Are You Leaving Job Candidates with a Negative Impression?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/28111269/Over the past few years there seems to be a change in the candidate experience, and it isn’t a positive one.

Let’s forget for a moment the hundreds of applicants who apply for a particular position, with a small percentage of them qualified. The candidate experience is not going to be positive for the unqualified applicants, and that’s okay. If they had taken seriously the minimum qualifications listed on the job posting, they would have realized they didn’t have a chance.

And let’s even forget those applicants who are qualified, but don’t have a strong enough background to be considered for an interview.

What we are talking about, however, is the candidate experience for those individuals who get invited to the company for an onsite interview. That’s where we have a problem. And it’s a big one.

As HR and recruiting professionals, we’re the face of the company for potential employees. We want to, and typically do, make a strong impression on leading job candidates. We politely and respectfully do screening interviews. We carefully match the hiring manager’s criteria with candidate skills. We provide recommendations on strongest applicants. We work closely with finalists to coordinate days and times for them to meet and interview everyone necessary within the company. We juggle internal calendars. We make follow-up calls. We prepare and distribute interview schedules. For some candidates we make travel arrangements and hotel accommodations. And we provide a welcoming smile and positive attitude when the candidate walks in the door.

And then we forget about them.

What? Forget about them? Well, not intentionally. But many times we do. And that leaves a much stronger and lasting negative impression on the candidate than all the other positive efforts we have made up until this point.

Think about your experience with job finalists who have been invited to onsite interviews. How many of them have you left hanging after the interview was over? How many have sent follow-up e-mails or letters thanking you for the opportunity to interview, and reiterating their qualifications? How many have called to follow up on the job status, never to hear another word from you.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many, many good recruiters, both internal and external. There are a few HR departments that put an emphasis on the candidate experience. Some do follow up with final candidates, even when the news is not positive. They share whatever information they can, from telling a candidate they were not selected for the position to telling candidates the position has been put on hold, or an internal candidate was selected. Sometimes they relay that the hiring manager has been delayed in making a final decision and that they simply wanted to keep the job finalists in the loop. That’s great communication.

But a great percentage of others leave the candidates in the dark. Never another word.

Is that fair to the candidate after all the effort he or she put into the interview process? Is that right to ignore a job finalist whom you have respectfully treated up to this point? Is this the way you want to treat someone who you feel may be a great future employee of your company, but perhaps just wasn’t the ideal fit for this position? If you were that candidate, wouldn’t you want to know at least a little bit of additional information? Particularly after the many hours you’ve invested in attaining that position?

Candidates understand that only one person can get the job. And they can readily accept when they are told that someone else was selected for the position. But not to say a word? That’s just not right. It takes a small amount of time on your behalf to do that final communication, but it can leave a lasting impact on the candidate. And a critical final impression of you personally, as well as the company brand.

Why wouldn’t you do that final communication?

Kathy Hagens is the founder and CEO of Common Courtesy, LLC. Its origins: as more and more of her co-workers and business associates lost their corporate positions in tough economic times, they began sharing their experiences with her. They were frustrated with not only wanting to work and not being able to secure a position, but also the experiences they were encountering when they were interviewed for positions. It became evident quite quickly to Hagens that the basics of common courtesy seem to be overlooked during the candidate experience. Hagens is a marketing communications and branding executive with more than 25 years experience in building strong marketing organizations. Her experience includes strategic planning, competitive positioning, sales training, branding, advertising, public relations, internal and external communication, company websites, electronic marketing, social media and event planning. Read her blog at common-courtesy.com.

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