What If It Mattered How We Treat Candidates


Economic challenges are allowing organizations to dodge bullets when it comes to the candidate experience.  But times are changing.  As key talent becomes more difficult to recruit, then brand and reputation matter.  And the candidate experience becomes a more significant influence on those key indicators.


In the BtoB (business to business) world, it seems that buyers make up their minds prior to meeting a vendor.  Recent data suggests that between 70-75% of decision making is completed prior to contacting a vendor or solutions provider.   If that is true, I wonder what happens in the BtoC (business to consumer) world.  In other words, how many job seekers have made their choices prior to speaking to a recruiter from your organization?  Further, I wonder how many prospects say "no" to your recruiter based on faulty information that was discovered on the internet. 


One thing I have noticed is that organizations have a false sense of security around how candidates perceive their brand.  Most organizations are surveying the candidate experience from the chosen few that actually go through the interview process.  Naturally, those responses are going to great; they have just received a white glove service.  I wonder what would happen if we surveyed all candidates that applied for a job--even the ones that we reject. 


Thought leader David Earle of Staffing.org makes this point when he writes; "corporate recruiting is the only B to C endeavor on the planet that invites 100 people to a party, then makes 95 of them stand out in the rain." 


The sea change that the social revolution taught us is that the brand is no longer in charge; the customer was is truly in charge.  The shift occurred because brands had lost credibility and in the new social environment that embraces transparency.  Naturally, this was a shocking reality to brands that were accustomed to controlling the message to their customers and this new requirement for visibility was challenging.  When the talent that we are pursuing demands to be treated like a customer and be granted transparency into the recruiting process, how will that be received?


What would happen if we treated candidate like a customer?  Ironically, in many cases, candidates are actually customers of our goods and services.  One wonders how the “job customer” treatment influences the “product customer;” that would certainly be an interesting research project.


Study after study tells us that candidates are dissatisfied with the way they are treated as a job applicant.  The complaints range from lack of feedback and impersonal communication to overly challenging application processes.  These are the type of complaints that would cause the business side of things to lose customers.  So far as we know, it hasn't cost us job customers.  So far as we know...yet.


I believe the treatment of candidates will become a top concern in talent acquisition.   Our current approach is a ticking time bomb.  There is every reason to believe that customer expectations on the product or business side are going to spill over to the job side of things.  One day we are going to see feedback from a job candidate that publicly voices displeasure with the way they were treated by an organization during the job recruitment process.  And, other candidates that that have shared a similar experience, add their voices.  The end result is going to an uproar that dramatically impacts an organization.  An uproar that cannot be ignored and will damage brands and reputation; we saw this with Dell (“Dell Hell”), Verizon and other consumer brands.  If we act now, this situation is preventable—we just need to treat candidates like it matters.


Views: 1460

Comment by Suresh on January 24, 2012 at 9:01am

Couldn't agree with you more.

Candidates are looking for direct approaches and less barriers, clearly a lot of barriers have come down since the dawn of the internet age.

Comment by Sean O'Donoghue on January 24, 2012 at 11:07am

Spot on Marvin! 

I've been saying for years that agencies need to respect their candidates a whole lot more... and not just the ones that they have out on interview for them! A very large percentage of candidates that apply to vacancies on job boards (via agencies), never hear back from the agencies that placed the ad. And out of those that do hear from the agency, a large percentage again won't get put forward for the role they thought they were applying to in the first place. 

One thing candidates can be sure of however, is that regardless of the service they've received from a recruiter, they will nearly always get asked for referrals?! When I was a rookie recruiter, I used to have massive arguments with my boss over referral asking. We were taught to ask for referrals from everyone - even if we'd never met them or helped them in any way whatsoever?! Would you ever refer someone who you'd never dealt with before? Total madness... and I'd see many recruiters focus far more on squeezing every possible job lead + referral from a candidate, rather than trying to actually help that candidate first and foremost with their own needs! 

With social media allowing companies to do away with agencies (or at least give them a false confidence that they can do better without us!) - I see the candidate becoming the king to the agency in the future. If we can hold onto and nurture very strong relationships with our candidates, then it won't matter if a company does their own recruiting - they won't get to see the best candidates in the market without using us!

Look after your candidates... they will most definitely become your most valuable asset in the future! 

Comment by bill josephson on January 24, 2012 at 11:13am


I recruit exclusively by phone so my candidates talk to a live person making the initial experience more personal. Recruiting over the internet makes for an impersonal experience for the candidate as they send resumes down black holes only contacted when a match.


As a TPR I'll just say this.  My candidate treatment is predicated on how my clients treats me.  If they communicate information to me I can disseminate to the candidate then all works smoothly and their perception of me improves.  When my client isn't communicating the candidate perception of me declines.

So how a candidate regards me is contingent as to how my client is treating/communicating/working with me.

Comment by Amber on January 24, 2012 at 12:26pm

For TPR and Corporate Recruiting, I think the key is to provide as much communication as possible. It is not always the specifics of what is communicated but simply the fact that people feel some sort of consideration was given to them. Not all methods and information communicated are ideal, but most candidates I have talked with prefer SOME kind of acknowldgement at the least. Some people don't like automated responses, but as an applicant at least they know the application or resume they submitted was even received!

If there has been direct contact with someone, there should be some type of more detailed communication. This includes and can be a simple, "thanks for your time, at this time we (the recruiter or client) have decided not to proceed further." If this is all you have to share, then at least they know it's done.

It does matter how people are treated, professionally and as human beings.

Comment by Raphael Fang on January 24, 2012 at 12:40pm

I always treat my candidates like gold because they are human being and I treat them the way I want to be treated.  Also, I follow this guideline: Today's candidates are tomorrow's clients and today's clients are tomorrow's candidates.   How can I not treat everyone equally?

Comment by bill josephson on January 24, 2012 at 12:44pm

Unless corporate gives the TPR feedback all the TPR can tell the candidate as they have no feedback.  Is that considered good communication by candidates?   I don't think so.  They expect more.


I believe candidates really want their status resolved and if no interest, why not.

Comment by Amber on January 24, 2012 at 12:57pm

@Bill - agreed, I share as much as I can with a candidate. But I still know that if for some reason I don't get a detailed reason from a client that I can share, then at least letting someone know that the process is not moving forward is what I can tell them. And the same for company's recruiting practices, acknowldgement that submitted information was received is at least a minimum courtesy. Not always ideal, but better then those who make no efforts whatsoever.

Comment by bill josephson on January 24, 2012 at 1:01pm

Amber, we agree.  I still maintain it doesn't make us look good when we tell candidates we haven't heard anything.  But it's better than not picking up the phone at all.

Comment by Keith B Swinehart on January 24, 2012 at 1:41pm

Marvin, THANKS for taking the initiative to bring this topic up.   As a recruiter for the last 30 years, I could never understand why Recruiting / HR managers were so often ambivalent about the feedback processes / treatment of their public talent pools (primarily applicants and candidates). A firm spends a great deal of their budget on PR, image building and marketing as to what a great community leader and employer they are...then disproves that by having poor feedback processes and/or untrained representatives interact with their public talent pools. 

I remember one major employer in Denver was booed at a hockey game when they were introduced as in attendance... The company had been doing mass recruiting to support a high growth plan (hired several thousand people in a couple years).  The community street talk was disrespect for this major employer and for their bad employment behavior.... no recognition of applications, no feedback from visits or interviews, no closure for interviewees.  That event, local journalism, and a company survey proved that it had a huge "black eye" in the community.   The firm took action and got employment processes turned around under a new employment team and the company's rap slowly improved.  Recruiting managers really need to factor in the time, systems, as well as staff training to ensure they are not creating or allowing a "monster" to work against their hiring goals and the image of their employers.  A good rap is earned by demonstrating the firms respect and value of their public (and talent pools).

Comment by Suzanne Levison on January 24, 2012 at 2:05pm



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