Want to Fix a Broken Hiring Process?

HR departments spend a lot of time getting the onboarding experience right. Those first few days are critical since better onboarding has been shown to improve employee engagement dramatically. But smart companies are also working on improving interactions with candidates before they receive a job offer. Here’s why.

Candidates tell us all the time that the recruiting process is broken. Even in a tight labor market, most feel that they’re treated as commodities as they try to navigate the application process. In a recent survey, 52 percent of candidates said they felt they were not treated as an individual throughout the hiring process. Complex online applications, automated responses, and recruiters who are rude or unresponsive sour good candidates on the company before they even get an interview.

And they don’t have to suffer in silence. Since 2007, glassdoor.com has offered a job board with company reviews from applicants and employees. Companies are rated on their work environment and the application process. And since users review anonymously, they don’t hold back. One bitter reviewer suggests you “recommend this company to your enemies.”

How does your application process feel to candidates? A good experience starts with responsive recruiters. If you must use an automated response for resumes, make it a warm one. It doesn’t take much to sound like a human being in an email. Thank the candidate for applying and give a ballpark estimate of when they can expect to hear from you if they seem to be a fit.

Keep communicating during the interview process. Send a weekly email to candidates who are still under consideration. Include phrases like “The team really enjoyed meeting you.” Be clear about the date you expect to complete interviews and make a decision, and let them know they can reach out if they have questions.

Reward recruiters who get it right. Offer “entrance interviews” for new hires and ask about their experience. Create bonus programs for recruiters who make candidates feel welcome, communicate well, and get the best reviews. Remember that employee referrals are still the best source of new candidates and that referred candidates are 14 times more likely to end up with an offer than other applicants. Recruiters who do the right thing help you build a stronger talent pipeline.

Yes, it’s a lot of work.

You may be consoling yourself with the thought that eventually, the economy will shift and candidates will no longer be so fussy about how they’re treated. That may not prevent you from feeling pain from disgruntled candidates. When Graeme Johnson, head of sourcing for British company Virgin Media, decided to take a look at candidate experience, he was in for a wakeup call. He’d read a review from a candidate who had prepared carefully for her interview only to be treated rudely by everyone from the receptionist to the snooty interviewer. Her review said she planned to cancel her subscription and switch to a rival company.

When Johnson dug into the numbers, he found that 18 percent of Virgin Media’s rejected candidates were current customers.  The company estimated that about six percent of rejected candidates actually canceled their subscriptions, which would result in about 7,500 cancellations a year. (Many more gave the company a low rating in reviews and surveys.) That added up to $5.4 million in annual lost revenue because of poor candidate experiences – perhaps even more when you estimate lost sales.

Remember, in a seller’s market like this one, you don’t pick talent. Talent picks you. Treat them like you would your best sales prospects. Better yet, treat them like you want to be treated when you apply for your next job.


Work hard. Play Hard. 

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