Despite investing billions annually over the past quarter century, little has been achieved in increasing interviewing accuracy; measuring, predicting and improving quality of hire; reducing churn, improving job satisfaction or hiring more talented people. The only obvious outcome from this enormous spend is an estimated fivefold increase in unqualified candidates applying for jobs, enabled by the ease of a single-click application process.

The situation will get worse in the future as AI is used by both candidates and companies alike to automate the current and flawed system of mixing and matching people with jobs and jobs with people.

This past surge has led to vast and, in my opinion, unnecessary expenditures primarily aimed at filtering out these supposedly unqualified candidates, hoping a handful of suitable applicants remain who meet the onerous and often ill-advised conditions described in the job postings.

It’s important to note that under this current process only 2-3% of these not-that-accurately screened applicants ever get interviewed, and less than 1% hired. This leaves 97% who deserve some level of consideration and respect—this is the essence of what we refer to as the Candidate Experience (CX)—which requires a major expense for a very little return.

A positive candidate experience (CX) has become a significant concern, with more effort seemingly devoted to managing and improving this experience than to attracting more qualified candidates. I argue that the most effective way to enhance the CX is to prevent unqualified candidates from applying in the first place.

BIG POINT: Redirecting resources to provide exceptional customer service to the truly qualified—through constant feedback, answers to their inquiries, and genuine human interaction—can ultimately redefine and dramatically improve the CX. The key is to spend more time with far fewer, but far more qualified candidates.

Rethinking the Candidate Experience Funnel

The real issue with this type of CX improvement begins with a thorough root cause analysis understanding what it would take to prevent unqualified applicants from applying at the top of the funnel rather than trying to address the problem at the bottom of it.

Several ideas can be employed to deter unqualified candidates from applying that are positive in nature rather than exclusionary:

  1. Rewrite Job Descriptions: Instead of posting internal job descriptions prepare performance-based job descriptions that describe the work as 6-8 key performance objectives (KPOs, not KPIs). Then for the posting itself summarize the top 2-3 of these challenges and wrap them around a job branding statement that indicates the role offers a true career move. While non-traditional, a top U.S. labor attorney endorses this ideaas a way to both broaden the talent pool to attract stronger and more diverse talent while also meeting all legal compliance requirements.
  2. Put Duct-tape on the Apply Button: As part of these new types of job postings ask candidates to submit summaries of their most comparable accomplishments to the KPOs listed rather than submitting a resume. This will improve the accuracy of the screening process by assessing past performance rather than past experience and skills. Just as important, candidates will self-select in or out of the process early in the hiring process by only spending time with jobs that seem to have personal merit.
  3. Rethink the Role of the Job Board: Job boards need to take responsibility for eliminating unqualified candidates from applying to begin with rather than putting the burden on the company’s ATS. For companies this is a huge and non-productive overhead expense. This would require a change in the job boards pricing model to make this step work but worth it for improving the quality and diversity of candidates who apply.
  4. Set Application Quotas: As part of the above changes, job boards could consider limiting the number of applications a candidate is allowed to apply to per day, something like 6-8, but the offset is that they’ll be guaranteed a personal response from the company. This reenforces the self-selection process since candidates will use their allocation to only apply to jobs that seem the most relevant.
  5. Leverage AI for Quality not Efficiency: Utilize AI to enable these ideas, pushing the best job matches to candidates and ensuring only the most suitable candidates are funneled to these open positions. Right now AI is being used to automate the process for candidates to apply “everywhere all at once” and companies are using AI to match these candidates “who shouldn’t have applied in the first place” using flawed screening techniques.

It seems obvious that those advocating for a strong CX should first consider the root causes of these challenges rather than simply reacting to an ever increasing influx of applications. The misconception that more technology and more spending will solve these inherent issues is widespread but misguided. While an exceptional CX is warranted at every step in the process, especially for those who might ultimately get an offer from your company, providing one is not possible when these essential efforts are diluted by candidates who should not have applied to begin with.

Performance-based Hiring is a High Touch, High CX Process

Enhancing the Candidate Experience (CX) is more than just improving interactions; it demands a strategic overhaul starting at the very beginning of the recruitment funnel. Smart pre-selection at the job board level is critical, not just filtering later through a company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

The core of Performance-based Hiring is about attracting top talent by offering them real career opportunities, not just another job swap. This approach necessitates a hands-on, personalized recruitment process. Job changes are significant life events, not mere transactions, and should be treated with the seriousness they deserve. By tackling the root causes of poor candidate engagement upfront, we can significantly improve the CX and draw in superior candidates, effectively transforming our approach to hiring.

This shift toward proactive measures, rather than reactive fixes, marks a significant change in how we should conduct recruitment, emphasizing quality and respect in every interaction. This strategy doesn’t just adjust how we attract candidates—it revolutionizes the entire candidate experience by ensuring a match right from the initial point of contact.

Simply put, to truly improve the CX you need to spend more time with fewer, but far more qualified candidates. And the only way to achieve this important goal is to prevent the unqualified candidates from ever applying in the first place. And that’s the single best way to improve the candidate experience.