Auditing Your Candidate Experience: Application Pitfalls

Guest post by Melissa Martini

Back when I first joined Three Ears Media as an intern, Kat had me auditing candidate experiences by applying to a variety of jobs. At first, I wondered why I was the one Kat chose to look at candidate experience. I was just a student, and Kat had extensive experience. So why on earth did they have me making this assessment? But as I went through multiple companies’ application processes, I noticed just how infuriating it can be to apply… and just how valuable my opinions were.

It’s because we notice different things based on different life experiences. Everyone does. There are different things Kat and I noticed due to being from different generations, demographics, and personal backgrounds. Kat is trans and non-binary, and I know they are more aware of some things than I might be. I grew up in New Jersey and consider myself a Millennial, so I occasionally use emojis in emails and texts while Kat grew up on military bases without a cell phone.

One of the things I noticed right off the bat was how little companies showcased their diversity in their company photos. I grew up in an incredibly diverse hometown and attended diverse schools with folks of all ethnicities, races, skin colors, etc. and notice when company photos don’t match up to those length DEI Statements! Meanwhile, Kat noticed things like policies regarding hiring military and veterans, or pronoun-inclusive language that I wasn’t yet looking for. Subtle cues that let trans and non-binary people know that they are (or not) welcome at a company – not only to apply, but also to thrive. I was bisexual at the time, but not out yet.

Most Candidate Experiences Suck

After I graduated, I entered an entirely new world – the world of executive search. That’s when I realized just how out of touch so many recruiters and companies are with the candidate experience.To be honest, they suck: the basics are thrown out the window, and candidates are rarely told the information that really matters, like if they even belong at a company. I watched recruiters demonstrate poor practices like keeping candidates warm for way too long, being inconsiderate of their situations, and asking candidates to jump through hoops.

While I may have covered a variety of issues with the candidate experience, the average person isn’t going to be able to pick up on all potential issues a candidate might experience. But between Kat, me, and the other unique minds at Three Ears Media, our diverse perspectives allowed us to identify common pain points and areas for improvement, too.

I couldn’t stay in executive search for long. I may be Jersey born and raised, but I am too soft a soul to watch so many candidates be strung along and disappointed – especially after experiencing being a candidate in today’s day and age. As I sought a new position, I was horrified at the application processes I encountered.

Everything Adds Up In The Candidate Experience 

Most positions I applied to never even responded to me. Others requested uncomfortable and awkward recorded video interviews, and time-consuming and trivial tests to prove I knew my grammar despite having three undergrad and grad degrees in English and Creative Writing…

Thankfully, I ended up back here at Three Ears – and the candidate experience was great: a Twitter DM, a phone call, a couple emails, and a then contract, with thorough communication over the course of a couple weeks. AND I can be fully myself at this company, without a worry if my soft personality will be criticized, my sexuality will be questioned, or my mental health will be dismissed. I know this not only because of how Kat has treated me over the last few years, but also because of the content they create and promote online. Yes, that impacts how your candidates and employees view you and your company!

Kat consistently produces content that analyzes what makes candidates and employees thrive at a company – like bad bosses that don’t get better, how managers can invest in their employees, and mental health – even allowing me to cover topics like eating disorders at work. When I look at Three Ears Media’s website, content, and blog, I see passionate and inclusive words and images that encourage a sense of belonging – rather than hollow, empty content.

And yet, every day, candidates are applying to companies that are unaware of how offputting their candidate experiences actually are, leaving all of the potential candidates to suffer through a candidate experience that not only makes them not want to apply, but think they can belong either. 

What Makes Your Candidate Experience Suck?

One of the most frustrating aspects of job hunting is the seemingly endless waiting period after submitting an application. Candidates don’t apply to jobs willy-nilly – it took me a lot of emotional and mental preparation to leave my role in executive search. To have so many positions ghost me without even rejecting my application was incredibly disheartening. I’m not even worth the time to send a rejection email to, even an automated one? I’m not the only one. Nearly half of job applicants wait at least two weeks to hear back at all, followed by weeks of being “kept warm.” Candidates invest time and effort in crafting tailored resumes and cover letters, only to be met with silence from the hiring company. After filling out a lengthy online application, crafting a customized cover letter to a company, and even completing interviews with multiple members of a team, consistent and clear communication is key in keeping a candidate interested in a role.

Another major source of annoyance for candidates is being asked to fill out redundant information on application forms. When was the last time you updated your resume, LinkedIn work experience, and your cover letter template? It’s a pain in the ass, and we’re all copying and pasting the same content from one location to another.You may be thinking, “but so many applications just allow you to upload your resume!” Yes, streamlining this process and allowing candidates to upload their resume directly is great. But let’s be real – after I apply to a job, upload my resume, upload my cover letter, link my LinkedIn… the application will ask me to fill in all of the information I just uploaded – again. Forget about forms auto-filling from your resume, that literally never works and needing to fix all the mistakes is labor in and of itself.

And if I’m being honest? I will close your application if I need to do that. I already spelled out my experience three times, not doing it again. Come on – if a candidate has already painstakingly detailed their qualifications and experiences in a resume AND their cover letter, it can be demotivating to repeat the same information in an online form. 

The Final Straw: Salary Ambiguity and Unrealistic Expectations

Job descriptions that fail to mention salary information are even worse. The cost of living is unfortunately incredibly different throughout the country, and when I’m applying for a job, it’s not even a matter of *wanting* to know how much money a role will pay – I *need* to know. If a role is underpaying, it’s quite literally a waste of my time, money, and energy to apply.

Understanding the potential compensation for a position is crucial in making informed decisions about which opportunities to pursue. On top of this, there’s an incredibly large wage gap between LGBT+ people and others: did you know that “LGBTQ+ workers earn about 90 cents for every dollar that the typical worker earns,” according to This means that when companies don’t disclose salaries on job posts, we’re continuing to support this wage gap by paying negotiators rather than top talent. If you don’t have salary listed on your job post, there’s a good chance it’ll be more productive for me to try to sell something on Facebook Marketplace than apply to your role.

By omitting salary details, employers risk losing out on qualified candidates who may be hesitant to invest time in an application without knowing the potential financial reward. For me, personally, I know I’m not in a place where I can risk anything related to finances – and I’m positive this is the case for most if not all candidates applying for jobs right now.And none of this “Salary Range: $50,000 to $200,000 based on experience” bullshit. Tell me point blank how much you’re willing to pay someone to do the duties listed in this job post. If a salary range is that wide, there are two roles being described and you’re seeing how little you can pay someone

I’m gonna say it: it’s predatory. Be transparent. Candidates are people trying to survive in this world, too. Many job postings outline a set of qualifications for the “perfect candidate” that may be difficult to meet. Employers should be mindful of creating unrealistic expectations, as this can deter qualified individuals from applying.

Audit Your Candidate Experience

There’s more you can do. But you can’t change what you can’t see. That’s why having external folks apply to your jobs can help. By auditing your candidate experience, you can identify areas where improvements are needed and enhance the overall application process. 

Remember, it’s not just about checking a box. This is about showcasing values and creating an experience that convinces the right people to apply. To gain valuable insights and recommendations tailored to your organization, reach out to us for a thorough candidate experience audit. We can help. Our team will take the time to investigate every step in your candidate experience from many different perspectives to help you see what you can’t today. Together, we can create a more efficient and candidate-friendly application process that yields better results for both applicants and employers.

Plus, investing in a positive candidate experience today can yield significant returns in the future by attracting and retaining top talent. Not only will a bad job post cost you more money than you realize, but a poor candidate experience will, too. Especially if the best talent never even applies. Interested in learning more? Book a meeting to talk to Kat about your audit.

Read The Other Posts In This Series:

Candidate Generation and Nurturing Recruitment Marketing Advice

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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