I’ve had several conversations this week about the candidate experience. I heard a story (yet another) about a local job seeker who applied for an entry-level HR position with Big Giant Local Company X, was interviewed for said position, and then never again heard from Big Giant Local Company X. I heard feedback on that scenario from some HR peers and friends, some of whom went to the all-familiar place of “We just don’t have the time or resources to respond to everyone who applies.” “We’re doing more with less in our HR Department.” “We can’t respond to people who apply and don’t even meet the qualifications.” “If we had an ATS as opposed to a manual process we might have the ability to respond.”
I call BS.
Look – I’ve been working in HR and Recruiting for a lot of years. I started in the days when we filed thousands upon thousands of paper resumes/paper applications in a ginormous file room where we color-coded the files for ease of cross-referencing and retrieval.
During these conversations I was reminded of the time (back in the dark ages) when I was the Employment Manager for a large local employer with close to 5,000 employees. My department consisted of a staff of three – myself, 1 Recruiter and 1 Assistant. In these pre-ATS internet-infancy days we handled a regular requisition load of 150 open positions, hired 30 – 40 people per week, and conducted New Employee Orientation every single Monday. We worked with Hiring Managers to update job descriptions and we interacted with the Finance Department to verify budget for each and every position requisition (signatures in triplicate naturally). We managed job postings (newspapers, some job boards, weekly paper mail outs) and managed relationships with community and educational resources on an international level that garnered us 10,000 applicants each year. We tracked those 10,000 applicants along with disposition codes (AAP of course) in, you guessed it, a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. We also managed the entire process for all our J-1 and H-1B visa holders – of which there were hundreds.
To say we were busy would have been an understatement.
But you know what? We responded to each and every applicant who mailed/faxed a resume or who took the time to physically come to the Employment Office to complete a paper application; the cost for postcards and postage was something I built into my annual budget. We got it done because it was important: we were one of the largest employers in the area, a leading business/community partner, and had a stellar reputation as a place to work. There was no way I was going to allow a lack of courtesy in the employment process to damage any of that. Technology, or lack thereof, be damned.
I think, quite often, that HR practitioners rely on the “it’s a matter of time” argument when they really mean “it’s not necessary to provide a positive candidate experience for everyone.” “Oh sure,” they say “we get back to the candidates who apply for positions at Level X and above. But we hire a lot of entry-level/semi-skilled/industrial workers. Those people apply for everything – they don’t really care if they work for us or down the street. Why should I bother? Because, you know, we just don’t have the time.”
But you know what? That guy applying to be a dishwasher at your large hospitality venue is also a member of your community. He’s a potential customer. His Uncle Joe might work for you. And Uncle Joe, upon hearing about the lack of response to his nephew, will more than likely grumble to his co-workers “you see? Just another sign that the company doesn’t really care about us.”
The person who interviewed for the entry-level HR position ended up landing a great opportunity at another organization. Her mother, a pretty savvy woman herself, told her daughter “It’s important for you to remember how you were treated and how that made you feel This experience will serve you well in your HR career; you’ve got 1st hand understanding of the importance of treating candidates with respect and courtesy.”
A good lesson for all.