Are Job Applicants Destroying Your Brand?

Jan 10, 2008

Phil walks into his favorite retailer to apply for a job. He sits down at the kiosk and begins to fill out the employment application. He fumbles through the online form and realizes that he forgot to enter his apartment number. He clicks the browser to go back to the prior page. In doing so, all of the information he already entered is wiped out. Darn it! He begins completing the application again. Name, address, social security number, etc.

Once done, the manager waves him into his office as if he is flagging down a cab in Midtown Manhattan during rush hour. Phil makes his way down to the office. He is shocked and disgusted by what he sees in the office. It is a mess, and that is putting it mildly. Scattered papers are one thing, but leftover crumbs from lunch are another. Phil begins to wonder if he might need a tetanus shot after this experience.

John, the manager, tells Phil to sit down. Phil looks at the chair and notices that it is so badly ripped that it is beyond repair. The pattern of the rip looks like the path the Mississippi River travels as it heads from north to south. Phil looks at John and notices that his shirt flap isn’t tucked in. Better yet, John has a sauce stain on his left pocket. Phil begins to wonder if he is being Punk’d. Where are those cameras?

The interview begins with John asking Phil why he wants to work there. Phil wasn’t expecting a question like that right off the bat and stammers in his response. The truth is that Phil simply wanted a job so he could pay the bills. John didn’t look impressed. After a couple more questions with mediocre answers, the interview ends. John tells Phil that they will call him in a day or two to update him on his candidacy. The call never comes.

So, if you are Phil, when do you think you will shop at that store again? Do I hear never? How many people is Phil going to tell about his experience? 10? 20? 50? How many of those people will look at that store differently? And, to how many people will they tell Phil’s story?

To be clear, John wasn’t wrong for not hiring Phil. As the manager, he is responsible for selecting the talent to work in his store. However, the manager is also tasked with protecting the corporate brand. And that he failed to do. Phil left that store with such a negative impression of the experience that all the marketing and advertising in the world would not bring him back in.

This story is exaggerated. At least, I hope it is. Yet, there are things that recruiters and hiring managers do every day that damage the brand of the company. It doesn’t take much to create a miserable experience. Things like interviewers being late, offices being dirty, and interviewers being rude are just a few. The top of the list from the candidates’ perspective is when things go dark, meaning that no communication is ever received from the company informing them that they are no longer being considered for employment. When I talk to candidates, the lack of notification that they are no longer being considered is at the top of their list of company conduct that leaves a negative impression. They feel disrespected.

Some of you are probably reading this and thinking that you aren’t in the retail industry, so this issue doesn’t affect you. Care to wager on that? Consider this: You interview a sales candidate and, for whatever reason, elect not to hire him. The candidate has a less-than-favorable experience with your company during the interview process, leaving a bad taste in his mouth. He lands with a competitor of yours and proceeds to share his experiences with your company. Stories of your firm’s unprofessionalism spread like wildfire throughout not just this competitor’s organization, but with other competitors in your industry. Don’t think this can happen? Your frog is someone else’s prince.

Maybe you don’t care what the competition thinks of your company. But, do you care if this is a strategic partner instead? Better yet, it is one of your clients that hires this candidate. Now your client gets to hear the “great experiences” this candidate had while interviewing with your company. When these stories reach your CEO from your client, who in your company will get the call about this matter?

Look, hiring managers and recruiters don’t intentionally create bad candidate experiences. Sometimes they simply get tunnel vision.

I have to fill the seat. I have to fill the seat. I have to fill the seat.

It almost sounds like the repetition of “time to make the donuts” from the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. True, every day that seat is open, it costs the company “X” number of dollars, not to mention some manager’s or recruiter’s bonus. Thus, when it is determined that a candidate is not a fit for the role, it is all too easy to forget about him and move on to the next one. However, the same level of care that was used to recruit the candidate to visit the organization should match the level of care when exiting. Why create enemies?

If your company hires 100 people per year and it takes 11 candidates to fill one seat, 1,000 people were not hired by your company. Thus, a lot of people were touched by your process. How did they walk away feeling about their experiences with your company? Try this math with your company’s hiring metrics.

Companies spend hundreds of thousands, or sometimes millions, of dollars building a brand image. Managers and recruiters are responsible for protecting it. When I say recruiters, I mean both internal and external ones. While internal ones seem obvious to you, the external ones may not be. Yet, they are acting as an agent for your company when they are the intermediary between you and the candidate. As far as the candidate is concerned, the recruiter is your company.

I have written about the importance of a company mapping out its sales-talent screening program. I should have mentioned, for all candidate recruits, that a program should be put in place that addresses the candidate exit process as well. It’s not a lot of work to do this. It takes a little thought. (If you would like my tip sheet for putting together a candidate exit program, send me an email.) That little thought could save your company thousands of dollars.

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