Five Ways to Treat Every Candidate

As an executive search consultant, I have heard several horror stories from candidates about negative experiences at the hands of companies and recruiters.  If some of the scenarios below don’t sound familiar, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

 

  • “The company seemed so positive about my candidacy, but now, they have stopped returning my phone calls.”
  • “When I arrived at the company for my initial interview, not only was the receptionist unfriendly, but I waited more than 30 minutes for my interview.”
  • “Upon arriving for my interviews, I learned that the company cancelled several meetings and I had an hour in between meetings.  They didn’t even appear to be concerned that I had downtime in my schedule.”
  • “The recruiter rescheduled my interview three times before we met.  When we finally interviewed, he only spent 30 minutes with me and even took another call in the middle of our meeting.”

 

CareerXroads publishes an annual survey about how a “mystery candidate” is treated by the 100 Best Companies to Work For, as listed by Fortune.  According to this year’s report, 79% of candidates who apply for a position expect to receive some feedback, but only 19% of the top 100 companies inform candidates if they are not being considered.

 

As more companies begin to accelerate their hiring needs, it is so important for both internal and external recruiters to focus on improving the candidate experience.  The best candidates are quite difficult to find and are in demand, even in slower economic times.  As the market continues to heat up, these star candidates will become even more difficult to recruit.  So, to ensure you put your best foot forward when assessing talent, follow the below tips.  You’d be surprised how often these simple steps are not put into regular practice.

 

1. Warm and friendly welcome

Ensure all of your organization’s front-line personnel – including receptionists, security guards, parking attendants and assistants – are friendly, extend themselves and make candidates feel welcome.  For security purposes, it is important to “process” people, but please drop the robotic manner.  First impressions are important – smile, chat about the weather, ask them if they encountered traffic – say something to make them feel good.

 

2. Structure the schedule with humanity in mind

Evaluate the interview schedule, making sure candidate meetings contain a mixture of relevant business executives as well as human resources professionals.  Have you provided spaces in the schedule for a brief break or lunch?  Are all of the interviewers on board with how to approach the interviews?  Do you have a plan in advance to determine who is focusing on which topics?  If the candidate is traveling from out of town, make the experience worth his or her time.  Be sure interviewers don’t ask the same questions and organize meetings with several important people within your organization.

 

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Once candidates have completed interviews, let them know an approximate time when they can expect to hear from you.  One of the complaints I hear most frequently is that candidates don’t hear back from companies following an interview.  If you expect there to be a lag in communication or you don’t yet have an answer, just tell them.  People simply want to know something.  In this case, always use the tried and true rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated.

 

4. Show the love

Sometimes a search process extends longer than anyone wants.  Pick up the phone – especially if you are the hiring manager – and show candidates some love.  Let them know what is going on, why you remain interested in their candidacy and continue to woo them.  Tell them the status of the search or share with them news of exciting projects you recently started working on that may increase their interest in the company.  Bottom line – candidates want to know that you remember them.  Those periodic check-ins will mean a great deal in keeping them engaged throughout the process, even during a prolonged one.

 

5. Bring closure to the process

For the candidates who are not selected for the position, the company absolutely should tell them.  No one enjoys delivering bad news, but it is worse to leave applicants wondering if they remain candidates.  Make a personal call.  Just do it.  Most candidates simply want to know where they stand.  Leaving candidates in the dark can be a public relations nightmare – if candidates talk, news will spread that the company lacks responsiveness.

 

As the job market continues to improve, the importance of positive candidate experiences only increases.  Communicating in a consistent and authentic way will make a world of difference in attracting the right candidates and increasing your reputation as the employer of choice.

Sally Stetson
Sally brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. The Philadelphia Business Journal named Sally as one of its "2006 Women of Distinction", and as one of SmartCEO Magazine's 2010 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement award winners.

2 Responses to 'Five Ways to Treat Every Candidate'

  1. Nice. Closure especially will differentiate any employer. Setting expectations and delivering on them is the essential ingredient to engaging quality candidates.

  2. Sally Stetson says:

    I completely agree with you Gerry. Clear and timely communications are very important. Thanks for you comment.

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