Candidate experience is another one of those terms recruiters just can’t seem to shut up about. But unlike the blizzard of buzzwords mostly designed to sell consulting services and content marketing, it’s one that, if anything, we should all be talking about more. The reason is, unlike, say, employer branding, candidate experience is actually a concept that has real impact on real people and real recruiters every day.

Forget, for a second, the normal argumentation about business value and brand equity that seems inexorably intertwined with the candidate experience conversation. It’s actually kind of sad that we need to frame basic courtesy as a business case. Forget, also, the fact that many of the issues around candidate experience stem from bad technology and process, not necessarily bad recruiters.

Candidate experience is perhaps the only issue every recruiter seems to agree on with minimal dissent; we bicker all day about minutiae like in-house vs. third party or when’s the best time of the day to send a job-related tweet, but no one disagrees with the fundamental facts that candidate experience counts, and that what we’re doing to fix it isn’t working.

The data generated by initiatives like the Candidate Experience Awards and products like Mystery Applicant provide a valuable benchmark, but meaningful metrics and actionable insights simply reinforce a hypothesis upon which everyone already agrees, but is treated with apathy more often than action.

Candidate Experience: A Petition to the US Department Of Labor

It’s time to reframe the candidate experience discussion from identifying the problem and its causes (we have one, and the why is really irrelevant) to what companies can actually do about it. But since employers have been getting something so big so wrong for so long, and the HR industry seems to be more concerned with candidate experience as a commodity instead of a cause of conscious, meaningful change from the inside out looks impossible. Improving candidate experience, instead, has to start with the candidates themselves – and we’re all candidates eventually.

An informal and unscientific survey of various professional networks and career-focused social media groups revealed that approximately 8 in 10 candidates (not to mention about half of career services professionals and coaches, interestingly enough) have never heard of the term “candidate experience.” That low Q score likely skews high, considering the source – primarily active candidates who actually engage about their searches on social media. Interestingly, this same group of non-mystery applicants for some reason seem consigned to the fact that searching for jobs had to be a pain in the ass, that applying online had to take too much time and that they’ll likely never hear back from a company or recruiter after that application is received.

We’re not going to solve the issue in a day, but the first step, and one that seems often overlooked, is simple. Candidates need to know it doesn’t have to be this way – and make their voices heard. We’ve done a good job of “managing” – and diminishing – candidate expectations to the point where they’re more or less minimal. But if job seekers demand better, if candidates say that this isn’t the way, then employers must, by extension, listen. But the only way to make sure they actually do something?

Compliance. That’s why I created a petition over at calling for the US Department of Labor – the same feared entity which keeps so many HR Generalists so busy – to create specific guidelines and specific penalties for candidate experience. Because in HR, it’s hard to change a mindset – it’s far easier to change the law. Plus, hashtags and social buzz are the best way to get people to actually contribute to social responsibility (and get brands to listen). Search Twitter for #NoKidHungry and you’ll see what I mean.

So, please click here to sign the petition and finally make your voice heard Revisions, suggestions and/or comments are welcome.

By Matt Charney

Matt serves as Chief Content Officer and Global Thought Leadership Head for Allegis Global Solutions and is a partner for RecruitingDaily the industry leading online publication for Recruiting and HR Tech. With a unique background that includes HR, blogging and social media, Matt Charney is a key influencer in recruiting and a self-described “kick-butt marketing and communications professional.”