The Fairness Perception Problem Plaguing Recruiting

By Kevin Grossman – Published April 21, 2022 on

The pandemic was the catalyst — not the reason — that millions of American workers quit their jobs, according to a growing body of evidence that includes a recent survey by Pew Research. The reason they quit? A widespread belief that employers had been treating them unfairly for years prior.

This belief was based on several factors, including low pay, progressively heavy workloads, poor work-life balance, and a dearth of advancement opportunities. When the pandemic hit, workers began worrying for their safety, as well, and many were forced to continue working under highly stressful conditions. This unleashed their pent-up resentment and triggered a mass exodus, and the U.S. jobs market still hasn’t recovered. There are presently nearly 5 million more open jobs than job seekers, and talent shortages are reaching critical levels at many organizations.

This isn’t merely a wake-up call to employers regarding the power of perceived fairness. This is a five-alarm fire, and it’s going to take a massive, collective effort to put it out.

The Roots of Perceived Fairness

Employers across the country have one clear aim right now — to replenish the talent they lost during the Great Resignation and avoid these kinds of losses in the future. To accomplish this, they need to address their perceived lack of fairness, and the sooner the better.

No employer with a reputation for unfairness is going to convince droves of fresh talent to sign on, not in today’s market where job seekers are choosier than ever about the companies for which they work.

Many organizations will have to rethink and revise their people practices, pay scales, and working conditions, all of which are essential to perceptions of fairness and a positive employee experience. Employers will also need to keep one other thing in mind as they work to mend their reputations: Perceived fairness isn’t limited to the employee experience. It begins with the candidate experience.

The candidate experience is where people form their first impressions of your company, its culture, and values, and how you treat your people. Candidates you hire carry their initial perceptions into the employee experience, which can have a profound impact on their performance and commitment from Day One.

Meanwhile, candidates you reject (who vastly outnumber those you hire) carry their initial perceptions back into the marketplace, blasting them across employer review sites, social media, and their professional and personal networks. They publicly call out any employer they perceive to have treated them unfairly at any point in their experience, and they’re not the least bit shy about it.

The damage this can do to your employer brand is just the tip of the iceberg. Candidates who believe you’ve treated them unfairly are much more likely to refuse to apply to your jobs in the future, withhold referrals, take their purchases and business relationships to your competitors, and influence others to do the same.

Conversely, candidates who feel you’ve treated them fairly are far more likely to do just the opposite — i.e., apply to your jobs again, refer others to you, purchase your company’s products/services, and influence others to do the same — even if you turn them down for a job.

None of this is speculation. Candidates across the world have shared these insights directly with Talent Board again and again in our annual benchmark research, as they did again in 2021.

3 Ways To Build Perceived Fairness

As our research shows, the candidate experience contains several touchpoints that shine a light on your company’s perceived fairness, or lack of it. Here are three that, leveraged properly, can help you strengthen your reputation for fairness and win new talent in the process:

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