Recruitment: what you can do to attract the best candidates

Key points

  • In the same way your brand sells your products or services, you need to communicate your employer brand (what your employer value proposition is) to attract the right candidates
  • For a positive candidate experience, how recruiters interact with candidates is as important as the nature of the job itself
  • Candidates need to feel that there is a chance they will be hired  in order to apply or to stay in the recruitment process

Nick decided to shortlist Alice, a marketing graduate, after she passed the first steps of the selection process with flying colors. A few days before her final interview with the marketing manager, Alice decided to cancel her interview. In shock, Nick tells his colleagues, “I don’t understand these Millennials! This is one of the best graduate programmes in the country, how can she turn down an opportunity like this?!!”.


You already know the evidence for generational differences, so you know that being a “Millenial” is not the reason Alice turned down the opportunity.

Like the rest of us at ScienceForWork, you may be wondering why this happens. After all, companies invest a lot of resource in building their employer brand and in targeting the best talent to apply. How can you ensure you attract and hire the best candidates? Which factors influence a candidate’s decision? This Evidence Summary will give you an evidence-based answer.

Which factors can influence applicants’ decisions in a recruitment process?

A meta-analysis by Chapman, Uggerslev, Carroll, Piasentin & Jones (2005) investigated how the organization and the recruitment process can influence candidate experience and their intention to accept a job offer. The findings are based on 71 studies and a sample of around 10,000 candidates. Because of the snapshot nature of the majority of these studies, we cannot say that certain characteristics of the recruitment process cause specific outcomes, but we can look to see how they are related.


recruitment attract candidate


Will I fit in with this company?”

During their job search, candidates imagine themselves in the job and the organization they apply to work for, and judge whether the opportunity is right for them. This is called “perceived fit” and is strongly linked to candidate attraction. In other words, candidates need to feel that the company, and the job they are applying for, fits with their values, needs and interests.

And it turns out that fit with the organization is more important than fit with the job itself. The type of job matters more at the beginning of the process – candidates aren’t going to apply for roles they aren’t interested in – but your employer brand makes a bigger difference when it comes to accepting the job offer or not.

Do I find the recruiter approachable?”

Once candidates have gone through the first steps of the recruiting process, they meet the recruiters. This is already a decisive moment: the way the recruiter behaves will have an impact on the candidate experience and on that candidate’s final decision on whether to join the company or not. Applicants are more likely to accept a job offer from a recruiter they found approachable. Recruiters are contributing greatly to your employer brand, as they are likely to be the first human contact candidates have from your organization.

Do I stand a chance?”

To increase the likelihood that applicants will accept the job offer, they need to feel they have a good chance of being hired. What is the point of being part of the process if they don’t think they stand a chance? Candidates may feel they fit with your organization but they can be put off by a recruitment process which is unnecessarily long or difficult. This can be a reason why candidates drop out and look for a job elsewhere. However, candidates who feel they are likely to be hired will be more likely to hold on to this possibility and try to give the hiring process their best shot.

Takeaways for your practice

  • Work on your employer brand – To attract the best candidates, they need to feel they fit with your organization. People have different values and needs, so what you can do is try to be as inclusive as possible. Explain what your employee value proposition is, and, when it comes to diversity, communicate how people from different backgrounds can thrive in your organization.
  • Train recruiters to be professional and likeable Your recruiter is the first person applicants will get in touch with. The way they interact with candidates has a great influence on your employer brand. Emphasize good practices in your recruiter training such as treating candidates like clients so they feel welcomed and will be enthusiastic to work for you.
  • Be positive about the selection process – Candidates need to believe they have a chance to be hired and to perform well in the job. If the selection process is too complicated or is perceived as being out of their reach, they may not see it through. When the process is long, make sure you are very clear about each step. You can look at making the process simpler without impacting quality and fairness. If the process is particularly challenging, you can be clear with candidates about why this is the case and let candidates know that successful applicants found it difficult too but got hired in the end.
  • Make sure your selection process is fair and is perceived as being  fair Candidates think that a selection process is fair when it includes activities which are related to the job itself and when they feel they are given the opportunity to show their potential. Learn more about what you can do to make your selection process fairer with this Evidence Summary.

Trustworthiness score

We critically evaluated the trustworthiness of the study we used to inform this Evidence Summary. We found that it has a moderately high (80%) trustworthiness level. This means that there is a 20% chance that alternative explanations for these results are possible, including random effects.

Learn how we critically appraise studies to assign them a Trustworthiness Score.


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