Recruiting is part of your brand, too

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Many, if not most, companies will say that their most valuable asset is their employees — that they value bright, pro-active employees who don’t just check the boxes but bring real additional value to their jobs. And one recruiting consultant recently wrote that companies should treat job candidates as customers, not vendors, “The new big thing for corporate HR is ensuring a great candidate experience.” But many companies fall far short of that.

I recently have gone through a job search. While that’s never fun, I’ve been frankly surprised at the way many companies treat job candidates.

Now, I know that companies get many times more people applying for a job than they can hire. And the vast majority of those are typically not qualified for the jobs that they’re applying for. The ease of one-click online applications makes that even worse; Marissa Mayer said that Yahoo! gets 12,000 job applicants a week. There’s no way that companies can respond individually to each, so most large companies use software to do an initial screening of applications and resumes. No, I’m not talking about those top of funnel interactions — although a simple “we’ve received your application” followed up with a “We’ve reviewed your application but won’t be pursuing your candidacy at this time” email, as Gartner sends, is a nice touch. Except for that one company that sent a “no thanks” email on Christmas Day. But since I’m Jewish it didn’t bother me as much as it might have many other people. Maybe they knew…

And I know that often your best chance of being hired is when someone already working at the company recommends you. Some companies have set a goal of 50 percent of new hires coming from internal recommendations. So I’ve used my network to support my job hunt, although a surprising number of the companies I had serious conversations with – going several interviews deep over a few hours – came through simply responding to a job posting; that’s the other 50 percent.

But in terms of the poor candidate experience, what I’m talking about is companies that have those lengthy conversations, commit to next steps (from either a recruiter or a senior executive), and then go into radio silence.

A few examples…

  • A very senior executive said he would introduce me to the regional manager, and an internal recruiter at the same company suggested another person she would introduce me to to have my next interview with, and then neither did – or even responded to my follow up messages.
  • After three hours of phone interviews with three different senior executives, a company asked me to fly to their headquarters for an in-person meeting, and then repeatedly failed to set that up, even after asking me for dates that would work for me.
  • In response to applying for a job, a VP emailed to ask when in the next two days I could have a phone interview and then didn’t respond when I sent several possible times. When I followed up a couple days later he set up the call for the next day and was sufficiently impressed to schedule an in-person meeting the following day. Good thing I followed up; bad thing he didn’t.

I could go on.

Clearly, this is not how you would handle a prospective or current customer.

And while some of these may seem like a brush off, many – like that last example of my persistence leading to an in-person interview — aren’t. If I don’t hear from a company I actually don’t know if they’re no longer interested in me, or what. At one company, after an in-person interview the internal recruiter said “I’ll get back to you next week with the status and possible next steps.” After several weeks of silence she called to say that the VP I had interviewed with had left to work at another company so the position was on hold for a couple months until a new VP was hired; it had nothing to do with me.

And don’t get me started on companies that have careers sections with well-hidden or bizarre search features. And buggy online applications.
And job descriptions missing major responsibilities of the job or with so many typos that they’d disqualify any candidate who sent in a letter or resume of that quality. Or the 1,846-word job description which covered everything except “must know how to turn on a computer”.
How companies recruit is part of their brand. A poor recruitment experience may affect whether the desired candidate accepts an offer. And, if not hired, it’s possible that a year or so from now that they’ll be working at another company – a company that may be considering the bad recruiter’s products or services. What do you think the person who had the poor hiring experience is going to think about that company then? Karma is a bitch.

Treat job candidates like customers. Or at least like people. It’s common courtesy.