Many of us in HR and Leadership circles – I am among them – bemoan the negativity that springs up during the process of recruiting employees, affecting positive candidate experience and your employer brand. One would think companies would have a stake in ensuring candidates, whether they are hired or not, have a positive experience with the hiring company and your recruiting process. Others might point out that not getting the job is in itself enough to sour the candidate on the company if he or she is passed over. Yet studies have shown even unsuccessful applicants retain a positive experience of the company, if a too-often-overlooked link is maintained: clear, unambiguous communication.
Most people just want to know they’ve been heard. We need the organizations we engage with – as consumers, as personal brands, as parents, as just about anything – to be clear, to set or correct expectations, and to do us the courtesy of responding. There’s even an annual award for companies that maintain a good candidate experience, the Candidate Experience Awards. I’m proud to be on the council for this organization because it’s such an important cause. The most recent awards report, issued in 2013, highlighted 63 companies that excel at creating a positive candidate experience. Before you roll your eyes and say ‘ugh, another vanity report,” let’s consider the following:
- Nearly 60% of survey respondents (candidates at surveyed companies) feel they have a relationship with a company before they apply for a job. In the Internet age, what recruiter or company would expect anything less? Most people research a company before they decide to apply, using social media, career pages, LinkedIn and networks of acquaintances and friends who work for the target company.
- A staggering 75% of candidates who apply for a job never hear back, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey. Yes, this is staggering and not good. This is unacceptable.
How can any rational Leader or HR team justify this? How can any responsible company decide it isn’t worth the time to respond to an applicant? We’re not even talking constructive feedback here: we’re talking common courtesy. Even an auto-generated email, followed up with a note or call, would be 100 times better than dead silence.
There’s tremendous risk in ignoring applicants, even unqualified applicants, when sites like Glassdoor and blogs are so easy to access – and so simple to use to leave anonymous critique of an employer.
And criticism of employer brand does not begin and end with a spurned candidate. Your own employees are looking at those sites too. The more often they see their employer called out for shoddy recruiting practices, the more likely they are to decide it’s not a company they want to work for. Then your recruiting problem morphs into a retention problem.
So what’s the solution?
Communication. It’s that simple, and that hard. You must respond and acknowledge applicants, even if it’s via an automated response from an HR software package. If you can provide direct and constructive feedback, so much the better.
Why does communication matter so much?
A 2013-2014 study (download the PDF) by Towers Watson proves the link between ROI and effective communications. Quoting directly from the report summary (emphasis is mine):
- “Companies with high effectiveness in change management and communication are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers than firms that are not effective in these areas.
- The most effective companies build a differentiated employee value proposition (EVP), and are three times more likely to focus on behaviors that drive organization success instead of focusing on program cost.”
That last point bears repeating: focus on behaviors that drive organization success”. It’s simple, elemental, and utterly dependent on good communications. To be a successful company, you need to focus on behaviors that foster a culture of success. Communications is one of those behaviors. Towers Watson reminds readers of its report, quote, “Cultivate a culture of community and information sharing.” Within and without, with employees and candidates, the key to success – and attracting the candidates who will help your business grow – is good communications. There’s just no substitute.
So I’ll throw down a challenge for HR practitioners and Leaders everywhere: tell me about how you communicate successfully. Share how you communicate progress – with job applicants? Where does data fit in? How do you create a workplace culture of open and honest communications with employees, so they recommend your workplace to their peers? What tools do you use – software, back of the envelope, or other – to remind yourself daily that good, honest and direct communications are fundamental HR and Leadership skills?
Let’s close the gap between candidate experience and communications, even if it’s one applicant at a time. Let’s be good communicators, more than just stewards of process and regulations. Let’s take back good HR and Leadership that drives a better culture, before it’s taken away from us. What do you say?
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.