Three Ways I Will Improve the Candidate Experience

In today's economy, it's clear that it's an employer's market. So many qualified candidates are flooding the market for a finite number of jobs.

Having returned to the world of job searching after an unexpected layoff, I've recently experienced the "other side" of the recruiting process, unlike the side I've enjoyed over my 10+ years as a Corporate & Contract Recruiter. I've become painfully aware of some of the areas in which recruiters fail to leave positive images in the job seeker's mind of both the brand and the recruiting professional.

Let's be clear - as a juggler of 60 full cycle requisitions at times, I completely understand that hiring managers, internal meetings, and tightly crammed schedules typically overflow a busy recruiter's desk. But the bottom line remains that recruiting is a service, and we need PEOPLE to fill those positions. Consequently, how we treat people, whether we think we need them or not, is a reflection of the organization we represent. My time as a job hunter has opened my eyes to ways I can improve once I'm back on the "power" side of the interview desk.

1. Value the candidate's time. Recruiters are inundated with applicants in their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) queues, often receiving 200 submissions in the first few days of a recruitment. Even still, I can carve out 15 minutes each day to reconcile statuses and generate correspondence. For those candidates who are clearly off the mark, I will notify them within 48-72 hours of their submissions. For those candidates that I am hoping to move forward with, I will contact them just as swiftly to start the process. Furthermore, before I make that first touch base, I will be sure to have a timeline in mind so I can communicate to them the realities of the process.

2. Keep my word. This is a big one! I, too, have said to candidates "I'll follow up by X-day," and failed to follow through. Now, as a candidate, and knowing how important each step in the process is to someone looking for work, I understand how pivotal it is for the recruiter to make reasonable statements around follow-up and stick to it. Recently, I flew 1,000 miles to an employer's headquarters, interviewed with 9 people, and was told I would hear back in 5 days regarding next steps. It's been a month and I have not even received an e-mail saying, "Hey, we're moving a little more slowly on this one than anticipated, give me a few weeks to follow up." (Or, "You sucked, we're going with someone else.") How hard is that to type and send? For those candidates who I know won't move forward after an interview, I will aim to close them out within a week AT MOST (not four months, as one large employer did with me).

3. Be transparent. Never have I relied on the honesty (and kindness) of others so much than during my recent job search. For those final round candidates who cross my path and are close contenders, I will be forthright and share feedback with them in their close out correspondence (whether phone or email). A technique I learned while teaching students some years ago was the "compliment sandwich" feedback method - P/N/P - two positive statements around a needs improvement statement.  For example, "The hiring managers were impressed with your technical savvy, but felt your leadership experience was somewhat underdeveloped. They are confident that with your dedicated work ethic, you will soon make progress in that area."

I'm pretty sure some recruiters are thinking, "I do NOT have time to do all of that!" I understand. And neither will I! But I will make time. Just like a parent knows that after a grueling 10-hour work day and hellish commute, they will need to prepare dinner, help with homework, clean up, put the kids to bed, and STILL have a smile and loving word for their spouse at the end of the night. I am convinced that my extra effort will make the difference in the candidate's experience.

And if you think I'm being overly sensitive about how candidates feel about their experiences in today's market, check out these articles.

Why People Hate Recruiters

Not So Smart Things Recruiters Do

We Did Something About the Candidate Experience

Ciao for now!


Maisha Cannon is a Senior Recruiter and Researcher committed to introducing employers to talent that will enhance and grow their businesses. Over the span of her 15 year career in Human Resources, Maisha has filled over 1,000 positions, and has coached hundreds of candidates on resume writing, interviewing skills, and career planning. She spends her free time blogging, engrossed in social media, and singing along to the thousands of songs in her iPod.

Views: 1253

Comment by Tim Spagnola on February 28, 2012 at 9:18am

Keep my word - this is an important one indeed Maisha. One of the things that tops the list of what will easily turn off a candidate. Lack of follow up and doing what you say you are going to do devalues trust and makes the working relationship between recruiter and candidate one doomed to fail IMHO.

Comment by Kyle Schafroth on February 28, 2012 at 9:28am

Tim beat me to it but keeping your word is such a differentiating factor. It ties in with the other two points and creates the ideal candidate experience (misc mishaps aside). Under promise and over deliver - either give yourself a day or two of breathing room to be safe or give a range of dates. Yes, most people will only hear the sooner date but you've still given yourself some room.

Consider the all too familiar wait list at a restaurant. In college when I hosted and served I made a habit of giving a time range to customers. When the host(ess) tells you it will be 20minutes and 25 go by you start to get a little miffed. If instead you're told 20-30mins the same situation would still be within their quote and anything sooner makes them look like a rock star.

Overall a nice article Maisha - shows a side we all often forget whether it was 1-2 years or 10-15 years since we were on the receiving end.

Comment by Ashley Healy on February 28, 2012 at 9:37am

Hi Maisha, loved your post! I think your points are so important to keep in mind throughout the interviewing process and they truly will improve the candidate experience. It's also about keeping your candidates engaged. Consistent communication is key and it shouldn't stop once the candidate has accepted an offer either. It is extremely important that new employees become engaged immediately upon entering their new workplace, even before their start date so that they consistently feel like they have made the right choice to join your team. I wrote some social onboarding tips here if anyone is interested: 

Comment by Scott Bruman on February 28, 2012 at 11:08am

Very well said!

Comment by Maisha Cannon on February 28, 2012 at 1:29pm

Tim  - Thanks for your feedback. You're so right about "devaluing trust." And isn't trust THE most critical component of any relationship, personal or professional?

Ashley - Thanks so much for your comments, I'm glad you enjoyed the post! You bring up a very important concept of engagement, and you're right, it shouldn't end once the position is "filled." I will definitely checkout your social on-boarding tips!

Kyle - I love the idea of giving yourself a day or two of breathing room to be safe! In truth, as much as we "own" the process of full-cycle recruiting, we CONTROL very little of it! Hiring managers don't always follow up when they promise, so that extra padding makes a lot of difference! Love your restaurant analogy, too.

Scott - Thanks for reading and commenting! Happy Recruiting!

Comment by Abby on February 28, 2012 at 6:03pm

great article

Comment by Maisha Cannon on February 28, 2012 at 6:56pm

Thanks, Abby! Glad you liked it.

Comment by Gordon Alderson on February 29, 2012 at 6:32am

Thanks Maisha for your thoughtful article.

May I add - Care for all candidates as if each of them will one day become an advocate client.

When you live and work by this attitude you will find that former candidates, even unsuccessful ones, will be your greatest source of paying clients. In most cases they will ask you to work on a retained basis and not quibble about your fee - only expect the same level of client service you gave them when they were one of your candidates.

Comment by Gerry Crispin on February 29, 2012 at 12:14pm

Great article. Love the attitude you bring to it. Thank you for not only accepting the candidate as a legitimate stakeholder in the hiring process, but declaring what you accept as a bar we all should aspire to. The good news is that firms are getting better because the tools to measure the impact that a good (versus poor candidate experience) has on on 1 or more performance measures like sales, candidate conversion rates, quality of candidate and more.

Comment by Maisha Cannon on February 29, 2012 at 12:38pm


Thanks for reading and for sharing your insight! I'm so glad that technology is making it easier for us to track how the candidate experience affects other performance measures as you pointed out. I'd love to see a survey "pop up" at the end of the initial online application, as well as a survey attached to the final closeout email, where candidates could answer a few quick questions and then share the highlight/low point of their experience. Real time feedback would give the recruiter concrete data on how to improve (or a pat on the back for what's going right!)


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