We Owe Job Applicants 2 Things – So Why Are We So Bad At Doing Them?

There are those who talk about the candidate experience, those who talk with others about the candidate experience, and those who experience the candidate experience.

The latter would be me (along with millions of others), although I’ve done the first two as well.

Just over a year ago, I had gone through a high-level job search with a well-known firm in the HR B2B marketplace. Considering that they should know better the best practices of recruiting and hiring, I was left with inconsistent acknowledgement and no closure. Even thought I didn’t get the job, I was led to believe that there were other opportunities.

And then nothing. Crickets chirping in the night.

We owe applicants these 2 things

Right after that experience I wrote about how businesses owe applicants at least two things regardless of the position level being applied for:

  • Acknowledgement – simply that you’ve applied and we acknowledge that. Thank you.
  • Closure – simply that you are or are not qualified for the position, that you are or are not getting the job, there are or are not other opportunities with us, and we acknowledge all these things in a consistent and timely manner. Thank you.

Two things. That’s it. That’s easier to do because of recruiting system automation, although anecdotally too many companies have such low user adoption with their talent acquisition systems, they never use that functionality.

But this dysfunction is not really a function of technology. It’s a dysfunction of human ineffectiveness and process inefficiency that has remained mostly unchanged for decades.

The experience outlined above was an active job search. But what happens when it’s a passive person being tapped?

That would be me as well (along with millions of others).

This past year I’ve been “tapped on the shoulder” by a few known HR/recruiting/B2B tech brands. Most of them were incompetent communication fests that led to more questions than answers.

Despite the talk, nothing really changes

And then nothing. Crickets chirping in the night.

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What happened to the candidate experience progress? Consider the Candidate Experience Awards that were announced at HR Tech in Las Vegas last fall. Tons of quality research from renowned recruiting thought leaders culminating in a bevy of companies who’s applicants claim they have a great experience whether they’re hired or not.

And then nothing. Crickets chirping in the night.

Listen, we keep talking and talking about improving this experience, about how social recruiting and talent networks have put a new lens on relationship building and customer service, touting best practice after best practice, yet the business cases that exist just aren’t being used to change the way we all recruit, both outside and in.

Especially when you sing the praises of your clients’ employment branding and candidate “customer” experience, and yet you can’t even put it into practice yourself.

If you tap me on the shoulder, please talk in complete sentences and finish the story.

Thank you.

You can find more from Kevin Grossman on his Marcom HRsay blog.

Kevin W. Grossman is the Talent Board president of global programs responsible for all aspects of the Candidate Experience Awards worldwide, the first nonprofit research organization focused on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience. He also produces and hosts multiple “world of work” podcasts including The CandEs Shop Talk and WorkingTech. A certified Talent Acquisition Strategist (TAS) and Human Capital Strategist (HCS) by HCI, he has over 19 years of domain expertise in the human resource and talent acquisition industry.


5 Comments on “We Owe Job Applicants 2 Things – So Why Are We So Bad At Doing Them?

  1. Much like CPLP, ASQ certifications and others. Few require certifications and fewer pay for those with certifications. I recently discussed CPLP with a young man having a PhD. I asked him if he REALLY thought the certification would make a difference, except in learning. No response to date.

  2. Kevin
    A good and very poignant post. As someone who is a tried and tested 20 yrs experience in the area of recruitment and a job seeking candidate with now 5 months of jobsearch behind me and the most unbelieveable experiences across 25 roles applied for or interviewing with, I could not agree anymore with what you say.
    Problem in my view is that no HR director or talent acquisition/recruitment leads across majority (read 90% of companies globally) have as a declared and uncompromising goal or KPI that all candidates m u s t be treated with professionalism and respect. It is if everything other than proper and decent candidate care matters and more effort and resource are being spent on ATS, candidate pipelining, social media, employee retention etc etc
    In an age where there are tools ands and methodologies and opportunities like never before to engage and communicate the actual ‘candidate experience’ have got worse. It is af we have forgotten the basics, if we do not care and see no need for treating others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. It is sad and disappointing and in short shameful. I believe all matters are influenced by the top why it is fair and square there the responsibility for a change on this sit.

  3. Kevin, thank you so much for writing about this.  I was listening to an online podcast (DriveThruHR) yesterday, and the guest speaker, Jonah Manning, spoke about this very topic.  I’ve been wanting to write about the topic myself for a while, but didn’t have a medium–maybe I should start a blog.
     Anyways, my point is that , for example, when a candidate applies, simply sending them an acknowledgement email helps.  I’m sure all applicant tracking systems have this functionality.  Secondly, you’re right about closure.  When an applicant isn’t qualified, or you’ve decided to go with another candidiate, an email telling them would be incredibly helpful.  So many people just wait and wait and wait, to hear nothing. 

    The major complaint from employers (in this case, small non-profits that I’ve heard about) is that there’s no time.  Make time!  If you’re using an ATS, there’s no excuse.  If you don’t have one, get one.  Here’s a free one: http://www.smartrecruiters.com.  Finally, if an ATS isn’t your style, please just make time at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, and email the apllicants to let them know that it’s ‘no.’  I’m not a fan of form emails but do what you need to do.  This allows the applicant to track the time between applying and receiving a final response, either positive or negative, and helps them close the door on that opportunity, so you don’t have people just waiting. 

  4. Kevin, bravo — I agree personally and on behalf of Snagajob where I work in employer services. Recently we asked Snagajob’s Facebook fans (hourly job seekers who are mostly Snagajob members), “How would you rather be told your application was declined?” Our fans lit it up — they feel very strongly that employers need to improve the candidate experience. They want to be acknowledged for applying (and a thanks would be nice), and they want to know where they stand, even if they have no chance of being hired (and a reason why they have no chance would be nice). The conversation stream is dated Jan. 5 if you want to check it out. I’m on a big kick about this — it’s so easy for employers to create a positive candidate experience, and there’s a heck of a lot of business value in it, too!
    Weirdly enough, yesterday — without any awareness of this post — I began drafting an article “Crazy like a fox: Devote yourself to rejecting job applicants.” It’s to be published on our blog for small businesses using Snagajob to post job openings and assess applicants. Communicating with declined applicants by sending a respectful rejection letter is free, though a bit time-consuming, when you do a simple mail merge — and with a hiring system such as Snagajob’s in place, it’s automated, and the letter’s editable if you’d like to personalize it (there’s no associated cost, either).
    We don’t want our members to have a bad experience with the employers who use us, and we don’t want our employers to lose business unnecessarily from applicants who aren’t hired. Those applicants should be treated like the present or future customers they are. I found a great infographic on getsatisfaction.com’s blog: “Fastest way to lose customers.” What’s the percentage of customers who leave a business because of the treatment they received? 68% — and the value of each lost customer is $289. 
    We at Snagajob are doing our part from both a programming and communication perspective to encourage employers to improve the candidate experience — it’s as good for business as it is for people! Rock on, Kevin!

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