A Candidate Bill of Rights

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Feb 19, 2020

Hey, corporate America! Your job candidates deserve better.

The United States is experiencing a 50-year low in unemployment — meaning we’re in a candidate’s market. Yet still, companies are looking for people to jump through hoops, prove their commitment, and sometimes provide free work before even receiving a job offer. 

That 10-page application you require candidates to complete? It asks them to retype information from their resume into separate fields, then afterward asks them to also upload a stylized resume, cover letter, and references. Why? 

Meanwhile, do you dodge compensation discussions at all costs? Do candidates fall through the cracks while your hiring process extends for months?

These things shouldn’t sound familiar, but unfortunately, they do at many companies. And candidates are noticing. According to a 2018 study by Human Capital Institute, 60% of job applicants report a negative experience with the process.  

But companies like McKinsey offer hope. The headline on their webpage dedicated to providing some insight for candidates into the interviewing process says it all: “We want you to succeed.” Then there’s Google, which receives up to 2 million applications each year as one of the most sought-after employers in the world. The company isn’t resting on its laurels. Its @LifeAtGoogle social-media accounts share job opportunities, insights into the culture, employee spotlights, and more. 

It’s time for more organizations to commit to a mutually respectful hiring process. Your candidates deserve these five basic rights:

1. Clear Expectations

Candidates should know what they’re getting into from the start — both in terms of the hiring process and the job itself. Setting clear expectations keeps your relationship honest. That includes committing to: 

  • Matching the job description to the actual job
  • Addressing the elephant in the room — compensation — by at least providing a range or list of factors that go into the salary determination
  • Telling candidates whom they will interview with and for what purpose

2. Respect for One’s Time

Recruiting isn’t cheap, but it’s not just a drain on employers. A candidate’s time is valuable, too. Start by making it easy for candidates to self-select themselves out of the process. A well-written job description goes a long way here.

Then, when making requests of candidates throughout the process, take a minute to think about what you’re asking and if it’s really necessary. Could a preliminary interview be done on video? Do you need to gather all of the information at the initial application stage? Does the candidate need to meet individually with each member of your senior leadership team?

3. Ongoing Communication

Applying for a new job is exhilarating. It’s a big deal. But with limited communication, it can be incredibly stressful.  

Keep candidates informed about when they’re moving onto a new stage in the hiring process, or when they are no longer in consideration. Automation tools in certain ATS’s can make it easy to tactfully notify everyone who has applied once a role has been filled. They can also ping your recruiting team if a candidate has been left waiting for a certain amount of time. There’s no excuse for the black hole of applications. 

Be thoughtful in how you communicate, too. Set a standard that if someone advances past a phone interview and is ultimately not chosen for the job, you will call them. A form letter isn’t sufficient when they’ve gotten this deep into the process. Having a direct conversation gives candidates the closure they deserve. They can ask questions and walk away with some valuable tips, not to mention a favorable view of your company.  

4. Technology That Helps Rather Than Hinders

Technology. We love it and we hate it. It’s fabulous for getting us where we need to be, but terribly frustrating with customer service. Know where technology is a win-win for you and your candidates — and where your fancy new platform may be making your life easier but candidates’ experiences more difficult. Here are some high-impact and relatively easy tech efforts to make:

  • A careers webpage that is easy to find from the company homepage
  • An ATS that collects and measures responses without asking candidates to spend hours on data entry  
  • Scheduling capabilities to make it easier to find meeting times that are convenient for everyone

5. Feeling Valued

This is all about a bidirectional process. Candidates are as much a part of the equation as hiring managers and recruiter — even if less than half of candidates feel they receive as much respect as current employees. 

This is an area where you can trust your gut. As a candidate, would you want to be assigned a skills test, spend several hours on it, hand it over to a possible employer, and then never hear anything back? You’d want compensation or at least assurance that your work wouldn’t be put into use, right? 

There are also countless little ways to show appreciation for the effort candidates are putting in. Share parking tips that only an insider would know. Or compliment someone’s LinkedIn profile (bonus: it shows you’ve done your homework). 

And don’t forget to tell candidates that you value their time and their opinions. Ask them for input on the process. Even if they don’t end up with the job, they’ll know you are doing your best to make the process one that benefits everyone. 

Make a Commitment

Companies looking to improve or maintain their reputation in the tight labor market need to commit to treating their candidates better. From a business perspective, it’s the right thing to do — 56% of candidates who have a positive experience with a company will reapply for future openings, and 37% will tell others to apply, as well. At the same time, 72% of candidates who have a bad experience will share it online. 

So treat your candidates the same way you treat your CEO. Who knows? One of those candidates might one day become your CEO. 

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