Measuring Candidate Experience with a Feedback Survey: The Guide (2018 Update)

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Can you measure candidate experience? Definitely, with a Net Promoter Score-based feedback survey. Here’s everything you need to launch one.

Measuring Candidate Experience with a Feedback Survey: The Guide
(Credit: Christian De Pape)

Small actions can offer big results. Consider your candidate experience; a feedback survey is a relatively quick and simple way to gauge how your recruiting process affects candidates and their feelings about you.

A well-designed candidate feedback survey can help you:

  • benchmark your candidate experience;
  • make quick-win changes to your recruitment process;
  • refine your recruitment strategy using candidate input;
  • improve recruiter performance; and
  • just plain hire better.

Employers that deliver an exceptional candidate experience know this. The Talent Board’s 2016 candidate experience research report found that 30 percent of candidates who had what they rated a “five-star” experience were asked for some form of feedback during the recruitment process. Yet eighty-eight percent of candidates with a “one-star” experience were never asked for feedback. Go figure.

You don’t need tremendous resources to set up a feedback survey. You can do it with a minimal budget. And potential benefits, to your team and to your hiring, are substantial. It’s worth doing.

This guide will outline feedback-survey best practices, introduce the Net Promoter Score and how it works in talent acquisition, walk you through the steps of launching your survey, and heck, it’ll even equip you with templates to use.

Ready? Let’s go.

Feedback survey best practices

Most of us have experience attempting (but probably not completing) complex, confusing questionnaires. It won’t surprise you that surveys are easy to design badly and hard to design well. To ensure your feedback survey does its job well, you’ll want to follow these best practices:

  1. Be brief. Shorter surveys have higher completion rates. Research validates this. But it’s also common sense: the longer the survey, the less likely respondents make it to the end before losing interest or becoming frustrated. Keep your survey as brief as possible.
  2. Be clear. How do you answer a question you don’t understand? Clear questions are crucial to the quality of your survey data. Clarity about why you’re performing the survey, how the data will be used, and who will see it also helps boost the completion rate.
  3. Measure something. The first purpose of your survey is to benchmark where you are now and monitor how you are (hopefully) improving. To do that, you need to collect quantitative data that represents your relative success.
  4. Leave room for comments. The second purpose of your survey is to gather specific ideas for what you can do to improve. An open-ended question invites respondents to share their thoughts and suggestions.

Luckily, there is an existing and effective survey method that follows all of these practices: it’s super short, asks clear questions, provides a useful metric, and gathers relevant qualitative feedback. It’s well established and can be adapted for use in talent acquisition.

Friends, meet the Net Promoter Score.

NPS for measuring candidate experience

The Net Promoter Score question and formula, adapted for candidate experience in recruitment.
What is NPS? Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measurement of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Ranging from -100 to 100, the score gauges customers’ willingness to recommend a company, its products, or its services to other people.

NPS was developed by Fred Reichheld and introduced in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article, “One Number You Need to Grow.” Since then, it has been adopted for customer experience management in a wide range of industries; you probably receive NPS surveys in your inbox regularly. Experience-minded employers, including Citrix, Virgin Media, and HubSpot, are increasingly adopting NPS to measure candidate experience.

How does NPS work? When NPS is used for recruitment purposes, candidates are asked a single question:

How likely are you to refer a friend or colleague to apply for a job at our company?

0 to 10 rating scale, where 0 equals “not likely” and 10 equals “extremely likely”


The candidate who selects a rating of nine or ten is a promoter, and increases the score.


A candidate who selects a seven or an eight is a passive, and has no effect on the score.


A candidate who selects six or lower is a detractor, and decreases the score.

The score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters:

Net Promoter Score = % Promoters – % Detractors


Alright, now that you have the background you need, it’s time to dig into the details of setting up your survey.

How to launch your NPS candidate feedback survey

Screenshot of a Net Promoter Score candidate feedback survey

Step 1: Decide on the details

You’ll want to start with a single, basic feedback survey. Eventually, you might choose to send targeted surveys to different types of candidates at different stages of the recruitment process. For now, though, keep it simple:

Who will you send it to? Target your survey to all finalists, including offered and declined candidates.

When will you send it? Send the feedback survey in an email three to four days after the candidate receives a rejection or accepts an offer. This provides tactful distance from their last interaction with you, allows time for their feelings to settle, and is close enough to the experience that they will remember it clearly.

How will you send it? The tools you use depend on the scale of your recruiting operation and the resources at your disposal. You will need a system to host your survey, and a system to send out the survey email.

First, determine whether your applicant tracking system provides survey-building or email automation features. Then, determine what new tools you might need to supplement:

  • Basic: You can set up your survey for free using Google Forms and manually email the invitation to candidates.
  • Intermediate: Freemium software products like SurveyMonkey and TypeForm offer more advanced survey design, delivery, and reporting features.
  • Advanced: Experience management platforms such as MedalliaQualtrics, and Survale are designed to collect and analyze feedback. They might worth considering if you recruit on a large enough scale.

Step 2: Get your team’s buy-in

Before you go any further, make sure your talent acquisition team is aware of the survey project, understands its purpose, and buys in. To make your case, you might say something like this:

… While the survey does add an extra step to our process, candidate feedback could help us strengthen and speed up how we secure great talent, and could even make our jobs easier by pointing out little fixes that need an outside perspective to see …

Step 3: Design the survey

Start with this template:

Question #1

How likely are you to refer a friend or colleague to apply for a job at our company?

(Rating scale of zero to ten, where zero is “not likely to refer,” and ten is “extremely likely to refer.”)

Question #2

What changes would we have to make to earn an even higher rating?

(Text input field)


To see how it works, try this preview survey. Note how each question appears on a separate page, and the progress bar shows how far you are from being done. Both features reinforce the survey’s brevity and encourage completion.

Optionally, you could include a small number of additional questions, like:

Was there any part of your experience with our recruiting process that stood out to you as particularly good or enjoyable?

Was there any part of your experience with our recruiting process that stood out to you as particularly bad or unpleasant?


Follow yes/no questions like these with an open-ended “If yes, please explain” question.

You might also include relevant demographic questions, like:

What role did you apply for?

What function/department/location was the opportunity in?

How did you find out about the opportunity?


Be ruthless, however, cutting unnecessary questions. Do you really need that extra data point? Keep the survey as short as possible. Remember, shorter means more responses.

You might opt to include a brief introduction to your questions, something like:

You recently interacted with the team at Recruiting Social about a job opportunity, and we’d like your feedback. Your response is anonymous and confidential, and it will help us deliver a better candidate experience.


Depending on the tool you will use to deliver the survey, this preamble might be better placed in the invitation email. Which leads us to our next step:

Step 4: Write the invitation email

Go ahead and adapt this carefully-copywritten template:

Subject: Celia, how did the Recruiting Social team do?

Hi Celia,

Thank you for considering Recruiting Social as your next place of work.

I would personally like to know about your experience as a candidate. Can you take a moment to share your thoughts with me?

This two-question feedback survey is confidential, and I read every response.

Share Your Thoughts – Do the Survey

Your feedback will help us deliver a better experience to all our job candidates.

Thank you again,
Trudy Elgin, Director of Talent Acquisition
Recruiting Social


Note that the email is signed by a person, not the company or “the team.” It comes from “Trudy’s” email address. As director of talent acquisition, she is clearly in a position to act on the feedback. She points out how short the survey is (“two-question”), promises confidentiality, and notes she reads “every response.” She also personalizes the message by including the “Celia’s” name in the subject line. Each of these features is designed to disarm resistance and increase the likelihood the candidate will start the survey.

Customer experience tools like Medallia and Qualtrics embed the NPS question directly in the invitation email. If you have access to a feature like this, use it in place of a link. It saves the user a step. Reducing effort like this bumps up the response rate.

Step 5: Launch it

You might beta-test your survey with a specific opening, department, or team. This will help you work out the kinks and cement the business case. But once you’ve validated that this feedback channel works, make it part of your process for every role. Feedback can be tough to receive, but the toughest feedback is often the most valuable.

Step 6: Review results quarterly

Once a quarter, dive into your survey results. Calculate your Net Promoter Score (the percentage of “promoters” minus the percentage of “detractors”). Compare it to the previous quarter’s score: has it gone up or down? Consider: what changes to your process might have caused the change in your score?

Next, review the open-ended feedback. Do any comments come back, over and over? What trends do you see? Put together a list of the complaints you can do something about. Make sure to notice what you’re doing well, too. Share both the negative and positive feedback with your team. Think about your weakness, but celebrate your wins, too. You might have places to improve, but who doesn’t?

Step 7: Take action

This is the most important part. The survey only has value if you use it to make the changes candidates point you towards. Start with the easiest, quickest wins. Make a plan to adopt them. If your team resists, point back to the survey data to give them a “why.” And you don’t have to commit to a permanent change. Experiment and see what improves your NPS next quarter.

Track, review, act. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand experience at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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