out what your candidates think about you and your organization.

A candidate experience audit probably hasn’t been the top priority on a recruiting team’s list (especially for small, understaffed companies), but if you have yet to conduct one, I suggest you start the planning or hire a third party.


A candidate experience audit allows organizations to measure the effectiveness of their recruitment processes and ensure that candidates have the best journey through potentially being hired by your company. This should assess every step in the hiring process including the initial attraction to apply, recruiters reaching out, the application process, salary negotiations, and onboarding. The audit should identify problem areas that could lead to negative candidate feedback or a damaging reputation that can lead to other candidates steering clear of your brand.

Your recruiting team should plan for an audit from the perspective of the job seeker, and should have “candidates” (non-employees that have yet to run through the application process) run through the entire process and note issues or hiccups. Other tips include:

  • Map the candidate’s journey through your hiring process including differences for specific positions (like a technical assessment).
  • Have “candidates” formally apply, interact with recruiters, and attend phone screens.
  • Take the time to fulfill each recruiting step completely so you know if timeliness is a negative factor in your process.
  • Monitor communications and measure interactions.
  • Ensure recruiters understand that this isn’t a gotcha moment for them, it’s to improve the overall process.

Some common issues from a candidate perspective could include:

  • Careers pages with poor functionality that don’t have mobile capability.
  • Applications that are way too lengthy or ask redundant questions.
  • A lack of response from recruiters during the entire process.


The candidate experience in a passive market generally starts with the headhunter reaching out about a specific position – so the recruiter’s brand is the face of the company, which means you need to be strategizing like a marketer. You are selling the company after all. Standing out as a preferred organization in the DoD space is critical in filling open billets and building a cleared candidate pipeline. This means you should be developing a well-rounded approach around brand awareness and what it means for your recruiting campaigns (i.e., are people speaking nicely about your employer on Reddit, or are there negative stories floating around the media?).

Candidates are doing their homework, so make sure you have a credible reputation on professional networking platforms and are engaging in social listening. From an individual recruiter perspective ensure you are engaging with all candidates politely. Word of mouth is still a heavy lifter in the advertising world, and even if you don’t hire that secret squirrel, they are bound to discuss a negative interaction among their circles if one arises. It’s also a small world out there. A candidate that doesn’t work out for one billet could be who your organization needs for another opening. You may not realize the impact of the candidate experience until it’s too late.

Download our Recruitment Marketing Guide.


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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸