When Applicants Hear Nothing, They Talk and You Get Hurt

Jun 20, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

You’ve written a compelling job ad that hits all the hot points. You’ve distributed it widely. You’ve even managed to get it high up on search results pages. Despite all that, the number of applications is disappointing.

What went wrong?

The problem, says CareerBuilder, could very well be technical. Bad links, computer or Internet difficulties, and cumbersome applications are the top reasons cited by interested candidates for not responding to a job posting.

“Sometimes it’s those little things you overlook,” says Dr. Sanja Licina, senior director of talent intelligence and consulting at CareerBuilder. When an interested job seeker clicks on an ad, and then has to click through from there to another location, an ATS for example, things can break down, she says.

That experience can leave a sour taste with potential candidates, some of whom will then go on to complain about the experience. CareerBuilder’s ongoing Applicant Experience survey found that 78 percent of candidates said they’d be sure to tell family and friends about a bad experience with a potential employer. Seventeen percent said they’d post about it on a social media site.

While technical glitches may not push most candidates beyond a little grumbling (though it might be very bad mojo for something like that to happen to a technical firm), the “black hole” application process causes 44 percent of those who hear nothing to have a worse opinion of the non-responsive employer.

Licina said many employers explain why they’re not responding, saying “We do get a lot of applications,” and thus it’s “really hard” to respond.

Any number of surveys and articles confirm that large numbers of employers never acknowledge an applicant — not even to say contact has been made. CareerBuilder, whose Applicant Experience audit now has some 5 million surveys involving 5,000 employers, reports that somewhere around half the applicants say they never heard anything after submitting an application.

Even when they do, radio silence often follows. Among the 57 companies vying for top honors in the still-new Candidate Experience awards, a mere 44 percent followed up their acknowledgments with details about the next steps in the process.

Recruiters, too, are faulted by the surveyed job seekers; 15 percent of them have a worse opinion of the employer after hearing from a recruiter. Says CareerBuilder:

When asked to assess the recruiters who contacted them, one-in-five job seekers (21 percent) reported that the recruiter was not enthusiastic about his/her company being an employer of choice. Seventeen percent didn’t believe the recruiter was knowledgeable and 15 percent didn’t think the recruiter was professional.

“How your employment brand is presented to job seekers from the moment a job is posted can have a lasting effect not only on your ability to acquire talent, but your business overall,” Licina says. “First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge candidates and keep them informed.”

The consequences of a negative candidate experience go beyond the potential loss of quality talent and injury to the employment reputation. The widely held belief is that there is a direct economic impact from treating applicants poorly. A separate CareerBuilder study from a few months ago found nearly a third of respondents saying they are less likely to purchase a product from a company that didn’t respond to their job application.

Now, in conjunction with a university research group, Licina said CareerBuilder is attempting to put a dollar figure on the negative experience. “It’s difficult to attribute (the impact) to the candidate experience,” she explained, which is why the study development will take time. But, she says, with companies beginning to accept that there are economic consequences, determining the actual cost is growing more urgent.

Incidentally, it’s not money that first attracts a job seeker to a job posting. It’s the company’s location, report 45 percent of the candidates in CareerBuilder’s experience surveys. After that it’s industry and company reputation. Salary is sixth.

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