Listening to our Rejected Candidates

As a follow up to last week's look at what we are doing to combat the "black hole" perception, we also began to survey the candidates that we do not hire.  My opinion is that those that are selected are happy and their feedback on the application, interview and selection process may be skewed to the positive.

Since beginning this back in August of last year, over 1,800 candidates have taken the time to give us feedback on how we are doing.  Here is a sampling of our feedback and some of the actions we are taking:

1) Application is too long! I have to say, I agree with them!  We have done some work on our website to make it easier and to hide some items but are still working on what else we don't need to gather up front. We have also made several applications a "multiple choice", for example, I am a new RN, I would like to work in: PICU, NICU, Med / Surg and they can select their top choices versus submitting multiple applications for the various areas.

2) Thanks for the feedback! Over and over, we heard that they appreciated hearing something - even if that something was a "no".  However, many want more specific feedback as to why.  With our volume of candidates, I struggle with how we can do this. One idea as we have many people who apply continuously is to alter the "standard" message monthly or quarterly - any thoughts? Do you have any suggestions?

3) Just talk to me! Many candidates feel that if they could just talk to someone, that they would be clearly the best choice.  Again, with 21,000 applications and 1,100 hires, we can't talk to everyone.  It clearly is a need that people feel they can't express their qualifications on an application.  Makes me wonder if a "anything else we should know about you" place for them to write something would be appropriate?  Has anyone ever tried this.

Although, I will tell you the recruiters were nervous when I proposed this idea to them, I believe the feedback we get just makes us better.  Listening to those who we don't select has been a truly valuable exercise for my team and one we plan to continue!

Views: 508

Comment by Kyle Schafroth on March 14, 2012 at 10:05am

Never stop listening and learning!

Thoughts on two of your points:

2) Depending what ATS you're using some (Taleo comes to mind) will show you a raw text preview of what the message sent to the candidate will look like. This still means a time sink to input any reasons or comments but it's one option. 

Along the same lines, at a previous employer we reviewed and tweaked our ATS' "rejection messages" a few times a year but also had different messages or letters for certain situations. (Again you'll be limited by what your specific ATS or other system uses but...) This allowed us to send a candidate that maybe had great experience but was looking for a drastically different salary range a different letter than the candidate who was applying for a job he or she was just not qualified or a fit for. At the least I suggest updating the messages every quarter if time allows.

3) While I realize (as you and others do clearly) that candidates always want to tell us that "one piece of information that would have tipped the scales" the purpose of their resume and cover letter is just that. I'm sure that 40-60% of our fellow RBC peeps will disagree on cover letters with me here, but personally - it tells me that you give half a hoot about the job and my time. You're taking the time to make me interested and invested in you and your skills/abilities.

A great cover letter catches my attention, allows the candidate a chance to tell me "anything else I should know about him/her", and at the very least shows they did more than just fill in some contact info fields or click the Apply button on CareerBuilder.

If the cover letter and resume don't hook me then talking with the candidate further is going to seem a waste of time (harsh but honest). My only caution against the "anything else.." blank on the application is that depending what jobs or industries you're working with you may get some 'overly creative and frilly' responses. (We all know the candidate who thinks standing out to the recruiter is telling us about the 4 cats and raccoon you took in).

I'm just one person though and there are many others FAR more experienced to speak to this.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on March 14, 2012 at 10:13am

Molly a great post and an important lesson. The candidate black hole is one that job seekers not only dislike, but reflects negatively on the entire organization.

Comment by Amber on March 14, 2012 at 11:59am

To point # 3, I have a profile that for candidates to fill out that I did revise to let them have a section to add any other information that they felt was important for me to know. But I think some information might be more suited to what a recruiter vs. employer would need/want to know.

@Kyle - I LIKE cover letters. As you said, a lot of people are going to disagree. I think if the person took the time to write a cover letter specifically relevant to the position to which their applying it can be very informative. It shows me that they put some thought into the letter, gives me a reference of their writing/communication skills abilities, and hopefully clearly explains why they are a good match. And a poorly written one lets me know a lot as well!!

@Molly & Denise - I see the majority of companies do not even acknowledge receipt of a resume/application and I think even that small measure is appreciated. If an applicant has not been contacted after that, I don't think it's reasonable or feasible for a response to be made to every single applicant.


Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on March 14, 2012 at 4:52pm

I know that I missed last weeks blog but from this weeks I gather that Molly and her company are trying to keep ahead of the game - great job!

I don't believe that candidates not chosen for a position are "rejected". I believe they simply aren't the right fit for THAT PARTICULAR POSITION with THAT PARTICULAR COMPANY.  There is nothing bad about that. Another postion may open with that company at a later date or a better position with another company may come along.

I learned long ago to ask at the end of my interviews (when working at a bank and in third party recruiting) what else should I know about you in relation to this particular position?  This gave the candidates the opportunity to add whatever they felt was important that was not covered in their resume or cover letter.

YES, I believe in cover letters.  They should be written specific for the position applied for and give relavent information not included in the resume.  It is professional to include a cover letter - I give extra points for the courtesy of receiving one.

Comment by Barry Frydman on March 15, 2012 at 5:37am

I find candidates appreciate simply being told they are no longer being considered for a particular position.

This simple courtesy is very rare with recruiters and even rarer with the hiring organizations.

I keep it very simple. The first sentance says they are no longer being considered and the second sentance says I'll keep looking for new opportunities for them. I really don't think adding alot of fluff makes them feel any better nor impresses them with my org.



Comment by Patrick Richard on March 18, 2012 at 5:31am

I agree with Barry that candidates really just want to know what happened. They feel left in the dark when they hear nothing back which makes it hard to think about next steps and where they stand. A straightforward approach can work extremely well.

Comment by Bonnie Skara on March 26, 2012 at 3:21pm

I "always" call (not email) a candidate when they are no longer be considered and I also give them feedback regarding their specific interview. I find this to be courteous as well as keeping a good relationship with a candidate that may be useful in the future. They appreciate this, and I know this from my own personal feedback.


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