It’s Time for a Candidate’s Bill of Rights

Feb 19, 2009

When times are tough, candidates are often treated with disrespect. Many recruiters see a surplus of candidates and start acting impersonally or begin ignoring them. At the same time, candidates, many of whom may be unemployed or very worried about their current positions, are super sensitive to how they are treated. I have heard from unemployed colleagues and from many other candidates about the poor customer service they are receiving as the volume of resumes grows and the number of positions decline. Perhaps some of this can be rationalized because many recruiters have been laid off and workloads have, of course, increased. On the other hand, we have never had more tools to help.

From email to caller ID to voice mail, recruiters can now employ and hide behind electronic shields that are virtually impenetrable by ordinary candidates. Job boards have promised exposure to more potential employers and an easy one-stop experience for job hunting. What candidates actually get, especially in a depressed job market, is inclusion among thousands of others who have similar backgrounds or job aspirations. Rather than gain exposure, their resumes become buried.

Email makes submitting a resume and communicating with a recruiter or hiring manager easier than ever, but in reality the huge volume of email most recruiters receive causes them to ignore and neglect candidates more than ever. Voice mail has become primarily a way of avoiding speaking directly to candidates.

So much of the technology that aids recruiters has actually increased candidate frustration and disenchantment with the corporate recruiting process. Mistreated, ignored, and often frustrated candidates are not likely to say good things about us or our organizations. They may be easy to hire, but they will be hard to retain.

It would be in our own self-interest if we developed and promoted a candidates’ bill of rights that spells out how they should be treated and what they should expect in their search for a new position. There have been attempts to create these in the past, but none have gained much interest. In good times, unfortunately, neither candidates nor recruiters have much motivation to create such a document. Perhaps in this period of uncertainty and frustration such a document can flourish. If there is no collective effort to create a bill of rights, it would be a competitive advantage for any company to create its own such document and use it on their career site and in their promotion to candidates.

The level of frustration is growing. The longer the recession continues, the deeper this will become. Candidates are not asking for a lot — just basic guidelines and an understanding of how we make interview and hiring decisions. They are seeking some understanding of what the process and timelines are for a position and how your organization goes about its hiring. This is not a lot to ask, but I have not seen a single corporation that spells this out at any level.

Using ideas from RPOs, Accolo, and the American Staffing Association, below I have suggested several possible categories where candidates’ rights could be explained and guaranteed. Your organization may not choose to use all of the categories, but providing information or guidelines for any of them would be a huge step forward.

Honesty and Authenticity

The first category would focus on ensuring that the status of a position was honestly stated. It would ensure that all advertised positions were really open and available to job seekers, and would indicate how committed the hiring organization was to filling the open position with external candidates. It would clearly state if the positions would be open in the future or if internal candidates were being considered first.


The second category would focus on accuracy in describing the position. It would list the competencies, skills, or other specific attributes that will be key in making a hiring decision. It would be clear about whether or not the position requires relocation or whether it can be performed virtually. Ideally it would also contain some indication of how success will be measured.

Complete Information

An additional category would guarantee that candidates will be fully briefed on the organization, hiring manager, and position prior to any interview. They will be provided with links to appropriate websites or other information useful in preparing them for an interview.


A fourth category would provide some indication to the candidate as to how the interview and hiring decision will be made, who will make it, and approximately when it will be decided. It could indicate the selection criteria or the process by which the position will be filled. It could explain the interview or selection process.


The fifth level would inform applicants about the status of their application and where in the process they are, and would provide them with a guarantee that they will be given a reason as to why they were not being considered. It would let them know how soon after an interview they will be notified of the result and what that notification will contain.


A final category would outline the type and level of confidentiality. Ideally it would entitle candidates to security and confidentiality of their personal and professional background and data. It would require a candidate to give permission for that data to be shared with anyone outside the organization.

While I am a believer that as an industry we should adopt such a document, I urge you to consider doing so as a way to differentiate yourself from the completion and as a powerful way to build candidate loyalty and your employment brand.

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