Santa to Recruiters: Are You Naughty or Nice to Candidates?

May 24, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

What do Santa Claus and job seekers have in common? Neither gets much respect from recruiters.

Three months after applying to the last of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, Santa has no idea if the job has been filled at 78 of them. He doesn’t even  know if 25 of them got his resume.

Applying under his given name, Chris Kringle (Anglicized from the original German), the jolly old guy was looking for a job as a systems engineer in logistics or product security.

With his uncanny ability to know who has been naughty or nice, and to manage overnight global delivery of billions of packages, Kringle should be a shoo-in for every recruiter’s short list. And even though he got turned down by 22 of the 100 companies, a few recruiters did call him up for a phone screen.

So you can imagine their embarrassment when Mark Mehler, principal in the recruiting consultancy CareerXroads, pointed out that Chris Kringle is another name for Santa.

“I would say, ‘Would you please read the bottom of the resume’.” And there it was, the disclaimer: “This is a CareerXroads Mystery Job Seeker.”

“Obviously,” says Mehler, “They hadn’t read the resume.” There were other tip-offs. Chris’s resume says he once worked for the CIA at the North Pole where he “analyzed coded messages from around the world from children asking for holiday gifts.”

Over the 10 years that Mehler and his partner, Gerry Crispin, have done this survey, they’ve created resumes for Ted E. Baer, Gold E. Locks, and, last year, for environmental technician Jack Coostow.

While the names are all in fun, the exercise has a serious purpose: To survey the responsiveness of companies to their job applicants.

“Our objective is to see how the job seeker is treated,” explains Mehler. “If these are the 100 best companies to work for in the U.S., they should understand how to treat the job seeker.”

“You would think,” he adds. And in so many ways, you would be wrong.

Not only did companies fail to acknowledge receiving an application, but the process itself was so arduous that one of the volunteers helping submit applications said it was almost impossible to do more than a handful a day.

“It’s just amazing what we find when we do this,” Mehler says. “And these are the best companies.”

Many companies had pre-screening questions. One had 144 multiple-choice questions that had to be completed before an application could be submitted.

Other companies had online forms that had to be filled out, in addition to uploading a resume. “Point, click, upload, and go,” Mehler says, is the ideal candidate experience. Few were set-up to do that.

Like the fictitious Chris Kringle, real candidates want acknowledgement of their application and to know when the job has been filled. A survey of candidates by Shaker Consulting Group showed they valued both of those communications more highly than anything other than knowing when they can expect to hear.

To recognize companies that do the best job of meeting candidate expectations, and to spur others to improve their application process, a group of recruiting professionals have created The Candidate Experience Awards.

Sparked by a suggestion from Chris Forman, CEO of Startwire and former head of Airs, now a part of The RightThing, a group of recruiting professionals formed The Talent Board, a non-profit specifically to produce the awards. Its mission “is to facilitate the evolution of the employment candidate experience principally through the annual production of The Candidate Experience Awards.”

Employers of every size and from any industry can participate. The first step is a 40-question application that not only provides the basis for the initial screening, but will allow applicants to see how they compare to other companies.

The competition FAQs say, “Each applicant will, at a minimum, receive specific survey feedback on how they compare to the applicant group. In other words, each applicant will get specific feedback on how they can improve their candidate experience.”

Only the winners will be publicly identified, and recognized during a ceremony at the HR Tech show this fall in Las Vegas. Others remain anonymous. There’s no cost to enter. The deadline is June 30.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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