Candidate experience, from the moment a job application is received to the lucky new hire’s first day at work (and possibly beyond), is slowly finding its hard-earned place in the limelight. But does it really make a difference about how smooth this process is as long as the candidate lands the job, which is seemingly adequate reward in itself? And more importantly, is it worth paying attention to candidate experience if a candidate is rejected and may possibly never cross your company’s path again?

Absolutely and wholeheartedly, YES!

You may have heard this before, but any candidate who interacts with you or your organization is developing their own perception of the company, and doing so at every step of the process. While you might be concerned with reviewing and evaluating multiple candidates, they’re probably doing the same thing.

Previously, it didn’t make much of a difference what a candidate’s perception of your company was. But today, branding has become vital in virtually every aspect of life, and workplaces are no exception. So while your organization might pay close attention how your clients, customers, stakeholders and vendors perceive you, the people who keep the job market alive are often ignored. Do so at your own peril.

Here are 13 real truths to keep in mind to avoid situations where candidates don’t look favorably on your company.

1. Flexibility pays.

No matter how well you plan, always be prepared for sudden eventualities such as delays or complete no-shows. Leave room for last-minute shuffling and try to make things fall into place when they can.

2. It has to be personal.

Most job portals have highly generalized filters that club similar-sounding professions together, but you know better. When you approach potential candidates, a personalized email or call that connects with their previous experiences or success will separate you from the masses.

3. Culture is crucial.

Corporate culture isn’t just part of every candidate interaction; it’s the backbone of your hiring process and has a direct impact on candidate experience. Whatever your company is (informal, structured, systematic, competitive, etc.), be honest and transparent. The last thing you want to do is give candidates informal interviews followed by a highly disciplined workplace.

4. Realism is the only way.

You probably want to see the best of your candidates as quickly as possible, but impractical expectations for evaluations, assignments and other parts of the hiring process will put off even the most seasoned pros. The best candidates know the value of time, so be flexible and realistic or you might lose more than a few golden apples.

5. Words matter.

When you draft any message designed to attract, instruct, engage or hire candidates, be careful about how you phrase it. Language has the power to get the results you want or ruin your plans entirely, so choose wisely to maintain your professionalism and strengthen the candidate experience. Always being polite never hurts, for starters.

6. Surprises are for birthdays.

An interview can be informal, but it should never be unprofessional or lax. Part of your job as a recruiter is to make sure there are no hidden secrets. Always be transparent with candidates about what an interview or meeting will entail. And if you do come across questionable information during a background check or the like, handle it maturely.

7. ‘No’ beats nothing.

If you’ve decided that a candidate is not suitable for the role they’re applying for, try not to postpone sharing the bad news any longer than you have to. Getting this information across with empathy and tact will help candidates move on with other opportunities and offers, but it will also allow you to focus on helping the candidate who is being hired to settle in well.

8. ‘No’ is not the end.

Candidate experience is relevant to rejected candidates as much as the ones who get offers. You never know how you might cross paths with the candidates you turn down, whether as vendors or customers or even future colleagues. Don’t part on a bad note if it can be helped, but certainly don’t cut ties completely or ghost any candidates. Ever!

9. The future is open.

If you want to keep a candidate in your hiring pipeline, one simple method is to make sure the conversation remains live until the very end. Follow up interviews with emails initiating the next step of the process or, if you can’t do so just yet, giving them a window by which you can. This gives the relationship direction, saves time and makes the candidate feel valued.

10. Special privileges have no room.

If you’re interacting with multiple candidates at the same time, maintain the same level of professional detachment with them all. It’s possible they may know each other, especially in more tight-knit industries or smaller job markets. Even if they don’t, it’s not your place to have a proverbial horse in the race.

11. Other relationships can’t suffer.

While it’s important to prioritize candidates, extend your professional attitude and outlook to hiring managers and partners working with you. Positive, transparent relationships with interviewers, background check agencies and other stakeholders will in all likelihood yield better outcomes.

12. The black hole effect is damaging.

When candidates send their applications in, a simple acknowledgement can be the difference between a positive employer perception and a neutral or negative one. Additionally, don’t simply go AWOL on candidates in the middle of the hiring process. Have the courage to say ‘no’ when you have to, and create backup workflows in case you need to content with personal emergencies.

13. It’s not over when it’s over.

You might have made an offer and had it accepted, but the candidate experience is still live. Until new hires settle in, they will still need a bit of help and guidance. Who better for them to turn to than the recruiter who’s been speaking to them regularly for several weeks? Preserve your hard work by making sure candidates settle in and go on to do fulfill the potential you saw in them.

Being just a bit more attentive to these realities can differentiate your candidate experience. Pretty soon, you’ll discover that creating positive scenarios and environments for every candidate you interact with shouldn’t be that difficult. And that’s when you’ll flourish together!