In today’s competitive job market, a positive candidate experience is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a critical factor in attracting and retaining top talent. But with so much focus on finding the perfect candidate, companies sometimes neglect the journey for those being considered.

This week on the podcast, we’re joined by seasoned recruiter Karolina Severova to dive into the importance of the candidate experience. 

Creating a Seamless and Efficient Interview Process

Nobody enjoys feeling like they’re stuck in a hiring black hole. Karolina discusses how streamlining the interview process can significantly improve the candidate experience. But that doesn’t mean rushing through – it’s about finding the right balance. Listen in to learn her thoughts on the ideal number of interview rounds and whether panel interviews can be a benefit or a burden.

Transparency, Personalization, and Technology

Imagine waiting weeks for an update after a great interview, only to receive a generic rejection email. Yikes! Karolina highlights the importance of transparent communication – keeping candidates informed throughout every step of the process. Personalized experiences, where possible, also show that you value their time and skills.

Technology can be a powerful tool for enhancing the candidate experience. But beware of relying solely on automated systems. Karolina discusses the role of technology and the human touch throughout the hiring process.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Every company makes mistakes, but some are easily avoidable. Learn from Karolina’s insights on common pitfalls that negatively impact the candidate experience, such as dragging out the process or being secretive about salary expectations.

Looking ahead, Karolina dives into the future trends shaping the candidate experience, emphasizing the importance of differentiation in attracting top talent. Don’t miss the valuable takeaways and Karolina’s closing thoughts on creating an amazing candidate journey.

Ready to learn more? Tune in to this episode and get ready to differentiate your company through a stellar candidate experience!


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Mary (00:00.996)
Karolina Sevirova, welcome to Recruiting Insider.

Karolina Severova (00:05.006)
Hi, how are you doing today?

Mary (00:06.915)
Good. Karolina is a seasoned recruiter with five years of experience under her belt. Originally from the Czech Republic, Karolina’s journey to the US began in 2015 when she came to play Division I basketball for Sienna College. Since then, she’s stayed on to pursue a career in HR, finding her niche in recruiting. Today, we will be diving into a crucial aspect of the hiring process, the candidate experience.

high level, what do you want job seekers to take away from your message today?

Karolina Severova (00:40.686)
I think…

I just want to let them know that recruiters are here to help you. Lately, if you’ve been on LinkedIn and you are active on LinkedIn, there is so much negativity about recruiters. At the end of the day, candidates experience is one of the most important things for recruiters, besides obviously finding the right fit for companies. So I just want to kind of shine a good light on the industry and talk about the candidates.

experience from the recruiter point of view but also what candidates can do better in terms of the hiring process.

Mary (01:19.296)
How did you get into recruiting, Carolina? And tell us one of your craziest recruiting stories.

Karolina Severova (01:25.648)
my God, there is a lot, but I’ll start with how I got into recruiting. So when I graduated, as you said, with a HR background, I knew I…

wanted to be in HR. I wasn’t sure if it’s going to be, you know, generalist role or recruiter. I didn’t really have an idea what, I’m an agency recruiter, so what third party is, but I interviewed with a local company while I was recruiting and our other owner, it’s a women -owned business, so I loved that. Also the same CNI alumni, I loved that too. And I played basketball my whole life, division one in college, and

I knew I want to still be in a competitive role. So something with commission, something with quota. Didn’t want to do sales, but it kind of all worked out and I’ve been with the same company since and I love what I do. In terms of crazy stories, so we work with people, right? So there is so many.

Let’s see, I think in terms of interviewing candidates, I’ve had a candidate who…

didn’t I guess know they it’s a video call and when I told them they have to turn on a video it was like a towel wrapped around them literally still getting ready for their day. Then like vaping that’s not common but we’ve seen that more than once. Yeah I think maybe on a good side a crazy recruiting story was

Mary (02:48.316)

Karolina Severova (03:04.59)
I was able to help a military guy get like $30 ,000 increase. That was awesome. That’s what we do and what we love about recruiting is just helping people. So that was like a crazy good recruiting story.

Mary (03:22.266)
That’s great. What do you believe constitutes a positive candidate experience and why is it important?

Karolina Severova (03:35.15)

I think no matter if the candidate gets the job, they should be able to return to the company down the road. So not burning bridges from the recruiter’s point. It’s, you know, communication is the key, but it starts with a job description too. Like creating a job description that’s clear to the candidate, not having six plus round interview process with two take home assignments.

And then communication, like giving the candidate feedback after interview about the timeline, where they are in a process. So open communication, I would say, is the most important thing.

Mary (04:21.367)
I hear that a lot. Communication and transparency are the top two. You mentioned the interview process and how there shouldn’t be, you know, 600 rounds of interviews that are all four hours long. What’s an ideal interview process?

Karolina Severova (04:39.054)
So I think it depends on the level of the candidates experience and if it’s entry -level role, I think one to two max and I wouldn’t even think and take home assignment unless it’s a technical role in like IT or anything like that. But I would say you can do two rounds of interviews and you know get a really qualified candidate for entry -level role. For a high -level role, I mean I would max out at three, max four, but you can always if you need to,

to get more people interviewed at Candid, just doing like a more a panel interview where you have more hiring managers interviewed at Candid at the same day or just do back to back. So that would be, you know, the ideal, but I would say it really depends on the level of the Candid.

Mary (05:27.318)
I love the idea of a panel interview where you can kind of knock the entire interview out with everybody that’s involved in the position because I’ve heard of job seekers who have an entire day’s worth of interviews and they basically have to repeat themselves every hour on the hour with eight different people whereas if they could have just had a panel interview they could have knocked all of that out in one hour in one swift interview.

Karolina Severova (05:56.686)
Yeah, it’s tiring. I be here all the time. Candidates are tired doing multiple interviews and then, you know, getting ghosted, stuff like that. So I think being more efficient in the interview process, that’s part of the candidate experience for sure.

Mary (06:15.127)
Can you share any memorable experiences where a candidate’s journey through the hiring process significantly impacted their perception of the company?

Karolina Severova (06:54.958)
When the process was really bad, we’ve had a client. So as a third party agency recruiter, part of my job is to also educate my clients, right? Like if we put this candidate through five, six rounds, I know they have other opportunities in a pipeline where timing is really important. So really educating the clients on the interview.

process is important, but some clients don’t listen, right? So we did have a perfect candidate for a role with the industry experience in the non -for -profit, high -level role, and they just drag it out with a bunch of assignments to take home and projects, presentations, which nobody wants to do. That’s a free labor, and they end up losing that candidate just because of timing. The candidate really liked the company.

but he couldn’t wait because of other offers he had on the table he would lose.

Mary (08:01.843)
So for our listeners in the audience who are moving through an interview process, what are some red flags or even some green flags that they might look out for during the entire process?

Karolina Severova (08:18.958)
I would start with green flags, which in a lot of states now it’s mandatory. Like in New York state, there was a transparency law passed in terms of posting salary on the job descriptions. Green flag. I think salary should be the first conversation in a phone screen with a recruiter because we don’t want to waste anybody’s time. So green flag, if it’s not even in a state that’s required posting the job descriptions. And then just the company being

transparent about the interview process. So what I do in my first phone screen with the candidate, I’ll tell them this is a role that’s going to be two max three interviews. They are looking to make a decision within four weeks. And then just the constant communication with the candidates, following up on after interviews with the candidates, before interviews prepping the candidate for the interview, you know, sharing with them what the hiring managers are looking for.

even the simple things like what should I wear because you don’t want to underdress you want to overdress and then on like red flags that would be you know kind of the opposite in terms of being really secretive about the the salary about the job responsibilities if it’s you know the role is posted as remote but then they’ll tell you in a second interview like actually you have to be in office three times a week so just looking you know for that transparency again.

that would be, you know, kind of how to avoid some of the red flags and some of the companies who might be secretive in the interview process.

Mary (10:01.901)
In your opinion, what are the key elements that really contribute to a seamless and enjoyable application process?

Karolina Severova (10:11.79)
Job description that’s well put together. That has again salary, if it’s hybrid, remote, full indie office. And then…

In the interview itself, I think, you know, talking to not just the hiring manager, but maybe even bringing some of the employees or team members in the interview to really understand kind of the day -to -day of the job. I think that’s always great. If it’s a role that’s either hybrid or in the office, I like when the candidates go on site and see the office and kind of get a better understanding of the culture of the company. And then just at the end, you know,

when it comes to an offer, just really delivering what was promised in terms of the salary range or any additional bonuses or stocks or anything that was discussed. That’s kind of the end to get the acceptance.

Mary (11:17.033)
Yeah, so you’re looking out for that communicate that first of all that job description, making sure that it’s really clear. They’re communicating with you throughout the entire process. You know, if you can go in and see if you’re actually a culture fit or see if the culture actually is what they’re saying it is, and then making sure that the salary and the benefits and everything is on point. I think that you’re absolutely right. Those are critical elements to make sure that.

Karolina Severova (11:34.638)
Mm -hmm.

Mary (11:44.776)
It’s a seamless process for everyone. So how can companies effectively balance the need for this efficiency in the hiring process with the importance of still providing a personalized experience?

Karolina Severova (11:59.47)
Yeah, I mean, I think just having really structured interview process, not necessarily in a sense of, you know, just having structured questions in the interview, but really,

making sure the recruiter and the hiring manager are on the same page, what they are looking for. So that communication, that’s mainly for internal recruiters rather than me as third party, but just having that relationship and the recruiter really knowing what the hiring manager is looking for and then providing that seamless transition with hiring managers getting timely feedback back to the recruiter. So then the recruiter can get back to the candidate. That’s very oftentimes very,

the lack of the communication is from one or the other party and then just include us as a third party. So I think that will help kind of with the seamless process and you know it definitely takes time and practice but I think once company has the routine and the hiring managers and recruiters are on the same page then they will see the benefit, they will see more acceptance rates.

Mary (12:48.487)

Karolina Severova (13:12.096)
in the offer they’ll see less skin death strapping of during the process just because they accepted another offer so they will see the benefit and at the end of day it just benefits everyone.

Mary (13:26.084)
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, when I, when I think about the, the interviewing process, I’ve spoken with recruiters who have discussed creating a playbook of interview questions, essentially, which can really help all of the recruiters be on the same page, but it can also probably help with that efficiency aspect. Could you give us any specific examples of interview questions that might help facilitate that efficiency within the process?

Karolina Severova (13:56.078)
Yeah, so for us as third party, it really depends on what industry I’m in. So I can give you an example in healthcare, like right now I’m recruiting for social work. So that interview is going to be very different than when I interview for manufacturing engineer. So I always like to look at the job requirements and then look at the candidate’s resume. And that’s essentially the same process the candidate should do.

to be preparing for interview but I do it as a recruiter too and then ask really specific questions that would tie to the job description so then I can give my client the best you know the best kind of bio about the candidate and how they fit the job. So for me I don’t I have some obviously basic questions I ask the candidate but a lot of it is based on their resume and the job that I’m looking to fill.

Mary (14:54.656)
Sure. So we’ve already discussed communication and how important that is in really shaping the candidate experience. How can companies improve their communication with candidates throughout the entire process?

Karolina Severova (15:10.414)
So that’s something a lot of people do talk about now, even on LinkedIn with AI, right? So…

In terms of applicants, you can have some type of process where you send automated messages if it’s even before the phone screen. So that’s one thing companies can do. Second thing, once it gets into the interview process, me personally, I like to really talk to the candidates if they don’t get the positions to give them some feedback, but also just create that relationship so they can stay in touch with me down the road. So.

even for in -house recruiters, I think really…

making sure even if it’s a negative feedback, which you know, those are the hardest calls we have to make, especially if it’s down the road, you know, third interview or if it’s between two candidates and you have to make the call, the person don’t get a job. But I don’t think I ever had a, you know, candidate who was mad at me that I called them and that they didn’t get a job. They appreciate that call, even though if it’s not good news. So I would say really,

making sure, being organized that you get back to the candidates especially if it’s after they already interviewed with the company.

Mary (16:33.18)
A lot of candidates and a lot of people that I see on LinkedIn are being ghosted by recruiters. To any of our listeners, what would you recommend they do or how would you recommend that they reach out to recruiters?

Karolina Severova (16:52.142)
Yeah, that is a hot topic. I mean, there is always going to be bad recruiters or…

Mary (16:53.467)
Mm -hmm. Yeah.

Karolina Severova (17:01.582)
bad people in every industry. I, you know, I, in my network, I really don’t have, I only see really good recruiters who care about the candidates experience, but I know there are bad recruiters out there who ghost and maybe they don’t do it intentionally. Maybe it’s understaffed. If you see how many layoffs were happening across the town acquisition industry, now recruiters have to handle, you know, 50, 80 recs for one person. And it was maybe 20, two years ago. So.

I think for candidates, don’t take it personally. Move on. I would say you can reach out to a recruiter once, twice. If they don’t get back to you after a second time, just move on and don’t take it personally.

I think it’s not good from either side to burn bridges because then most likely the candidate will want to approach the company again if they have an opening. But at the end of the day, that’s the candidate’s experience. And if you see that red flag, maybe you just dodge the bullets with this one.

Mary (18:09.335)
Yeah, I think you touched on a lot of great things. And, you know, if you look at a lot of the layoffs that have happened recently, recruiters have been affected by those layoffs too. So like you said, where maybe you had 30 requisitions even a year ago, now you have 80 requisitions. So, you know, maybe some of those candidates that are ghosting those job seekers, they’re not intentionally doing it. They’re just having trouble keeping up.

And then, you know, another part of it is I’ve spoken with a lot of recruiters who also talk a lot about empathy and how to really put yourself in the shoes of the job seeker, because it’s such a challenging place to be in. You know, there are a lot of people on the market today who are at the risk of losing their home. You know, they, they can’t pay their bills. They’re worried about feeding their kids. And so just having empathy.

and putting yourself in their shoes goes a long way. Because like you said, even if they’re not going to get the job, they’re not offered the job, if you just let them know, hey, they went with somebody else, then at least there’s that closure so that they know they can move on and keep applying. I think that’s really important. From your perspective,

How can companies leverage technology to enhance the candidate experience without really sacrificing that human touch?

Karolina Severova (19:40.27)
Yeah, so I think we talked about it a little bit in terms of like the initial application. If there’s no interaction with the recruiter, like using some type of automated message, you know, as, as a applicant, I would be okay with that if I never talked to the company down the road, just, you know, really using technology in terms of being organized. So if it’s just a simple, you know, calendar reminder to get in touch with a candidate or

going through your ATS and setting reminders there. I like to send emails or call candidates before the weekend or if there’s a major holidays because nobody likes to wait and even if it’s no update is always the update type of thing where I would call them or send them the email. Don’t have an update yet, but hopefully I’ll be in touch next week. So there is, with AI, there’s so many different softwares right now, but even

leveraging your ATS, applicant tracking system, can be really useful to be organized and don’t ghost.



How do you approach gathering feedback from candidates about their experience throughout the hiring process and how do you use that feedback to make improvements?

Karolina Severova (21:35.374)
That’s a great question. I think…

Again, communication, you know, as a third party, I am still representing my clients. So it’s not, I still definitely do gather the experience with interviewing with the company’s hiring manager or the company’s recruiter, and do get the feedback back to the candidate or I’m sorry, back to the client. but even in terms of my own improvements, I definitely like to ask feedback from the candidate.

that if there is something we can do better as a company, as a recruiting agency, and how their process was even if they get the job or don’t get a job. So just I think with recruiting it’s a lot of you know creating a relationship with the candidate and the more you talk to the candidate and try to get to know them and really understand what they are looking for the more open they are with you and they trust you more. So then they

they are more willing to give you feedback too.


Mary (23:32.137)
Do you have any stories where a candidate was interviewing with a client and they came across a situation where they didn’t know what to do and you had to advise them in some way?

Karolina Severova (23:47.918)
Yeah, I actually have a really funny one. So one of our clients…

my candid interview there was my first candid interview with the client. She came there it was summertime. She had her dress on and a little slip ons and she came to the office and they don’t wear shoes in the office. So she she was like this is interesting. I kind of wish I knew maybe I would wear socks or something. So now you know we do tell the candid like you know just just so you know this client they don’t

Mary (24:16.488)

Karolina Severova (24:24.416)
their shoes in the office, they have carpets everywhere, it’s a clean place, but maybe be prepared for that.

Mary (24:26.504)

Mary (24:33.031)
So it’s good to have that recruiter that has that insider knowledge to let you know, hey, you got to expect this from this employer. In today’s super competitive job market, how can companies differentiate themselves and really create an amazing candidate experience that truly attracts the top talent?

Karolina Severova (24:37.39)
I’m sorry.

Karolina Severova (24:41.998)

Karolina Severova (24:55.95)
Yeah, so I think this market is just bananas.

really hard for candidates. We see postings that have thousands of applicants. I just saw recently a posting on LinkedIn. The recruiter opened a job on Friday. By Monday, he had to already close it because they had enough candidates. So I think there is still need for the qualified applicants to apply, but it’s not as 2022 where it was so, you know,

employee market, now it’s employer’s market. So, but that’s why I still like to talk about candidates experience because even though, you know, companies do get a lot of qualified candidates right now, it’s still so important to provide that good candidate experience because, you know, markets change. So few years, hopefully not years, few months from now, we’ll see when it will switch.

they will need to, the candidates will remember if they don’t have a good candidates experience with a certain company. So I think it’s really important for the reputation of the company and not to burn bridges. And it’s the, you know, stuff we talk about like the JavaScript, the communication, this not doing many rounds of interviews that are unnecessarily, and it’s just making decision time wise, reasonably, you know,

I think the time to hire average is like 36 days. So, you know, just really make sure you pick the kind that within form within a month, not, you know, two months, close the role, put it on hold and then start recruiting again.

Mary (26:49.09)
So looking ahead, what trends do you see really shaping the future of the candidate experience?

Karolina Severova (26:57.102)
I think candidates are more allowed now. So I think companies do notice that if there is a bad candidates experience, you know, I’m not supporting that, but candidates go out on LinkedIn and write about it, right? I don’t think it’s the best thing to do, but it does happen. So I think companies are being more careful about, you know, not dragging out the interview process and taking advice from agency recruiters.

like us are really spending more time to, you know, talking, have the meeting between the town acquisition and hiring managers. So I think I’m hoping it’s going the right direction. I do see it because, you know, you don’t want to lose the qualified candidate just because of the length of the interview process.

Mary (27:53.438)
Absolutely, it’s good to know that we have great recruiters out there who are advocating for our job seekers. Okay, time for a few rapid fire questions. How many emails do you get per day?

Karolina Severova (28:03.342)
I’m ready.

Over 100.

Mary (28:10.846)
What stands out to you during a five second resume scan?

Karolina Severova (28:15.758)
education, experience, and hard skills.

Mary (28:21.854)
biggest candidate red flag.

Karolina Severova (28:26.19)

Karolina Severova (28:30.254)
Coming to interview totally unprepared. Not knowing anything about the company. Just very, you know, lax.

Mary (28:41.405)
best interview tip.

Karolina Severova (28:44.43)
Be prepared. You have to figure out how to stand out in this market and preparation is one of the most important things to do before an interview.

Mary (28:45.212)

Mary (28:56.379)
Most rewarding placement.

Karolina Severova (28:59.822)
I’m going back to the military guy. He was in a commission structure job and he got into logistics industry where he really wanted to be and the client really paid a really good salary for him.

Mary (29:17.083)
one industry secret or something that we probably don’t know about recruiters.

Karolina Severova (29:24.142)
We are super competitive, especially in the agency. We are very competitive.

Mary (29:25.786)

Mary (29:32.859)
It’s more of a sales position than most people know, I think.

Karolina Severova (29:37.358)
Definitely on the business development side, but even with the placements, I mean, we truly do care about placing the right candidates rather than the numbers. But I think kind of the drive to help people and have that long term placements and satisfy clients, you have to have a little bit of that competitive spirit in you.

Mary (29:39.45)

Mary (30:03.899)
Yeah. Last question. What does success look like for you as a recruiter?

Karolina Severova (30:11.086)
I think happy candidates, whether they get a placement through me or on their own, I always try to advise candidates on interview tips, resume tips, even if they are, I know they are interviewing other places and I do encourage them to interview other places. So I think a satisfied candidate, I think it always pays off. I believe in karma, so I always try to do good things even if I don’t get the placement.

Mary (30:37.913)

Karolina Severova (30:40.992)
But at the end of the day, helping the candidates get a job, which you work more hours than you are at home with your loved ones. So I think having a position you enjoy and you don’t drag Mondays or Sunday evenings, it’s really important. So that’s the main satisfaction.

Mary (31:04.344)
What’s next for you and where can we find you on social media?

Karolina Severova (31:08.174)
So you can find me mainly on LinkedIn. My name is Karolina Sevarova. I’ve been trying to be more active on LinkedIn the past year. It’s definitely paying off. In my personal life, I’m going to France in a few weeks. I’ll be out of the office. So I’m very excited about that. Yeah.

Mary (31:26.656)
Yeah, good for you. Carolina, thanks for coming on today.

Karolina Severova (31:35.598)
Thank you. Thank you for having me.