It’s Time to Improve Our Post-Application Responsiveness

Last year, 33% of North American candidates who’d completed job applications still hadn’t heard back from employers a full two months later, as Talent Board’s 2020 CandE research revealed.

Although this trend worsened slightly in 2020, it has persisted for years. In fact, you can find dozens of articles and opinion pieces about it, most of which criticize employers for failing to even acknowledge applicants within a reasonable timeframe. These companies, the articles chide, would never dream of treating customers so disrespectfully.

Here’s the thing: these companies are treating customers that disrespectfully. Because candidates are potential customers of your products and services when you’re a consumer-based company.

For all B2C and B2B companies, candidates are potential referral and brand champion “partners” and “customers.”

Brand Champions or Brand Detractors—It’s Up To You

The fact that candidates are customers is obvious for consumer brand companies. But it’s also true for non-consumer companies because candidates are customers of their employment brands—i.e., they have brand experiences, either good or bad, and they’ll act accordingly, either supporting the brand on review sites, across social media, and among their own personal networks … or bad-mouthing the brand just as publicly. Very few candidates keep their experiences to themselves these days and are at least willing to share good and bad experiences with their inner circles (friends, family, etc.).

So, a poor post-application response time risks much more than just losing potentially great talent to your competitors. It can impact your reputation and your bottom line as well.

Think about this: most of your job candidates research you and apply for one of your jobs – and that’s the end of the road for most of them. The longer you take to give them definitive closure, the greater the aggregate negative sentiment grows.

This parallel between candidates and customers is drawn even more sharply by a couple of data points from our 2020 research report:

  • The percentage of applicants who had great candidate experiences and were willing to increase their relationships with employers—apply again, refer others, and make purchases—rose 24% in North America from 2019, 15% in Latin America, and 13% in EMEA.
  • A commonly referenced case study conducted by Virgin Media and Ph.Creative showed that Virgin Media was losing more than $6 million annually in sales revenues due to poor candidate experiences.

As we state in the report, “What Talent Board and the CandEs strive to promote with evidence and insight is that every candidate who expresses an interest in an employer, regardless of whether they move forward to be selected, is still considered a customer, potential customer, or at the very least a job and brand-related influencer. Understanding this is a business necessity and central to 21st century recruiting practices.”

2020 CandE Winners Make the Case

Companies that won CandE awards last year are unquestionably adopting this “candidates are customers” approach. Here’s a snippet of what three CandE-winning companies had to say about it—and about what they’re doing to improve their responsiveness—as shared in the 2020 report’s case studies:

Southwest Airlines

“As our founder Herb Kelleher famously declared, “The business of business is people.” We participate in the CandEs because we want our candidate experience to mirror our values and world-class hospitality. The research from the survey gives us the tools we need to listen to our Candidates and design an experience that honors them as people, customers, and potential future members of the Southwest family. … Another piece of data that helped us drive our decisions within the last year was the information from a report in our ATS that showed how long our average disposition time was for candidates. … We have also changed and added processes to ensure that candidates will receive timely, consistent communication from our recruiters immediately after applying. We want to ensure that no candidate falls through the cracks in terms of followup.”


“At BASF, the foundation of our corporate strategy is to put our customers and their needs at the forefront of how we create chemistry. It is increasingly obvious the trends in candidate behavior are moving towards more of a customer mindset. The need to cater to our candidates … is critical to the future of our business. This concept, which mirrors our corporate strategy, was the driving force behind our Talent Attraction initiatives for 2020. We take candidate feedback from sources like the CandE Award Survey to heart. These results provide valuable insight to enhancing our process … (and) ensuring a high-quality candidate experience for our potential employees.”


“We continuously search for more ways where we can improve the overall experience of our candidates because they are ultimately also our retail-based customers. We want to ensure that their experience, whether selected or not, remains positive and straightforward. … We use direct candidate feedback gathered from our Candidate Experience surveys to analyze areas for optimization in an effort to continuously improve and optimize our recruitment processes. … Both leadership and recruiters have goals aligned to candidate experience—specifically, process improvements that will enhance the candidate experience—which has encouraged the team to think outside of the box when faced with pipeline engagement challenges.”


Simply acknowledging applicants within a reasonable period of time is crucial to a positive candidate experience (and it’s just plain courteous), but providing closure to the individuals whom you won’t be considering beyond this phase is equally important. In 2020, 66% of the candidates we surveyed said they’d completed applications but only 7% said they’d been informed they did not get the job. That’s a gaping hole in the candidate journey and it’s bound to turn many potential brand supporters into vocal brand detractors.

Interested in knowing how people really feel about the candidate experience you’re providing? Then participate in our 2021 CandE benchmark research program.


Be safe and well.

Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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