What If It Mattered How We Treat Candidates

Economic challenges are allowing organizations to dodge bullets when it comes to the candidate experience.  But times are changing.  As key talent becomes more difficult to recruit, then brand and reputation matter.  And the candidate experience becomes a more significant influence on those key indicators.


In the BtoB (business to business) world, it seems that buyers make up their minds prior to meeting a vendor.  Recent data suggests that between 70-75% of decision making is completed prior to contacting a vendor or solutions provider.   If that is true, I wonder what happens in the BtoC (business to consumer) world.  In other words, how many job seekers have made their choices prior to speaking to a recruiter from your organization?  Further, I wonder how many prospects say “no” to your recruiter based on faulty information that was discovered on the internet. 


One thing I have noticed is that organizations have a false sense of security around how candidates perceive their brand.  Most organizations are surveying the candidate experience from the chosen few that actually go through the interview process.  Naturally, those responses are going to great; they have just received a white glove service.  I wonder what would happen if we surveyed all candidates that applied for a job–even the ones that we reject. 


Thought leader David Earle of Staffing.org makes this point when he writes; “corporate recruiting is the only B to C endeavor on the planet that invites 100 people to a party, then makes 95 of them stand out in the rain.” 


The sea change that the social revolution taught us is that the brand is no longer in charge; the customer was is truly in charge.  The shift occurred because brands had lost credibility and in the new social environment that embraces transparency.  Naturally, this was a shocking reality to brands that were accustomed to controlling the message to their customers and this new requirement for visibility was challenging.  When the talent that we are pursuing demands to be treated like a customer and be granted transparency into the recruiting process, how will that be received?


What would happen if we treated candidate like a customer?  Ironically, in many cases, candidates are actually customers of our goods and services.  One wonders how the “job customer” treatment influences the “product customer;” that would certainly be an interesting research project.


Study after study tells us that candidates are dissatisfied with the way they are treated as a job applicant.  The complaints range from lack of feedback and impersonal communication to overly challenging application processes.  These are the type of complaints that would cause the business side of things to lose customers.  So far as we know, it hasn’t cost us job customers.  So far as we know…yet.


 I believe the treatment of candidates will become a top concern in talent acquisition.   Our current approach is a ticking time bomb.  There is every reason to believe that customer expectations on the product or business side are going to spill over to the job side of things.  One day we are going to see feedback from a job candidate that publicly voices displeasure with the way they were treated by an organization during the job recruitment process.  And, other candidates that that have shared a similar experience, add their voices.  The end result is going to an uproar that dramatically impacts an organization.  An uproar that cannot be ignored and will damage brands and reputation; we saw this with Dell (“Dell Hell”), Verizon and other consumer brands.  If we act now, this situation is preventable—we just need to treat candidates like it matters.


  1. You say “So far as we know, it hasn’t cost us job customers. So far as we know…yet.” and i totally disagree – spend a bit of time calling IT people who are “alledgely” looking for a new position through job banks. If you experience a returned phone call 1 in 5 times, you will be a super star.

    And I blame it on the recruiters who are lame and don’t actually know their position in the food chain. The are clueless as to how a candidate should be treated, and then this carries right through the organization.

    I am a 27+ year recruiter from the trenches, and over the past few years have had the MISFORTUNE of being on the receiving end of the work of recruiters – the recruited…IT IS SCARY!!

  2. Being a current IT job seeker I agree with you. I have much more respect for companies that at least send an automated ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ email. But the process seems to generally just cut off all communication. Honestly it gives recruiters in general a bad reputation in my mind. I loved the interview while the hiring manager was in his car.

    When I’m on the opposite end, rudeness is a deep hole to dig out of for the interviews I conduct for a potential employee. If I’m talking to a potential rock star for my company, they are going to have end up with multiple offers. So I’m selling my organization – he’s interviewing me too. The street goes both ways.

  3. If the candidate experience is important to you, I strongly suggest you visit http://www.thecandidateexperienceawards.org/2012-cande-results/
    Talent Board, a nonprofit ran in part by Gerry Crispin and Elaine Orler, created the Cande Awards— The awards are as much about determining the candidate experience and sharing best practices as it is about winning–In fact even more so. To coincide with your thoughts, after its first year the winning companies were shooting for an experience rating of neutral. Meaning the candidate experience was so poor for all, that shooting for neutral was the most practical step.

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