Stop Hanging Up! Why the Candidate Experience Really DOES Matter

I had to make one of those dreaded calls to customer service.

All attempts to solve the problem online were blocked, so I dialed the number – which was not easy to find in the first place – knowing that I’d be greeted by an automated system. Knowing this triggered my fight or flight response, and fight stood ready.

Before the system could even thank me for calling, I hastily commanded, “Agent” and “Representative” and pushed “O” to trigger a human on the other end. But, the systems are programed to be smarter and met my move with, “I understand you would like to talk to an agent, before I transfer you, please tell me what this call is regarding?

Why candidate experience matters so much

Voice recognition technology has yet to be perfected. Fight really kicked in at this point. Doesn’t the system realize my patience has worn thin? If I am calling customer service, it must be to resolve an issue.

The customer service nightmare ended as the system told me it would transfer me to an agent and that the call would be monitored for quality assurance (obviously they are not monitoring closely!), only instead, it transferred me to a dead line  – twice.

Of course there are ways to trick these systems, but the frustration of needing to trick them just to provide information that the company requested in the first place (in this case, confirming a billing address) naturally left a bitter taste in my mouth as a customer.

This entire experience continues to remind me of why candidate experience matters so much.

How often do job candidates face the same situations with employers’ applicant tracking systems? Modern recruiting technology offers candidates the ability to know their status, update their information, and learn more about the position and company, but do only if companies optimize and enable those features.

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Half of candidates feel they have a relationship with the company

Do they? Do they offer live or timely support for candidates with questions?

In the recently published CandEs report, Candidate Experience 2012, 53 percent of the candidates already feel they have a relationship with the company at the point they research and apply. That experience could encompass anything from having friends and family that work for the organization to following the company as a leader in the industry.

Much like I’m a customer of products and services for a vendor, candidates are customers of the recruiting experience. If every other person feels there is a relationship with the organizations to which they apply, do employers “hang up” on them regularly – even if they mean well – through their recruiting practices?

Maybe candidates’ expectations are lower (thanks to a history of inadequate practices) than a customer’s, but employers only stand to lose their relationships and the opportunity to nurture those relationships as they build their workforces and overall brands when the lines of communication fall short of neutral or positive.

3 smart things employers can do

Based on the 2012 Candidate Experience Awards findings, which include survey responses from more than 17,500 job candidates in North America, employers can implement the following best practices to ensure they’re not “hanging up” on their candidates, who are also sometimes their customers:

  1. Spend an hour in their shoes. Search for one of the company’s jobs on the web and follow the steps to apply. Capture the number of page changes, brand changes, and number of times you had to create an account or log in. Measure how long it takes to apply to the position. Would you be willing to do all of those tasks, all the time? Create a list of changes that would simplify the process.
  2. Review the standard communications sent to candidates. Are they cold? Are they stale? Do they always say the same thing every time? Consider updating the messages and add personal approaches that can be included in the process for candidates that are advanced, or candidates who request additional feedback.
  3. Create opportunities for two way communication. Some of the CandEs winners have scheduled online chat times with recruiters, provided opportunities for meet and greets, or even scheduled times when someone will answer the phone. Consider requesting feedback from candidates – whether advanced or not – at all stages to better understand where communication gaps exist and what’s working.

Elaine Orler is president and founder of the Talent Function Group and chairman of The Talent Board, founding organization of the Candidate Experience Awards. Involved in developing and implementing HR solutions since 1993, she has worked with countless clients on dozens of global talent acquisition and management implementations to help them embrace new technologies aimed at improving internal processes and the candidate experience, a topic on which she’s regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Contact her at


5 Comments on “Stop Hanging Up! Why the Candidate Experience Really DOES Matter

  1. There was a great blog post by Sean Haufler,, and his experience when applying to mid-sized/large tech firms and startups. In particular with Dropbox, he writes:

    “After two months of waiting I dug around the Dropbox website and found the emails of two recruiters. I emailed them both, sending a specially written cover letter and my resume. I got nothing back. Not so much as an email acknowledging my existence. Such a bummer.”

    He then compares this to Fog Creek, where he not only states had the best interview process out of all the companies he applied to, but the first point he mentioned was: “HR responded to emails quickly.”

    Whenever a company with any external-facing departments (such as HR, support, etc.) can respond to emails quickly, it definitely feels nice and paints a positive picture of the company. We use Rackspace to host some of our servers, and their 24/7 Live Chat support is definitely a life saver.

    Konrad from

  2. This is a great post! The candidate experience truly is important, whether a candidate is just applying for your jobs or connecting with you in the video interview. Candidates who feel valued and humanized by your process will be more likely to come back and apply in the future. Even more essentially, they’ll also be willing to refer talented candidates in their own network to your company. Take a few minutes to evaluate your candidate experience to see if there are changes you can make to capture even more talent.

  3. Good post, Elaine. By the time I cal a customer service rep I am often at the end of my patience to begin with. Having to trick the system (by not pressing anything and the sort) to get wired to a human being is beyond frustrating.

    At the same time, particularly when it comes to HR/the recruiting world things often have a way of getting very hectic very fast, and it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with someone on the end of the line for which this job may mean the entire world.

    Thanks for sharing.



  4. Elaine, thank you for the post. Konrad, thank you for pointing out Sean’s comments, including the “HR responded to emails quickly” statement.

    How many companies reading this post use recruiting agencies? And how many of you know what your recruiting agency’s committed communication process is? When recruiters fail to provide your candidates a great experience, *your* brand could be negatively impacted. I would challenge you to take a serious look at your recruiting agency’s methodology and fire any recruiters who may be giving you a bad name by not providing an excellent candidate experience.

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