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When Recruiting Reflects On Its Effects


“Do you hear the phone when I call?
Do you feel the thud when I fall?
Do you hear the crack when I break?
Did you lock the door when it shut?
Did you see the knife when it cut?
Do you keep your ear to the ground?
For the kid in Lonely Town…”

—Brandon Flowers, Lonely Town

This is when we reflect on whether or not to defect. Of whether we stay the course of a complicated, even painful relationship that does not reinvest to retain, or if we close our eyes and leap. We see the tail end of the year as a jumping off point, an opportunity to start anew. To find an employer that maybe this time will celebrate all that we bring and reward us accordingly. To find a job where we can do what we do best – the work we love to do and that we’re the most loyal to. The meaningful work that generates a positive prismatic return for us and for those who employ us.

It’s one of the most difficult things we do in the modern age: to apply for employment. From hourly contract work to salaried jobs to management and executive positions, it’s a highly personal journey of putting ourselves out there to be assessed, reviewed and ultimately judged as to whether we’re deemed worthy of working for an individual, a team, a company.

The recruiting and hiring process from employer to employer can vary so dramatically, with only the few providing a more positive candidate experience than the many, the path from pre-application to even onboarding for those who get the job can eviscerate the hearts of even the most hopeful.

Which was me five years ago. I remember going through a job search with a high-visibility firm. That combined with my industry visibility at the time made me feel even more vulnerable, especially considering that I made it to the final selection process and I had much more than pride on the line; I had a family to provide for.

Considering the industry they were in, they should’ve known better, the best practices of recruiting and hiring. Instead I was left with inconsistent acknowledgement and no closure. And even thought I didn’t get the job, of which the other primary candidate definitely had the edge on me, I was led to believe that there were other opportunities. It took weeks to know I wasn’t hired and longer still to hear there weren’t other opportunities.

I know. Maybe I’m being melodramatic. I mean, not everyone gets the job and the employment trophy, right? It’s a messy business, this world of work. Stiff upper lip and all that. Of course I survived and now help lead this global research organization called Talent Board that highlights the good, bad and the in-between of recruiting and candidate experience via the Candidate Experience Awards.

The CandE winners know it’s a constant work in progress. They are raising the bar and sharing compelling stories as to their talent acquisition journeys of making candidates their number one customers. They know that candidates themselves want to be valued and have an engaging and transparent experience and how they’re treated has a direct impact on employer brands. In today’s digital age, where people share experiences online, a poor candidate experience can be bad for business and translate to millions in lost revenue annually.

When I read through the candidate open-ended survey responses, I empathize viscerally; we’ve all been there; we’re all perpetual candidates. Here are a few paraphrased and sanitized examples (and these were the nicer ones):

  1. If there is anyone I could speak with about where my application stands, I would appreciate it. I put my heart into applying for that job.
  2. They should be more specific as to why I wasn’t selected and give me some constructive criticism.
  3. I did not hear anything until I received a notification that I was not hired 2-3 months after my interview.
  4. It took a week after I followed up with HR to receive an automated message saying that the position was filled.

Tens of thousands of similar responses. Yes, progress continues to made year after year since the first report was released, and the 2015 North America Talent Board Research Report coming out in January of 2016 validates that (you can pre-register here).

However, there has been a bit of a backslide; the 2015 results show an increase in the number of employers not contacting candidates post application. Overall, the percentage of organizations that acknowledge applications with a “thank you” correspondence dropped from 89.5 percent to 85.3 percent, while the percentage of recruiters required to respond dropped from 49.3 percent to 39.6 percent. This is too bad since, at the very least, talent acquisition systems today are more than malleable enough to accommodate hundreds of disposition codes and better personalize automated messages.

Every once in a while you come across a positive one, even from those not hired:

I thought the hiring and recruitment managers both did a fine, professional job in conveying this information to me at the conclusion of their process.

Amen. So I wish the realistic wish of every candidate and current employee around the world – the wish for consistent and personable acknowledgement and closure, knowing that you may not be the chosen one. When recruiting reflects on its effects, and then improves their candidate communication and follow-up and through, it can retain the relationships outside and in that impact the brand and the business. And then it may just be a happier New Year for some of you who start anew.

Kevin W. Grossman
Talent Board
VP, NAM Program