The Quest for an Ideal Rejection Timeline

An inside look at how healthcare company GuideWell prioritizes the importance of timely candidate disposition.

Article main image
Feb 28, 2024

During a break at a candidate experience workshop I ran last year, one of the recruiter attendees from a global company walked up to me and held up her phone. She was smiling, but I wasn’t sure yet of the context.

“Read this,” she said.

So I read what was up on her phone: It was a standard templatized rejection email.

Before I could say anything, she said, “This was a rejection note I received this week for a job I had applied for a year and a half ago.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s a little late.”

We shared a laugh, but it was clear deep down that she wasn’t happy about it, no matter how much she had moved on. And obviously someone on the sending end was clearing out the candidates they hadn’t dispositioned yet for whatever reason. Fortunately, this is an extreme example of candidate communications, but the status quo isn’t necessarily better.

In fact, from our latest 2023 CandE Benchmark Research, 36% of North America candidates reported that they had not heard back from employers one to two+ months after they applied, which was the same as in 2022 and similar to 2021 and 2020. That’s one-third of all candidates year after year.

The percentage of those not hearing back after one to two+ months was much higher around the world in 2023: 70% in EMEA, 46% in APAC, and 72% in Latin America.

It’s true that disposition timelines will vary across job types, but one to two+ months later and negative sentiment do increase dramatically. However, CandE Winners (companies with the highest ratings in our research) had 29% fewer candidates waiting to hear back, which was a significant difference with less of a negative impact on business and brand.

For the past few years, the highest rated employers have also been more consistent and timely with their dispositions. In fact, most had told us they were required to review applications within three to five days to reject or move forward. While this is still a differentiator for CandE Winners around the world, the overall percentage of top-rated employers doing this within three to five days has decreased.

For example, over 80% of the top-rated North America employers said they disposition within three to five days in 2022, but in 2023, that dropped to 50% or lower. Only 56% of all 2023 North America CandE Winners said they disposition within three to fivedays, but in 2022 it was 63%, an 11% decrease. The mix of participating employers does change each year, but the reality for many employers this year was that their applications increased while their recruiting teams decreased.

Even if their rejection timeliness deteriorated somewhat, the top-rated employers are still more consistent about rejecting candidates than all other employers in our research. This is true in EMEA, APAC, and Latin America as well.

CandE Case Study: GuideWell

GuideWell, a leading healthcare insurer in Florida, is another employer focused on improving candidate experience and has won 3 CandE Awards to date. Here is their latest case study as to how they’re doing just that, including a seven-day rule to respond back and disposition candidates. (You can download our latest global 2023 CandE Benchmark Research and case studies here.)

1. What changes have you made to your candidate experience recently? What improvements are you most proud of? How do you know that your changes are making a difference?

GuideWell implemented the New Hire Talent Ambassador Program establishing a dedicated talent acquisition resource to provide our candidates and new hires with a positive experience. The New Hire Ambassador reaches out to each new hire with an introduction establishing a relationship with them to answer any questions and to help them learn more about our company and to be prepared for their start date.

The New Hire Ambassador expresses our excitement to the new hire, welcoming them to our company and our employee community; confirms their start date and new hire orientation time; ensures the new hire is prepared for their first day; provides them resources to company resources, benefits, and additional information about the company; and answers any questions the new hire may have.

The New Hire Ambassador has multiple touchpoints with the new hire during the hiring and onboarding process to ensure a great candidate experience and introduction to our company.

GuideWell reorganized our team members to better support the business with client alignment groups. These specialized teams were created to better support our business areas and candidates by providing more than one talent acquisition point of contact for the business and candidate. This has sped up the overall hiring process by eliminating hand-offs and delays, increasing response time and improved engagement allowing for improved consultation for both the candidate and the business area.

GuideWell has provided cross training of roles across the talent acquisition team. By having multiple recruiters know the various roles and needs of the business this has reduced delays in the hiring process and has positively impacted our speed of filling roles.

The commitment made by the GuideWell talent acquisition team to implement these changes and improve overall candidate experience. The implementation of the New Hire Ambassador Program and creation of the client aligned teams within our business areas.

GuideWell knows that these implementations have made a difference based on hiring manager feedback, business feedback, and direct candidate feedback from automated touchpoints, survey results, and the annual CandE results. We also measure our critical roles and have experienced a dramatic decrease in time to fill and time to start for high demand and hard to fill roles.

2. Why did you decide to make changes to how candidates were being treated? What data or evidence prompted you to make a change?

Previous CandE results showed us that we needed to respond to applicants within a shorter period of time. We were seeing delays in not getting to our candidates fast enough and changes in the market impacting candidate behavior. Therefore, we implemented a no-more-than-seven-day rule to respond back and disposition candidates. Talent is our No. 1 priority and part of our company core values. By meeting candidates where they are and being inclusive, we have demonstrated success in improving our commitment to our candidates.

3. How did you build support and commitment within your team and the broader organization? How did you demonstrate the importance of candidate experience?

GuideWell built support and commitment within our team and the broader organization by demonstrating compassion through communications, promoting brand reputation through our GuideWell Family of companies, motivating candidates who did not receive an offer to apply again in the future, and encouraging employee engagement through employee referrals. By providing a great candidate experience, candidates will likely apply again and recommend our company to other job seekers.

Through consultation within our team, we listened to our team’s feedback and experiences and reiterated that we succeed as a team together. It is not us vs. the candidate or vice versa but a shared commitment to provide top quality talent quickly. We consulted with the business to make modifications to the process when candidates dropped from the process and made recommendations for speeding up time of interviews.

4. How do you measure candidate experience? How do you report on your recruiting process? How do you use that data to demonstrate financial impact as well as manage recruiter and hiring manager behaviors?

GuideWell measures our candidate experience through our New Hire Ambassador. Our New Hire Ambassador is getting real-time relevant feedback from the candidates as they go through the hiring journey and onboarding process with them.

GuideWell measures candidate experience through increased job offer acceptance rate, reduction in time to fill / time to start, reduction in attrition rate, diverse candidate pools, candidate sources, career-site conversion rate, and candidate feedback.

By analyzing these measures, this impacts how we manage our recruiters and hiring manager behaviors. Step in status reports provide us data on how long people are sitting in different steps of the recruiting process. We can address root causes and our consultants work back with business on their specific stats. All of this is used to manage our process and improve consultation with the business and candidates.

We report recruiting progress, KPIs, and demonstrate financial impact to our customers and leadership through our HR scorecard results and frequent touchpoints with hiring managers and client groups.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!