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: 1457

Comment by Marvin Smith on January 24, 2012 at 3:10pm

@Suresh--I agree that many barriers have fallen; perhaps we need some more to fall?

@Sean--Thanks for your perspective; both corporate and TPR need to respect folks.  Your are correct that false confidence when outreach occurs without engagement or conversation--it will not work in the long run.  The candidate is king (or queen).

@Bill--I feel your pain.  I am working on a post "What Actually Happens in the Resume Black Hole?"  got any insights from the TPR side of things?

@Amber--absolutely, we must be more detailed/frequent in our communication.  I cannot tell you how many times candidates have thanked me for saying no--they just want feedback.

@Raphael--you are right--I was unemployed 6 months ago and know the transition from client to candidate first hand.

@Keith-Well thought out.  I love the Denver example.  I can imagine something like that occurring online and the company not even realizing it until it was too late.


I appreciate your joining in the conversation.  Thanks for your input.

Comment by Brian K. Johnston on January 24, 2012 at 5:39pm

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post....

Comment by Jacob S. Madsen on January 26, 2012 at 6:14am

Marvin, excellent piece. BIG discussion topic and increasingly so in Europe carried by some clever people in the UK and one of top 10 topics at any talent acquisition conference, event etc. - and about time too, too long has the candidate experience been a 'black hole affair' time to change.

Believe heard/read somewhere (unfortunately not clear if actually the case) that Starbucks that happen to have 20 million fans on Facebook!! sent US$ 1 vouchers to candidates applying for jobs with them (unsure if only those coming into interview process or all)

Not only did they tie their brand with their company, but imagine if you were given a $ 1 voucher and you wanted to buy something at $ 1.75 - that is $ .75 straight into the coffers of Starbucks, - now that is a talent attraction, business, brand etc, strategy well thought through!!!

Comment by Tim Spagnola on January 26, 2012 at 9:11am

Marvin - This was really an excellent read. Thank you for sharing this with the RBC. "I believe the treatment of candidates will (and SHOULD) become a top concern in talent acquisition." 

Comment by Dan Contreras on January 30, 2012 at 11:09am

Marvin, you speak the truth! You know our branding efforts here at MS, better than most folks and you know I will continue to treat candidates as customers as long as I'm a recruiter.

Comment by Jacob S. Madsen on January 30, 2012 at 11:20am

Microsoft always been on the very forefront of candidate management/experiences from what I have seen, not least driven by the strong involvement of HRD's/HRBP's and talent management leadership. Result some highly skilled and capable people that has made MS what it is and continues to be, - lots to learn from a be inspired by.    

Comment by Amanda Selleck on January 31, 2012 at 5:31am

Fantastic post Marvin. Well said! I work in a young consulting organisation as an internal recruiter and we are currently looking to expand rapidly. Our brand is so critical to our recruitment process as it  speaks of our most important asset, our people. For that brand to be ruined through lack of communication and respect in the recruitment process is a major set back to our organisation. We ensure every candidate gets an automated email when applying and candidates that are phone screened or interviewed face to face always receive an answer within 3-5 days. 

It is not hard to pick up the phone, however it can be time consuming. Looking long term that time is converted into respect and reliability not only for yourself as a recruiter but your organisation. All candidates deserve the respect of some form of reply, it could be the reason you land your next fantastic candidate, due to fantastic reputation via word of mouth. 


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