Companies go to great lengths to create delightful brand experiences for their clients and employees, but when it comes to job candidates all bets are off.
When the unemployment was high, recruiters became accustomed to treating candidates however they wanted to, said Jeff Hyman, chief talent officer of Strong Suit Recruiting, an executive search firm in Chicago and author of “Recruit Rockstars.” “Now candidates are holding all the cards, and recruiters who forget that are screwed.”
There are plenty of viral stories of recruiters who ask candidates inappropriate questions, trash-talk competitors or leave candidates waiting for hours to be interviewed only to ghost them after the fact. In an era of record low unemployment these recruiting experiences are unacceptable, and the candidates who live through them are happy to broadcast those stories to the world.
One programmer wrote a 3,000-word screed, titled “My Amazon Interview Horror Story” that has a dedicated page on his website and has garnered dozens of comments. Others contribute to Reddit threads like r/recruitinghell, post scathing reviews on Glassdoor, or write detailed descriptions of their experience on social media, often tagging the firm responsible.
“It’s an isolated risk, but those glaring examples get a lot of attention,” said Greg Moran, CEO of OutMatch, a talent selection management software company in Dallas.
This is forcing companies to look long and hard at their recruiting process so they can figure out how to do better — or at least they should be. Moran noted that most companies do a wonderful job of managing candidate flow from the recruiting side, seeking out efficiencies in the process to close candidates faster. “But they aren’t managing the candidate experience,” he said.
That’s a mistake that may be costing them candidates. A study by Software Advice found almost half of job seekers read workplace reviews on Glassdoor and other sites when deciding whether to apply for a job. “If a company gets a reputation for not treating candidates properly, it gets very difficult to attract talent.”
You can reduce some of these risks by training recruiters on good communication skills and setting clear expectations for how they should engage with candidates throughout the hiring life cycle, said Ben Slater, head of marketing for Beamery, a talent acquisition software firm in London. However, no amount of training will prevent all mistakes, which is why companies have to pay attention to what candidates are saying about them.
“If a candidate posts an angry review on Glassdoor the best thing a company can do is to own it,” Slater said. He advises clients to publicly acknowledge the bad review, apologize, and talk about what they are going to do to fix it. That response can come from the recruiter if it’s a simple mistake, or can be escalated to the head of talent acquisition or even the CEO if it’s a more egregious error.
“It’s the same as replying to a Yelp review,” Moran said. The complaint won’t go away, but if you respond it tells future candidates that you care about their experience and are making an effort to do better.
Hyman, Moran and Slater offered this advice on how companies can make sure the experience of their candidates lives up to expectations — and what to do when recruiting mistakes go viral.
- Write compelling automated replies. This is an opportunity to engage with candidates, so stop relying on formulaic messages, Hyman said. He urges recruiters to ask their marketing teams to write compelling reply copy that includes a thank you note, information about the company and role, and a timeline for next steps. “Think of it as customer communication,” he said. “It’s so easy to do, but so many companies don’t do it.”
- Set realistic expectations. Don’t say you are going to respond in two days if it’s really going to be two weeks (or never), Hyman said. And always let applicants know that they didn’t make the cut, even if it’s through another automated message.
- Map your candidate experience from end to end. There are so many opportunities to engage candidates throughout this process even if you have no new information, Slater said. Mapping every touchpoint can provide recruiters with a process for when and how to connect, and remind them to reach out during the long lags between steps. Sending updates on timelines, information about the company, or employee videos can improve the quality of the experience and let them know they are still in the running. “These simple steps impart real value for candidates,” he said.
- Apply anonymously. “If you really want to know how good (or bad) your candidate experience is, apply for a job at your company,” Slater advised. It’s the best way to see whether your candidate experience efforts are working, and where they are falling short.
- Treat candidates like sales leads. Most companies have a formal process for responding to sales leads that includes vetting the lead, setting expectations for next steps, and strategies to close the deal or move on, Moran said. That same process can be applied to recruiting. “You should treat recruiting as the most important sales function you have,” he said. “Because it is.”
- Monitor review sites. You can’t respond to scathing reviews if you don’t read them, Hyman said. He urges companies to assign someone the job of monitoring Glassdoor and other review sites, and responding to every negative review. “Most companies don’t take Glassdoor seriously enough,” he said. But if you don’t get in front of negative reviews quickly they will become part of your employee brand story.