Tag Archive for candidate experience

Here we go again: The Candidate Experience

blackholeI’m sorry to have to do this.  It pains me to bring up, once again, the time worn topic of The Candidate Experience.  Hasn’t most everything been said, discussed and debated? Oh sure, Gerry and Elaine continue to come out with new findings and insights (always fascinating!) but is anything happening?  Changing?  Evolving?

I offer these stories shared by friends of the HR Schoolhouse:

Friend A, who hangs in the HR space, completed an online application in response to a job posting with a highly regarded company on LinkedIn; within several days he was contacted by a corporate recruiter and scheduled for a digital interview.  “Super,” he thought. “If they’re using digital interviewing technology it confirms for me they’re an organization that ‘gets it.’  He had high hopes; this company has been hyped as a great place to work with an engaging culture.  They’ve been noted as an innovator in HR practices and individuals working there are frequently lauded as ‘thought leaders’ in, you guessed it, the HR space. The interview process went well and he settled in for a brief wait, confident in his knowledge that here was a company that believed in treating candidates well so he should receive some notification in a timely manner.  That interview occurred 3 months ago; he has yet to hear one single word.  One.

Friend B works in recruiting at the leadership/executive level.  Though not actively searching for a job she recently saw a very tantalizing posting to lead the Talent Function (recruiting, performance, development) with a global firm; she checked it out, liked what she saw, and applied.  Within 24 hours she received a call and a phone interview with the corporate recruiter was scheduled for a week later.  All went well on the interview and a timeframe of several weeks was given at which point, she was assured, she would learn the status of her candidacy and any next steps, if she remained a viable candidate, including travel to the HQ office on the opposite side of the country would be discussed.  The recruiter asked her to send a connection request on LinkedIn.  That interview occurred 2 months ago.  The LinkedIn invite has not been accepted nor has Friend B heard one single word.  Not one.

Recruiters and HR practitioners the world over regularly lament the lack of time in their day; “I can’t get back to every candidate,” they like to whine.  OK – you’re busy; I get it. But these two situations are absolutely absurd.

Surely if you’ve been able to spend the time, effort and money to invest in the latest/greatest digital interviewing, you have an ATS that allows you to very easily, with one click or tick-of-a-box, send a pre-formatted email to a candidate. Certainly, you must agree, if you’re hiring for the head of Talent in your organization you can do a better job than conducting a lengthy phone interview followed by an endless wait whilst crickets chirp in the background?

Tell them thanks but no thanks.  Tell them the position has been put on hold.  Tell them they suck and can go to hell for all I care.

Just tell them something.

Maybe you should follow all the goings on with the CandE awards in North America, the UK, and Australia.   You might learn a thing or two.


Why Sugar is Bad for the Candidate’s Diet

sugar cubesI’ve heard it and you’ve heard it.  When in the midst of recruiting a candidate, lots of HR folks and Recruiters are quite fond of saying “I need to ‘sell’ them on this opportunity!”  And I think we can all agree – the ability to ‘close’ the deal is a critical competency for HR professionals and Recruiters.

Sometimes though, in order to make that hire – close that deal – get that req filled – the process gets just a tad too sugary sweet. It goes something like this:

  • “Oh yes, we most definitely are a family friendly environment and promote work/flex initiatives.  We even have a telework program!” (reality; “We have the program but no one really gets to participate.  And your manager is one who is vehemently opposed to any work/flex; there’s no way she’ll let you leave mid-day to attend your kids’ school events.”)
  • “Most employees work a 40 – 45 hour week.” (reality: “Well, except at crunch time – each quarter – when you’ll be here 12 hours a day for 2 weeks. But don’t worry, your manager will order in some pizza.”)
  • “You’ll have all the tools you need to do your job; we’re definitely proponents of the latest technology!” (reality: “You’ll have a laptop from 2002, a tenuous internet connection at the regional office at which you’ll be working, and we block all social media sites.  But you can still get your job done…although that might have to be once you get home where you have better technology…”)
  • “Your potential new manager is great at coaching and developing staff!” (reality: “Of course, he usually does that through fear, intimidation and cursing, but his people develop excellent coping skills!”)

And then, when the new hire adds to the organization’s turnover statistics within 6 months, the Hiring Manager and the HR Rep/Recruiter give each other the side-eye, commiserate for a few moments, and then sing the familiar song “she was just a bad fit for our culture.”

Yeah.  Not so fast Bucky.


I’ve had to search and find people for some god-awful jobs; from physically demanding 60-hour per week low-paying gigs in 110 degree heat to internal sales positions in a company where every employee had lost their will to live.  Not exactly like recruiting people to work at Google or Apple, know what I mean?

But the bad, as well as the good is all part of the employment brand and the culture and it’s important to share the whole picture with the candidates during the process so they can make a fully informed decision.  “You’re looking for promotions and growth opportunity?  It may take several years.”  “Our expectation is that you arrive 10 minutes before your start time and be logged in and working at 8 AM on the dot; we’re sticklers for that.”  “Here’s a look at our break room (dirty), here’s the work station you’ll be at (outdated) and you’re going to have to park 4 blocks away and walk over here from our parking lot.” “We don’t have a compensation program that pays for performance; we pay based on seniority.”

Those are the kinds of things that define your culture and those are the kinds of things that candidates need to hear.  Sour perhaps and just a little bitter.  But you know what?  Somewhere…somehow…there are people who will like your culture and will fit in your work environment – it may just be a matter of digging a bit deeper to find them.

So share the message in all its bland, flavorless glory – don’t add sugar to try to sweeten it up.


image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Is your Candidate Experience operating like a Caste System?

The-Indian-Caste-System-290x166I’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.

The Candidate Experience: A Decade Later

paper app formWell over a decade ago I relocated from Milwaukee, WI (beer, cheese, and Laverne & Shirley) to Baton Rouge, LA (drive-thru daiquiris, jambalaya, and Jimmy Swaggart).  At that stage in my career I had been working in HR leadership roles, possessed my SPHR for quite some time already, and was actively involved with both my SHRM chapter (800+ members) and a number of advisory boards/committees for community and non-profit groups.  I thought I had some pretty decent bona-fides when I landed in town and began to look for a job.

In those first few months I made the rounds (pre Linked-In or any social channels mind you) by reaching out to HR folks and hiring managers, setting up lunch meetings, and making a number of phone calls.  I quickly discovered that Baton Rouge is quite possibly the hardest location in which to be a new resident.  One’s value as a human being is based on having attended LSU and, ideally, having been a member of the correct sorority/fraternity; Tulane is also acceptable. If, as it happens, you have not gone to LSU you might have the chance of being “in” based on your high school grade school or your church affiliation.  Extra points may also be awarded based on which neighborhood you, your parents, and/or your maw-maw and paw-paw have called home.

I am not kidding.

In the course of my job hunt I scheduled interviews with a number of the 3rd party staffing agencies in town.  The majority were extraordinarily pleasant and helpful and, in fact, before I landed a FT HR gig I did some contract work via one of the agencies.  Wonderful experience.

There was one firm, however, where every single person with whom I came in contact was less than cordial.  The receptionist was rude, the recruiter with whom I met was condescending and nasty, and the ‘big boss’ was not necessarily an improvement over the others.  Neither phone calls nor emails were returned.  Even if they had followed up with me I’m not quite sure I would have wanted to work with them; that’s how horrible it was.


This was, as I mentioned, well over a decade ago.  Are you surprised that after I moved into senior level HR positions in town I never – ever – entered into a customer relationship with that firm? In addition, when my peers from other companies say “I need assistance filling a position, who do you recommend?” I happily provide them with names and contact information for other firms while telling them to steer clear of the agency-who-shall-not-be-named.

I could have been – perhaps would have been – a lucrative client; I had occasion to do some pretty big annual spend on staffing.  But they lost me 10 years ago when I experienced how they treated me as a candidate.

Am I holding on too long?  After all some of the folks at that agency are no longer there; although some with whom I interacted still remain.  It may well be past the time to just “let it go” and acknowledge they may have changed in the intervening years.  While the whole experience was personally miserable it did lead to the loss of future business for them.  Were they of the mind that I, a Yankee new to town, would never land in a position where I would have purchasing power for their services?  Did they just think I sucked and there was no need to pay attention to how they treated me?  I dunno.

Perhaps I’m being stubborn as I remain steadfast in to my dislike for their organization.  Or perhaps it’s a real-life lesson in the importance of the candidate experience.  A decade in the making.


Check out the Candidate Experience Awards (CandEs).   I may need to share this link with a certain Baton Rouge based firm.