2014-06-04_10-54-13We think, and talk a lot about, the need to “Say Something” to attract an audience.  Send a message…. push it out.

Be noticed and heard.  But let’s be honest:  most of what we think about and talk about?  Is all about us.

Whether it’s corporate/consumer marketing or talent attraction based-marketing, our focus is typically centered from a place of needing to drive some kind of business result. And while I’m not saying that is inherently bad, I’m am saying that we need to make greater strides at moving beyond that.

And if you think the impact of your candidate experience only affects how hard your recruiters have to work? Think again.

Of the 45,000 applicants surveyed by The Candidate Experience Awards, nearly 1/3rd of candidates with negative candidate experiences said they would not only actively broadcast their bad news and actively discourage others from applying; but it would affect their spending habits as well.  They’d be less inclined to buy products, goods, or services.  So those of us tasked with marketing to (or recruiting) talent for our organizations really do need to take some time to step back and evaluate our Candidate Experience… because it’s the experience that drives the results we all need.

In the Mind of the Candidate

We spend so much time thinking about the recruiting process that I think we lose track of how it feels.  There’s a lot of vulnerability in being a “candidate” for any position.  Whether a passive job seeker or actively looking due to unemployment, it’s an extremely emotional experience:  excitement, hope, confidence laced with insecurity of unknown competition; secrecy-driven fear – of the unknown, of being judged and found lacking (often not knowing why they were deemed lacking, fear of loss… both of opportunity or their current job if their actions are discovered.  To say can be a roller-coaster experience is putting it mildly.

To say we – those of us in Talent Attraction, Recruitment, and Human Resources – are responsible for the management of those emotions and the care of the candidates we invite into our process is not only a “fair statement;” but it’s a statement that is long overdue.

Because we are, you know… responsible, that is.  In Talent Attraction, we intentionally foster interest and excitement… a longing, even, to be part of the greatness in our respective organizations.  We make candidates WANT us.  Recruiters then build upon that interest; throughout the entire thing we are deliberately building hope in the candidate.  We begin to build a relationship with them and then…. All too often, when they stop serving our immediate needs, we disappear.

The candidate is ignored, breeding a sense of rejection.  It causes the candidate to begin to emotionally distance themselves from your role and left unchecked, leads to a sense of resentment – particularly in the mind of the passive candidates that didn’t proactively engage in your hiring process.  This is particularly unfortunate if you happen to find yourself in the situation that you might still want to extend an offer.  While it might seem like that would mend all bridges; they’re still mended bridges  – the candidate doesn’t forget they were left hanging until it was convenient for the company to engage with them again.

Do you want to work for a company that demonstrated you weren’t worth talking to until they needed something from you?  Would you enjoy being in a relationship where you weren’t on equal footing?

The Crux of the Problem

That is what the problem boils down to:  all too often, we forget this is supposed to be an equitable, equally invested relationship.  While yes, recruiting is a sales process, it’s a relationship sales process; it hinges on goodwill between both parties.  And both parties need equally – the candidate needs a job that meets their needs and the employer needs work done to meet their earnings commitments.   However, in the hustle and bustle of doing the work that needs to be done; in the silence accompanying the period we spend trying to make a decision, we bring imbalance to that ecosystem. Whether we mean to or not, we send the message that we are more important.  We forget to treat the candidate the way we expect to be treated.

As employers, we’d never stand for the way that we treat candidates.  If a candidate fell off the map for 2 weeks, would we be quick to offer them a job or would we label them a flake?  If they stood us up for multiple scheduled interviews because “something came up” would we accept that as gold or think they had poor time management?  From another perspective, would a customer continue to buy our products and/or services if they couldn’t get their questions answered and needed support in a regular, timely manner? No.  Would they continue to let us care for their needs and give us money if we didn’t show up when scheduled? Barring monopolies, chances are that we would probably not.  Yet, we do that to candidates and then expect them to entrust us with their very livelihoods??  It doesn’t make sense.

What Do We Say to Improve the Candidate Experience (Especially if there’s Nothing to Say)?

The first thing to think about is that ‘no news’ is still feedback to a candidate.  And no matter how busy we are, there’s still time to send a “we’ve not forgotten about you” note via email, text, or call.  No arguments about the lack of time to chat; every competent recruiter knows some tricks of the trade that ups the odds of not reaching the candidate in the office so that there’s still an opportunity to leave a friendly voicemail with a “I’ll be back in touch with you next week with another update.”

Do it – every week the candidate is in process, using their preferred methods of communication.  There are tools that you can use to help schedule and automate emails and texts to allow for:

  • Candidate reply forms (which, by the way, 70% of candidates do not currently receive…. But we get automated emails when we order pizza so we can track our delivery. Talk about a “slap my head” moment!)
  • Weekly updates that walk candidates through your hiring process, provide feedback as they advance, and potentially opportunities for improvement
  • Communication when they are no longer in process or when the process has been put on hold

Make a commitment that “no communication” is simply not an option for your organization.  Your candidates deserve that and it’s no more than you expect from them.  Then take it a step further:  invite them into the process and solicit their feedback.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing it conversationally (or think they won’t be upfront about their opinions), you can give them the opportunity to do it using tools like Get Feedback or Mystery Applicant.

Make it a practice all year long and you will be saying something very positive about your commitment to your talent through recruitment excellence… and that’s a message your future employees will be glad to have the chance to hear.

About the Author:  
Crystal Miller is a strategist with AT&T and has nearly a decade of recruitment marketing and digital strategy experience. In addition, she has led both the internal HR function for a regional $350MM business and the largest real estate recruiting practice for the leading single-site search firm in the United States.  Miller has worked with start-ups to Fortune 5 companies to create and execute compelling recruitment marketing & employer branding campaigns.

She has been a reliable expert source on the topics of talent attraction, talent acquisition, talent management, and digital strategy for multiple media outlets including CBS, Hanley-Wood, Mashable, and ABC. As an industry leader, she is recognized for expertise in recruitment, recruitment marketing, social media, social communities, talent pipelining, and digital strategic solutions and speaks globally on the same.

Follow Crystal on Twitter @TheOneCrystal or connect with her on LinkedIn.