When Recruiting Improves Candidate Communication

“Do you hear the phone when I call?

Do you feel the thud when I fall?

Do you hear the crack when I break?

Did you lock the door when it shut?

Did you see the knife when it cut?

Do you keep your ear to the ground?

For the kid in Lonely Town…”

—Brandon Flowers, Lonely Town

Work. There comes a time when we reflect on whether or not to defect. Of whether we stay the course of a complicated, even painful relationship that does not reinvest to retain, or if we close our eyes and leap.

We see these reflections as a possible jumping off points, opportunities to start anew and find:

  • An employer that maybe, this time, will celebrate all that we bring and reward us accordingly.
  • A job where we can do what we do best – the work we love to do and that we’re the most loyal to.
  • Meaningful work that generates a positive prismatic return for us and for those who employ us.

Its one of the most difficult things we do in the modern age: apply for employment. From hourly contract work to salaried jobs to management and executive positions, it’s a highly personal journey of putting ourselves out there to be assessed, reviewed and ultimately judged as to whether we’re deemed worthy of working for an individual, a team, a company.

The recruiting and hiring process from employer to employer can vary so dramatically, with only a few providing a more positive candidate experience than the many, the path from pre-application to even onboarding for those who get the job can eviscerate the hearts of even the most hopeful.

Which was how I felt five years ago. I remember going through a job search with a high-visibility firm. That combined with my industry visibility at the time made me feel even more vulnerable, especially considering that I made it to the final selection process, and I had much more than pride on the line; I had to provide for a family.

Considering the industry they were in, they should’ve known better, the best practices of recruiting and hiring. Instead, I was left with inconsistent acknowledgement and no closure. And even though I didn’t get the job, of which the other primary candidate definitely had the edge on me, I was led to believe that there were other opportunities. It took weeks to know I wasn’t hired and longer still to hear there weren’t other opportunities.

I know. Maybe I’m being melodramatic. I mean, not everyone gets the job and the employment trophy, right? It’s a messy business, this world of work. Stiff upper lip and all that. Of course, I survived and joined the global non-profit research organization called The Talent Board that highlights the good, bad and the in-between of recruiting and candidate experience via the Candidate Experience Awards and Research (CandE). We survey both employers and candidates about the recruiting process, from pre-application to onboarding.

The CandE winners know it’s a constant work in progress – those companies that have improved their recruiting experience for candidates. They are raising the bar and sharing compelling stories as to their talent acquisition journeys of making candidates their number one customers. They know that candidates themselves want to be valued and have an engaging and transparent experience. How they’re treated has a direct impact on employer brands. In today’s digital age, where people share experiences online, a poor candidate experience can be bad for business and translate to millions in lost revenue annually.

When I read through the candidate open-ended survey responses, I empathize viscerally; we’ve all been there; we’re all perpetual candidates. Here are a few paraphrased and sanitized examples (and these were the nicer ones):

  • If there is anyone I could speak with about where my application stands, I would appreciate it. I put my heart into applying for that job. 
  • They should have been more specific as to why I wasnt selected and given me some constructive criti 
  • I did not hear anything until I received a notification that I was not hired two to three months after my interview. 
  • It took a week after I followed up with HR to receive an automated message saying that the position had been filled.

Tens of thousands of similar responses. Yes, progress continues to be made year after year since the first report was released, and the 2015 North America Talent Board Research Report is now available to download. (Companies interested in participating in the 2016 survey research can register here.)

However, there has been a bit of a backslide:

  • 2015 results show an increase in the number of employers not contacting candidates post applica
  • Overall, the percentage of organizations that acknowledge applications with a “thank you” correspondence dropped from 89.5 percent to 85.3 percent
  • The percentage of recruiters required to respond dropped from 49.3 percent to 39.6 percent, which is too bad since, at the very least, talent acquisition systems today are more than malleable enough to accommodate hundreds of disposition codes and better personalize automated messages.

And then every once in a while you come across a positive one, even from those not hired:

I thought the hiring and recruitment managers both did a fine, professional job in conveying this information to me at the conclusion of their process.

Amen. So I wish the true wish of every candidate and current employee around the world: the hope for consistent and personable acknowledgment and closure, knowing that you may not be the chosen one.

When recruiting reflects on its effects, and then improves its candidate communications and follow-up and through, it can retain the relationships outside and in that impact the brand and the business.

And then it may just be a happier year for some of you who start anew.

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