The Return of Candidate Resentment

The Great Resignation — or Reshuffle or  Rebooting or whatever you want to call it — isn’t the only talent trend that will be impacting employers in 2022. According to new data from Talent Board’s candidate experience benchmark research, candidate resentment increased dramatically once again in North America and EMEA.

Candidate resentment refers to the antipathy job-seekers feel after participating in one or more phases of a company’s talent attraction or recruitment process (e.g., applying to a job, participating in an interview, undergoing an assessment test, etc.). 

More importantly, candidate resentment measures the negative business outcomes of a poor candidate experience. For instance, job-seekers who endure a poor candidate experience are far less likely to apply again to that company’s jobs, refer others to the company, have any brand affinity, and/or purchase its products or services.

Talent Board’s latest global survey of job-seekers shows that candidate resentment spiked 75% in North America in 2021, the largest increase the organization has measured in the past decade. And it increased 25% in EMEA. 

What’s more, these spikes come on the heels of historically low resentment rates just one year ago during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when job-seekers were more forgiving of poor candidate experiences and employers were more transparent and empathetic in their candidate communications. 

We’ll explore why employers are losing all this goodwill in a moment. But before we do, let’s think about why this gut-punch of the Great [Insert Your Name For It Here] and soaring resentment is so worrisome.

A Vicious Talent Cycle

At first glance, the mass exodus of employees and the rise of candidate resentment might not appear to be connected. But they are and in a crucial way. 

The candidate experience is the doorway through which every single person enters a company, and one where an internal candidate (employee) stays at the company. Providing a poor candidate experience slams that door shut and hampers an employer’s ability to replenish the precious talent it lost in 2021 and retain those who are still there. 

In other words, correcting this existential business crisis also requires employers to provide positive candidate experiences and address the causes of growing candidate resentment.

This is a critical point to appreciate. Even if employers tackle the root causes of rampant turnover (fair wages and benefits, safer work environments, work-life balance, etc.), it might do very little to relieve their talent shortages if they deliver an experience that repels job seekers. And a great candidate experience is not a long-term solution to talent deficits if employers follow it up with a poor employee experience that fosters turnover.

Failing to resolve either one of these critical challenges can set up a vicious cycle that generates perpetual people shortfalls.

The Reasons for Spiking Resentment

The recruiting process and the candidate experience are complex, which means there are many potential reasons for a spike in candidate resentment, including:

  • A disjointed or labor-intensive application process
  • Recruiters who are unresponsive or slow to answer candidate inquiries and emails
  • Interviews that candidates perceive as unfair
  • Hiring managers who ghost candidates (it still happens, even in the current labor market)
  • The lack of candidate feedback for finalists
  • Workers wanting to work for equitable pay and on their own terms
  • And the list goes on

However, there is one trend that’s likely fueling a fair amount of the surge in resentment: Employers have struggled to sustain, and some have even abandoned, the transparency and timely communications they provided during the early stages of the pandemic.

From a communications perspective, many employers responded admirably at the start of the pandemic, despite the uncertainty and considerable challenges they faced. Talent acquisition teams significantly raised their openness and empathy when communicating with job-seekers and candidates in their talent pipelines. 

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For instance, some explained why they needed to halt all hiring temporarily. Others shared what little information they could about their immediate hiring plans. While others communicated new sets of protocols being established around virtual hiring. 

Talent Board even noted more empathetic language than usual popping up on career sites and in candidate communications. Employers openly expressed their concerns regarding candidates’ wellbeing, along with their commitment to working through hiring challenges as quickly as possible. Candidates took notice of this heightened sensitivity to their needs and, as a result, softened their attitudes towards employers.

And it’s important to note that hiring halted in many industries, so candidates became more forgiving of imperfect and even nonexistent candidate experiences. Resentment rates fell across the globe. In North America, the resentment rate dropped from 14% in 2019 to 8% in 2020, a record low in Talent Board’s decade of research.

But hiring is hot again, and now all this progress is vanishing.

Turning Back the Tide of Resentment

As previously noted, recruiting and candidate experiences are complex processes, quite subjective at times, and there are many ways they can go wrong. But one way they definitely shouldn’t go wrong is by backsliding into pre-pandemic levels of communication. 

Employers wisely created a fundamental shift in candidate experiences at the pandemic’s outset, and the increase in transparency, empathy, and communication quality should be their new standard — especially in light of the runaway turnover so many organizations are enduring.

Maintaining their commitment to openness and transparency is one powerful way that employers can distinguish themselves in the talent market and, at the same time, combat candidate resentment.

Talent Board’s latest candidate experience research offers many additional insights into how employers can maximize recruiting success while minimizing the potential for candidate resentment. Here are just a few:

  • At the attraction/research stage. Job-seekers want to hear directly from a company’s current employees about the company, its culture, and the nature of their work. They also want to see more inclusivity on career sites. In 2021, 35% of candidates Talent Board surveyed wanted more information about company culture; 30% of North American candidates wanted career sites in multiple languages; 29% wanted more information on why employees want to work for an employer; and 26% wanted more information about the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • At the application stage. Candidates want a simple and straightforward application process, one that also offers some level of acknowledgment of next steps. Unfortunately, less than 30% said this happened for them in 2021; 78% weren’t told how long the application process would take, and 40% never even received an automated “thank you” message after submitting applications. (Nearly one-quarter of candidates told Talent Board they hadn’t heard back from employers two months after applying for jobs.) These are major missed opportunities for employers that want to demonstrate their concern for candidates’ time and effort.
  • At the screen/interview stage. Talent Board’s 2021 research once again confirms that candidates have one basic expectation of employers at this stage of the recruiting process: feedback. However, the data shows candidates don’t receive enough of it, nor are they asked to provide much of it. Sixty percent of candidates received no feedback after being rejected during screening and interviewing. Among candidates who received feedback after being rejected, only 32% said the feedback was useful. These are clear areas that give rise to resentment. Providing candidates with feedback is critical to helping them understand whether they will be moving forward and why. And asking candidates for feedback makes them feel their opinions and experiences matter, which greatly influences how they feel about and rate an employer.
  • At the offer/onboarding stage. Candidates want promptness at this stage of the process. Once their interview is over, the clock is ticking. For a quarter of the candidates Talent Board surveyed, two weeks elapsed between their final interviews and receiving a job offer. For roughly 10%, this stretched out to three weeks. And for 9%, it took a month or more to receive a job offer. Even though candidates are receiving good news, this is no way to start their employee experience or motivate them to excel in their new role. It may even breed some level of resentment, especially among today’s talent pool, which has shown its willingness to jump ship in the first year of employment.

There’s no question that candidate resentment has returned to pre-pandemic levels, especially in the U.S. The only question is whether employers are willing to permanently abandon the progress they worked so hard to achieve in 2020. Given the talent shortages most of them now face, that doesn’t seem wise. In fact, U.S. employers should be doubling down on the approach they took during the early days of the pandemic, recommitting to heightened levels of transparency and empathy in their recruiting process and candidate communications.

Kevin W. Grossman is the president of Talent Board and the Candidate Experience Awards. Founded in 2011, it’s the first nonprofit research organization focused on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience with industry benchmarks that highlight accountability, fairness and business impact.

Kevin has over 22 years of domain expertise in the human resource and talent acquisition industry and related technology marketplace. He’s been a prolific industry writer since 2004. His first business book on career management, Tech Job Hunt Handbook, was released in December 2012 from Apress. His second book, The Business Impact of Candidate Experience, will be released in 2022 by Kogan Page.

Kevin holds a B.A. in psychology from San Jose State University, is an HCI certified Talent Acquisition Strategist (TAS) and Human Capital Strategist, and has learning certificates from eCornell on HR Analytics and Diversity and Inclusion.

 

 

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