Dear Claudia,

We're one of the only companies hiring in our area right now, and with the recent changes in the economy we're seeing a big increase in the number of resumes coming in. My recruiters are way past overwhelmed, and most are noting that candidate phone calls are becoming much more frequent and confrontational. Today a candidate actually followed one of my recruiters from our office to a restaurant and into the bathroom, refusing to leave until she read her resume. How can I help my recruiters cope with aggressive candidates while still delivering a great experience?

Worn Out

Dear Worn Out,

Ok, so I'm a big fan of candidate experience. Huge, actually. But I'm also a big fan of recruiter experience, and being stalked in a bathroom is just plain creepy. No hire for you, bucko. Have you considered giving your recruiters cans of compressed air labeled "Candidate Be Gone" to use at will? Seriously, a healthy sense of humor may be the best coping skill for your team under these circumstances, and your leadership will make the difference between engagement and burnout in the ranks.

While we were building the Feedback Portal at Improved Experience, we asked a lot (did I say a lot? I meant a boHUGEous amount) of active job seekers about their experiences in job hunting. With resounding agreement, the most popular points of pain were:

1. The process is broken (87%);
2. No one talks to me (92%); and
3. I don't feel valued or respected (94%).

The obvious answer is to assign a candidate advocate on your staff, right? But before you go there (and yes my friend, there are creative ways to squeeze short-term help out of your budget), take a moment to assess your situation carefully.

Engage your team in setting the standards of candidate experience.
If they're accountable for delivering service, they should have a say in what is reasonable and what is not. And most often in my experience, recruiters set the bar higher than I might. As the manager you make the final decision, but make the details of the service level agreement a collaborative discussion.

Engage your job seekers, too.
Preview and select a small panel of candidates to join your next team meeting (yes, really!), and query both their frustrations and their suggestions for improvement. You'll learn a lot, and may find that some of their priorities are different from yours. Have you noticed how often stress is self-imposed? This of course leads to my last point:

Question your assumptions.
What is true in ordinary times is not defacto true in extraordinary times. Look at every candidate touch point. Aim for simplicity and fix the process, communicate clearly, and be respectful. And wherever you can, put a human face or voice on the front line. Your candidates will love you for it, and tell others about their great experience.

Survival doesn't go to the fittest, it goes to the most adaptable. If you can make it through this onslaught with a good reputation and a team that hasn't run screaming out the door, you'll have achieved something worth speaking about at a recruiting conference next year. Let me know how it turns out!


In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Do you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Drop me a line!

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OOOOH! That's a great question Claudia...
Unfortunately there aren't enough examples of excessive great experiences - but triage is the keyword.
When I was an internal HR VP and we had over 100 openings (with one fulltime recruiter) I set up an auto reply (personalized) that let candidates know what our process was and when follow up would be appropriate. We also sent dear John follow up to candidates who simply were not qualified. This helped manage the volume of calls. Use technology to your advantage as an extra pair of hands in times where you get backed up - you'll be a shining star in a sea of dark clouds!
It is important, regardless of the environment, that both parties behave in a professional manner. Responding to applicants is easier than ever now with auto-replies. No longer are we expected to call each candidate back to confirm we received their resume/application. Some will call-yes, but the numbers are way down,

On the suggestion that we have 'candidate advocates' on staff I do have to disagree. REcruiters work for the company. Their job is to find the best suited talent--not be an advocate for the applicant. For me, an advocate is someone who fights for their candidate--similar to lobbying in the policital arena. A recruiter is to source the best suited talent and put them in front of me--not advocate for them. That is what talent agent is for--not a recruiter.

Same as HR is not an advocate for the employee. Think of it this way: If HR is the advocate for the employee, who is the advocate for the company? the client? No, the recruiter if anything is an advocate for the company, selling the benefits of working there to attract the most talented.

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