I've been a recruiter for a LONG time - long enough to have built relationships that have lasted beyond the decade mark. Despite the years of REALLY dedicating myself to knowing my candidates, and understanding what's important to them etc., I find myself haunted by the new catch phrase - "Candidate Experience".  

The implication is that you need to make an effort to ensure that everyone who sends you a resume, comes away from the experience with a positive feeling about you.  

Really?  Is that possible?

Don't get me wrong, I do send back auto-response emails to acknowledge receipt of the resume.  And, I do genuinely TRY to follow up with candidates to let them know why they're not being considered if they're not right for the position.

However, some days when a candidate who has worked 3-6 months in every fast food job they've ever had is sending a resume for a Plant Manager's position, you just want to email them back and say, "Really??  You KNOW that you're not qualified for this position"....but of course I don't.  

I send the standard, "Thanks for submitting your resume for consideration.  Unfortunately, your background is not in line with the requirements of this particular position...etc., etc." email.

Then there's the candidate who wants to argue with you about the fact that he or she is not qualified.  Despite your relationship with the client, despite a lengthy discussion about exactly what they're looking for, the qualifications that they'll maybe budge a little on and the ones they won't, this candidate is confident that you're too dumb to understand that they WILL consider him.  Frankly, it's rare that those candidates end up feeling positive about their contact with you.

And then, there are candidates whom I've known for a long time, think the world of, have a strong understanding of what they're looking for and why, but simply haven't been able to put them together with the perfect opportunity.  Let's be honest enough to admit that no matter how much you like someone, you cannot dedicate hours and hours over weeks and months to nothing but their particular job search or you'll be broke! 

So...what's the answer then to maximizing the "Candidate Experience"?  I can only continue to do what I've done all these years. That means that some people will think highly of me - and some will not think much.  Either way, while I'm totally committed to doing my best to connect exceptional people with exceptional opportunities, I will always be honest with you, even if that doesn't make your experience with me very positive.

Views: 433

Comment by Matt Charney on February 5, 2014 at 1:46pm

@Pam: Thanks for an awesome post. I think you hit the nail on the head here - unfortunately, candidate experience isn't a new concept or conversation, but as much attention and talk as this topic gets, nothing has really changed all that much for the average job seeker - or recruiter.  I've always thought, to your point, candidate experience is kind of a misnomer, because everyone who's actually a candidate (as in still in process and viable) tends to have pretty good experiences.  It's applicant experience that's the problem, and I think if you're not minimally qualified or even tangentially experienced for a job you apply for, then you don't qualify as a candidate and don't deserve anything other than maybe a perfunctory notice when a position is filled.

Looking forward to seeing more great posts like this from you - appreciate your perspective!


Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 5, 2014 at 1:50pm

I love this post. Another area where recruiting really is like dating - hey you're a nice guy and all but me and you, it's not going to work out. Sorry, I just handed you a Shitty Boyfriend Experience. Oops.

The sooner we realize we're in the business of 95% rejection, the better off we'll all be. There's no excuse for being a jerk, but honesty (and transparency) is nearly always the best way to go.

Comment by Pam Sisson on February 5, 2014 at 2:11pm

LOL Amy - love the boyfriend analogy.

Thanks Matt!

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on February 5, 2014 at 3:10pm

Thanks, Pam.

"Candidate Experience"? What a ******* joke!

Nobody in charge cares- they don't have to. Either they didn't have to wade through the usual sea of **** to get hired, or they regard it as some sort of a perverse right of passage or hazing ritual.

If a company wanted to, they could pay a little over $2.00/hr for an offshore "Virtual Candidate Care Assistant" to make sure each and every candidate had a professional (if not actually pleasant) application experience, while simultaneously keeping us free to do our jobs.The fact that no one seems to have done this says a great deal to me. (I am sometimes answered with, "who do you think you are to tell what should be done?")

It strikes me as pathetic that the most action that has done is an *annual survey and contest among willing participants to see who will be awarded for doing what every company should do as a matter of course. (Imagine a survey and prize for not dumping toxic waste, or for not breaking any wage-and hour laws.) I have heard of no firm plans discussed to strengthen the effectiveness of this, or to go after the worst (non-participating) offenders. I recognize that change (particularly in Corporate America happens slowly), but I've no information that anything more significant in this direction is planned.)

No Cheers,


*I say that as someone who worked to finalize questions in the survey. There are firms there that are sincerely working to measure how they're doing so as to improve it, and I commend them.

Comment by Ryan Leary on February 5, 2014 at 3:21pm

Pam -  I love this post and shared it out. Great points. Strong enough to make "candidate experience" junkies think twice...

Comment by Pam Sisson on February 5, 2014 at 4:35pm

Thanks Ryan!

Comment by Recruiting Animal on February 6, 2014 at 5:47am

Pam, it seems like you're a headhunter. And, if so, the candidate experience that everyone is talking about doesn't concern you. It's really an issue for corporate recruiters who get hundreds or thousands of resumes. Applicants send in a resume and never hear back from the company at all so they don't know where they stand. I imagine that, sometimes, even people who are interviewed and rejected are not kept in the loop so they, too, are left in limbo but, everything I've read about Candidate Experience really has to do with sending in a resume and never being told where you stand. Headhunters don't usually have to manage a huge number of resumes and while they might have difficulty giving feedback to candidates, they don't usually ignore them once they are in process.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on February 6, 2014 at 11:36am
Awesome post Pam. While I get in theory, I feel it is a concept that gets lost in reality from a practical sense. I appreciate you adding your voice to the on-going conversation.


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