The No. 1 Frustration of Your Job Candidates

Aug 14, 2006

An excellent recruiter knows candidates’ expectations. They know what they like and what they dislike.

Do you know what the main complaint of your candidates is?

Pause a second and ask yourself: Among all of the candidates I dealt with in the past, what was the most important issue they had? What was constantly last on their list of things that we do well? Where was their frustration the highest? Or consider further: among all the people that apply to our organization and the many I never spoke to, what would be the most common issue?

As more companies today spend huge amounts towards employer branding with even TV ads like Wal-Mart and Cisco, it is important to understand this. Surely it would be effort wasted to try to influence job seekers’ perception with a huge creative budget but not fix their main frustration point.

What They Want

Several methods have been developed to convey what candidates expect during an interaction with an organization. CareerXroads’ Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler review career websites and focus on four factors that influence the candidate choice.

  1. An effective targeting or the ability for a candidate to know that your organization is looking for people like them.
  2. A clear engagement statement or why as a candidate I should come to work for your organization.
  3. Relevant information that backs up your engagement statement.
  4. The sense that I am respected as an individual during the hiring process.

A while back, we did a study at Taleo Research on false perceptions about job seekers. From a survey of more than 1,500 job seekers, the study showed that 80 percent expected some salary and benefits information, 58 percent wanted to know about corporate culture, 23 percent were concerned about their anonymity, 77 percent of students wanted a specific section for college candidates, and 88 percent wanted details about how to apply.

But these things are not the most important issues job seekers are facing today. The single most important frustration that candidates have today is the lack of good feedback. In our survey, 99 percent of the job seekers wanted an acknowledgement of their application.

Today, in the 2006 survey of 879 job seekers (employed in Internet technology, research and development, product development, and sales professionals), follow-up communication was the most requested improvement highlighted. Yet 82 percent of job seekers surveyed were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the follow-up communication.

To the question “what point in the hiring process needs the most improvement?” 47 percent said communication and follow-up. This was a lot higher than job description (19%) or interview scheduling (5%). The flip side of this is even more blunt. Zero percent identified communication and follow-up as the most favorable step in the hiring process!

There are two options to addressing the problem: either go back to your heavy workload and ignore it, or try to do something different about it.

Take Action

What can be done? First, recognize the fact, and don’t say, “Well, we are different. We don’t have this problem.”

There’s no question: today’s relationships with potential employees are poor at best. The new survey by CareerXroads (soon to be released) shows that in 2006, only 59 percent of the best companies to work for acknowledge the response of an application, and a meager 5 percent give an update at the end of the process that the position is closed out and that the candidate was not chosen.

Recognize that this is an opportunity for a great branding experience to distinguish your company dramatically. If you’re in a retail business, it’s also a tool for brand-building and customer perception toward your general products, as many studies have shown that employer brand and company brand are not discrete.

If you are a recruiter with no talent management system to help you, mass-mailing will probably be your best friend to minimize the casualties. Remember, candidates like to know that you received their application and prefer to know they are not short-listed than not receive anything.

Those functionalities can all be automated. In some systems you can even delay automatic responses to make them seem that they were done by real humans. Nonetheless, during the subsequent stages of the hiring process, you still have to push the buttons to make sure you send the personalized communications. It is a small discipline that goes a long way for candidates.

Ideally, candidates that went all the way to interviews would like to know more. In a perfect world, you should transform this interaction into an exchange that can be a learning experience for the candidate. This must be done for internal candidates; otherwise you are creating disgruntled employees and preparing your next unwanted turnover.

If you are in charge of a recruiting department, you can monitor that your team practices the tactics described above. You can generate reports on those. Even more important, you can design a process that ensures great communication and superior success of your department. One of the key practices is to segment the candidates. The top three finalists are probably all very good and should be treated differently than the people who did not make the first cut.

If you have a sourcing team, short-listed candidates should be in the team’s database, especially if you have recurring needs in those positions. Personalized feedback for the finalists will build future results. These finalists are your next top candidates and your best advocates and sources of referrals.

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