Is it Time for a Candidate Bill of Rights?

Fairly recently, influentials such as ERE and Monster were working to build momentum regarding the creation of a “Bill of Rights” for job seekers; specifically, to greatly improve the candidate experience. Due to the enormous amount of talk at the recent #truBoston event and on Twitter chats regarding employer branding and applicant black holes, I’ve been thinking about this issue again.

With recruiter transparency and forced accountability through social media, organizations clearly understand their brand as an employer is just as important as their consumer brand. Equally apparent is the growing dissatisfaction felt by job seekers. At a time when the most compassion is warranted, employers are seemingly ignoring basic human communication. Worse yet, far too many employers blame that failure on the “overwhelming” volume of resumes received (which at times seems akin to the owner of a restaurant complaining that the line of diners outside his door is too long).

Perhaps this entire matter comes down a matter of setting – and meeting – “consumer” expectations: candidates expect human communication from those in human resources.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest a Candidate Bill of Rights – a “manifesto” if you will – to be adopted by:

- Employers who sincerely care about providing superior customer service to candidates
- Candidates with experience that closely matches the qualifications specified by the employer

This Bill of Rights would certainly be situational to industry, and perhaps the recruiting/branding goals of the companies, but may look something like this:

XYZ Company Candidate Bill of Rights

1) Throughout our talent acquisition efforts, you have the right to expect our internal processes, technologies and recruiters to treat you and your application with respect and dignity.

2) You have the right to expect the job description and/or career opportunity to be honestly and accurately described, including the right to know if internal candidates are scheduled to receive preference as candidates.

3) You have the right to expect acknowledgment/receipt of your application to include properly set expectations (“Only those whose qualifications meet our stated requirements will be contacted…” and/or “if you meet those requirements, you will be contacted by ).

4) You have the right to expect complete privacy and confidentiality.

5) You have the right to be assessed as a candidate, only on your ability to do the job; specifically, we will not discriminate against you for being unemployed at the time of your application.

6) If scheduled for an interview, you have the right to expect us to respect your time and meet our agreed upon commitments.

7) During the interview, you will be told of the internal decision-making process, including projected timelines.

8) Also during the interview, you have the right to expect us to answer all of your questions accurately.

9) After the interview, you will receive personal communication from a member of our recruiting team notifying you of status as a candidate and describing next steps, if any.

10) After the interview, you have the right to know your status as a candidate.

11) If another candidate has been chosen, you have the right to expect written or verbal notification within 5 business days of the acceptance of the offer.

12) After the hiring decision has been made, should you ask for feedback you have the right to expect us to provide such feedback whenever possible (even if the response takes the simple form of “another candidate was chosen based on her qualifications and experience set”).

Of course, a Candidate Bill of Rights would not (and should not) be regulated and enforced by some acronym-labeled agency – and as such would require a top-down approach to self-compliance to be taken seriously by the consumer/job seeker.

I would argue, however, that a company that deliberately follows this course of action will need to spend far less time developing and talking about their “employer” brand – their reputation will speak for them, loud and clear. In the meantime, their competition will remain stuck in ATS purgatory supported by demons in the form of recruiters who fail to treat candidates with respect.

What are your thoughts? Is it time for a Candidate Bill of Rights? What rights would you add?

Views: 805

Comment by DeeDee Doke on August 22, 2011 at 9:53am
Glad to see others are acknowledging the need for this. At Recruiter magazine in the UK (and, we wrote in our 29 June issue leader/editorial about a proposed Candidate's Bill of Rights that had been developed, and then passed on to us, by an unhappy candidate who had been ill-treated by a major American retail operation which operates globally. I would be delighted to share the candidate's proposal with others. Yes, it's time for a Candidates' Bill of Rights!
Comment by Scott Corwin on August 22, 2011 at 10:03am

I do not believe there is a need for a bill of candidates rights, however all companies should follow the basic guidelines you have outlined.  Successful recruiters already go above and beyond what you have documented. Unfortunately as most things in life the majority go about things in the wrong way. This statement includes candidates. If the proposed outline was quid pro quo, all candidates would respond to emails and voice mails left by recruiters. Imagine that.  Bottom line: the golden rule applies to all matters involving personal interaction.

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on August 22, 2011 at 10:10am

Great idea, Mark. 

I suspect that the problem with the job boards is that screening them goes to the most junior person on the HR team.  Often, they have no idea what they are looking at or for so that many good resumes do go into the black hole.  Of course, anyone who has ever posted a job on a job board knows that 90% of the resumes received will have no validity.  (I am amused when I post that a particular job is in New York City, but that there is no relocation and candidates must be in close proximity to do a last minute interview.  Not surprisingly, I get resumes from everywhere in the US and, occasionally, abroad.)

But there is another issue, which has more to do with your great idea.  Someone at the company must be assigned to follow up on the applicant's candidacy.  They should be in constant contact to inform the candidate of his or her status and provide feedback at each stage of interviewing.  As a recruiter, it is sometimes almost impossible even for me to obtain feedback.  Client's simply ignore my calls and emails.  I once had a director of HR tell me that the trouble with recruiters was that we demanded feedback.  Imagine!  When I tried to explain that if she gave me appropriate feedback I could then do triage on future candidates, her response was that I should actually NOT do that; it was her job. 

Your bill of rights is excellent.  However, for the most part it represents what good manners and ethical behavior should accomplish.  Thanks for putting it down on paper.


Comment by Richard Cialone on August 22, 2011 at 10:17am
I'm all for making the candidate experience a positive one, for two reasons.  First, it simply makes good business sense to be a company whose actions show it believes it's an integral part of society and is respectful of other stakeholders (especially if a company sells directly to consumers).
Secondly, while there are no laws that require courtesy, companies are  made up of people, just like you and me, and they should communicate accordingly. There should be no dispensation because people can hide behind a company name.  
But to play devil's advocate, I will say that one reason why companies don't provide "reason for rejection" to candidates is that some will vehemently disagree and continue to push their case.  That's not necessarily a bad thing (they may be right), but it's time consuming and most recruiters, whose job is very labor intensive, are loath to spend unproductive time trying to convince someone who's not convincible.  And not to mention the potential for someone saying the wrong thing and getting slapped with a lawsuit.  Still, I do believe the candidate experience needs improvement.  
Yet, there's one aspect of this forward thinking that I must disagree with...the concept of candidate as "customer".  That's just inaccurate.  Anyone can be a customer, as long as they're willing to spend their money.  The same can't be said about candidates.  And I think most recruiters would agree that the vast majority of resume submittals are not even close to being the profile being sought.
Look at any definition and you'll see that a customer is one who receives or consumes goods or services and has the ability to choose between different products and suppliers. In fact, I would go so far as to say the employer is the customer and the candidate is more akin to a vendor.   Today, I am a vendor.  In years past, I was a candidate.  In my experience, trying to get the attention of companies that may be able to use my skills is quite similar in both cases.
Why do I think the distinction is important? Because I believe we do a disservice to candidates when we lead them to believe that they should be given the red carpet treatment, when in reality it’s the candidate who needs to know how to compete in order to get in front of a hiring company for an interview. I think it’s especially important that we don’t lead new generations of workers down the wrong job search path.  Do they deserve common courtesy?  Absolutely, as we all do.   But as a provider of services, candidates need to know how to compete; how to sell themselves.
Comment by Cynthia Countouris on August 22, 2011 at 1:48pm

Hallelujah!  I'm surprised at any nay-saying...  A Bill of Rights sets the stake in the ground for everyone involved to just do the right thing.  Why be afraid of it?  We've been espousing a Candidate Bill of Rights since 2000 and it's baked it into the Accolo Cloud Recruiting Platform to ensure every applicant is acknowledged and kept up to date on their status in the process.  

We receive emails all the time from applicants that aren't hired - thanking us for providing a great experience and letting them know the status of the position.  Think about it... we receive enthusiastic thank you's for letting people know they weren't hired! That says volumes about the overall state of how applicants are treated.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 22, 2011 at 2:10pm

Absolutely there should be a bill of candidate rights.


You have the right to remain silent.

"Please God remain silent for a day or two, you have called me more times than my kid at camp who wants money.  And please don't call the HR rep or the hiring manager again, they haven't had time to review your resume yet."  I do not have the time or inclination to argue with you about the fact that you do not fit the job requirements.  I am not going to tell you that my client is not going to hire you because your tongue piercing clicked on your front teeth during the interview.  So either remain silent or ditch the piercing.


Anything you say can and will be used against you.

That is why you should not talk about all those things i told you not to talk about in the phone interview.  The fact that you hated your previous supervisor, you were fired because they told you not to sniff the neck of the secretary and comment on her perfume and you did it anyway.  You asked for twice what i told you job paid or you refused to anwer when the internal recruiter asked you for salary information or expectations, instead saying, "I prefer to discuss salary later in the interview process."  Congrats dear candidate it was held against you and there won't be any later interview process.  You have the right not to listen to me or believe what i tell you.  But like it says in the bill or rights..anything you say can and will...and it was.


You have the right to an attorney.

"Damn straight you do, you and every other idiot who decided that no matter whether you fit the job or not, lived in the same state, haven't had a job since 2006, are female, minority, over 40, disabled, unemployed, had 13 job changes in the past five years or think you were ignored, harrassed or discriminated against because you have ugly red hair and freckles.  By all means you have the right to an attorney.  Get one and raise some legal hell for any of the above reasons.  That will help you pay the rent, now won't it, if you live long enough for something to go to court and by some chance you win.


If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you.

Start with with EEOC and go down the list, surely somebody will insist that somebody hire you or pay you because you couldn't get a job any other way.


Does anybody know what happened to the guy named Miranda who started all this rights stuff.  His conviction was overturned, his confession was thrown out, he was retried without his confession, convicted and served 11 years.  Upon release he was stabbed to death in a knife fight.  His attacker invoked his Miranda rights and went free.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on August 22, 2011 at 2:48pm


Truer employment candidate rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--and a better job/employer where never so succinctly stated than your stipulations here and creative application of the famous and infamous Miranda Warning . 

Spiced with dark humor, of course, this dish is served with a WALLOP of common sense often missing in such transactions.

Comment by Penelope Alexander on August 23, 2011 at 11:15am
Great article....clearly stated. Consideration and civility in recruiting went out the window when Online Recruiting took over. Why do we persist in using methods simply because they are "new". They aren't always better.....


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