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Delivering a Positive Candidate Experience: A Spotlight on UX and Cognitive Load

Amber Williams

The better the candidate experience, the more likely an organization is to attract top talent. 27% of candidates who have had a bad experience would actively discourage others from applying to that organization while 72% of candidates are likely to share a positive experience with their network*.

There are many critical touchpoints for elevating the candidate experience; engaging branding, swift completion times, reliable technology, receiving valuable feedback, and more. An often overlooked element is the design of the assessments used through the lens of cognitive load and the user experience (UX).

Previous research by Saville Assessment into what matters most to applicants when completing online assessments highlighted ‘Results in a job I want to stay in’, ‘ensures I will be well suited for the role’ and ‘is fair to all candidates’ as extremely important. Collectively, this illustrates candidates wanting to have the opportunity to fairly present the best version of themselves, and UX design has a critical role to play in that. 

At Saville Assessment, we partnered with leading design experts DPP to advise on the UX design of our flagship Wave® questionnaires.

In this short article we share some practical insights for delivering a more equitable and inclusive assessment experience through informed UX design.

What is Cognitive Load?

Cognitive load refers to the amount of effort that is exerted or required while reasoning and thinking. Any mental process creates cognitive load, and when the load is too high, thought processes are potentially interfered with. This is particularly pertinent for neurodivergent individuals.

For candidates investing the time applying to work for your organization, you want to give them the fairest opportunity to present their true potential.

Here are some key considerations for UX design in assessment to help reduce cognitive load, ensuring you can be confident your applicants have been presented with a fair and inclusive candidate experience:

Mobile First

Our design philosophy revolves around prioritizing mobile-first design, ensuring that assessment content and layouts adapt seamlessly to different screens across devices. With the prevalence of mobile internet usage, this approach enhances accessibility and convenience for candidates, allowing them to complete their assessment on their preferred device, without compromising on experience.

Simplified Layout

By streamlining the layout of assessment instructions, statements, and responses we reduce cognitive load and sensory distractions. Our layout minimizes ‘visual noise’, enabling candidates to focus their attention on assessment requirements. With less time taken to navigate and read information, candidates can complete with uninterrupted flow, allowing them to show their true potential whilst feeling engaged.

Dark Mode

Introducing dark mode allows the freedom to manage contrast which enhancing readability and visual comfort. For users in low-light environments, who are sensitive to bright light, or have low vision, traditional light-themed interfaces may overwhelm some candidates and cause visual discomfort due to the high contrast and brightness which can make it hard to focus and read information. Dark mode provides a gentler and more accessible alternative, making text easier to read and less likely to cause eye strain and fatigue.

Progress Bar

Being able to visualize progress can empower candidates by providing them with real-time feedback that reduces uncertainty and manages expectations. Our progress bar feature allows candidates to track their assessment journey progress, enhancing their sense of agency and enabling them to manage their time effectively.

Rating Tasks & Just-in-Time Education

Presenting one question at a time, accompanied by just-in-time education, minimizes cognitive and sensory load to support retention and comprehension. This approach to formatting instructions and questions ensures that the candidates receive the necessary information precisely when they need it, facilitating a smooth and efficient assessment experience.

Visually Friendly Font & Formatting

Our choice of clear, legible fonts adheres to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, promoting accessibility and inclusivity. By prioritizing readability, candidates can interpret on-screen text with greater ease, enabling them to perform at their best.