I have been thinking a lot about the candidate experience. For the past two years, companies we have surveyed cited improving the candidate experience as a top priority yet, only 40% of companies are actually successful at achieving this goal. If companies spend so much time and energy focused on the candidate experience, where does it go wrong? And, why has something so basic become so complex?

Sure, there is something to be said for the fact that candidates who don’t get an offer, may view the experience as less than stellar. But, overall, companies that have a systematic approach to communicating with every candidate in a way that is frequent and meaningful see results. Communication is the most important element of the candidate experience. When we asked companies what the candidate wants, they said to be notified when they are screened out of the process (52%), to receive information on the company (52%), and to have a single point of communication (50%). Candidates want to be informed and here are some recommendations:

Provide Transparency: Too often, employers try to paint some picture perfect scenario of what life is like at their company. The reality is some jobs are not fun. And working for your company might not be ideal for everybody. Why do we try to pretend differently? The more we can be transparent about the company and the job, the better. Companies should think about creating more meaningful and candid content on career sites and in employer branding efforts. Also, job previews are one way companies can show candidates a more accurate depiction of a job or your company.

Consider Recruitment Marketing: The primary reason that companies fall behind in improving the candidate experience is that they don’t have a mechanism to engage with candidates before they apply. Recruitment marketing is where the candidate experience starts. Companies need the right strategies and a single solution to attract, nurture, and engage with candidates. Many of these solutions give companies a way to provide relevant and meaningful content to candidates to inform them about the company and potential jobs.

Use a Variety of Tools: Companies tend to rely on email as their primary mode of communication with candidates. Yet, few candidates read their communication. Companies should use a variety of communication methods including chat, video, SMS, and phone calls.

Set Expectations: Candidates want to know where they are at in the recruitment process. They want to know if they will hear anything after they apply and how long it will take before they are called in for an interview. Candidates want to know how long background screening will take and when they will find out if they have an offer. It sounds basic but companies do not set expectations and they don’t communicate consistently with everyone that applies.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to improve the candidate experience, The Talent Board conducts some great research every year and the latest research is available now.