When you think back to bad interview experiences, what comes to mind? Was it that you never heard back from a recruiter? Or the face-to-face interview with your manager was less than seamless? A study by PwC found that nearly half (49 percent) of job seekers have turned down an offer because of a negative experience during the hiring process. 

Your company's interview process should mirror an amazing hotel or restaurant experience. The reason being that in the battle for talent, and in the age of automation, job seekers still want a personalized and customized experience. One that they will remember, drive their desire to work for your company, and then tell their friends and old colleagues all about. Today's job seekers can afford to be picky, and delivering a remarkable candidate experience, essentially your company's first impression, will make or break that job seeker's decision to choose you.

So, how can companies deliver a white-glove experience for every potential candidate? Here are a few things that go a long way in creating an inclusive and welcoming first impression:

1. Set expectations.

Living in a world where we can watch the journey of our takeout order--from purchase to delivery--means that we've grown accustomed to expectations about a process. Same goes for the candidate experience. Clearly defining what will happen in each stage of the journey, from how long the application will take up front to detailing whom candidates will speak to during interviews (and even how long the hiring decision will take), will communicate your commitment to transparency and leave your candidate feeling confident about what they can expect.

2. Communicate early and often.

Research shows that the number one frustration during the overall job search is the lack of response from employers. We've all been there. In fact, according to a CareerBuilder survey, 75 percent of applicants never hear back from employers. Simply put, sending prompt and timely follow-ups goes a long way. If the volume of these follow-ups is making you hesitate, this is where technology can help. Ideally, for a face-to-face interview, you'd aim to give a candidate feedback within 48 hours, and you must try to be as consistent and clear as possible while folks are at every stage of the process. Any update is better than a void of silence.

3. Use automation without losing human connection.

Technology should and will always drive recruiting, but it's important to remember that candidates want direct human interaction. Understanding the type of technology that your candidates will resonate with is key. For example, a few years ago we tested a hypothesis to see if following up with candidates via text instead of emailing them for feedback on their interview process would increase response rates. What we found was that the volume of responses to the mobile surveys outnumbered those from email considerably, indicating an improved follow-up experience for candidates. We also saw an uptick in the overall candidate NPS score, and were able to gain better insights from more open-ended comments.

4. Lead with empathy.

Small acts of kindness go a long way. Whether that's sending over a few articles pertaining to questions or concerns a candidate had, or rescheduling face-to-face interviews to work around school vacation. Recognizing that life happens and leading with empathy no matter what the situation is will build trust right off the bat and prove that the candidate is more than just a number at your company. 

Choosing an employer is a personal decision. It's no longer about where you'll spend your 9-to-5, it's about finding an employer that will help you grow personally and professionally. And talented and accomplished individuals have options. But the decision is just as personal for the hiring manager. Our SVP of customer success, Alison Elworthy, often compares sending an offer to a candidate to asking someone to a first-grade dance. Vulnerable. Nervous butterflies. Doubt. But when employers take the time to create a remarkable journey for candidates, they should be confident in knowing that they did everything to make the experience a positive one.