Fusing DEIA into the Candidate Experience

By: Bobbie Burton and Keli Wilson

This is part 5 of our 8-part blog series, Psychological Safety and Advancing Workforce Equity.

Implementing organizational policies and practices that increase employee perceptions of fairness and justice is essential for building and sustaining inclusive cultures where employees feel valued and comfortable in their workplace. In these environments, employees are empowered to contribute ideas, take risks, and ask for meaningful feedback that boosts innovation and increases employee engagement and team performance (Edmondson & Lei, 2014). Hire date, however, is not the induction point for a person to form lasting impressions about an organization. Prospective and actual job candidates interact with organizations long before selection decisions are made. Candidate reactions to organizational treatment in these interactions can influence key behaviors such as candidate self-selection and subsequent job acceptance (Gatewood et al., 2019). Similar to employment experience, candidate experience is an essential opportunity to increase psychological safety and organizational justice. 

While employers often engage in good faith efforts to diversify their candidate pools, it is imperative to prevent any barriers that may develop through interactions and procedures influencing employment decisions. Hausknecht et al. (2004) found that candidates were more likely to hold positive views of an organization, share positive word-of-mouth, accept a job offer, and perform better on selection tools when they perceived that selection tools were fair and job-related. Recruitment messaging and recruiter behaviors have also been found to impact candidate impressions of organizations and job opportunities (Gatewood et al., 2019). Organizations benefit when candidates feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their opinions about decision-making. It is important to remember that organizations select candidates, but candidates also select organizations. Candidates may opt to walk away from the selection process if they do not believe that their interactions with a company in the initial stages of selection are appropriate and fair. 

Employers should be concerned about candidate experience and candidate reactions to the selection process. Candidates who find a selection process to be invasive, lacking job-relatedness, unfair, or discriminatory are less likely to continue in the application process, accept job offers, recommend the organization to others, or perform well on selection tests. These candidates are also more likely to file a discrimination case against an organization (Gatewood et al., 2019; Hausknecht et al., 2004; McCarthy et al., 2013). Negative candidate reactions can translate to serious consequences for organizations through the loss of top candidates and candidates from underrepresented populations. Negative candidate reactions can also result in money ineffectively spent on recruitment and selection (Hausknecht et al., 2004). Organizations might also suffer in their ability to accurately measure true candidate abilities and work-related characteristics due to negative candidate reactions such as increased anxiety, reduced motivation, and reduced belief in the validity of selection tests (McCarthy et al., 2013).  

Fortunately, organizations have the power to shape candidate experiences that promote perceptions of fairness and justice, as well as the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Structures that create accountability, along with policies and practices that promote transparency and open communication between organizations and candidates, can result in perceptions of equity in candidate experience (Dobbin et al., 2015). Following are examples of actions that could be taken to increase perceptions of fairness and justice in the recruitment and selection process (Gatewood et al. 2019): 

  • Build rapport and offer opportunities for candidates to share their opinions 
  • Be professional, transparent, and informative throughout the selection process 
  • Maintain consistent and updated communication with candidates 
  • Train recruiters and managers on interview best practices such as structured interviewing
  • Use job-related, valid selection measures and tools
  • Give candidates realistic job previews for the roles where they may be hired
In summary, organizations need to consider their targeting strategies, recruitment messages, and interactions with candidates as well as their implemented policies, procedures, and practices in selection. All of these can impact candidate experience, DEIA initiatives, and candidate decision-making.  

In the next installment of this series, DCI will explore a factor of employee experience that has become increasingly popular in recent years: employee engagement! 


Dobbin, F., Schrage, D., & Kalev, A. (2015). Rage against the iron cage: The varied effects of bureaucratic personnel reforms on diversity. American Sociological Review, 80(5), 1014-1044. 

Edmondson, A. C., & Lei, Z. (2014). Psychological safety: The history, renaissance, and future of an interpersonal construct. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1(1), 23-43. 

Gatewood, R., Feild, H. S., & Barrick, M. (2019). Human resource selection. Cengage Learning. 

Hausknecht, J. P., Day, D. V., & Thomas, S. C. (2004). Applicant reactions to selection procedures: An updated model and meta‐analysis. Personnel Psychology, 57(3), 639-683. 

McCarthy, J. M., Van Iddekinge, C. H., Lievens, F., Kung, M. C., Sinar, E. F., & Campion, M. A. (2013). Do candidate reactions relate to job performance or affect criterion-related validity? A multistudy investigation of relations among reactions, selection test scores, and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(5), 701. 

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