Compliance: Why It's The Only Fix For Candidate Experience

Candidate experience is one of those terms recruiters just can’t seem to shut up about. But unlike the blizzard of buzzwords mostly designed to sell consulting services and content marketing, it’s one that we should be discussing more. The reason is (unlike, say, employer branding), candidate experience actually is a concept that has real impact on real people and real recruiters every day.

Forget, for a second, the normal argument about business value and brand equity that seems inexorably intertwined with the candidate experience conversation. It’s actually kind of sad that we need to frame basic courtesy as a business case. Forget, also, the fact that many of the issues around candidate experience stem from bad technology and process, not necessarily bad recruiters.

Recruiting’s Problem Child

Candidate experience is perhaps the only issue every recruiter seems to agree on, with minimal dissent. We bicker all day about minutiae like in-house vs. third party, or when’s the best time of the day to send a job-related tweet — but no one disagrees with the fundamental facts that candidate experience counts, and that what we’re doing to fix it isn’t working.

The data generated by initiatives like the Candidate Experience Awards and products like Mystery Applicant provide valuable benchmarks. However, meaningful metrics and actionable insights simply reinforce a hypothesis upon which everyone already agrees, but treats with apathy more often than action.

Candidate Experience Petition US Dept of Labor

See the Candidate Experience petition at

Who Can Fix Candidate Experience?

It’s time to reframe the candidate experience discussion. We need to move from identifying the problem (we know it exists) and pinpointing its causes (the “why” is really irrelevant), to what companies actually can do about it. But that seems unlikely, because this issue is so big, and employers have been getting it so wrong for so long. What’s more, the HR industry seems more concerned with candidate experience as a commodity instead of an issue that demands conscious, meaningful change from the inside out. Instead, an improved candidate experience must start with the candidates themselves – and we’re all candidates, eventually.

Recently, I surveyed various professional networks and career-focused social media groups about this topic. Although the methodology was informal and unscientific, the results are noteworthy. For example, 80% of candidates (and about 50% of career services professionals and coaches) have never even heard of the term “candidate experience.” That low Q score likely skews high, considering the source – primarily active candidates who also engage about their searches on social media. Interestingly, this same group of non-mystery applicants also seems convinced that searching for jobs is a pain in the ass, applying online takes too much time, and they’ll likely never hear back from employers or recruiters who receive their application.

We’re not going to solve this issue overnight. But the first step (one that too often seems overlooked) is simple. Candidates need to recognize that it doesn’t have to be this way, and make their voices heard. We’ve done a good job of “managing” — and diminishing — candidate expectations to the point where they’re essentially minimal. But if job seekers demand better — if candidates say that this isn’t the way hiring should be — then employers will eventually listen. But how can we be sure they’ll actually do something to improve the status quo?

How You Can Help, Starting Now

Compliance is a sure bet. That’s why I established a petition over at calling for the U.S. Department of Labor – the same feared entity which keeps so many HR generalists so busy – to create specific guidelines and specific penalties for candidate experience.

Because in HR, it’s hard to change a mindset. It’s far easier to change the law. So please sign the petition now and make your voice count. I welcome your revisions, suggestions and/or comments.

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